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HE Policy Update (w/e 20 April 2018)

A week of intense debate over fees, artificial intelligence, student nurses and the decline of part time provision. Enjoy!

Fees, fees, fees…and the HE Review

HEPI’s Free and Comprehensive University

HEPI have published a new blog The Comprehensive and Free University by Professor Tim Blackman (VC Middlesex, but writing personally). In essence it argues for free fees and a greater focus on the comprehensive university model (institutions that service their regional community with less focus on entrance requirements, generally less research intensive too).

Blackman commences by tackling the current HE Review. He highlights that because the Government have informed the ‘independent’ panel conducting the HE Review that abolishing tuition fees isn’t an option there is already a political bias. He addresses the arguments against abolishing fees (unfair – non-graduate taxpayers footing bill for those that will become higher earners and unaffordable to the public purse) and raises cross-generational fairness (older graduates had no fees and maintenance grants). Instead he feels the simple solution is to raise income rates within the higher and additional tax bands (effectively raising the repayment threshold to £45,000). He notes approx. 66% of graduates are within these tax bands (so 34% are non-graduate high earners that would contribute). He states the cost of abolishing fees is £7.5 billion per year and that increasing the higher rate tax from 40% to 45% (and the additional rate from 45% to 65%) would fully cover the £7.5 billion.

This approach would see the Treasury holding these taxation purse strings. So a pertinent question is – how much of this funding would actually reach universities and who would be the winners and losers from the Government’s allocation method? Currently the funding going direct from students to Universities is a neater, perhaps fairer, system from the University prospective and one that many within Government appear keen to retain. As the tax would be retrospective we could question whether student number controls be reintroduced, at least until the Treasury was confident the public purse would be repaid. And surely there would be even more focus on graduate outcome earnings?

Returning to Blackman, he isn’t a fan of writing off the loans of existing graduates, despite the unfairness of their being the only paying meat within the chronological free tuition sandwich. He feels those paying off their loans will “know that new cohorts paying no fees will still contribute if and when they become higher earners”. He also doesn’t propose the re-introduction of maintenance grants (as the tax income wouldn’t cover this) and states its right for students who chose to move away from home to study to take out a loan to do so. Blackman believes far more students should study locally and the costs commuter students incur to study at their nearest university could be partly met by public transport discounts funded by reducing the subsidy away from the over-60’s away free travel. Note, adjustments for rurality or areas without public transport aren’t adequately addressed.

At first Blackman’s suggestions that only students that are willing to take loans and pay fees should attend a distant institution appears socially regressive. After all it seems to close down student choice – preventing selection of an institution dependent on whether the course content best fits their interest, selection for the perceived quality of the institution, or attending a prestigious institution for the reported employment outcome boost. There is a clear hit to social mobility in expecting those in the poorest areas, who may be most debt adverse to only attend their nearest institution. What if their local institution doesn’t deliver their programme, e.g. medicine. Is Blackman suggesting the choice would be loans and fees or abandon their career aspirations? Blackman defends his localism by explaining that moving away to attend university residentially is a colonial legacy, and happens less in other countries (America, Australia). He sees moving away as a perk which would only continue via the loan system. He states:

A policy of encouraging local study has many benefits. It is less costly to students and taxpayers, greener in transport terms and would take pressure off many local housing markets. It also offers an option for phasing in free higher education. Just as going to university ‘in state’ in the United States means considerably lower fees than studying out of state, free higher education in England could at least initially be restricted to studying ‘in region’, based on the Government Office regions abolished in 2011. Studying out of region would mean paying a regulated fee, at a level to be decided, but similar in principle to how students from Scotland pay fees to attend English universities.

He does go on to address the social mobility elements:

…of course, [its] potentially an argument against this idea if local study becomes the only choice for many people from low income households because they cannot afford the out-of-region fee or lack the resources to maintain themselves away from home. This would only really be an issue of educational disadvantage if the effect was to narrow the choice of types of university or course, but this choice is already narrowed by ‘top’ universities using academic selection in a way that excludes many such people, whose prior attainment tends to be significantly lower than those from better-off households.

Blackman feels the answer lies within requiring all universities to have more diverse intakes – socially, ethnically and by ability: Institutional quotas incorporating a required balance across entry grades and social background – basically an elaboration of current access benchmarks – would provide a basis for the diversification I advocate even without initially confining free higher education to local study. But it would enable such a policy to be managed so that there are enough free local places for the range of prior attainment in any region.

Above all, at a time when young people are under pressure from so many directions, and the number of part-time adult learners is collapsing, abolishing fees and using higher rate tax bands to pay for it would be an important statement about those who are successful in their careers and businesses investing in young people and adult learning.

Blackman pushes back against HE sector criticism that it is seen as the only way and discredits other vocational routes by weaving in the Government push for more flexible methods of degree delivery:

It also seems possible that with this review we will see the progressiveness of student loans for degree study being criticised as a market distortion, tempting students who would be better opting for shorter vocational courses or apprenticeships. Not only does that threaten to undo the progress made so far with widening access to degree study, but it fails to address far more important issues about what we are teaching and how, such as replacing outmoded academic years and credit with more flexible competency-based learning and assessment.

Blackman does believe there is a risk that student number controls could be reintroduced, even with the current fee loan system by noting that the Treasury’s purse isn’t unlimited. The expected future rise in the number of young people aspiring to enter higher education (as outlined in HEPI report 105) will challenge any funding system, but loans no longer mean that student number controls are off the agenda given the level of taxpayer contribution to settle unpaid debt and support high-cost subjects. The idea that fees and loans would guarantee university autonomy and funding has also worn thin with the Office for Students’ new regulatory regime and a further fees freeze.

Loan Interest Rates

The RPI inflation rise created renewed criticism this week as it means student loan interest rates will increase to 6.3% in September (up from 6.1%). Much of the controversy stems from the use of RPI which has been denounced as inappropriate method for student loans (RPI is no longer used as a national statistic). The Government now uses the consumer price index for many calculations and there have been calls for it to be applied to student loans.  The Guardian ran with the story: Ministers under fire as student loan interest hits 6.3% on Wednesday. To put this into context re-read Martin Lewis’ explanatory article for his clear explanation of why (for 83% of students) the interest rate rise won’t mean they ever pay more. Here’s an excerpt:

The interest doesn’t change what you repay each year

You become eligible to repay your student loan in the April after you leave University.

From this point, students must repay loans at a rate of 9% of everything they earn above £25,000 each year (or more technically £2,083 a month). So if you earn £30,000, as that’s £5,000 more than the threshold, you repay 9% of it – which is £450 a year.

This means the amount you owe (the borrowing plus interest) never has an impact on what you repay each year. I know people really struggle with this, so let’s pick out of the air a current salary of £35,000 (purely done for maths ease as it’s £10,000 above the threshold) and look at how different levels of borrowing impact your repayments – though the same principle applies whatever you earn.

  • Student loan & interest: £20,000. Your earnings: £35,000.
    As you repay 9% of everything above £25,000 your annual repayment is £900.

 

  • Student loan & interest: £50,000. Your earnings: £35,000. 
    As you repay 9% of everything above £25,000 your annual repayment is £900.

 

  • To get silly to prove a point: student loan & interest: £1 billion. Your earnings: £35,000. 
    As you repay 9% of everything above £25,000 your annual repayment is £900.

 

As you can see, changing what you owe – even to the absurd level of £1 billion – simply doesn’t impact your repayments (you may find it easier to listen to my BBC Radio 5 Live student finance podcast to understand this).

 

HE Review and Fees

At UUK’s Political Affairs in HE Forum on Thursday HE fees received frequent mention. A wide range of personal views were stated: Conference Chair Stephen Bush (New Statesman) opened by declaring the days of £12,000 fees are gone. Katie Perrior (previous Director of Comms at No 10) highlighted how if the Government can only make a measly concession on fees its better ’not to go there’ with the nuance the review should focus on wider issues instead. Her take was that the review outcome would tackle loan interest rates and perhaps address maintenance grants. Speaking officially in the session on the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding Philip Augar (Chair of the HE Review panel) set out to bring the audience ‘up to date’ and provide an ‘inking into the panel’s current thinking’. The official word on the HE Review is that it will be much broader than a review of fees, covering far more ground. The review has to fit with the Government’s objectives to reduce the deficit and the national debt, and decisions must be taken based on evidence.

The panel are approaching the review based on two questions:

  1. What should the tertiary education system be doing for the country (what are its objectives)?
  2. How does the current system match up to this?

The panel are subdividing the evidence between economic and social objectives.

Economic requirements for tertiary system:

  • Skills
  • Innovation (expectation for the tertiary system to create innovation)
  • The assertion that FE and HE is crucial for economic dynamism
  • Value for money (one of the biggest issues)
  • The premise that all must be done transparently and in the most official manner
  • There must be a balance of contributions between state and employers

Social elements:

  • Improving life chances
  • Accessible education and training
  • Cultural issues – education fostering good citizenships and interaction
  • Excellence – any changes must not risk the sector’s academic excellence

Philip confirmed workstreams matching and measuring against these criteria were currently in progress, including reference and focus groups across the range of students, employers and providers. He stated he felt there was ‘room to improve value and coherence’, and then promptly left the conference for a pressing parliamentary engagement before questions could be asked.

Other members of the panel were:

Rt Hon Lord Willetts, former Universities and Science Minister​ (Conservative)

Professor John Denham, Professor, University of Winchester and former government minister (Labour)

Each went on to give their opinion of the HE Review.

Willetts presented a supportive stance for Universities and felt the problems and challenges within tertiary education mainly lay outside of the University sector. He felt the review should tackle:

  • The underfunding of FE
  • Strengthening non-university routes
  • Part time and mature HE opportunities

He felt the current fees model was the best way (for young, full time, undergraduates) – but that the grievances over the interest rate should be addressed. He was clear that fees were over-debated and echoed the need to move away from fees to tackle the more pressing above three issues he described. On part time and mature he felt an entirely different funding model (non-loan) is needed.

An interesting point he highlighted is that public spending on apprenticeships now exceeds public spending on Universities.

 

John Denham presented a range of more complicated messages questioning whether the HE system is actually producing what the UK economy and students need, specifically on graduate underemployment. He felt how an institution responds to the funding system is pivotal – more than what the funding system is.

Although Denham is a Labour party member, and while he conceded that abolishing fees is attractive, he doesn’t feel it’s the answer. He noted if fees are abolished but everything else stays the same the result will be a costly system that delivers exactly as it does already (and doesn’t tackle any of the systemic problems – widening participation, achievement gaps, graduate outcomes). Denham’s argument was that the HE system can be made cheaper. He also noted that the investment in FE is ‘pathetically low’ and requires addressing [although presumably not at the expense of the HE sector – which the current system of direct fee payments from student to institution provides a limited safeguard against].

Quality of Apprenticeships & Skills

On Tuesday the House of Commons Education Select Committee met to consider the quality of apprenticeships and skills training. Witnesses called to provide evidence were:

  • Mark Dawe, Chief Executive, Association of Employment and Learning Providers
  • Lady Andrée Deane Barron, Group Education and Central Skills Director, Central YMCA
  • Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy and External Affairs, Chartered Management Institute

The session focused on apprenticeships and what support could be offered to apprentices who were struggling. There was discussion about entry level requirements to apprenticeships and whether they would be able to recruit the kind of able candidate who could not suit or afford university.

Dawe was sceptical of the idea that everyone should be a level 3 or level 4 apprentice. He stated there was a lack of level 2 apprentices and the UK really needed more of these.

Degree-level apprenticeships were discussed with Lucy Powell (Lab/Co-op, Manchester Central) explaining that the committee had met a lot of degree-level apprentices, and despite the impressive quality of candidate, many had needed an A grade in their maths exam to win a place. She questioned what this meant for social mobility.

Dawe responded that high grades did not necessarily differentiate between different social classes. However, many organisations were considering different ways of assessing potential candidates, e.g.  Dyson has an “amazing programme” full of “incredible applications“. Dawe argued the more high-grade students who moved in, the more tertiary education would transform. Petra Wilton presented statistics to argue that apprenticeships were supporting social mobility: 49% of apprentices were aged 30, 52.5% were female, and 51% were from disadvantaged regions. She went on to say the all age process means that those that did not get a degree the first time round, had access now and ‘failed graduates’ found it opened their career prospects in ways “they had never imagined“.

It was also noted that travel cost support for apprentices would particularly benefit those living in rural areas and could improve attendance at face to face delivery sessions.

More generally it was argued that the external evaluation of apprenticeship quality requires improvement to support employer deliver and stronger progression pathways are needed.

Other apprenticeship news

DfE’s Apprenticeship and levy statistics note a drop in apprenticeship starts – down by 31% (25,400 starts in Jan 2018 compared to 36,700 in Jan 2017). The Independent covered the story noting ‘the structure and implementation of the apprenticeship levy has acted as a barrier and brake to skills development’.

Artificial Intelligence

The House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence has published AI in the UK: ready, willing and able? following their recent inquiry. The inquiry concluded the UK is capable of being an AI world leader and a great opportunity for the British economy. Excerpts:

As soon as it works, no one calls it AI anymore …

Artificial intelligence has been developing for years, but it is entering a crucial stage in its development and adoption. The last decade has seen a confluence of factors—in particular, improved techniques such as deep learning, and the growth in available data and computer processing power—enable this technology to be deployed far more extensively. This brings with it a host of opportunities, but also risks and challenges, and how the UK chooses to respond to these, will have widespread implications for many years to come.

‘Access to large quantities of data is one of the factors fuelling the current AI boom.’  The report describes how balancing data gathering and access with personal privacy needs careful change. To do this means not only using established concepts, such as open data and data protection legislation, but also the development of new frameworks and mechanisms, such as data portability and data trusts.  A nod is made to safeguarding amid the recent scandal too: ‘Large companies which have control over vast quantities of data must be prevented from becoming overly powerful within this landscape’.

The report calls for:

  • Government and the Competition and Markets Authority to proactively review use and monopolisation of data by big technology companies
  • To ensure use of AI does not inadvertently prejudice the treatment of particular groups in society. Government to incentivise the development of new approaches to the auditing of datasets used in AI, and to encourage greater diversity in the training and recruitment of AI specialists.
  • Create a growth fund for UK SMEs working with AI to scale their businesses; a PhD matching scheme (costs shared with private sector) and standardisation of a mechanism for spinning out AI start-ups (based on University research).
  • Increasing visas for overseas workers with valuable skills in AI.
  • An AI Council is formed to rationalise the hopes and fears associated with AI and to inform consumers when artificial intelligence is being used to make significant or sensitive decisions.
  • Government investment in skills and training to mitigate the digital disruption to the jobs market that AI is likely to exacerbate. The National Retraining Scheme may be vital, needs to be developed in partnership with industry taking on board lessons learnt from the apprenticeships scheme. More AI in children’s curriculum. Conversion courses (3-6 months) to meet needs of researchers and industry.
  • The Presenti-Hall Review (intellectual property management in AI) recommendations be endorsed and the government commit to underwriting, and where necessary replacing, funding for European research and innovation programmes.
  • Law Commission should provide clarity regarding the adequacy of existing legislation should AI systems malfunction, underperform or otherwise make erroneous decisions which cause harm.
  • AI developers to be alive to the potential ethical implications of their work and the risk of their work being used for malicious purposes. (This was discussed on Monday 16th’s Today programme on Radio 4). Funding applications should demonstrate consequential understanding of how the research might be misused. 5 principles were proposed to form a shared ethical AI framework.

Read the report in full here.

The report has been heavily criticised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (see their press release) who state: The recommendations on how the UK can become a global leader in Artificial Intelligence are off the mark. While the report contains numerous uncontroversial and welcome suggestions on such topics as increased use of AI in the National Health Service, more visas for talented technologists, and the need to make public sector data sets available to the private sector, many of the recommendations would hamper the development of AI domestically and antagonise foreign innovators.

The report acknowledges the need to make it easier for universities to form “spin-out companies,” which are effectively startups with university ownership of intellectual property. Reform of the current spin-out procedure is necessary, though that is only a small part of the large amount of regulatory barriers for startups in the UK. It is not enough to care only about university research when the large American companies criticized for being too large were not university spin-outs themselves. 

 

It is helpful that the UK’s Parliament is examining the opportunities that artificial intelligence creates. However, it would do better to focus on removing the barriers currently in place, rather than developing new ones.

 

Do read the short press release for critique on other elements of the Lords report if you have an interest in this area.

UKRI – Interim Executive Chair

UK Research and Innovation have appointed Dr Ian Campbell as the new interim executive chair of Innovate UK. Campbell will take over from 4 May until a permanent Executive Chair is appointed. His background is within aging, life sciences, medical devices and diagnostics.

Dr Ian Campbell said: “I am absolutely delighted to be appointed as interim Executive Chair of Innovate UK. Our role as the business-facing arm of UK Research and Innovation is more important than ever as we seek to meet the target of spending 2.4% of our GDP on research and development. Innovate UK, working together with all the research councils has a key role to play in realising that ambition through flagship programmes such as the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. I am really looking forward to working with and leading our fantastic team to make sure that businesses have the support they need.”

Here is the press release on the interim appointment.

 

Widening Participation & Achievement

HE’s influence on life and death

Nora Ann Colton (UCL) blogs for Wonkhe to explore the link between lack of HE provision and high rates of mortality within cold spot areas. Excerpt: In 2014, HEFCE published maps that revealed “cold spots” in higher education provision across England. These maps revealed gaps in subject provision, student mobility, and graduate employment. Though this work was significant in providing useful information for higher education providers and local authorities, there is more to the question of educational “cold spots”. There has always been an understanding that a lack of employment opportunities, poverty, and deprivation lead to higher mortality rates, but recent research suggests a link between a lack of higher education provision and high rates of mortality.

Nora highlights Blackpool as an example of ‘death by no higher education’ where demand for professional occupations is increasing and fewer and fewer jobs are available for lower skilled workers. Nora discusses the research demonstrating that better-educated people live in less-polluted areas, tend to be less obese, are more physically active, are less likely to smoke, and do not as frequently engage in risky behaviours. She argues against an economically focussed reductionist approach to HE:  A reductionist approach to higher education, its mission, and its impact fails to recognise the profound effect that it can have on an individual in terms of shaping their quality of life, health and life expectancy. Nora calls for the sector to re-consider their messaging:

If a university education is the best signifier of future good health and high earnings, the higher education sector needs to get its messaging right. This approach requires that we recognise that higher education and the missions of universities are more than simply getting a student a job. Institutions must work with the government and the health sector to ensure these life changing outcomes. The higher education sector needs to start adopting this approach to fulfil its role in ensuring that we not only have a better-educated working population, but a healthier one as well.

 

PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

Disabled Students

Q – Sir Mark Hendrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the introduction of the £200 self-contribution for disabled students who are in receipt of disabled student allowances on (a) the take-up of the equipment needed to study independently and (b) trends in the level of participation of disabled students; and if he will make a statement.

A – Sam Gyimah: The most recent data show that, for full-time undergraduate students domiciled in England, 4,600 fewer students were in receipt of equipment Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) in 2015/16 than in 2014/15. The main reason for this fall is that the £200 student contribution to the costs of computer hardware took effect from September 2015.

This government remains committed to supporting disabled students in higher education, both through DSAs and through supporting higher education providers’ efforts to improve the support they offer their disabled students. Alongside this commitment, we are keen to better understand the impact of DSAs on eligible students, including that of recent DSAs reforms. We have commissioned a research project to explore this – we will respond to the research findings when they are available in spring 2018.

WP Statistics

HESA have released their statistical UK performance indicators for 2016-17 using the Polar 4 measures. This link gives a good summary, or for a brief insight Wonkhe note:

6.6% of UK-domiciled full-time first-degree students received Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).

On the non-continuation rates of part-time first-degree entrants, and rates of resumption of study after a year out – of the 31,155 full-time, first-degree entrants who did not continue into their second year in 2015/16 10% resumed study at the same provider the following year. The release also shows that, two years after entering higher education, around a third (33.5%) of part-time students had terminated their studies. The Open University accounted for 83% of these students.

Lifelong Learning (House of Lords)

On Tuesday the House of Lords debated Lifelong Learning. Baroness Garden of Frognal (Lib Dem) opened the debate by discussing the huge decline in part time degree uptake and stated the higher fee system was “undoubtedly one of the major factors that prevents adults from upskilling or reskilling” She asked the minister to comment on fee changes and its impact on disadvantaged groups. Shadow spokesperson for education, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, agreed that fees were a cause of decline and raised questions on the Government’s target for apprenticeship starts.

The impact of technology creating changes within employment and employment opportunities was raised and the Baroness called on the minister to comment on the Made Smarter review (proposes to digitally upskill 1m people over the next five years through an online platform). Lord Knight of Weymouth (Labour) stated a lifelong learning culture was vital as technology will force multiple career changes within an individual’s life. He concluded that radical reform was needed and “not just tinkering with a redundant system“.

The Baroness stated craft and creativity had “been squeezed out” of the school curriculum in favour of academic content and she asked the Government to discuss their engagement on this topic, along with how the Government were encouraging adults to learn languages.

She said that Government should recognise that lifelong learning was critical and explicitly give the recommendation that all universities should “consider how best to support this educational provision, either through developing a more flexible curriculum or producing open educational resources.” Lord Addington (Lib Dem) added the importance of lifelong learning and skills for those with dyslexia and other hidden disabilities.

Baroness Bakewell (Lab), a member of the Artificial Intelligence Committee, asked if the post-18 review of funding would confront the fourth industrial revolution.

Lords Spokesperson for Higher Education, Viscount Younger of Leckie, discussed the points made throughout the debate and stated that ‘lifelong learning was becoming increasingly important due to a number of trends and challenges that are shaping the future of work in the UK.”

He outlined the various Government schemes and initiatives that aided in the development of skills throughout life which included the national retraining scheme, career learning pilots, the flexible learning fund and the outreach and cost pilots. He stated that the response to the T-level consultation would be released “very soon.”

On barriers to part-time learning he said that the review of the post-18 education-plus funding would look at how we can encourage flexible and part-time learning to allow people to study throughout their lives.

Nursing Students

Earlier in the academic year some nursing students were overpaid on their student loan.

Helen Jones asked a parliamentary question to follow this up:

Q – Helen Jones: what estimate he has made of the number of nursing students who have received incorrect payments from the Student Loans Company and who have been told that money will as a result be deducted from their future payments.

While the parliamentary question hasn’t been answered yet (due on Monday) the Government have responded on how they intend to recover the funds from nursing students who have been overpaid on their student loan. Additional payments of up to £1,000 and a deferred re-payment scheme have been set up. The Government says affected students can apply for this additional, non-repayable, maintenance support for the rest of this academic year if they are facing hardship. The Student Loan Company will also defer the recovery of the overpaid funds until affected students have finished their courses and can afford to repay. Overpaid students will be eligible for normal support as per usual in the next academic year.

Sam Gyimah stated: “My priority has been to ensure none of the affected student nurses should suffer hardship as a result of an administrative error. These short-term, practical steps will provide immediate help for those who need it so they can concentrate on their studies and their future careers without concern.”

The Royal College of Nursing have responded:

“This is a small but welcome recognition of the problem. But it does not go anything like far enough. Student nurses will still struggle to pay bills and childcare costs and they must not be forced to turn to loan sharks or even quit their studies as a result. 

“This was not a problem of their making and we will not let them pay the price. The overpayment mistakes must be written off and they need money this month without a bureaucratic nightmare.

“This announcement lacks detail and we will keep asking the difficult questions until students have the answers.”

Parliamentary Questions

Student Loans – Appointment

Q – Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Education when he plans to appoint a new permanent chief executive of the Student Loans Company.

A- Sam Gyimah: The Student Loan Company’s (SLC’s) Shareholding Administrations (the Department for Education, the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and the Northern Irish Executive) are working closely with the SLC Board on the appointment of a new permanent CEO. This appointment will take place as soon as possible.

TEF

Q – Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Education when he plans to appoint the independent chair of the review into the Teaching Excellence Framework.

A – Sam Gyimah: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State is planning to appoint a suitable independent person to report on the operation of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework by autumn 2018. The department is currently engaged in a process for identifying people who have both the required experience and can command the confidence of the sector.

 

STEM

Q – Gordon Marsden: what discussions he has had with the (a) Home Secretary and (b) Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union on universities being able to continue to recruit academics to teach STEM subjects after the UK leaves the EU.

A– Sam Gyimah: The government recognises that the ability to continue to attract Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) academics from across the EU post-exit is a priority for the higher education (HE) sector. That is why departments are working to ensure the interests of the HE sector are represented in EU exit planning, and the government has been clear that the UK will remain open to academic staff and researchers from Europe and beyond.

To help provide certainty to current and prospective EU academics, in December 2017 we reached an agreement with the EU that EU citizens living in the UK when we exit will be able to get on with their lives broadly as now, and enjoy rights such as access to healthcare, benefits, and education. We will extend the December deal to those that arrive during the implementation period, but EU citizens who arrive here during this period must register with the Home Office after three months residence in the UK.

We are considering the options for our future migration system and a crucial part of this work is the government commissioning the Migration Advisory Committee to assess the impact of EU exit on the UK labour market. Their report in September will help to inform our thinking.

Elsewhere, the government is taking steps to increase the supply of important STEM skills, including by supporting new institutions such as the New Model in Technology and Engineering and the Institute of Coding, where a consortium of employers and universities will ensure HE courses meet the needs of the economy.

Contract Cheating

Q – Stephen Timms: what assessment he has made of the prevalence of fraudulent dissertation-writing services for university students; and what plans he has to address that practice.

A- Sam Gyimah: Higher education providers, as autonomous organisations, are responsible for handling matters of this nature, including developing and implementing policies to detect and discourage plagiarism. To help providers tackle the issue, we asked the Quality Assurance Agency, Universities UK and the National Union of Students to produce new guidance, which was published in October 2017.

This guidance is the first set of comprehensive advice for providers and students on the subject. It makes clear that where providers are working with others to deliver programmes, such as through validation, care should be taken to ensure that partner organisations are taking the risks of academic misconduct seriously. Providers are also encouraged to consider steps to scrutinise potential partners’ processes and regulations when developing validation arrangements. This is in line with the wider expectations set out in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education which all providers must meet. The code establishes the fundamental principle that degree awarding bodies have ultimate responsibility for academic standards and the quality of learning opportunities, regardless of where these opportunities are delivered and who provides them.

Going forward, I expect the Office for Students to encourage and support the sector to implement strong policies and sanctions to address this important issue in the most robust way possible.

2019/20 EU student fee levels

Q – Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether non-UK EU students starting university courses in the UK in academic year 2019-20 will be charged home student fees for the full duration of their course.

A – Sam Gyimah: Applications for courses starting in 2019/20 do not open until September 2018, and we will ensure EU students starting courses at English Institutions in that academic year have information well in advance of this date.

 

Consultations

Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

Other news

Social Media: a new All Party Parliamentary Group has launched on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing. It will be chaired by Chris Elmore MP (Labour).

Disadvantage: An Education Policy Institute report comparing educationally disadvantaged pupils within England with other nations has concluded England needs to double the number of disadvantaged pupils achieving the top GCSE grades to match the performance of the best nations.

Industrial Strategy: Ministers have announced £8 million for innovation to tackle global climate change and prepare for natural disasters as part of the Industrial Strategy for Commonwealth countries.

Transition to work: Stephen Isherwood writes about the stark differences between academic and working life in Communicating the university-to-work transition to students.

He states we underestimate the difficulties of the transition that students have to make when they start full-time work. That it’s a myth that employers expect fully work-ready hires who don’t require any development, but the spectrum of experience ranges from the student who hasn’t even had a bar job, to those with a one-year placement and more. The biggest development need is found in the complex areas of working with others. “Teamwork” is vague – a term used to describe managing up, dealing with conflicts, and working across complex team structures – University group exercises don’t match up to this. Real on the job experience is valued most and graduates with meaningful work experience are more employable. Isherwood states employers think that interns are much more likely to have the skills they seek than those without work experience:

But not all work experience has to be gained via a city internship in a gleaming Canary Wharf skyscraper. Work experience comes in many forms. Pulling shifts in a restaurant often involves dealing with demanding people. A student on a supermarket till can see around them the business decisions that companies make on a day-to-day basis. The fact that fewer and fewer young people are now working part-time during their school years is a problem.

Students who interview well demonstrate how they proactively developed relevant skills. A problem with course-related group work examples is that everyone has them. Employers are more likely to hire the student who has done more than they were told to, and can explain how they overcame difficulties and got stuff done.

He concludes:

It’s in the interests of employers, universities, and the students themselves to improve transitions into work. The more students gain meaningful experiences to develop the skills that will get them started in their career, the deeper their understanding of their strengths, and the easier and quicker they will transition to the world of work.

The Guardian ran a related article this week: Working while you study: a means to an end or a career opportunity.

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JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

Policy Advisor                                                                     Policy & Public Affairs Officer

65111                                                                                 65070

 

Follow: @PolicyBU on Twitter                    |                       policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

Brexit Impact – Creative industries, tourism and digital single market

The House of Commons Digital, Culture , Media and Sport Committee has published a report on the potential impact of Brexit on the creative industries, tourism, and the digital single market – click here for the full report.

Here are excerpts from the Conclusions and Recommendations

The UK creative, tech and tourism industries need sufficient access to talent to continue as world leaders. That is self evidently in the nature of being a global centre of excellence in these areas. The then Secretary of State, Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, said that Brexit is an opportunity to think about “how we can upskill our native workforce”, but this alone will not address the challenges that businesses face today particularly in an increasingly globalised and international sector. Brexit will place a greater urgency on developing the skills of the domestic workforce, but we cannot allow a skills gap to occur which could create shortages of essential workers for businesses in the UK as a result of our departure from the EU. (Paragraph 32)

The then Secretary of State’s assertion that analysis of the workforce must be completed on a sector–by–sector basis is a sensible approach. However, the lack of detail regarding precise numbers is problematic. There is a lack of clarity about reliance on EU workers. For instance, figures cited to us for the number of people working in tourism ranged from 3 million to 4.5 million. (Paragraph 33) It is imperative that any analysis examines regional demand for staff and the operational requirements of businesses and organisations, ranging from very small start-ups to international corporations.

Irrespective of Brexit, the Government should overhaul the existing visa system for non-EU nationals, who also make a valuable contribution to the UK economy, including our creative, technology and tourism industries. These industries rely on EU workers, and their commercial success is built on having a diverse workforce. The Government must heed warnings that SMEs across creative industries and tourism will not have the capacity to manage a new system that foists additional bureaucracy upon them. (Paragraph 52) We believe that salary levels are a crude proxy for value and fail to recognise the central role that workers from the EU and beyond play in making British businesses successful. We recommend that the Government explores ways in which commercial value, and value to specific sectors of the economy, can be factored into the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system. (Paragraph 53)

Simplicity should be a key feature of the future migration arrangements that the UK will agree with the EU. In particular, the creative industries and performing arts need a system which complements the spontaneity that defines live performance. (Paragraph 54)

The ability to utilise Creative Europe to secure additional sources of funding, combined with the freedom it gives to British organisations to lead projects with partners from across the EU (and outside the EU), means that there are clear incentives to maintain our participation. (Paragraph 67.) If the UK were to depart Creative Europe, this would represent a significant blow to the performing arts, museums, galleries, publishing and many other sectors in the creative industries. The limitations of participation experienced by other non-EU members illustrates that reaching agreement may not be straightforward but, equally, neither the UK nor EU member states will benefit from the UK’s departure. (Paragraph 68)

The Government should publish a map of all EU funding streams that support tourism and creative projects, whether dedicated to this specific purpose or not. This mapping exercise should:
– spell out where previous EU funding has, directly or indirectly, benefitted these sectors;
– indicate those streams that will need to be replaced;
– provide an overview of the total sum of funding that the UK government will provide to cover these costs; and
– clarify the role of the devolved administrations in the present arrangements and their proposed role in the future in the eyes of the UK Government.
In addition, the Treasury and DDCMS should illustrate how ‘value for money’ will be measured in any assessment of those EU funds that will be honoured by the Government’s guarantee. (Paragraph 79)

Some businesses, in the fashion and textiles sector, for instance, do see opportunities to improve trade links beyond the EU post-Brexit, and to develop strategies to support more UK-based production.(Paragraph 88)

The success of the UK’s digital economy is underpinned by ongoing data transfer across the globe and particularly within the EU. In order to preserve the UK’s policing and security arrangements, and to maintain commercial confidence, the Government must aim to deliver certainty from March 2019 onwards. (Paragraph 117) It is important to recognise that Brexit creates a potential risk that the UK’s ability to transfer data across borders will be limited.

The conclusions of the House of Lords Committee expose two key concerns.
Firstly, leaving the EU may not give the UK the flexibility to develop data protection law in the manner called for by witnesses such as Dell EMC.
Secondly, once we leave the EU, our influence over the development of the legal framework that will guide UK law will be reduced, undermining our ability to agree structures and exemptions for the UK, and diminishing our role as a world leader in data protection law. (Paragraph 119)

Brexit puts at risk the UK’s position as a world leader in developing and implementing the regulatory system for data protection. To address this concern, the Government should lay before Parliament an action plan which describes how, post-Brexit, the UK will be able to develop policy on data protection to support businesses and protect consumers, in order to keep pace with the demands of fast moving and developing technologies. (Paragraph 120)

It is very encouraging that the tourism and aviation sectors believe that existing aviation arrangements will be replicated once the UK has left the EU. Unfortunately, the then Secretary of State could provide very little detail as to the nature of the discussions, potential stumbling blocks and, crucially, the timing associated with reaching an agreement. The Government should recognise that it needs to provide certainty to an industry that is already marketing holidays for summer 2019, and for the consumers who will purchase them. (Paragraph 132) We believe reaching an early agreement in relation to aviation is a key priority for the Government. Nevertheless, the Government must provide an assurance that contingency plans are being made in the event of no deal being agreed and provide more information as to what any contingency arrangements would mean for businesses and travellers. (Paragraph 133) The development of a new system of entry to the UK for EEA visitors will be a key aspect of the UK’s relationship with the EU after Brexit. In its consideration of the implications of altering the principle of free movement, the Government must be aware of the detrimental impact this could have for the UK as a tourist destination. Businesses and organisations within the tourist industry are understandably concerned and we believe that the Government should be cautious about taking any steps which could harm the ‘welcome’ the UK provides to tourists. (Paragraph 138) Given the potential benefits to the British tourist industry, while the Government is grappling with the challenges posed by Brexit, it would be wise to design a new system also to encourage more tourism from non-EU markets. We recommend that the Government publishes an analysis of how the visa system could be developed to boost inbound tourism by visitors from beyond the EU. (Paragraph 139)

Preserving a strong, robust Intellectual Property framework is crucial for the continued success of the creative industries after Brexit. As such, the Government should clarify its position on whether EU Intellectual Property transposed into UK law (via secondary legislation or otherwise) will continue to apply after Brexit, and if not, what contingency plans the Government has in place to ensure that the current level of Intellectual Property protection remains following the UK’s departure from the EU. At the very least, the Government should commit to ensuring that the current level of Intellectual Property protections offered by EU and UK law, including those that are vital to the success of the Creative industries, will remain unchanged. (Paragraph 158.) Equally, the Government should clarify how it intends Intellectual Property enforcement to operate after the UK has left the EU. The Government should lay out its plan for cooperation with EU states after Brexit on Intellectual Enforcement Property matters, and outline what improvements, if any, it intends to make to the current enforcement framework. (Paragraph 159)

If Country of Origin rules cease to apply after Brexit then we must expect this will have an impact on the broadcasting industry within the UK. The Government must set out the steps it is taking to avoid that outcome, explaining its negotiating objectives and the timescale for such negotiation. The Government should provide an update to the Committee on progress made in securing a deal by the end of May 2018. (Paragraph 184.) The Government should also confirm as soon as possible that it intends for the United Kingdom to remain members of the European Single Market and under the terms of the current Country of Origin rules, for a transitional period after Brexit, until the end of 2020. (Paragraph 185)

The concerns of audio-visual sector, including broadcasters, producer and rights holders, over terms of the Draft Digital Single Market Directive which would affect territorial licensing are just one example as why it is crucially important that the UK needs to preserve its influence while Brexit proceeds. The Government should clearly spell out its strategy for doing so and how it proposes to embed its future participation in the widening of the digital single market in any Withdrawal Agreement. (Paragraph 191)

 

Research Impact – parliament and policy

The parliamentary outreach service are running an event aimed at academic researchers who would like to engage with parliament for their research to inform policy making.

Here are the details:

Want to have an impact in the UK Parliament?  Discover how your research could broaden debate and better inform our democracy

Book a place at Research, Impact and the UK Parliament at Plymouth Marjon University on Wednesday 21 March 2018 at 1.30pm.

At our 3 hour training event, you will learn:

  • How to contact MPs and Members of the House of Lords from Parliament’s Outreach & Engagement Service
  • How to work with Select Committees from a clerk of a House of Commons Select Committee
  • How Parliament has been cited in REF 2014 impact case studies from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

This event was excellent – well organised, highly relevant, focused, all speakers strong, content highly practicalRIUKP Attendee

Tickets cost £40 and include afternoon tea. If this fee is a barrier to your attendance, please contact us; we may make exceptions in some circumstances.

 

Book your place at Research, Impact and the UK Parliament now.

Research Policy News – 4 Jan 2018

It’s a quiet week in policy. The UK Parliament is currently in recess, meaning parliamentarians are focussed on their constituency business rather than national initiatives. Below are brief summaries of recent news, click into the links for more detailed information.

 

The UK Research Office publicised their Participant Portal highlighting its functionality to search for partners within the context of individual call topics.

 

Research Professional describes German innovations in nursing. Four practice centres will harness new technologies to trial new equipment and advances in practice in a partnership which combines research with industry and Government investment. Ideas to be trialled at the centres include reclining beds that adjust the patient’s position via sensors, innovative transport systems to get nurses around the centres more quickly, disinfectant robots, digital companions and innovative solutions to reduce noise pollution.

 

Research Professional report that the European Patent Office has changed its infrastructure and made senior appointments to speed up the patenting processes. The department has also been reorganised to reflect current demand for patenting:

  • mobility and mechatronics
  • healthcare, biotechnology and chemistry
  • ICT

 

Research Professional detail Eurodoc’s call for Framework 9 to support studies into early career researchers health and working conditions. They also requested that every project funded by Framework 9 should help researchers gain the skills to switch to working in industry, as many researchers choose to do. Finally they requested the budget be doubled to, in part, increase the number of positions for early-careers researchers in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme and in the Starting Grants awarded by the European Research Council.  Happiness at work was also one of the most popular THE articles in 2017.

 

BU’s Jo Garrad describes how you can get the best out of your Research Professional subscription by personalising the content you receive: Jo’s blog.

 

Institutes of Technology Fund: In December the Government announced a £170 million fund to establish Institutes of Technology delivering high level technical skills that meet employer needs. The Institutes of Technology will combine business, education and training providers within technical (particularly STEM) subjects to deliver the specific provision needed by local, regional and national employers. It forms part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy that will directly target skills gaps through upskilling existing and new entrants to the workforce. The first Institutes of Technology are expected to open in 2019.

Justine Greening stated:

“Institutes of technology will play a vital role driving our skills revolution with business and unlocking the potential of our country’s young people through better technical education. By bridging the country’s skills gaps, these new institutions will drive growth and widen opportunity.”

“This Government continues to invest in developing our homegrown talent so British business has the skills it needs and so that young people can get the opportunities they want.”

 

UKRO announced that the European Commission has published the list of expert evaluations who reviewed the Horizon 2020 proposals (2016 calls). See more here and in the European Commission’s reference documents.

 

Research Professional set out the top 10 EU policy stories of 2017, whilst UKRO contemplates the busy year ahead.

 

Industrial Strategy: The House of Lords has produced a library briefing on the Industrial Strategy and the UK Economy

 

Artificial Intelligence & Automation: The House of Commons Library has produced a briefing paper on Artificial Intelligence and Automation in the UK. Increasing digital skills, filling employment gaps, and funding for AI research are key issues for Government who seek to grow the AI industry. A sector deal for AI was announced in the Autumn 2017 Budget. This briefing paper considers the impact of AI and automation on the UK workforce, including how working lives may change. There are a broad range of predictions caveated by uncertainties such as the rate of technological development, rate of deployment, and the geographical variations. The paper concludes that the impact is likely to be significant and the Bank of England predicts that 15 million jobs will be influenced by automation over the next 20 years.

 

Consultations: Current academic consultations cover economist degree apprenticeships, health service workforce development and inshore fisheries pilots.

See the list of all live consultations relevant to BU here and BU’s responses here.

 

We’ll be back with the general HE policy update tomorrow.

JANE FORSTER                                            |                   SARAH CARTER

Policy Advisor                                                                     Policy & Public Affairs Officer

65111                                                                                     65070

 

Follow: @PolicyBU on Twitter                   |                      policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

HE Policy Update w/e 10 November 2017

HE Policy Update

w/e 10 November 2017

A research funding crisis?

Follow this link to read the  A research funding crisis? summary with all the diagrams and charts.

Or read the summary below without the charts.

Ahead of the Autumn 2017 Budget the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has published How much is too much? Cross-subsidies from teaching to research in British Universities written by Russell Group PG Economics student Vicky Olive. The paper concludes that research within universities is reliant on subsidy by tuition fee funding. As international students pay higher fees more of their fees go towards research than home and EU students. The paper concludes that on average international students contribute £8,000 from their total fees towards research. While the figures vary between universities, in 2014/15 teaching income funded 14% of English university research (approx. £1 in every £7 spent).

The paper argues that although the UK has a leading global research performance (see diagram below) R&D expenditure is well below competitor nations and unsustainable in the long term.

The paper argues that In 2014/15 the UK HE sector had a sustainability gap of £1 billion. This is described as a looming crisis because of a number of factors:

  • the focus on value for money for students paying tuition fees
  • Brexit threats to EU research funding
  • the unwelcoming nature of current immigration policy
  • the improvement of HE education in countries where the UK traditionally recruits international students
  • the impact of UK austerity policy which has seen limited science and research budget growth.

The Conservative Government’s has a target to increase R&D spend to 3% of GDP. The paper suggests that to realise this target the following would need to occur:

  • the UK would need an additional 250,000 full fee-paying international students;
  • Research Councils and Funding Councils to spend an additional £3 billion on funding research;
  • industry to contribute an additional £700 million;
  • charities to contribute an additional £830 million;
  • government departments to contribute £760 million extra each year.

Current R&D expenditure is 1.7% of GDP (25% of which spend by HEIs, 66% of spend by industry). The Government has announced additional investment of £4.7 billion by 2020/21 for R&D, however, the paper argues this isn’t enough and that other sectors must also increase their investment. The paper summarises recent Government policy related to R&D budgets.

The paper considers, and discards, the notion of only providing QR funding for 4* research.

In addition to her calls to increase research investment the author states her aim is to bring together UKRI and OfS to facilitate a sensible research funding model which neither underfunds or jeopardises research sustainability nor exploits students. The paper also urges universities to push back and recover a greater proportion of full economic cost from industry funders, particularly when the research is not directly for the public good.

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, commented : ”Anyone who wants to end cross-subsidies must say how they would fund universities’ various roles properly. There are three pressing issues. First, those who fund university research – public and private funders as well as charities – do not cover anything like the full costs. Secondly, the cross-subsidy from tuition fees to research is probably not sustainable at current levels. Thirdly, the Government wants a near doubling in research and development spending as a share of GDP, yet recent funding injections are only enough to stand still.

Our conclusion is that the Chancellor needs to find another £1 billion for research in this year’s Budget, with some set aside for the work universities do with charities. But even this level of additional funding would mean stagnation relative to other countries. So we also need a strategy for increasing research spending to OECD levels over the next few years and German levels thereafter – as promised in the 2017 Conservative manifesto.

The Times covered the report in University research subsidised with £281m from tuition fees.

Separately but relevant to this debate:

  • THE have written about the latest OECD data stating it shows a levelling off in global numbers of mobile students after the exponential growth of late 1990s and 2000s – read Data bite: international student flows in focus.
  • As we near the Autumn 2017 Budget parliamentarians have been calling on the Government to support their campaigning interests. This week Vince Cable (Lib Dem Leader) covers education and research and development in his pre-budget speech: “Long term studies by the LSE have shown that the two main determinants of poor UK performance on productivity are lack of innovation (R&D as opposed to basic science where the UK is strong) and low levels of skills. The former problem is being addressed by R&D tax credits and by the work of Innovate UK, in particular the Catapult network, which Liberal Democrats launched in government as part of the Industrial Strategy.
  • The latter is a far less tractable problem and despite the progress we made in the Coalition in raising the number and quality of apprenticeships, especially Higher Apprenticeships, the programme is now slipping backwards largely because of clumsy implementation of the apprenticeship levy and the neglect of careers advice and guidance….a budget built around the industrial strategy, prioritising education and skills, R&D and infrastructure would, at the very least, send the right signals.

Interdisciplinary Research

HEFCE have opened sub-panel nominations for roles related to IDR within REF 2021 aiming to support and promote the fair and equitable assessment of IDR outputs and environment through:

  • the inclusion of Interdisciplinary Research advisers on each sub-panel
  • the continuation of the optional IDR flag
  • the inclusion of a specific IDR section in the environment template

In September HEFCE blogged on the importance of academics within interdisciplinary research culture in What creates a culture of interdisciplinary research? HEFCE described what the new IDR role may look like in Wednesday’s blog REF 2021: Where are we on interdisciplinary research?

Widening Participation and inclusivity

OFFA has commissioned a new evidence based research study: Understanding and overcoming the challenges of targeting students from under-represented and disadvantaged ethnic backgrounds.

HEA and Runnymede Trust will analyse existing practice across the sector and ‘produce a suite of practical guidance to support staff in a variety of different roles within universities and colleges in overcoming the challenges associated with this work’. The project is part of OFFA’s long-term aim to challenge and support universities and colleges to do more to address the differences in higher education participation, attainment and progression to further study or employment that persist between students from different ethnic groups.

Les Ebdon: “Black and minority ethnic (BME) students have been a key target group for OFFA for a number of years. But our research suggests that universities and colleges are struggling to target the activities they deliver through their access agreements where they are most needed…This project will help us understand how activities can be targeted appropriately and effectively towards students from disadvantaged and under-represented ethnic backgrounds, enabling OFFA to better support universities and colleges to accelerate progress in this crucial area.”

Principal Investigator, Jacqueline Stevenson, stated: “Our intention is not just to indicate the barriers institutions are facing, but also what they are able to do to address these entrenched and long-standing inequalities.”

 

 Scope call for inclusive workplaces: Scope has called on the Dept for Work and Pensions to develop universal, industry-standard information and best practice guidance for all businesses to support their employment and management of disabled people. Scope’s new research Let’s Talk found many disabled people struggle to share information about their impairment or condition in the workplace making it hard for them to access the support and adjustments they need to carry out their job.

 

Question to the Dept for Education: Office for Students

Andrew Percy (Con): Whether the remit of the Office for Students will include anti-discrimination on campus.

Jo Johnson (Con, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research & Innovation): The government has published a consultation on behalf of the new Office for Students (OfS) regarding the regulation of the higher education sector. It proposes that, in its regulatory approach, the OfS will look to ensure that all students, from all backgrounds can access, succeed in, and progress from higher education.

Higher Education (HE) providers are autonomous organisations, independent from Government, and they already have responsibilities to ensure that they provide a safe, inclusive environment, including legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 (the Act) to ensure that students do not face discrimination.

The OfS, like some HE providers, will also have obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty in part 11 of the Act. This includes a requirement that the OfS, when exercising its functions, has due regard to the need to: eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and any other unlawful conduct in the Act, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations in relation to protected characteristics.

In addition, in September 2015 the government asked Universities UK (UUK) to set up a Harassment Taskforce, composed of university leaders, student representatives and academic experts, to consider what more can be done to address harassment and hate crime on campus. The taskforce published its report, ‘Changing the Culture’, in October 2016, which sets out that universities should embed a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and hate crime. This includes hate crime or harassment on the basis of religion or belief, such as antisemitism and Islamophobia. The Higher Education Funding Council for England is currently working with UUK to test the sector’s response to the Taskforce’s recommendations and the results of this will be published early in 2018.

 

House of Lord Questions – Disabled Student Allowance

Lord Addington (Lib Dem) has asked three parliamentary questions regarding the disabled students allowance.

Q1: Whether the evaluation of Disabled Students’ Allowances will include consideration of the need for third party advisers to have clarity of information about the respective responsibilities of higher education providers and claimants of those allowances.

Q2: Whether the evaluation of Disabled Students’ Allowances will include consideration of the benefits of issuing a guide to higher education providers about their responsibilities in relation to students claiming those allowances who fall into bands 1 and 2.

Q3: Whether the evaluation of Disabled Students’ Allowances will include consideration of the levels of information provided by higher education providers to students claiming those allowances about the respective responsibilities of those institutions and students.

The Earl of Courtown provided the same (non-)response to all three questions:

A: The evaluation of Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) will address a range of factors relating to the efficacy of support for disabled students, including the effect of recent changes to DSA policy.

 

Parliamentary Questions

 

Question to the Home Office – Visas: Overseas Students

Q -Jo Stevens (Labour): How much was accrued to the public purse from charging international students applying for Tier 4 student visas in each year since 2010.

A – Brandon Lewis (Con, Minister of State for Immigration): Visa income is not differentiated between the various categories in which they are received. Visa volumes by broad category (study, work etc) are published in the data section of this webpage: LINK Fees and unit costs are also published, for example, for 2017/18: LINK

 

Private Providers

Lord Storey (Lib Dem) has tabled two questions about the quality of private providers:

Q1 – On how many occasions in the last three years the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has (1) raised concerns, and (2) taken action, regarding private colleges and providers of degrees

Q2 – What measures they are taking to provide quality assurance for students studying degree courses at a private college whose degrees are validated by a university

These are due for answer on Tuesday 21 November.

Consultations

Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

New consultations and inquiries this week:

  • Two Dept for Health consultations on nursing, and one on regulation and workforce development of the health services
  • Jo Johnson has announced the sector will be asked for their opinion on two year degrees in a forthcoming consultation

Other news

Student Engagement: Guild HE have written for Wonkhe censuring the limited nature of student consultation and engagement proposed through the new Quality Code and critiquing both the TEF and the Office for Students in Engaging students as partners: two steps forward, one step back.

HE Policy Briefings

Awareness of policy is integral to many roles at BU and with HE constantly in the news it can be hard to sort the wood from the trees to keep current. We’re running two short and sharp HE Policy Briefings during November and December; all are welcome so come along to learn more!

The briefings will:

  • present the latest policy developments for universities and how they may affect BU, our staff and students
  • cover the next steps for the Teaching Excellence Framework, including subject level TEF, and how this could impact BU
  • support you to consider actions you could take to prepare for change and challenges arising from these development.

Email organisational development to attend on: Wed 22 November 12-13:00 at Lansdowne or Thurs 7 December 12-13:00 at Talbot (mince pies included!)

Subscribe!

To subscribe to the weekly policy update simply email policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

Policy Advisor                                                                        Policy & Public Affairs Officer

65111                                                                                        65070

Follow: @PolicyBU on Twitter                   |                     policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

 

HE Policy update – week ending 4 August **updated**

TEF

Wonkhe bloggers imagine alternative ways to run (ideally improve) the TEF in Visions for the AlterniTEF – can we do TEF better?  Ideas ranged from:

  • individual institution-specific targets as a condition of registration OfS (and therefore accountable under the Higher Education and Research Act);
  • metrics produced through relational analyses and cross referencing – this complex idea stemmed from measuring the quality and impact of reciprocal relationships;
  • individual learning statements setting institutional goals which the provider would be measured against – similar to current Fair Access Agreement;
  • ignoring undergraduate TEF and focusing on bringing post-graduate TEF online, including the influence of social capital and the added value of the post-graduate qualification on social mobility. This approach controversially espouses a metrics only approach and abolishes the provider statements.

Wonkhe also continue to unpick the influence of the provider statement in changing an institution’s initial metrics-based TEF rating. Marking the TEF creative writing challenge suggests the panel compensated providers who appeared to be effectively addressing poor NSS scores, took into account a London effect, and rewarded institutions with successful outcomes for part time study.

 

Brexit and Erasmus

A Times Higher article on the alternative to Erasmus post-Brexit highlights the downsides inherent in an Erasmus alternative. The EU exit agreement will determine whether the UK continues to participate in Erasmus, however, the government is currently pursuing a hard line on free movement which decreases the likelihood Erasmus would continue in its current form. An alternative is to establish bilateral agreements to exchange students with key European universities – just as we do now with international institutions. However, the article highlights the negative impact on social mobility – bilateral agreements mean the students must cover their own costs to some extent – decreasing the likelihood lower income students could afford to participate. While the obvious answer (to divert the UK’s contribution to the EU budget which funds Erasmus to a home-grown scheme) seems reasonable the budget required would be in excess of €113 million and the government have yet to confirm this as an option. Furthermore the time and administrative costs for universities to individually negotiate grants and agreements is excessive. The article also touches on lower demand from EU students to come to the UK suggesting exchanges may not be viable.

Parliamentary Questions

Q: Catherine West: What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Education on the future of the UK’s participation in the Erasmus scheme.

A: Mr Steve Baker: The Department has regular conversations with officials and Ministers from other governmental departments about a range of policy issues arising from EU exit. With regards to the Erasmus+ programme, the Government recognises the value of international exchange and collaboration in education as part of our vision for the UK as a global nation. There may be European programmes in which we wish to continue to participate after we exit. This will be considered as part of ongoing negotiations with the European Union

Brexit – staff and students

The Russell Group published 10 points requiring greater clarity in response to the UK Government’s position on EU nationals. This included calling for:

  • ensuring academic and student time abroad for study, training, career development and research purposes does not negatively impact on continuous residency
  • interpreting ‘strong ties’ broadly to ensure academics and students spending 2+ years abroad do not lose their settled status once this has been established
  • EU students starting courses in 2017/18 and 2018/19 should be able to stay and work here after their studies and be eligible for settled status after accruing five years residence
  • ensuring that professional qualifications obtained in either the UK or the EU before the UK’s withdrawal continue to be recognised across borders

 

Education-related exports and transnational education activity

The government released experimental statistics estimating the value of exports from the UK education section, the respective contribution of the higher and further education sectors, and transnational activity for 2010-2014. (Transnational education is education provided in a country different to that of the awarding institution.) The total value was estimated to be £18.76 billion – an increase of 18% against 2010. HE was the main contributor accounting for 92% of the total value, with revenue from transnational education contributing the remaining 8%. The full report is here.

Accompanying the experimental statistics is a report analysing the value of transnational education to the UK (originally published November 2014). The report discusses the benefits of transnational education to UK HE institutions (see page 11 for a summary).

 

Nursing & midwifery places

The Royal College of Nursing spoke out this week highlighting the discrepancy between the Government’s plans to expand the mental health workforce and the significant downturn in nursing applications attributed to the introduction of fees and the withdrawal of the NHS bursary. The Government has earmarked £1.3 billion for mental health services, pledging to treat an additional one million patients by 2020-21 through 24/7 services. The RCN says there is already a dangerous lack of workforce planning and accountability, and warns the Government will need to work hard just to get back to the number of specialist staff working in mental health services in 2010. They state that under this Government there are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses.

Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, expressed skepticism at the government’s plans and stated: “If these nurses were going to be ready in time, they would be starting training next month…but we have seen that the withdrawal of the bursary has led to a sharp fall in university applications and we are yet to see funding for additional places.” [The government previously stated the removal of bursaries will mean an additional 10,000 training places for healthcare students could be made available by 2020.]

On the ending of the bursary Jon Skewes, Director, at Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said: ‘We believe this decision is a fundamental mistake by the government and have warned about the wide reaching implications of removing the student midwifery bursary given the existing crisis in our maternity services. In England alone we remain 3500 midwives short. This, coupled with younger midwives leaving, an ageing workforce and the loss of EU midwives post-Brexit, means the RCM has grave concerns for staffing our maternity services. The government has completely ignored RCM advice to make any loans forgivable if students then go to work in the NHS. The axing of the bursary and introduction of tuition in England will without doubt worsen the current shortage of midwives.’

 

Tuition Fees

The Centre for Policy Studies released an Economic Bulletin on tuition fees: Wealthy Graduates: The Winners from Corbyn’s tuition fees plan. It reiterates known messages including increases in disadvantaged pupils accessing HE and the social unfairness of expecting non-graduates to subsidise education for degree students. It also makes the following points:

  • The maximum fee ceiling is charged by most universities, there is little differentiation. This means the intended competitiveness was unsuccessful as there is no clear link between tuition fees paid and job prospects. (See page 8 of the full report for more detail.) While TEF still intends to differentiate fees paid on quality the scale of the difference is limited.
  • It calls on ministers to avoid retrospectively increasing graduate’s fee repayments, to consider reducing loan interest rates, and to incentivise courses linking to labour shortages.
  • It also recommends policy makers consider intergenerational fairness but without abolishing tuition fees
  • Scotland’s previous no tuition fee policy which resulted in a student numbers cap means their social mobility outcomes are lower than England’s.

Widening Participation

Statistics – progression and outcome

The Department for Education have published statistics on the 2014/15 entry cohort –  Widening Participation in HE. These are the regular annual statistics detailing young participation in HE with social background comparisons and graduate outcomes. Headlines:

  • The progression rate of free school meals (FSM) pupils has increased, but so has the gap between FSM and non-FSM. Page 5 has a diagram breaking this down by region.
  • The state school Vs independent school gap in progressing to the most selective HE institutions has widened slightly
  • Graduate outcomes – disadvantaged students employed in the most advantaged occupations is up by 1%, although the gap between most and least advantaged students in these high-end jobs remains static at 6%.

School-age attainment trends

The Education Policy Institute has published Closing the Gap? Trends in Educational Attainment and Disadvantage. The report focuses on school aged children analysing the attainment gaps between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers plus other pupil characteristics. It covers the progress made, the enduring challenges (including magnitude of learning gaps and lack of progress for the most persistently disadvantaged pupils). It recommends an additional 8 local authority districts on top of the 12 Opportunity Areas currently identified by the Department for Education. Finally, it states that without significant acceleration in the rate at which gaps are being addressed it take until 2070 before disadvantaged children did not fall further behind other students during their time in education.

 

UK UG Vs International Student numbers

The Sunday Times led with an article claiming universities recruitment of the financially more lucrative international students was crowding out intake of UK undergraduates: Universities take foreign students ahead of British.

The sector responded on Twitter and Wonkhe set out what is misleading in the Times article in their blog: What the Sunday Times got Wrong. This states that the Times article used inappropriate statistics and reminded that UK school leavers now enter university at the highest ever levels.

David Morris (Wonkhe) writes: when I confronted Gilligan about this on Twitter, his response suggested (to me at least) a realisation that a mistake had been made. He argued that his piece “was mainly about the fact that non-EU undergrads are admitted with lesser qualifications” and that we shouldn’t suggest that part-time and second degree students “don’t count”.

In his critique Morris also acknowledges the difficulty navigating HESA statistics for the uninitiated: HESA’s website is not the easiest to use, and one could easily look at overall undergraduate numbers and make an assumption about a story that simply isn’t there. I would urge HESA to make finding historic data more ‘journalist friendly’ for hacks with a deadline. To write this piece I have had to have six different tabs open on HESA’s website, plus three different Excel sheets and the HESA mobile app. No wonder mistakes can be made.

 

Case Studies

Universities UK have published a directory of case studies illustrating how universities are tackling harassment, violence against women and hate crime. The case studies cover a range of areas including prevention, improving incident reporting procedures, effective responses, student and staff training, and good practice.

 

Policy Update w/e Friday 30 June 2017

TEF

As the sector continues to digest TEF the date to register for appeals has already passed. The Times report that Durham, Liverpool, Southampton and York will be appealing their ratings. Read Jane’s TEF blog published by Wonkhe. The Times Higher have published a comprehensive review of the data.

Graduate Outcomes

The second NewDLHE consultation has closed and the new survey will be called the Graduate Outcomes survey. Read about it on the HESA website and Rachel Hewitt’s Wonkhe blog: What’s in a name? Arriving at Graduate Outcomes. Rachel writes: The new model will enable us to provide high-quality data that meets current and anticipated future needs, while also realising efficiencies in the collection process. The data that will be available, including new graduate voice measures, will expand our understanding of what graduate success means.

HESA have published the synthesis of responses to the consultation and also have a helpful response and clarification page which follows more of a Q&A style. The first cohort of graduates to receive the new survey will be from the 2017/18 academic year and there will be a minimum 70% response rate requirement for full time UK undergraduates (some concern has been expressed about whether this is achievable). The first full Graduate Outcomes publication will be in early 2020, followed by the LEO earnings data later in Spring 2020. HESA clarify that there will not be a gap in data for TEF, although some students will be captured a little later than the existing DLHE model. When asked how HESA would mitigate the change in census point impacting on the TEF data they clarified it was for HEFCE to consider the matter.

Widening Participation

It’s been a busy week for widening participation. OFFA have released the national outcomes of the 2015/16 Access Agreement monitoring and announced a new HESA data set will be released at the end of July which will support institutions to evaluate the impact of their financial support (including bursaries) to students.

The Access Agreement monitoring noted greater investment during 2015/16 and ‘significant and sustained’ improvements in fair access in the last decade. However, it identified particular challenges in the fall of part-time student numbers, non-continuation rates for mature students (almost double the rate of young students), little progress in retention and attainment of students from certain BME backgrounds, and professional employment rates, which are significantly lower for graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds. It also stressed the importance of flexible study options, particularly for mature students.

The Social Mobility Commission published Time for change: an assessment of government policies on social mobility 1997 to 2017 which considers the impact and effectiveness of the key social mobility policies over the last 20 years. The HE sector has seen success in improving disadvantaged students access to university (less so at selective institutions), however, the retention rates and graduate outcomes for disadvantaged students still lag behind with only minimal improvement over the 20 year period. For more detail read our summary of the report here.

Research Councils UK released their Measuring Doctoral Student Diversity report. And the Herald has a piece on how Glasgow University contextualises its admissions successfully ‘Dumbing down’ myths scotched.

EU citizens’ rights

The Home Office have published a policy paper addressing the continuation of UK residence rights for EU nationals, which was the basis of the government’s proposal to the EU for negiotiations on this issue, which is a gateway issue to wider negotiation on Brexit. A short factsheet explains the intended process for EU citizens to remain in the UK. The policy paper mentions access to fee and maintenance loans for undergraduates and EU citizens access to research council PhD studentships – both to continue until 2018-19. Upon Brexit EU students with “settled status” will be permitted to complete their studies.

The current UK proposal appears to be relatively generous to EU citizens currently in the UK – although there is a cut off date which has yet to be set and will be between 29 March 2017 and 29 March 2019.  Those arriving after that date will not have the same rights.  It does propose a registration requirement for those acquiring “settled” status (or in the course of acquiring it – it takes 5 years) but it proposes a 2 year transition period for that process to avoid administrative chaos.  The EU have already said that they are not happy with the proposal that the EU court will not have jurisdiction.  This is the opening position in a negotiation, so expect it to evolve over the next few months.

Local MPs

Three of our local MPs have been appointed to Government positions.

  • Simon Hoare has been appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Ministerial team within the Home Office.
  • Conor Burns has moved from BEIS and been appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Boris Johnson (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs).
  • Michael Tomlinson has been appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Ministerial team within the Department for International Development.

Parliamentary Questions

There were a number of HE relevant parliamentary questions this week.

Catherine West asked the Secretary of State for Education whether it remains the Government’s policy to allow the opening of new grammar schools. Justine Greening responded: There was no education bill in the Queen’s Speech, and therefore the ban on opening new grammar schools will remain in place.

William Wragg asked the Secretary of State for Education whether the proposals relating to universities in the Schools that Work for Everyone consultation document will be taken forward. Justine Greening responded: “As part of the Government’s commitment to create more good school places, last September we published the consultation document: Schools that work for everyone. This asked how we could harness the resources and expertise of those in our higher education sector to work in partnership to lift attainment across the wider school system.

The Government has welcomed the way that our world-class higher education institutions are willing to think afresh about what more they could do to raise attainment in state schools, in recognition of their responsibility to their own local communities.

Universities are currently agreeing Access Agreements with the Office for Fair Access. Earlier this year, his strategic guidance to the sector, the Director for Fair Access set out an expectation that HEIs should set out in their access agreements how they will work with schools and colleges to raise attainment for those from disadvantaged and under-represented groups.

The Government hopes and expects more universities will come forward to be involved in school sponsorship and free schools, including more mathematics schools, although support need not be limited to those means.”

Lastly, Justine Greening confirmed that her department would provide further information on the Schools that work for everyone consultation ‘in due course’.

Other news

Research England is recruiting members for the first Council.

The House of Commons Library have published a briefing paper on The value of student maintenance support.

 

 

 

Jane Forster                                               Sarah Carter

VC’s Policy Adviser                                    Policy & Public Affairs Officer

Policy and political scene this week: 8 June 2017

Welcome to this week’s political scene.

Its been a relatively quiet week in policy land with the main focus on today’s general election, however, gender equality for female academics and the student academic experience survey have hit the news.

2017 Student Academic Experience Survey

The 2017 Student Academic Experience Survey results have been released. Wonkhe succinctly summarise the findings here, and there has been press coverage on the findings from the BBC, Guardian, and The Times.

In brief: teaching is perceived more positively, learning gain has been reported positively (although Wonkhe disagree), and student wellbeing remains a concern. Most interesting is the consideration of the results dissected by student residency, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Students who live at home and commute score lower on satisfaction and wellbeing than students that relocate and live in. There are also clear ethnicity differences, in particular Asian and Chinese students rate teaching staff and value for money of their degree lower; and non-straight students score lower across the board on wellbeing. As Wonkhe suggest the interplay between race, commuting, attainment, wellbeing, learning gain, part time employment, and student support may make for some interesting personalisation interventions within the sector if the data can be sufficiently interpreted.

For more detail on the findings see this week’s policy update.

 

Rankings

The QS World Rankings have been released today. Paul Greatrix writes for Wonkhe noting that while the UK still places 4 institutions in the top 10 the majority of UK HEIs have dropped lower in the rankings (including 11 of the 16 Russell Group institutions). Paul reports that QS highlight weaker research performance and reputational decline as the reason for the UK institutions ranking drop, and he anticipates further falls as the Brexit gloom descends.

Furthermore, following a complaint to the advertising watchdog Universities are carefully considering their marketing messaging around rankings position. The BBC report the University of Reading will remove their claim to be within the top 1% of the world’s universities after the watchdog stated the figure could not be substantiated and could be misleading. It remains to be seen what impact this will have on recruitment, particularly for international students.

 

Academic Gender Equality

This week the Guardian reports Patricia Fara’s (Cambridge historian) call for universities to invest more money in childcare if they want to see gender equality. The Guardian writes that childcare is the single biggest problem for female academics and cites the 2016 report from Institute of Fiscal Studies into pay inequality which found the pay gap widens steadily for 12 years after the birth of a first child, leaving women on 33% less pay per hour than men.

The topic of female academics is also picked up by HEPI this week who discuss the expectation and difficulties of mobility in relation to career progression.

 

Consultations and Inquiries

There are no new consultations or committee inquiries this week. The new parliament will convene on Tuesday 13 June.

You can read BU’s response to past consultations and inquiries here. The response to the European Commission’s Erasmus+ consultation has recently been added, read it here.

To sign up to the separate weekly general HE policy update simply email: policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

Sarah Carter
Policy & Public Affairs Officer

Policy and political scene this week: 25 May 2017

Welcome to this week’s political scene within research. Here is a summary of the week’s generic policy reports and releases, alongside new niche consultations and inquiries.

The role of EU funding in UK research and innovation

This week the role of EU funding in UK research and innovation has hit the headlines. Its an analysis of the academic disciplines most reliant on EU research and innovation funding at a granular level.

Jointly commissioned by Technopolis and the UK’s four national academies (Medical Sciences, British Academy, Engineering and Royal Society) it highlights that of the 15 disciplines most dependent on EU funding 13 are within the arts, humanities and social science sphere.

Most reliant on the EU funding as a proportion of their total research funding are Archaeology (38% of funding), Classics (33%) and IT (30%).

The full report dissects the information further considering the funding across disciplines, institutions, industrial sectors, company sizes and UK regions. It differentiates between the absolute value of the research grant income from EU government bodies, and the relative value of research grant income from EU government bodies with respect to research grant income from all sources, including how the EU funding interacts with other funding sources.

There are also 11 focal case studies, including archaeology and ICT. Here’s an excerpt from the archaeology case study considering the risks associated with Brexit and the UK’s industrial strategy:

As archaeologists are heavily dependent on EU funding, a break away from EU funding sources puts the discipline in a vulnerable position. This is exacerbated by the fact that the UK is short of archaeologists and/or skilled workers active in the field of Archaeology because of the surge in large scale infrastructure projects (e.g. HS2, Crossrail, and the A14), which drives away many archaeologists from research positions.” Source

See the full report page 25 for particular detail on ICT and digital sector, and page 39 for archaeology. For press coverage see the Financial Times article.

Bathing Water Quality

The European Environment Agency published European Bathing Water Quality in 2016. It sees the UK as second to bottom in the league table for quality of bathing water. While 96.4% of British beaches were found safe to swim in last year 20 sites failed the annual assessment. Only Ireland had a higher percentage of poor quality bathing waters at 4%.

Report link: https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/european-bathing-water-quality-in-2016

How and when to submit evidence to policy makers

This week Research Professional ran a succinct article encouraging researchers to think more about when and how they submit evidence to policy makers. Timing is key, policy makers often want information instantaneously and the article urges researchers to be responsive but pragmatic, including a pro-active approach of gently keeping key policy makers informed of new developments.

Researchers wanting to have a political impact may consider attending a UK Parliament Outreach and Engagement Service events.

 

Consultations and Inquiries

Responding to a select committee call for evidence is a great way for academics to influence UK policy. If you respond to a consultation or inquiry as a BU member of staff please let us know of your interest by emailing policy@bournemouth.ac.uk at least one week before you submit your response.

This week there are three new inquiries and consultations that may be of interest to BU academics.

Sports

A Scottish Parliament inquiry is seeking individual’s views on community-based approaches to removing barriers to participation in grassroots sport and physical activity, including how to promote volunteering. The committee is asking for views and examples on a range of questions, including:

  • Examples where a community based approach has been successful in removing barriers to participation in sport and physical activity?
  • Approaches that were particularly successful in increasing participation among certain social groups, like women, ethnic minorities, certain age-groups?
  • The barriers facing volunteers and how can they be overcome? The aim is to inform how Scotland might increase participation rates across all groups and sectors of society, respondents can select to answer only the most relevant questions.

The call for evidence closes on 30 June.

Body Image

The British Youth Council has opened an inquiry into body image and how the growth of social media and communications platforms has encouraged attitudes that entrench poor body image. Included among the inquiry questions are:

  • Has the growing use of social media and communications platforms amongst young people encouraged practices and attitudes that entrench poor body image? What is the link between “sexting” and body dissatisfaction?
  • Do internet companies, social media platforms or other platforms have a responsibility to tackle trends which entrench poor body image? What are they already doing in this area? What more should they be doing?
  • Are particular groups of young people particularly prone to poor body image, or less likely to seek help? What causes these trends?
  • In relation to young men and boys, minority ethnic groups, and those who self-identify as transgender: what are the specific challenges facing young people in these groups? How effective is existing support?
  • To what extent is dissatisfaction with body image contributing to the increase in mental health problems amongst children and young people?

The call for evidence closes on 16 June.

Drainage & Flooding

The Welsh government has opened a consultation on the implementation of sustainable drainage systems on new developments (schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010).

The consultation closes on 11 August.

 

HE Policy Update

You can also sign up to receive BU’s separate weekly HE policy update delivered direct to your inbox each Friday by emailing policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

Sarah Carter

Policy & Public Affairs Officer

UUK – International Research Collaboration After the UK Leaves the European Union

UUK have published International Research Collaboration After the UK Leaves the European Union. The information below summarises the main thrust of the document.

 

Benefits of Research Collaboration

International collaboration is vital as it enables individual academics to increase their impact through pooling expertise and resources with other nations to tackle global challenges that no one country can tackle alone. Cross-nation collaboration increases citations and combined talents produce more innovative and useful outcomes.

 

The paper emphasises that the researchers themselves need to drive the collaboration and have choice. Selecting ‘Britain’s best new research partners’ is infeasible as sectors have different needs and Britain needs to collaborate with the countries with the richest talent and expertise. Funding needs to be well-structured and flexible to allow this.

 

The foreword on page 2 states “We should look to developing new networks and funding arrangements that support collaboration with major research powers” both within Europe and internationally. “The primary focus should be on delivering excellent research”, the government should seek to access and influence the 9th Framework Programme (Horizon successor), alongside new funding sources to incentivise collaborations with high-quality research partners beyond the EU. UUK call for a cross-government approach to supporting international research and the drawing together of the current disparate funding mechanisms, including “promoting research collaboration opportunities as a central pillar of the UK’s offer to overseas governments and businesses.”

 

Collaborative Partners

While its important to work with both EU and non-EU partners the report notes that research with other EU member states collectively makes up the largest pool of collaborators. “Research undertaken with EU partners like Germany and France is growing faster than with other countries – hence while it is vital that the UK takes every opportunity to be truly global in their outlook, the importance of collaboration with EU partners should not be underestimated.”

 

Almost all the growth in research output in the last 30 years has been brought about by international partnership. In 1981 less than 5% of UK research publications had an overseas co-author. Whereas Figure 1 below demonstrates how collaboration has changed, illustrating how domestic output has plateaued and non-UK collaborations accounts for recent growth.

 

Figure 1: The trajectory of international co-authorship on research publications from Imperial, UCL, Cambridge and Oxford.        (Data: source, Web of Science; analysis, King’s College Policy Institute).

 

 

Table 1 below highlights the UK’s major collaborative partners demonstrating a mix of EU and non-EU partners (non-EU partner in bold).

 

Table 1: Countries co-authoring UK output (2007-2016).

The UUK report reminds that research is a form of diplomacy leading to alliances and memoranda between national academies. The international links create esteem and demonstrate the wider engagement and status of an institution which is attractive to international students and staff.

 

 

Addressing Collaborative Barriers

Addressing the barriers to research collaboration is more than just funding, the report calls for:

 

  • Better information on capabilities and strength of UK researchers

 

The report states there needs to be better understanding and matching of research and innovation strengths between partners and potential collaborators, with clearer articulation of these and provision of contact points at the research organisation, funding agency and sector levels.

 

The circulation of people and ideas is fundamental to international research collaborations: National policy frameworks of all partners must be flexible enough to support international exchange, enabling critical human resources – including technical expertise – to flow between systems.

 

  • Cultural barriers need better understanding

 

The report highlights South Korea and Taiwan as attractive collaborators because of their research-intensive economies, strong technology investment, excellent university system, and high-English speaking rate. However collaboration is challenged by geography, proximity and cultural differences.  UUK report that communication problems are a key barrier alongside the uncertainty about research profiles of UK universities and significant differences in research governance.

 

Researchers working within different national contexts will have experience of different research cultures. These can be a source of strength and innovation, but also create challenges that must be understood, acknowledged and addressed. This requires time, but can be mitigated by the development of shared understandings, priorities and policy frameworks.

 

  • Policy and funding stability is essential

 

Stability, certainty and trust are required if successful international research collaborations are to be fostered. Partners need to have confidence that the policy and funding environment will not be subject to unexpected or dramatic change after they have invested the time and resources necessary to develop productive and beneficial partnerships. Stability and certainty in both policy and funding environment is a key facilitator.

 

  • Bilateral agreements with defined funding facilitated by a coordinated application process

 

The report effectively highlights the difficulties of ‘double jeopardy’ (Roberts, 2006) whereby all partners need to individually secure funding across a sustaining period to both commence and fully complete. Furthermore while countries commission and pay for the research it depends on individual motivation for success. Individuals make research choices that further their career and are fundable. EU links exist because researchers at well-funded institutions saw mutual net benefits, however EU collaboration proliferated because mutually assured Framework Programme funding supported it.

 

The report suggests a mechanism for effective research collaboration is to create more flexible agency-level bilateral agreements with associated secure funding. A Memorandum of Understanding should identify common priorities and mutual research standards yet this should be backed up by a research fund. Page 6 describes collaboration with Brazil as an example of this.

 

Furthermore, UK research funding beyond the EU is highly dependent on the ODA budget which limits research themes and fundable countries. Post Brexit the UK needs new money without ODA type restrictions to support collaborations with partners not eligible for EU funds.

 

Note: UUK have also released a second report on whether free trade agreements can enhance opportunities for UK higher education post Brexit.

 

References

Roberts, Sir Gareth. (2006). International partnerships of research excellence.

 

 

Policy update for w/e Friday 21 April

General Election: The general election (#GE2017) has been announced for Thursday 8 June meaning Parliament will dissolve on 3 May. In local news Oliver Letwin (West Dorset) was reported as announcing he will stand down and not contest the next election; however this related to 2020 and he has confirmed he will contest 2017.

Current bills must receive Royal Assent before Parliament dissolves or fail; therefore a ‘wash-up’ period will likely take place to hurry key bills through. The ‘wash-up’ business must be agreed between the Government and the Opposition. Its a time when deals can be made, although its likely the Government may tighten ranks to push through a bill with the main thrust of its intent intact.

Select committees are wrapping up their business with several inquiries prematurely closing their requests for evidence. The chairmanship of several select committees will also change as Members can only chair a committee for the maximum of two parliaments or 8 years (Standing Order 122A).

Purdah, commencing at midnight tonight, will impact and delay the TEF year 2 results, the release of the full LEO (Longitudinal Education Outcomes) data, the Schools that Work for Everyone white paper, and other announcements including the appointment of the Chief Executive for the Office for Students.

 

HERB: The next stage for the Higher Education and Research Bill is ping pong, where the Commons respond to the Lords Third Reading amendments. Currently, no date is scheduled for ping pong and the bill is absent from next week’s published parliamentary business. With Parliament’s dissolution looming speculation abounds on the bill’s fate, its likely it will be considered on Thursday where the parliamentary business has been left unspecified. Opinion divides on whether the Government will concede or hard line to push the bill through. The House of Commons Library has published a useful briefing paper summarising the Lords Amendments. Furthermore, Research Professional reportthe amendment to widen the grounds for appeal of Office for Students decisions is understood to have been accepted by government”, no authoritative source is provided to confirm this, although as one of least controversial Lords amendments it seems plausible.

 

Student migration: Frequent in the press this week (Times, Huff Post, Wonkhe, Reuters) was Theresa May’s rumoured U-turn on counting overseas students within the net migration figures However, there are no firm commitments and the position is neatly summarised by THE: May is “offering to change the way that student numbers are calculated, with the promise of further concessions”; the government is likely to offer a “regulatory compromise” in how overseas student numbers in Britain are calculated. On Thursday Theresa May told the BBC: “We want to see sustainable net migration in this country, I believe that sustainable net migration is in the tens of thousands.” A recent UUK ComRes poll highlights that only a quarter of the public consider students to be immigrants. We wait to see how migratory targets are tackled in the Conservatives election manifesto.

 

2018/19 EU Students: The government has confirmed that 2018/19 EU students will remain eligible for undergraduate and masters student loans and retain their home fees status even if the course concludes after Brexit. EU students can also apply for Research Council PhD studentships for the duration of their study.

 

Industrial Strategy – HE research commercialisation: HEFCE have launching the Connecting Capability Fund (£100 million) as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy to support university collaborations and research commercialisation. It is intended to help universities to deliver the industrial priorities, forge external technological, industrial and regional partnerships, and share good practice and capacity internally across the higher education sector. It is expected to be channelled through the Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) programme with the first round deadline set as 10 July.

 

Other news:

The Common’s Science and Technology select committee have published: Industrial Strategy; Science and STEM skills. It urges government to increase the R&D investment and make up net shortfall for international collaborative research lost through Brexit, alongside stepping-up measures to increase children and students STEM skills.

Research Councils UK have launched the £700k Strategic Support to Expedite Embedding Public Engagement with Research (SEE-PER) call aiming to better embed support for public engagement with research in higher education institutions The call will be open for a limited time, assessed by panel over summer 2017, with activity commencing no later than 1 October 2017.

British businesses winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise (2017) have been announced, the winning product/service for each business is listed in the Gazette. Among the winners is Poole based BOFA International Ltd (fume extraction).

Rachel Hewitt, HESA, writes for Wonkhe to provide feedback on the new DLHE consultation. HESA report 80% support for the proposed survey design and a mixed response to the financial model mainly due to lack of information. A final version of the model is earmarked for publication later in June. Hewitt states: “We now want to ensure that HE providers have certainty over the implications of the review outcomes, and to enable them to start reviewing their systems and processes”, and commits to sharing information through the rolling FAQs.

HEA and Action on Access have published: What works? Supporting student success: strategies for institutional change.