Apart from academics and policy-makers, the 2017 Belvedere Forum was attended by representatives of business organizations (e.g. PwC), senior management of selected universities, think-tanks (e.g. the Chatham House, the Centre for European Reforms), the BBC as well as the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Poland, and the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the United Kingdom. On the Polish side, this Forum’s steering committee was headed by Ryszard Czarnecki whereas on the British side, it was led by Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Next year, the forum is going to be held in London. For more info see: https://twitter.com/Belvedere_Forum
Category / policy
This part of the blog features news and information about higher education policy and how BU’s research is influencing policy.
- Research Professional illustrates the Brexit threats to research positioning and job losses by highlighting the difficulties facing an EU astronomy consortium. The consortium represents seven countries, led by the UK, but will move headquarters to an EU member state from January 2021. The move means the UK will lose the project’s leadership and the 12 UK universities may not continue post-Brexit. Research Professional notes that while access to research infrastructures is available to non-EU states, the EU membership plays a significant role in decisions on where to locate facilities. Gerry Gilmore (the consortium leader, from University of Cambridge) stated:
“The UK will lose substantial scientific leadership and influence in the EU. There is going to be bad news all around. I don’t think people realise how many new jobs and new opportunities have just been destroyed.”
- The EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill has survived the parliamentary process and received Royal Assent on 16th March (BBC). This bill allows the Prime Minister to notify the EU of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU. The Lords made two amendments to the Bill – one relating to Parliament having a “meaningful vote” on the final arrangements and one requiring a guarantee for EU citizens to remain in the UK. The bill was approved by the House of Commons, which rejected the Lords bill and then went back to the Lords under what is called “ping-pong”. The Lords voted again on both issues but the House of Lords majority backed down and the bill was passed. The PM is expected to trigger article 50 later in March.
- 2018/19 EU student and staff guarantees: During oral questions in the Lords Baroness Royall of Blaisdon pressed the government spokesperson (Viscount Younger of Leckie) when announcements would be made regarding fees and access to loans for 2018/19 EU student starters. Leckie gave a side stepping response: “The noble Baroness makes the important point that there are uncertainties arising from Brexit, but the Government have moved rapidly to give assurances to this sector… “We have also provided similar assurances that EU nationals starting courses in 2016-17 and 2017-18 remain eligible for Research Council postgraduate support. As I have said, we will ensure that students starting in 2018-19 have the information well in advance”
- The debate over the inclusion of international students in the long-term migrant numbers continues. Even senior ministers are rebelling – Boris Johnson, Phillip Hammond and Liam Fox have all protested, although Jo Johnson continues to toe the party line backing the PM’s stance to include international students within the original immigration statistics. Liam Fox spoke out this week about the value of overseas campuses.
- On Monday the House of Lords defeated the government on the Higher Education and Research Bill (HERB), approving an amendment to prevent international students being counted as long-term migrants. The government have responded that “the proposed amendment would create a situation where we were potentially unable to apply basic visa checks, or impose conditions on a student visa. It would also mean that fresh primary legislation were needed just to make minor, technical changes to immigration rules.” (Wonkhe)
- HERB is scheduled to have its third reading in the Lords on 22 March 2017 and then will go back to the Commons. The PM’s stance on international students seems rock solid (Financial Times) and Theresa May is not expected to waiver – the parliamentary ping pong regarding international students will surely make headlines over the coming weeks.
- Meanwhile there are worries about student recruitment. Politics Home quotes an Office for National Statistics release stating the number of students coming to the UK dropped by 41,000 in 2016.
Higher Education and Research Bill:
- The HE and Research Bill has finished its third reading in the House of Lords (although it will have to go back if the House of Commons makes any changes, as seems likely). The report stage in the Lords is on 22nd March – usually only technical or minor amendments are made at this stage. The current version of the bill as amended by the Lords is here.
- The surprise amendment on international students is referred to above.
- The government won the final vote on the proposed amendment that would have required UKRI and OfS to jointly revoke research degree awarding powers, the amendment was defeated. Wonkhe report that Lord Mackay made an impassioned speech noting that it was “extraordinary” that the OfS was not required to have any expertise or experience regarding research, and yet had the unilateral power to revoke research degree awarding powers, but to no avail. The Bill continues to say that research degree-awarding powers should be made by the OfS with advice from UKRI.
With long debates, late nights and a large number of amendments, it is fair to say that HERB has received an excellent level of scrutiny within the Lords. Lord Prior of Brampton notes: “Everyone who has contributed [to the Bill debates] can take some credit for having improved it considerably. For me, it is a good example of the value this House can bring to a Bill of this kind.”
HEFCE 2017/18 funding to universities: The grant letter details the overall funding to the sector for 2017/18. It includes doubled funding for the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (£60m pa), an additional £17m increase for mainstream quality-related research, a reduction of £40m for teaching (including a reduction in PGT FTE funding rate), maintaining the disabled students premium at the 2016/17 level, the inclusion of nursing, midwifery and allied health professions (£32m), cuts to the student premium budget for full time UG of £20m (part time UG funding remains static). Institutions will receive individual allocations in April although with a publication embargo in force until May. Capital allocations will be announced in March.
Student Loans Sale: A parliamentary question tabled by Steve McCabe requested publication of the ‘in-depth market testing exercise associated with the same of the student loan book. Jo Johnson has responded: “The Government ran a market testing process with a cross-section of potential investors in the student loan book from the end of September into November 2016. This sought feedback on potential sale structures and key features of the transaction and informed the design of the sale. This was a commercial rather than a public process and was conducted under non-disclosure agreements. We do not intend to publish a report of the details. Protecting the details of the conclusions of market testing will help the ongoing sale process achieve value for money for taxpayers.”
Student Fees: On Thursday 16th the Petitions Committee released its latest decisions regarding recent petitions with a high number of signatures. This included a petition to government to change the University fees from £9250 back to the £3000 fee. The Committee agreed to wait for the Higher Education and Research Bill to complete its passage through Parliament before deciding whether to schedule a debate – effectively this was a dismissal of the petition.
Research Excellence Framework The responses to the REF2021 consultation were due in by midday on 17th March.
- There has been a lot of focus on one area, the definition of “research active staff” for the returns – there are some interesting views:
- HEFCE blog (and BU’s reply) – HEFCE are proposing a negotiated definition for each university, BU is proposing all staff should be returned, including teaching only
- Royal Society blog on Research Professional – they say staff shouldn’t be returned at all, it should be institutional
- The PVC (Research and Enterprise) from Hertfordshire says on Times Higher Education that the solution is flawed and that clarity is needed
There are many other issues in the REF consultation, including the portability of outputs, which will have important consequences for institutions and their staff. The HEFCE REF consultation on the implementation of the REF 2021 closed on 17 March 2017. You can read BU’s response here.
Date: Friday 24 March 2017
Time: 10.00 am – 5pm
Venue: EB708, Executive Business Centre, Bournemouth University
The event is free to attend, however, places are limited and registration is required.
About the Event:
Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing as it is more commonly known, continues to push the boundaries of Intellectual Property (IP) law whilst raising questions relating to the protection and exploitation of IP.
There have been various attempts to address these questions through legal and empirical studies; yet at the same time, there continues to be limited literature and debate on the implications of 3D printing surrounding IP law, industry, society, technology and policy.
This challenge, which extends to the lucrative jewellery sector raises further questions in relation to creativity, design, copyright and licensing and these issues will be addressed at the event by bringing together experts from the cultural and business sectors including designers, manufacturers, distributors, policy makers and legal professionals.
This multi-disciplinary event which will explore the above issues will also provide the platform for a discussion of the ‘Going for Gold’ project carried out by researchers at CIPPM (Bournemouth University) in collaboration with Museotechniki Ltd and Uformia AS and will be complemented by a demonstration of 3D printed jewellery artefacts resulting from the project.
The event, based on the ‘Going for Gold’ project led by Professor Dinusha Mendis, is supported by the RCUK funded Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy (CREATe), AHRC Grant Number AH/K000179/1 and builds on the BU/CIPPM-led UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) Commissioned Study on 3D Printing and IP law completed in 2015.
Confirmed Participants and Speakers:
Mark Bloomfield (Electrobloom); Roger Brownsword (Bournemouth University / Kings College London); Ruth Burstall (Baker & McKenzie LLP); Frank Cooper (Jewellery Industry Innovation Centre, Birmingham Jewellery School); Lionel Dean (De Montfort University); Damian Etherington (Ipswich Museum); Nikolaos Maniatis (Museotechniki Ltd); Dids McDonald (Anti Copying in Design); Dinusha Mendis (Bournemouth University); Cherie Stamm (Uformia AS); Andrea Wallace (CREATe, University of Glasgow); Michael Weinberg (Shapeways Inc).
For inquiries, please contact Dinusha Mendis at firstname.lastname@example.org
Budget: There was very little about HE in the budget this time, as expected, apart from the announcement of the outcomes of the consultations on PG doctoral loans and part-time maintenance loans (see below). The announcement of a £300m fund for brightest and best research talent, including for 1,000 new PhD places and fellowships focused on STEM subjects has been widely welcomed across the sector. There were lots of announcements about technical education
- T-levels will be introduced, with 15 clear routes into employment
- There will be an increase of over 50 per cent in number of hours training for 16-19 technical students including a high quality three month work placement, this will result in a £500m a year investment in 16-19 year olds
- Maintenance loans for those who undertake higher level technical qualifications at the new institutes for technology and national colleges
- Up to £40m investment in pilots to test the effectiveness of different approaches to lifelong learning
- Up to £40m investment in pilots to test the effectiveness of different approaches to lifelong learning
- The new doctoral loan will provide a contribution of up to £25,000 to the costs of study rather than covering the full fees and living costs of a student. It will be paid directly to the student rather than to the student’s institution.
- The proposal to cap the number of people who could receive loans at each institution was not supported and so this has been dropped – it will be available to all eligible students for all eligible programmes – including all Level 8 programmes, up to 8 years long. Students receiving other government funding, such as through the NHS or a Research Council grant, will not be eligible.
- Repayment arrangements will be the same as for the existing masters loan.
- Part-time students will be eligible for maintenance loans from the academic year 2018/19
- Students undertaking distance learning courses and Level 4 and 5 HE qualifications are likely to be eligible from academic year 2019/20 (this is subject to the passing of the HE and Research Bill – it will only happen when the Office for Students has been established and has put in place the new regulatory framework for providers)
- The new loan arrangements will be reviewed after five years
- Loan amounts each year will be based on the intensity of study. We had some concerns about this because it may make it harder for students to stretch the funding over the whole course
- Maintenance loans for students undertaking distance learning courses will come in later as the Government needs to ensure a robust system of controls is in place
- Part-time maintenance loans will be means tested
- Repayment terms will mirror the process for part-time fee loans and the full-time undergraduate student finance system
Non-continuation: HESA have issued a summary of the 2015/16 non-continuation rates. OFFA have responded to the indicators expressing disappointment at the higher non-continuation rates for young students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and earmarking this for attention in the Fair Access Agreements due for submission in April.
Higher Education and Research Bill and the TEF: the House of Lords have used the third reading of the TEF to make a number of amendments to the HE and Research Bill against the government. The Vice-Chancellor has blogged on the BU Research blog about what this means for the TEF. It is not at all clear what will happen next – if the amendments are not reversed, then TEF will go back to the drawing board in terms of what the OfS would do with it– but that would not affect the HEFCE- run year 2 process that has already started. Other amendments include one that requires universities to ensure that students are registered to vote as part of student registration. The debates in the Lords on the bill continue next week – more amendments are to come including more on migration and loans (including Sharia compliant finance), cheating, Prevent and UKRI.
New DLHE: HESA have responded to the enormous consultation on the DLHE last summer (over 130 questions) with a second one, which sets out their proposals for the new version of DLHE and asks for responses by 7th April – this one is much shorter (only 6 questions plus a space for more comments). We’ll be preparing an institutional response. Data will not be available until 2020.
- DLHE will be centralised. The survey will be delivered both online and through telephone interviews, in order to achieve an overall response rate of at least 70% per provider
- Survey at 15 months – replacing the 6 month and the longitudinal one (that was not used in league tables or the TEF)
- It will also ask about previous and planned activity (to get away from problems associated with a “snapshot”
- Linked to HMRC data on earnings and self-employment and other HESA study information including placements (from 19/20)
- New question on entrepreneurship and three new ‘graduate voice’ measures of outcomes from the perspective of the respondent. These will measure the extent to which the graduate’s current activity reflects on three distinct areas of development:
- Utilisation of what has been learned
- Orientation toward their future goals
- A sense of meaningfulness or importance.
- Optional question banks including research student experiences, subjective wellbeing, Net promoter score, graduate choice, impact of HE. HE providers will be able to add their own questions to the end of the survey.
Caroline Lucas MP asked a question in Parliament this week: Whether it is his policy to seek for the UK to remain a member of the Bologna Process after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU; and whether he plans that UK university degrees will be considered compatible with degrees in EU member states under the Bologna Process following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. 
Jo Johnson MP replied “The Bologna Process, which created the European Higher Education Area in 2010, is an intergovernmental agreement among 28 countries in the European region. It is not an EU body and therefore UK membership will not be affected by the UK’s departure from the EU.”
The BBC 2 series “Meet the Lords” could not have been better timed. The House of Lords has flexed its muscles on the Article 50 Bill and this week’s episode coincided with them passing an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill (HE Bill) that breaks the link between the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and fees. Since then another amendment has been passed that would change the nature of the TEF, and bring it under Parliamentary scrutiny.
It would be easy to dismiss these (as some have done) as acts of rebellion by a non-elected chamber that is in the case of the HE Bill, representing vested interests in the face of a genuine government attempt to reform a sector that is badly in need of it. The Department for Education could be forgiven if they had thought that the HE Bill was nearly home and dry. They had published a long list of amendments which had been largely welcomed by the sector. The TEF does not require Parliamentary approval. Universities UK and GuildHE, amongst others, had expressed support for the HE bill as amended and expressed support for the TEF – opposing the addition of more detail as it would reduce flexibility in future negotiations on the detail. But the House of Lords did not agree – they have not sought to add more detail in the TEF, but to change its nature completely. Reading the debates, it is clear that members of the House of Lords, like most of the sector, generally support the objectives of TEF in bringing focus on the quality of education and student outcomes. They support the provision of more and better information about universities for applicants and others. They, like many in the sector, also generally support an inflationary increase in fees.
In the latest amendment, the provisions for the TEF in clause 26 have been removed and the new clause instead requires the Secretary of State to bring forward a scheme to identify whether an institution meets or fails to meet expectations based on quality standards but it “must not be used to create a single composite ranking of English higher education providers”. The arguments are neatly summarised by Lord Lucas: “Bronze will be seen as failing because these universities will be marked out as the bottom 20%. This is just not necessary. We have succeeded, in our research rankings, in producing a measure of sufficient detail and sophistication for people to read it in detail. It produces quite marked differences between institutions, but nobody reads it as a mark of a failing institution. It is information, not ranking…”.
An earlier amendment removed the differentiation between fees based on different ratings. The speeches in the House of Lords demonstrate that they are opposed to this link for different reasons, for example:
- Baroness Deech “If we detach fees from gold, silver and bronze, we stand a chance of increasing social mobility under the amendment. If we do not, social mobility will be frozen and ghettoisation will increase.”
- Baroness Wolf of Dulwich: “I want to cite three groups of academics ….all of which feel, as do students, that in their current state the TEF metrics are not up to the job of determining fee levels and that, until we are sure that we have valid and reliable measures, we should not do this.”
- Lord Lipsey : “… what seems knocking on bizarre is to plough on with bringing in this link between fees and the TEF before we have got the TEF right….The Government would give themselves the best chance of proving themselves right and the sceptics wrong if they gave time for the TEF to settle down before they brought in the fees link.”
- Lord Kerslake: “My second reason for not making the link is that the TEF rating will relate to the university, not the subject or course. We will not see subject-level ratings until 2020 and yet we know that it is perfectly possible to have a mediocre course in an otherwise excellent university, and indeed vice versa. It can be argued that the TEF ranking gives an indication of the overall student experience at a particular institution, but the variation which so obviously exists within institutions makes that argument quite unconvincing.”
Except for the subject level fee point (which has not become a topic of debate yet), these are all arguments that were made by the sector in responding to the Green Paper and the TEF consultation. These are all things that we have continued to raise as we discuss the implications of subject-level TEF.
So as it stands, the TEF has lost both of its “incentives” – aka its carrot and its stick, which were both in the form of the impact on fees and reputation. It is not at all clear what will happen next – some ideas are given in this Wonkhe blog. In blogs on the Times Higher Education, Maddaleine Ansell of the University Alliance and Sorana Vieru gave very different perspectives.
So what compromise could there be to address all the concerns and yet still preserve the positive aspects of the TEF – i.e. the increasing focus on education and outcomes? I go back to BU’s response to the Green Paper, when we said that the TEF should model itself on the REF.. It should celebrate excellence wherever it is found, there should not be a link with tuition fees and there should be no forced ranking. To achieve that now, a remodelled TEF could include the following features:
- no link to fees
- have two rather than three levels of award – perhaps indicating good and outstanding. The last category is those who fail their quality assessment and don’t qualify for TEF.
- take a different approach to benchmarking that does not force differentiation
- include a place for commendations
I am not convinced by the argument that no-one would participate in the TEF without the direct financial incentive. That does not hold true for the REF. The REF has increased the focus on impact and had a beneficial impact on research. (We have some reservations about the changes proposed in the latest REF consultation, but that is a separate issue.) The concerns about the TEF would be mitigated substantially if the Olympic rating system and the link to fees were dropped. The sector would be able to engage in a much more constructive debate about subject-level TEF.
The TEF does not need to be thrown out completely – but this is an opportunity to go back to where this started from and ensure that the TEF brings focus on the quality of education and student outcomes.
Marcin Grajewski writes – Equality between women and men is one of the European Union’s founding values. Under the “Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019” policy plan, the EU seeks to increase female labour-market participation, reduce the gender pay gap, promote equality between women and men in decision-making, fight gender-based violence, and promote gender equality across the world. However, despite all efforts, such as adopting legislation on equal treatment, gender inequality remains a serious problem in Europe.
The note offers links to commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on issues relating to gender inequality in the EU and other related topics.
Challenges For The EU
Written by Marcin Grajewski – The European Union faces challenges, such as in relation to migration and stagnant economic growth, which test its ability to offer solutions to its citizens. Some politicians and analysts have called for a reform of the EU to shore up popular support for European integration 60 years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which led to the creation of what is now the Union.
This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the state of the EU and possible reforms. Earlier papers on the State of the Union can be found in a September edition of ‘What Think Tanks are Thinking’. Other issues in the series offer links to reports on euro area reform and the impact of Brexit on the EU. They were published in September 2016 and in February 2017 respectively.
Guide To EU Funding 2014-2020
Vasilis Margaras writes – Finding the appropriate funding sources for a local authority, a public entity, a company or a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) can be a major problem. Information is scattered across many different sources and is often confusing and outdated. Read more…
The EPRS ‘Guide to EU Funding 2014-2020’ is a basic introduction to EU funding opportunities for regional and local authorities, NGOs, businesses, professionals and citizens. The objective is to provide an accessible list of the most important EU funds, and to provide potential beneficiaries with appropriate information on the opportunities the funding offers.
Why not register for updates from the European Parliamentary Research Service Blog so that they are delivered direct to your own inbox!
If you are considering applying for EU funding, please contact Emily Cieciura, RKEO’s Research Facilitator: EU & International.
The Government launched the Industrial Strategy Green Paper and consultation at the end of January. The paper focuses on improving Britain’s innovation and productivity in key areas alongside upskilling the workforce to become world leading. The government suggest a number sectors to support:
- clean energy
- space technology
- quantum technology
- advanced computing and communications
The document references the role of Universities as innovation leaders, challenges us on taking a greater role in commercialisation and pushes for more cooperation with business. There is also a focus on skills and particularly on technical education with a proposal for new Institutes of Technology. There is an emphasis on rebalancing the difference in Britain’s economic geography through infrastructure investment and asks for suggestions about how to ensure that research funding is distributed across the country. There is a link to a speech by Greg Clark here.
The approach taken the Green Paper has been criticised by the House of Commons BEIS Committee in their report issued today. The criticisms centre on the view that the document is not sufficiently ambitious, only setting out incremental proposals and that is insufficiently industrial and not very strategic (see the article in The Times by the committee chair). We were pleased to host a Universities UK regional roundtable today with representatives from across the South-West – we’ll update more about the content next week. The consultation ends in April, we are preparing a BU response – if you would like to contribute please contact email@example.com
Brexit and immigration
The House of Lords are continuing their discussion of the Bill that will confirm that the government can trigger Article 50 and start negotiations for the UK to leave the EU. On Wednesday the Lords voted to force the government to give a guarantee to EU citizens living in the UK that they will be protected when the UK leaves the EU. This amendment is likely to be over-ruled in the House of Commons in due course, but it is important to recognise the concern across the UK about this issue, and the impact on our EU staff of the continued uncertainty.
The House of Lords European Union Committee publishes its report on the impact of Brexit on Gibraltar, in which it makes clear that the UK Government has a ‘moral responsibility’ to ensure that Gibraltar’s voice is heard, and its interests protected, throughout Brexit negotiations with the EU. Of all the British Overseas Territories, only Gibraltar is part of the EU and was therefore eligible to take part in the referendum of June 2016. 95.9% of votes cast in Gibraltar were for the UK to stay in the EU, by far the strongest vote for ‘remain’ of any area eligible to participate in the referendum. Yet the territory is now set to leave the EU along with the UK, and faces significant challenges as a result. The report refers to evidence given by Professor John Fletcher
You will recall that at the Conservative Party conference in November, a consultation on potential changes to immigration rules for international students and staff was announced but was postponed. In the meantime, the Home Affairs Committee is conducting an inquiry into developing a consensus on effective immigration policy. This includes an opinion survey open to all run by National Conversation – it is worth taking a look and responding to it.
UUK International have issued a report on mobility in the 2014-15 graduating cohort which demonstrates a correlation between outward mobility and improved academic and employment outcomes – particularly for under-represented groups (who are particularly under-represented when it comes to mobility).
Higher Education and Research Bill
The Higher Education and Research Bill reaches the report stage in the House of Lords next week. One opposition amendment was passed by the House of Lords in committee stage, seeking to define the role and function of universities. Responding to the debates in the House of Lords and discussion with the sector, a large number of helpful additional government amendments have now been proposed along with further amendments proposed by peers. One key amendment proposed jointly by the government and opposition includes a definition of institutional autonomy to replace the opposition amendment that was passed. Further proposed amendments include changes to allow for higher fees to be charged for accelerated degrees – although not to increase the total cost of a degree. You can see the latest set of draft amendments here and a letter from the Minister here.
HEFCE student data
Times Higher Education report on new HEFCE data – 90,600 UK and EU students began full-time taught postgraduate courses at English universities in 2016-17, up by 16,100 (22 per cent) on the previous year. The number starting part-time grew more modestly, but still shows an estimated increase of 8.6 per cent (5,900) to 74,900. This is likely to be partly attributable to the new PG loans. The picture on international post-graduate students is more mixed. The THE article continues “According to Hefce, full-time domestic and EU undergraduate enrolments also grew by 1 per cent to a record 408,000 students in 2016-17, However, 2016-17 is “likely to be a peak year as the declining population of 18-year olds, the consequences of the EU referendum and the transition from bursaries to loans for nursing students will put downward pressure on the number of entrants in 2017-18”.”.
Credit transfer in higher education – following the announcements last week about changes to the HE and Research Bill relating to credit transfer and accelerated degrees, we are still waiting for the government response to last summer’s insulation, but ahead of that they have released research into both areas:
On credit transfer it is clear that there isn’t much evidence – and suggests a wider range of benefits for students, employers and institutions. It lists a similar lists of challenges with the idea to those identified in last summer’s consultation – but also identifies lack of demand as one of the challenges – but linked to awareness amongst students. A requirement to publicise the availability of existing schemes is the minimum we can expect from the government response. But the note about “rigid and inflexible admissions timetable whereby enrolment for most courses is typically only allowed once a year” may hint at another. As we said in our response to the consultation, cohort identify is a good reason for this sort of “inflexibility” – and a curriculum which is based on progression from one area of learning to the next is another. . The Guardian covers the story here.
The accelerated degrees literature review also includes a case study. The review includes some potential areas for action that are highlighted by the research – including agreeing a definition of a standard accelerated degree, promotion of positive messages about them, monitoring information about real costs, outcomes and experiences for staff and students, and changing funding – interestingly “additional and sustained central funding” – which will be very interesting if it turns up in the consultation response.
HESA finance data for UK HE
HESA released data on the financial position of UK higher education providers. According to HESA, the data reveals a total income for the HE sector of £34.7 billion in 2015/16. Income from tuition fees was £16.8 billion representing 48.4% of total income. The sector’s total expenditure was £33.0 billion, of which £18.0 billion (54.6%) was spent on staff costs.
Accounting standards for higher education providers changed for 2015/16 so that this year’s data is not comparable with previously published HESA finance data. HE providers submitted re-stated figures for 2014/15 based on the new standards, but transitional changes, such as an inflation of staff costs, are reflected in these figures so they should be interpreted with caution.
Jo Johnson spoke at a UUK conference today and made a number of important announcements:
- New government amendments to the Higher Education and Research Bill. The detailed amendments have not yet been published but a Department for Education factsheet has been provided. The government amendments have been welcomed so far. See the Latest set of proposed amendments (mostly opposition amendments but some government ones too) – this will clearly grow more before the report stage starts on 6th March 2017. See more below.
- Importantly, he announced that the subject level TEF would have a two year pilot – starting in 2017/18 but also running through 2018/19. Subject level TEF would then be formally implemented in 2019/20, with ratings that are announced around May 2020 with the Year 5 institutional level ratings. Note that it is currently not intended that subject level TEF will result in subject level fees. There was no mention of TEF for post-graduate, which was originally planned to run in year 4, so assessed during 2018/19.
- Accelerated degrees – Jo Johnson also wrote in the Times about the government response to the consultation on accelerated degrees and credit switching (that closed last July with 1000s of responses) which will be issued shortly, and relevant changes that will be made to the HE Bill. Apart from the headline grabbing focus on universities being able to raise fees above £13,000 a year, this consultation response will probably contain interesting stuff on credit transfers between universities. The headline focus on fees is a little bit misleading, because this is in response to sector feedback that it isn’t possible to provide three years of teaching in two years unless fees are increased for those two years (there were many other comments about the impact on extra- and co-curricular activities, as well as cost). The higher fees would only apply to accelerated degrees, as The Times story makes clear.
- He also announced a number of other changes regarding institutional and research autonomy which are very helpful – more detail is given below.
HE and Research Bill – As mentioned above, the amendments continue to accumulate for the Lords report stage of the HE bill with the latest government amendments yet to be published. See the latest round up from Wonkhe here. One joint government and Labour amendment (to replace the opposition amendment passed in the House of Lords) defines institutional autonomy, and a number of others require the OfS to protect that autonomy. The definition that is proposed is set out below:
- There is a new transparency duty – one that did seem to be an omission in the previous drafting. The TEF reflects the new focus on widening participation away from just access to progression and outcomes, but the HE Bill did not reflect this fully in the transparency duty as originally proposed. This has now been picked up, and the proposed amendment (which we have not seen yet) will require providers to publish information on levels of attainment, in addition to application, offer, acceptance and completion rates, broken down by gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background.
- After the long and energetic discussions in the Lords about the Haldane principle, research autonomy and the many concerns expressed about the role of the Secretary of State, a number of amendments have been tabled 9but not yet published) including one explicitly about the Haldane principle
- There is a response to the criticism of the limitations on the role of Innovation UK and some of its financial arrangements – we don’t have the detail on all of it but the business focus amendment is set out in the explanatory paper
- As noted above, the announcement on accelerated degrees requires a change to the HE Bill to allow for higher fees for accelerated degrees – the DfE paper is clear that the overall cost of a degree will not go up – but universities will be allowed to charge more per year for the more intensive short courses.
- On credit transfer, the proposed amendments will apparently require the OfS to monitor and report on arrangements for student transfer and a power for them to encourage and promote it.
- There are a number of more technical amendments proposed, including to protect institutions in cases where degree awarding powers may be revoked, to protect Royal Charters and to ensure that the OfS does not meddle in institutional autonomy as regards standards. These changes will be most welcome, and BU, along with most of the sector has called for these changes, and we are looking forward to seeing the detail.
Other proposed opposition amendments include:
- yet another attempt to change the name of the OfS – this time to the Office for Higher Education Standards. Given that the government have just confirmed that the OfS should not meddle in standards (see above), this amendment seems unlikely to pass.
- and another attempt to address student loan repayment terms and conditions – this has been raised at every opportunity so far but has not yet been subject to a vote.
- Teaching funding will fall, representing nine consecutive years of reductions- it is due to be cut by 5 per cent in 2018-19—and the funds now also have to cover the expansion of medical schools and include trainee nurses, midwives and other health professionals. This is particularly interesting because of the theory that removing the commissioning arrangement will increase student numbers, balanced against concerns in the sector about falling applications and the real-life challenge with increasing student numbers, i.e. placements – On the latter point, Research Professional note the part of the HEFCE letter that “adds that in order to implement the Department of Health announcement that, from September 2018, the government would fund up to 1,500 additional student places in medical schools each year, the funding council should make an initial allocation of 500 places in 2018-19 “based on the capacity for growth and viability of provision in different institutions and be informed by advice from the Department of Health and Health Education England on the distribution of medical placements”
- On PG: “The letter further asks that the funding council ensures it pays for postgraduate courses on a basis that is “consistent with and complementary to” the new postgraduate loan system. In particular the funding council is asked to prioritise science and other high cost subjects.”
- On TEF: “It asks the funding council to continue funding the introduction of the teaching excellence framework, including the subject-level pilots, for which the budget and approach will be determined later in 2017. The letter further encourages the continued funding of the “high priority” learning gain pilots” – which may give us an idea of where TEF metrics may be headed
- On schools: “On social mobility, government asks the funding council to continue encouraging “innovative” forms of engagement with schools, including work to identify which institutions are sponsoring or establishing schools and the support they require to achieve it.” This sounds like a slight backing away from compulsory sponsorship of schools? Or maybe just preparation for identifying those who don’t comply.
- On research: “the letter says that detailed allocations for the £4.7 billion of additional investment pledged in the autumn statement will be finalised in early March. The funding council is expected to distribute the additional research and knowledge exchange funding allocation in 2017-18. The £100 million announced for technology transfer, meanwhile, will be based on competitive mechanisms that the funding council will develop with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.”
- And on student wellbeing: “The letter further asks the funding council to implement recommendations made by the Universities UK taskforce on violence, sexual harassment and hate crimes, which advocated the embedding of a zero-tolerance culture towards such incidents on campus. It also recommends the creation of an evidence base around mental health needs and services for staff and students.” The latter cross refers to a UUK good practice guide.
- Other issues include plagiarism, credit transfer, REF, degree apprenticeships, Prevent and efficiency.
BTEC students – the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) have issued a report on BTECs and Pearson have blogged for them. The report concludes that “Students arriving at university with BTECs account for much of the growth in students from the lowest participation neighbourhoods and other under-represented groups over the past decade. But those with BTECs face a ‘glass ceiling’ – for example:
- only 15 BTEC students were accepted at the four most selective higher education institutions in 2015; and
- under 60 per cent of students with BTECs at Russell Group universities complete their course.”
The report makes the following policy recommendations:
- As the proportion of pupils achieving the highest BTEC grades (equivalent to three A-Levels) more than doubled from 17% to 38% between 2006 and 2013, the Government should evaluate whether the current system of external verification of BTECs is fit for purpose.
- Universities should issue collective guidance on which BTECs are most valuable to students in terms of progression, as they have already done for A-Levels.
- More prestigious universities with low numbers of BTEC students should consider bespoke access courses for BTEC students aimed at helping them adjust to the methods of teaching and assessment that are common in higher education.
Lifelong learning – The University Alliance issued a report on lifelong learning which calls for a number of actions, including setting up a UCAS style system for adult learning courses, reintroducing individual learning accounts and providing additional loans. They also mention accelerated degrees and suggest broadening the apprenticeship levy to cover such course.
Essay Mills – Jo Johnson called this week on universities to do more to stop students buying custom written essays online. He has asked the QAA to prepare guidance for universities and information for students to help combat the use of ‘essay mills’ websites as well as other forms of plagiarism and for the QAA to take direct action against those marketing the services. It looks as if the guidance will focus on making sure that universities have policies and sanctions in place.
“The Universities Minister has asked for guidance aimed at universities and information for students to help combat the use of these websites, as well as other forms of plagiarism. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has also been tasked to take action against the online advertising of these services and to work with international agencies to deal with this problem.
The Minister is calling for the guidance to include tough new penalties for those who make use of essay mills websites, as well as the need to educate students about the potentially significant negative impacts on their future career if they are caught cheating.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: “This form of cheating is unacceptable and every university should have strong policies and sanctions in place to detect and deal with it“. Essay mill websites threaten to undermine the high quality reputation of a UK degree so it is vital that the sector works together to address this in a consistent and robust way.””
Brexit – The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published the terms of reference and membership of its “high level stakeholder working group on EU exit, universities, research and innovation”.
“The overarching purpose of the group is to provide a forum for BEIS, DfE, DExEU, and a broad range of UK representatives of the universities, science, research and innovation communities to discuss issues of common interest in approaching the UK’s exit from the EU. The emphasis will be on considering all factors related to research and innovation that need to be taken into account as government policy develops.”
Membership includes Jo Johnson, Madeleine Atkins, Nicola Dandridge, and the chairs of Million Plus, the Russell Group, GuildHE and the University Alliance, a couple of VCs and PVCs from the devolved administrations (Heriot-Watt, Ulster, Cardiff) and representatives of a number of science bodies such as the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Campaign for Science and Engineering and others, CBI, RCUK, UKRI. And Sir Mark Walport in his current role as the Government Chief Scientific Adviser. Interestingly, none of the bodies represented are arts or social sciences bodies, which continues to demonstrate the apparent assumption in all of these groups on research as an activity that is only relevant to STEM.
Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have intervened following a complaint to OIA from students that didn’t receive sufficient notice that compulsory modules had been introduced to their course. While UEA was not considered by OIA to have breached its rules the CMA have asked UEA to change its policy and consider the introduction of compulsory modules as a substantial change which would require greater timeliness of notice in future. CMA’s intervention is seen as a landmark intrusion by some. The CMA request is discussed further by Jim Dickinson and Paul Greatrix on Wonkhe. UUK also have a blog on the subject.
The Chair for the Office for Students (OfS) has been confirmed as Sir Michael Barber, Wonkhe profile his career here. Recruitment for the OfS Chief Executive is underway.
Higher Education and Research Bill– amendments are being submitted for the House of Lords report stage. One focusses on students and academic staff at HE providers stating the government has a duty to encourage international students, ensure UG and PG students are not treated as long-term migrants, maximise British and international research collaboration, especially in EU, and provide favourable employment conditions for non-British individuals offered employment at a HE institution. The amendment is not expected to be accepted. Another relates to changes to the repayment terms of student loans. The Lords Report stage is on 6th March and the list of amendments is expected to grow further.
EU Withdrawal Bill – This week MPs discussed:
- A clause advocating a strict timetable of parliamentary scrutiny throughout the negotiations with the EU.
- The rights of EU nationals living in the UK
- The impact of withdrawal on a number of different industries
- The role of the devolved Nations in negotiations and repatriated powers.
The bill was passed by vote in the Commons on Wednesday. No amendments were accepted. It was anticipated that there might be a push to a vote on residency rights for EU nationals. A leaked letter from the Home Secretary, reputedly aiming to quell backbench rebellion on the subject, stated the future rights of EU citizens in Britain would be settled by a separate Immigration Bill. “..the Government remains committed to providing reassurance to EU nationals here and UK nationals in the EU as a priority once Article 50 has been triggered… I’d also like to reassure colleagues that Parliament will have a clear opportunity to debate and vote on this issue in the future… after we leave the European Union we will have an immigration system that supports our economy and protects our public services, and that should mean securing the rights of EU citizens already here, as well as establishing a new immigration system for new arrivals from the EU once we have left. But this isn’t just about ensuring British businesses and our public sector have access to the right workers, we owe it to those many European citizens who have contributed so much to this country to resolve this issue as soon as possible and give them the security they need to continue to contribute to this country.”
EU citizens featured regularly during Prime Ministers Questions this week. Sarah Wollaston (Con, Totnes) called on the PM to commit to guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. May responded this was a priority for the early stage of negotiations. James Berry (Con, Kingston and Surbiton) said his constituency was “enriched” by skilled workers from abroad. The PM assured him the “brightest and best” would still be welcome after Brexit, including from the EU, but the Government still aimed to lower net migration.
Meanwhile ministers are pressing Lords as they want the EU Withdrawal Bill passed by Tues 7 March. It is expected the Government will trigger article 50 on Thursday 9th March during the EU Summit.
UUK Brexit Priorities: Universities UK have provided a succinct briefing covering Brexit priorities for the HE sector and make some new and interesting points. This calls for three short term transitional arrangements:
- Confirm rights to reside and work in the UK post-exit for EU nationals that are currently working in the university sector and their dependants. (This is in the white paper.)
- Confirm that EU students starting a course in 2018–19 and 2019–20 will continue to be eligible for home fee status, and be eligible for loans and grants.
- Signal that the government will seek to secure continued UK participation in the Horizon 2020 research and innovation framework programme. (This is in the white paper.)
Six exit priorities:
- Residency and permanent right to work for EU nationals currently working in the university sector, and their dependants, with full access to public services.
- Continued UK participation in the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme until the close of the programme period in 2020 (even if post-Brexit).
- Close collaboration with European partners to deliver excellent research (including seeking access to Horizon 2020 successor programme)
- Continued access to Erasmus+ and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions programmes (widely discussed but absent from the white paper)
- An outcome which allows for the continued recognition of professional qualifications between the UK and the remaining 27 EU member states
- Preserving and building on regulatory and standards equivalence with other EU countries.
- Finally a call to push the HE agenda within domestic policy change including simplifying visas (students and staff), further research investment, and government targets for UK student mobility.
Brexit – educational influence: The BBC have analysed the leave vs remain voting trends and highlight at local ward level that the strength of the leave vote was strongly correlated with lower educational qualifications. If the proportion of the ward electorate with a degree was 1% lower, on average the leave vote was 1% higher. The level of educational qualification accounts for 2/3s of the voting preference, adding in age and ethnicity accounts for 83% of the variation in votes.
Sale of student loan book: The government announced their firm intention to sell the student loan book this week. The sale has attracted much press attention and has been covered by the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent, the Times, contrasting views from HEPI and Critical Education and a thought provoking article in the Financial Times which criticises the governments self-imposed rules and states selling an asset whose value, at the government’s cost of borrowing, exceeds its price in the market will worsen the government’s finances, not improve them. An Early Day Motion (929) also heard Labour and Scottish National Party MPs protest the sale. Terms and conditions of loans or the mechanisms of repayment cannot be changed and the loans will continue to be serviced by HMRC and SLC. The purchasers would not have the right to directly contact borrowers. The loan value is estimated at £4bn by the government. The sale process may take several months as it involves securitising the remaining future repayments on the loans and selling securities representing the rights to these to a range of purchasers. The government has announced its intention to utilise the sale to obtain a short term cash boost earmarked to reduce the national debt. An article in iNews crunches the numbers including comment from Martin Lewis, consumer finance expert.
Falls in applications: The Guardian continue the story of the falls in applications and longer term recruitment trends following the release of UCAS data last week.
Widening Participation: An interesting Telegraph article by Chris Wilson, Co-CEO of the Brilliant Club, describes successes in training and placing early career researchers in schools. The scheme aims to increase school attainment including exposing pupils to high level equipment, however, it also had a beneficial effect on increasing the number of WP pupils attending high tariff HE institutions. 53% of free school meals pupils enrolled on this Scholars programme secured a place at a highly-selective university – compared to the national 5% progression rate.
The Fair Access Agreement guidance was also launched this week. As anticipated it continues pushing universities on the school sponsorship agenda. This is particularly interesting when contrasted with the closure announcement of another university technical college this week, as reported in FE Week.
Finally the Sutton Trust have published Global Gaps Comparing socio-economic gaps in the performance of highly able UK pupils internationally. It draws on the 2015 OECD Pisa data for reading, maths and science and tells a familiar story whereby bright but poor pupils fall behind by over 2 school years. It acknowledges these gaps occur throughout the developed world whilst calling on government to establish ‘highly able’ fund to improve the life chances of high attainers in poorer schools.
Parliament is now in recess until 20 Feb so no further bill developments are expected.
There will not be a policy update next week.
Higher Education and Research Bill – the House of Lords committee stage has finished with no further amendments (other than non-controversial and welcome government amendments). Unlike in the House of Commons, where time was more limited and there was a great deal of focus on the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), student loans, the impact of Brexit and limits on international students rather than the detailed content of the Bill, in the House of Lords there has been much more detailed analysis of the Bill and very lively debate about issues such as institutional autonomy, the role and governance of the research councils and the role of the Office for Students. The other issues were also discussed, but none of the many amendments proposed by a long list of peers were approved. Assurances have been given by the government that the points made in the debates will be considered and so it is likely that further government amendments will be proposed at the report stage, which is likely to be in late February or early March. The Bill will then have to go back to the House of Commons, as it has been amended. Research Professional have a helpful summary of the position.
In related news, Mark Walport has been appointed as CEO of UKRI and has written for Times Higher Education. He notes: “We cannot sit on our laurels, or even our Nobel prizes. Research and innovation funding is still largely delivered by organisations siloed in traditional disciplines, allowing some imaginative proposals to fall between the cracks. Solving many of the most important fundamental research questions and tackling the challenges facing society requires an interdisciplinary approach.”
Brexit – the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) bill – the (very short) Bill was passed on its second reading this week. The committee stage is next – unlike the HERB (dealt with in the Public Bill Committee), this will be a committee of the whole House of Commons, which is scheduled for 6-8 February. The current 142-page list of proposed amendments is quite interesting and will probably grow. The Bill will then go to the Lords, where there may be further attempts to amend it.
After refusing to agree that the government would issue a white paper on Brexit, one was rushed out on 2nd February after the Bill was passed. BBC Newsnight reported that it was issued at 4 am and has typos in it, but at 77 pages, it attempts to cover a lot of ground. There has been grumbling from the sector about the things that it doesn’t cover (e.g. Erasmus), and although there is no new news in it for us, there is some reassurance too. It refers to commitments already made on guaranteeing EU research funding. In the migration section it refers to students as its third point – so very high up the agenda – in fact it is the ONLY group referred to specifically. The paper says that “the Government recognises the important contribution made by students and academics from EU Member States to the UK’s world class universities. A global UK must also be a country that looks to the future”. No assurances about what that means, but it is helpful, especially as it doesn’t say anything like that about any other sector. In Science and Innovation, it says nice things about universities and refers to the Industrial Strategy. It includes lots of reassurances about continuing to apply for funding. It also says “we would welcome agreement [from the EU] to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initaitives”. The White Paper will no doubt be discussed alongside the Bill in the Committee Stage, and we will see what comes next.
Bell Review – The UUK review of sector agencies, chaired by Sir David Bell, has published recommendations. In order to reduce costs to the sector and ensure focus and a strategic approach, the report recommends streamlining the current list of sector agencies from 9 to 7 by merging the Equality Challenge Unit, the Higher Education Academy and the Leadership foundation for Higher Education. In addition, the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) will become self-financing through its commercial activity and will no longer take subscriptions from providers. To ensure efficiency and a more strategic focus on data, the report recommends that HECSU, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Jisc and UCAS should form a strategic delivery partnership with a focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of data-related functions and services –writing on Wonkhe Sir David confirms that this group has already been formed. Link to the main report here.
UCAS applications data – this has been released today and is widely covered in the academic press.Wonkhe have a nice summary and they pull out some key charts
- 30,000 fewer applications across the sector than a year ago (5% down)
- First decline in overall applications since 2012 and nearly wipes out increases since 2013
- Not spread evenly across the sector
- Drop in EU applications – a shame as some had predicted a surge of applications this year while home fees and student loans are still in place, and may be a sign of a permanent decline, (see the last HEPI report on this question)
Factors that are cited include:
- Brexit uncertainty for EU applications –-around 6000 applications down
- Nursing – driven by financing changes – 5000 down. Also influenced by drop in mature applicants
- Mature student applications are down across the board – believed to be a result of more jobs and higher wages (so people not retraining), as well as nursing funding – 12000 applicants down
- Demographic dip in 18 year olds and a decline in students taking BTECs is apparently behind a 7000 drop in 18 year old applications.
The numbers are a bit of a guess as these categories overlap.
On Wonkhe, Fleur Nielsen from the Council of Deans of Health says it’s not time to panic (yet). She comments on the difference between applications and admissions, and also notes that there is still a challenge of increasing numbers (as required by the government) when there are limits on placements (which is appoint that BU has consistently made in consultations on this topic). “The scale of the fall in application numbers is not the critical factor for universities or the health and social care sector. Courses that were previously heavily oversubscribed can survive a significant dip in application numbers as long as the quality of applicants is good, and our members report that this remains so.”
HESA has published its Open Data Strategy 2017-2021 – following the consultation last year. Importantly, the strategy says that HESA will migrate its current range of data publications to open data, free of charge to users, over the next 5 years, publish more data openly and establish a user group.
Inclusive teaching and learning in HE – the Department for Education have published a report by the Disabled Student Sector Leadership Group. This is an independent group made up of representatives of a number of relevant sector bodies and 6 UK universities. The report encourages higher education providers (HEPs) to look at how they can support and offer the best environment for disabled students.
- It considers the requirement to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ under the Equality Act 2010, and suggests actions to mitigate risks associated with that, including how providers can adopt a strategic approach to reasonable adjustments.
- It sets out the benefits of inclusive practice to higher education providers
- It provides examples of simple actions to affect change
Widening Participation: HESA has released statistics on widening participation from the 2015/16 academic year. It shows that progress is slowing although there are range of different angles on the data (thanks to Wonkhe for these links):
- Oxford University bucks national trend and accepts fewer state school students, figures show – The Telegraph
- Cambridge intake no longer most privately educated – BBC
- One in ten new undergraduates from poor background as inequality gap gets wider – The Times
Technology-Enhanced Learning: The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) have published a report on the impact of technology on universities (Rebooting learning for the digital age: What next for technology-enhanced higher education?). The report reviews best practice around the world to show how technology is benefiting universities and students through better teaching and learning, improved retention rates and lower costs:
- in the US, curriculum redesign using technology-enhanced learning produced better student outcomes in 72 per cent of projects and average savings of 31 per cent;
- the University of New England in Australia reduced student drop-out rates from 18 per cent to 12 per cent via learning analytics; and
- at Nottingham Trent University, 81 per cent of first-year students increased their study time after seeing their own engagement data.
You can read about BU’s Technology Enhanced Learning Toolkit on the CEL website.
A Faculty of Media and Communication academic contributed to a workshop organised by the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Department of Media and Communication. This policy focused workshop, held on 27th January 2017, was entitled ‘The media policies of Europe’s new authoritarianism’. Its purpose was to develop policy response strategies to changing media legislations among the European Union member states among which democracy is drifting away from liberal agendas, and where the principles of media freedom are at risk. Participants of the workshop put forward strategies and tactics to address controversial developments among selected media regimes. Above all, the significance of media policy developments was discussed in a broader context of governance, democracy and media freedoms.
The workshop was attended by scholars, journalists, regional and international policy-makers as well as representatives of a number of policy think-tanks. The workshop was held under the Chatham House rule. This event was part of the Media Policy Project hosted by the LSE.
Industrial Strategy Green Paper
The Government launched the Industrial Strategy Green Paper and consultation this week. The paper focuses on improving Britain’s innovation and productivity in key areas alongside upskilling the workforce to become world leading. The government suggest a number of areas of industry specialism that should be supported:
- clean energy
- space technology
- quantum technology
- advanced computing and communications
The document frequently references the role of Universities as innovation leaders pushing for commercialisation and greater productive cooperation with business. It states that the ‘neglect of technical education’ should be redressed and insinuates that higher-level technical education will be pushed towards the new Institutes of Technology (£170 government investment announced – see below). There is an emphasis on rebalancing the difference in Britain’s economic geography through infrastructure investment. In addition, it criticises how UK research funding is currently heavily invested in the ‘golden triangle’ (Oxford, Cambridge, London) and calls to build on research strengths in businesses as well as other universities. The strategy has a strong focus on STEM and Wonkhe have reported that The British Academy are urging the government not to forget investment in social sciences and humanities teaching and research, which they argue are vital to the continued development of the UK’s services sectors.
The consultation ends in April, we’ll be in touch shortly about how you can contribute to a BU response.
While the strategy has only just been launched it was preceded by the announcement of the new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (Nov 2016) and consultative workshops. The workshops aimed to ensure that the challenges identified match UK business capability and are based on the best available evidence for scientific and commercial success on the global stage. The challenges mirror the industry specialisms proposed in the green paper but also mention the creative industries and integrated cities. The workshops conclude this week, implementation plans are expected to follow from the government and the first challenge is expected to be announced in March.
In an interesting article in The Conversation Graham Galbraith, VC at Portsmouth, urges Universities to shun new institutions for innovation and instead form a network of hubs building on relationships with employers, skills organisations and FE colleges. Furthermore he resists the government’s distinction between academic and technical education, seeing the productivity answer through flexible routes to university study and developing skills courses that employers need in accessible ways. He believes the university sector would deliver this far more quickly than new Institutes of Technology. Galbraith also criticises REF 2021: “The government wants the UK to be better at commercialising its world-class, basic research. But the… require[ment]…to include all academic staff…will have the effect of making universities re-balance their staff’s priorities so that there is more focus only on peer-reviewed research and less on outward-facing activities like business collaborations.”
Brexit –The Supreme Court has ruled that Parliament must vote to trigger Article 50 which begins the Brexit process. The government timescale is to trigger Article 50 by end of March and to this end they have introduced a European Withdrawal Bill (EWB). The European Withdrawal Bill gives the PM the power to notify the European Council of the UK’s intention to withdrawn from the EU through the required Act of Parliament. It is being fast tracked through Parliament. Parliamentary time is scheduled for 31 Jan, 1 Feb, 6-8 Feb. The House of Commons Education Select Committee continues visits to Universities (Oxford, UCL) to examine impact of Brexit on HE. At the UCL visit (Wednesday) Michael Arthur (Provost) broke the UCAS data embargo revealing a 7% drop in EU applicants in the current cycle. The Guardian leads with ‘first decrease after almost a decade of unbroken growth blamed on… Brexit’. Committee Chair, Neil Carmichael is reported on Twitter as asking whether HE needs a sector-specific Brexit deal – panel response ‘yes absolutely!’
Higher Education and Research Bill (HERB) – The Lords continue to scrutinise the HERB carefully with the long list of amendments. The list has stopped growing quite so quickly but new amendments proposed this week include one to set up a new UKRI visa department that will sponsor academics (507ZA). So far apart form the first one, no amendments other than government amendments have been passed, but the level of debate and the length of the list suggests that there may have to be some concessions by the government. James Younger, the government lead on the Bill in the Lords, wrote to Peers on 25th January about the bill.
Given the timing of the Brexit discussions, Wonkhe speculate that to achieve the timescales for the Bill and to clear sufficient parliamentary time for the European Withdrawal Bill to be passed the government may make concessions on HERB. Key discussions this week:
- NSS statistically unfit for TEF – Lord Lipsey discussed the statistical inadequacies of NSS and the implication for this as a TEF metric. “The NSS in the TEF is using—or rather, abusing—statistics for a purpose for which the NSS was never designed.” Lipsey acknowledged that the Government have gently retreated from the emphasis on NSS scores – in their latest instructions to assessors they stated: “assessors should be careful not to overweight information coming from the NSS“. This was reinforced by Chris Husbands, Chair of TEF, who informed a meeting at the House of Commons this week that his team would “not be overweighting the NSS” when awarding ratings this year. The proposed amendment was withdrawn after Viscount Younger: stressed the NSS was not the primary source of information for the TEF and that the framework was about much more than metrics. “Providers submit additional evidence alongside their metrics, and this evidence will be given significant weight by the panel”. HE continued: “we cannot ignore the only credible, widely used metrics that captures students’ views”.
- There were also debates about the gold/silver/bronze ratings and the government provided reassurance that Bronze was “above a high quality baseline”. This contradicts statements made by some in DfE before the final specification was agreed about Bronze institutions “needing improvement”. The panel have praised positive communication on this subject.
- Validation – The government have issued a factsheet for the Lords on Validation which provides explanation from the perspective of an alternative provider seeking to enter a validation arrangement. It describes Clause 46 of HERB, which gives the Office for Students (OfS) power to commission authorised HE providers to provide validation if other providers decline. It states such authorised providers are free to choose whether they wish offer this service, however once an arrangement is in place the OfS could require them to validate award) delivered by other registered HE providers. The commissioned arrangement would be made public. The controversial Clause 47 which appoints OfS as the validator of last resort was also discussed. The controversy arises as OfS isn’t an academic institution and doesn’t hold Degree Awarding Powers. The OfS will advise the Secretary of State (SoS) if intervention is required (likely through an evidence based report and stakeholder consultation) and the SoS would then authorise the intervention through regulation which is subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
- Contract Cheating – The amendment proposed by Lord Storey on contract cheating was withdrawn following Government reassurance. Lord Storey provided a passionate discourse including detailed sector information and cheating statistics. Baroness Goldie confirmed that the Government were addressing cheating referencing the (Aug 2016 published) QAA investigation and Jo Johnson’s commitment to close working to progress the recommendations. She revealed that the Minster would shortly announce a new initiative to tackle cheating in conjunction with QAA, Universities UK, NUS and HEFCE.
The 15 page written submissions for year 2 of the TEF were finalised and submitted this week, and this was the final opportunity for institutions to opt out of the TEF. Although there may have been others who have not published their positions, most Scottish Universities have opted out, as well as the Open University. Given the difference in the Scottish funding system they have less to gain from the TEF – but the 4 who have opted in have noted international reputation as a crucial factor. The OU explain their non-participation is due to the poor fit of the metrics with their social mobility demographic.
And the future of the TEF? According to Research Professional, a German academic has criticised the way that teaching excellence funding is being used in Germany.
“Whereas lower-ranked universities have tended to spread their funding from the programme thinly across faculties and courses, higher-ranked institutions have had the luxury of being able to focus on priority areas, the analysis found.
“You are starting to see emerging differences between disciplines taught at different universities,” Bloch told Times Higher Education on 17 January. For the first time, elite universities are starting to build up strong institutional identities when it comes to teaching, in an effort to get further ahead.
“It will be a long time before we reach the stratification that you see in the American system [around teaching], but we are seeing a difference for the first time in how resources in teaching are distributed,” he said.
UCAS 2016 entrants report – this data includes applications, offers and placed rates by sex, area background (LPN-polar 3), and ethnicity. BU’s report can be selected from the drop down menu towards the end of the webpage. The Guardian reports on the lower offer rates to black applicants. Wonkhe covers the HEIs that have a significant upward or downward trend in acceptances
Research Impact training: Parliament are running a Research, Impact and the UK Parliament event in Bristol on Wednesday 1 March. It covers the basics of the Parliamentary process and how academics can engage with parliament through their knowledge and research to inform scrutiny and legislation, including the impact of influencing policy to support REF submissions.
Yesterday the Scottish Government has published its national maternity review ‘The Best Start – A Five Year Forward Plan for Maternity and Neonatal Care in Scotland’. The report has been widely welcomed and gained, among others, the full support from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). Mary Ross-Davie, RCM Director for Scotland noted: “This is a defining moment for maternity services in Scotland and will be a seismic shift for our maternity services. The plan has the potential to revolutionise maternity care, to deliver safer and better services for women, babies and their families, and to improve the health of our population.”
The Best Start recognises that maternity and neonatal services matter to the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s people. The report’s underpinning is more of a social model of childbirth as it observes that “The health, development, social, and economic consequences of childbirth and the early weeks of life are profound, and the impact, both positive and negative, is felt by individual families and communities as well as across the whole of society.”
Having lived for 25 years in Scotland I am happy to have made a small contribution to this import report.
Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen
Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health
Higher Education and Research Bill – the Bill continues its committee stage in the Lords, with long and lively debates. Only government amendments have been approved so far, apart from last week’s amendment to clause 1. The list of amendments has continued to grow in the meantime, there is a genuine risk that they may not get through it all and run out of time. The next sessions are 23rd, 25th and 30th January. Some interesting new proposed amendments over the last week:
- ensuring name and gender blind assessment on application and on marking for all student assessments at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels – Lord Desai
- power for the Office for Students (OfS) to initiate investigations (including a student perspective) into changes to the admissions system and the system of degree classification – Lord Lucas
- preventing changes to the repayment of loans – Lord Watson
- banning cheating services (see Contract Cheating below) – Lord Storey
- amending the ‘balanced funding principle’ to ‘long-term, stable block grant’ to facilitate strategic research development investment – Lord Stevenson
- reserving funding for Research England whenever new grants are awarded to UKRI – Lord Liddle
Research Professional cover the Minister’s uncompromising stance towards amendments. They suggest the Government is listening and may yet propose amendments to address some of the issues raised by the Lords, but points out that there is a risk of further symbolic resistance as more Lords ‘dig their heels in’.
- in response to comments in the HERB debates in the Lords, when concerns were raised about using the TEF to limit student visas, Lord Younger informed the House of Lords during the HE bill committee stage that the government has “no plans to cap the number of genuine students who can come to the UK to study, nor to limit an institution’s ability to recruit genuine international students based on its teaching excellence framework rating or any other basis. This applies to all institutions, not just to members of the Russell group.”
- The Home Affairs Committee invited written submissions for an immigration inquiry in December with a deadline of 20 January, however, it has been confirmed submission will be accepted after the deadline. BU is not proposing to respond to this as we already provided evidence on staff and student mobility after Brexit to the Education Committee, which is continuing its hearings. The next one is on 25th January at UCL.
Research integrity select committee – A Commons Science and Technology Committee has launched an inquiry into research integrity. The inquiry is accompanied by the recently published POSTnote: Integrity in Research which discusses the questionable practices and considers whether a regulatory body for UK research would be beneficial. The original committee investigation into peer review from 2010/11 is here which led UUK to set up concordat to support research integrity. A call for written evidence to the Committee has been published. We will be working with RKEO to consider whether BU should submit evidence, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be involved. Issues raised in include:
- The extent of the research integrity problem;
- Causes and drivers of recent trends;
- The effectiveness of controls/regulation (formal and informal), and what further measures if any are needed;
- What matters should be for the research/academic community to deal with, and which for Government.
Contract cheating – WonkHE reported on the difficulties in preventing cheating with the rise in companies offering one-off essays and dissertations. The BBC (May 2016) ran an article about a commercial essay writer motivated by revenge for believed racial discrimination and noted five methods universities can undertake to tackle plagiarism. Lord Storey is leading the campaign for a proposed amendment within the HE and Research Bill which aims to make providing or advertising cheating services an offence, focussing on ‘unfair disadvantage’. The Australian Government currently have a national project reporting in 2018 that aims to stamp out ‘contract cheating’. Finally a THE article explains ta new law may only have a deterrent effect; countries with contract cheating laws do not in practice have many successful prosecutions.
Digital skills crisis – The Government have published their response to the Science and Technology Select Committee’s special report on the digital skills crisis within industry and teaching capacity within schools – it lists a number of areas that need focus: cyber-security, big data, the Internet of Things, mobile technology and e-commerce. There is a focus on degree apprenticeships, immigration and the Shadbolt and Wakeham Reviews of relevant degree provision.
Fees: the Government published a Statutory Instrument that allows institutions to increase tuition fees by inflation, this came into effect on 6 January 2017. This enables the first year of the TEF related fee increases – all institutions which have been designated as meeting expectations in year 1 of the TEF can now increase fees by inflation in September 2017. Some institutions have announced their intention to apply this to all students – including existing students – but BU will only change fees for new students. You can read more about the process and background to this on the intranet. The change went through as a formality – there is already legislation in place – but there are still amendments to be debated in the Higher Education and Research Bill seeking to break this link.
PM’s Brexit speech: If you missed this, the main points of the PM’s speech this week are below. Universities and research received a high number of positive mentions, which is encouraging:
- Leaving the single market and the customs union
- Not using any other existing model
- But would like a deal on customs tariffs and access to the single market
- MPs and peers will get a vote on final deal
- Not making huge contributions to the EU but may pay something to have access to the single market
- EU citizens welcome here but no guarantee – needs to be reciprocal
- Warm words about universities – hope for deal on participation in science and research
Industrial strategy – A Green Paper is expected around 23 January on the Government’s industrial strategy. Meanwhile Labour’s Industrial Strategy Consultation closes on 16 February.
New DLHE – Dan Cook writes for WonkHE on the new DLHE describing a centralised model aiming to achieve high response rates, allow for continuation of post-graduation support to alumni from HEIs, and exploring a dashboard so institutions have near-real time interaction with their data.
Widening Participation and Outreach–
- HEFCE have published a resource pool covering a wide range of outreach initiatives all of which were funded by the National Networks for Collaborative Outreach.
- Maddalaine Ansell has written about the schools policy for Wonkhe. We are waiting for the government response to the recent schools consultation -read more here.
HESA 2015/16 staff data was released on 19th January.
- 49% (98,620) of academic staff are teaching and research
- 26% (52,590) teaching only
- 24% (48,645) research only
- 66% of academic staff were on permanent contract.
- 4% of academic staff were known to have a disability
- 15% of academic staff were BME (not knowns excluded)
Nationality of academic staff:
- 70% UK (139,910)
- 17% (33,735) EU (non-UK)
- 12% (24,535) non-EU (presumably international)
(Atypical contracts and not knowns account for the percentages not totalling 100%)
The Overseas Development Institute has highlighted 10 ways in which research can be more effective in influencing public policies.
This includes knowing what, who, and when you want to influence; building relationships; planning and focussing your ideas; and evaluation. Click here for the full document.
HE and Research Bill – the Bill was debated in the House of Lords on Monday and Wednesday with a lively debate on both days. Monday’s was marginally more exciting because the House voted on one amendment (248 to 221) and the government was defeated, but this is likely to turn out to have been more symbolic than substantive. Read the Wonkhe perspective here and some other coverage from the Times Higher here.
The amendment that was passed was the first amendment on the list and related to the function of universities and included the statement that “universities are autonomous institutions and must uphold the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech” and another of other statements about the purpose of universities – in practice this will not be adopted as drafted as it is hard to see how it would work as part of legislation – but it set the tone of the debates and showed that – if pushed – the Lords can and will muster a majority to defeat the government – and may do so again.
So far, apart from the first amendment, only government amendments have been agreed, with the rest withdrawn or not moved – including amendments on part time and flexible study, the role of the Director for Fair Access, and the relationship between the OfS and UKRI – and the name of the OfS. The Government have said that they will reflect on the debate and the comments made, so there may be more Government amendments forthcoming. Many members of the House of Lords have reserved their position on the points made which will arise again on later amendments. The latest “marshalled list” of amendments is here with a supplementary list here.
- Blog from Jo Johnson on Conservative Home on 9th January 2016 on autonomy and the purpose of the bill
- Wonkhe article on academic freedom ahead of the Lords debates
- Andrea Coscelli (Acting Chief Executive) of the Competition and Markets Authority has blogged on why competition is good for universities and their perspective on the Bill
- Lord Stevenson, author of many of the proposed amendments for Labour, in the Times Higher on the problems in the Bill
- Lord Knight has also blogged for the Times Higher on the Bill – his interesting last comments is “Finally, the chatter in the voting lobbies was one that questioned the need for the bill. Many are trying to understand exactly what problem this legislation is trying to fix, or whether it is just an ideological move to advantage the private sector.”
- Jo Johnson has written in the Telegraph and blogged on the amendment that was passed: “We have seen this week how passionately expert members of the House of Lords feel about institutional autonomy and academic freedom – and, on this point, we wholly agree. ….The Government is listening carefully to powerful arguments made during Committee Stage and understands the passions that these important questions arouse. We must avoid, however, hasty attempts to incorporate into primary legislation unprecedented declaratory statements about the nature and purpose of universities. While it had the best of intentions, the new clause promoted on Monday would inadvertently hem them in and stifle innovation.”
He suggests that the sector is just being resistant to change: “As history tells us, every period of university expansion in this country has met with opposition. And the arguments against new entrants put forward today echo those aired more than a century ago when UCL – now a pillar of academic excellence – was dismissed as ‘a Cockney university’. Similar opposition befell the civic colleges, Manchester and Birmingham among them, when they elected to transform themselves into red brick universities before the Great War, and could be heard again during the ‘plate-glass’ expansion of the 1960s. The same arguments were also made in opposition to the 1992 reforms that allowed the Polytechnics to convert into a wave of new universities, enabling them to play their part in ensuring higher education was never again rationed for the benefit of the socially privileged.
We must be careful to distinguish between legitimate and shared concerns that the Bill should protect cherished institutional autonomy from self-serving arguments cloaked in the garb of principle. As the Bill re-enters Lords Committee stage today, bear this in mind: those who would dig their heels in now ignore a central truth about our higher education system – our universities did not get where they are by accepting the status quo.”
- There is a response from Andrew McGettigan here.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Office has advertised for board members for UKRI.
Brexit, immigration and the impact on staff and students There is an interesting read from HEPI (with Kaplan) this morning, balanced by the stories about the Education Select committee hearing yesterday – (thanks to Wonkhe):
- Hard Brexit a ‘disaster’ for universities warn vice-chancellors – The Independent
- University leaders and academics warn hard Brexit could be disaster – The Guardian
- Hard Brexit Would Be The ‘Biggest Disaster In Years’ For Universities, Say Leading Academics – Huffington Post
- Hard Brexit ‘may spark disaster’ for universities, MPs told – Sky News
- Oxford academics warning of Brexit ‘disaster’ – BBC
Nick Hillman has written about the HEPI report in the Guardian. Although the conclusion is that the impact may not be the disaster that has been predicted (or at least not for all institutions) it comes with a big warning about the cumulative impact of changes to international student visas, which are still to be announced. “Of course the number of EU citizens who come to UK universities will probably fall as a result of Brexit. In part, this is because they are likely to lose access to tuition fee loans and to face full international fees, which are much higher than the UK fees they have been paying. Any fall is regrettable and, sadly, the latest UCAS figures suggest it has already begun. But working out how big the drop-off will be is hard partly because it depends on the type, location and mix of students at each university. Our assessment of Brexit’s impact takes such factors into account and finds the effect on student numbers and university incomes could be less dramatic than expected.
There are almost three times as many foreign students in the UK from outside the EU as from within it. This is because, until recently, EU undergraduate students came within the student number controls imposed on universities. So there was limited incentive to recruit them. Our analysis shows that, overall, their numbers could fall by more than half – that is by over 31,000 new students each year. But that is still only about 3% of all first-year undergraduate and postgraduate enrolments. Moreover, because of the higher fees, our modelling suggests that, despite receiving 31,000 fewer new EU students, universities will only lose £40m a year in the first year. That is just 0.1% of the total income of publicly-funded higher education institutions across the UK. Some institutions, such as Oxford and Cambridge, will actually see their fee income rise even as their EU students fall. This is because their full international fees are so high.”
In a separate story about staff immigration (Sky News but also widely reported – see Reuters) a Home Office Minster suggested that the £1000 per year per employee levy that applies to overseas workers might apply to EU workers post-Brexit and the PM has said this is not under consideration. Business reacted strongly to this (International Business Times). The levy will apply to employers of skilled international staff from April.
The House of Lords discussed the EU worker’s right to remain yesterday but with no new news – the rather strange dance continues on who will concede first that they do not intend to throw out each other’s citizens post-Brexit: “My Lords, the Government have been absolutely clear that we will seek to reach an agreement on this issue at an early stage of negotiations with the EU. I totally dispute the notion of a trade-off, because the EU’s refusal to guarantee the status of UK nationals elsewhere in the EU prior to negotiations shows that the Government have been absolutely right not to give away the guarantee of status for EU citizens in the UK. As the Prime Minister has said, that would have left UK citizens high and dry.”
The amendments to the HE Bill on international students were not accepted in the House of Lords yesterday.
Student enrolments data – The HESA UK HE 2015/16 enrolments and qualifications statistical first release (published 12 Jan) highlighted that 2015/16 UG enrolments were at their highest since the 2011/12 peak. In contrast, there was a notable decline in foundation degree enrolments (15%) and part time provision (overall 5%) within the sector. Most interesting are the changes in volume and geography of EU domiciled students between 2011/12 and 2015/16. Overall there is a 4% decline with regional variability between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There was a 1% decrease in international students from 2011/12 to 2015/16, contrasting the disproportionate growth from China (+12,500 students). Furthermore, 3% (207,522) fewer study visas were granted.
Changes to HE fee policies abroad – while international student numbers in the UK are dropping, there are changes afoot in competitor countries according to the BBC:
- Germany and the Philippines are scrapping tuition fees in state universities
- Finland intends to charge overseas and non-EU students from this autumn
- Scotland retains free tuition
- meanwhile Governor Cuomo is trying to push through free tuition for middle-class families in the state of New York. However, as it only applies to state universities this is perhaps a double edged sword, potentially pushing WP students away from accessing the most prestigious institutions.
There are also more resources available for home students to consider the cost of studying abroad – a Telegraph article notes the UK is the sixth most expensive place in the world to study and links to the FairFX Study Abroad Cost Calculator for students willing to relocate to obtain a cheaper degree.
Adult Students – part-time and flexible study was debated at length in the House of Lords but the amendments so far have not been passed, and John Wrathmell and Simon Hughes of the Open University have blogged for HEPI on this issue, arguing that Personal Learning Accounts are an important way to support learning and meet our national skills needs.
Predatory conferences – not really a policy issue but an important one – an article by James McCrosbie for the Times Higher which is worth a read.
New DLHE – we noted last week that a response and second stage consultation on the DLHE consultation is due soon – at a conference last week HESA indicated, amongst other things that a move to a centralised system – so away from universities administering DLHE themselves – was likely. “The responses received to this were mixed, with marginally more respondents in favour of moving to a central system, and many respondents making detailed points in support of their position.” BU raised concerns about this because it could reduce response rates and also remove a valuable contact between universities and graduates. We look forward to the consultation, which HESA has confirmed is due in early February.
Managing intellectual property transfer – during the 11 January hearing of the Science and Technology committee on managing intellectual property transfer Jo Johnson stated that: “…work on the government’s Industrial Strategy would emerge from extensive consultation which had already taken place. In the coming weeks the government would be launching a discussion period that would begin a further period of consultation before publication of a white paper.”
He also spoke of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, a ‘sizable financial commitment’ that aims to encourage greater interaction between universities and business communities. The fund will focus on priority technologies that are “significant in scale” and on areas “where the UK had a comparative advantage”; commercialisation of research was stated as a big part of the fund. Johnson stated the Treasury would be reviewing the research and development tax environment to ensure it was competitive (in response to a committee discussion about the lack of business investment in research and development).
The committee stage in the House of Lords starts on Monday. The list of proposed amendments stands at 85 pages. We will be keeping an eye and reporting on the progress of the bill and progress can be tracked on the new House of Lords pages here. The bill itself (if you need it for reference) is here. So here is a round up ahead of the debates next week
- My blog for the BU research blog on the Commons third reading
- The Guardian 31st December
- UUK blog and briefing 6th December raises the same 7 issues that they raised in the commons (which we support) -the briefing is attached. UUK also flagged three of these issues in a joint letter to the Guardian with GuildHE, calling for the Lords to amend the Bill to address probationary degree awarding powers, to stop the OfS validating degrees and to stop the government interfering in academic standards and course funding. Their 7 original issues were:
- Ensuring the powers of the Office for Students and the Secretary of State are compatible with the principle of university autonomy
- Separating ‘quality’ and ‘standards’ in the bill, and ensuring that academic standards continue to be owned by the sector
- Protecting students, employers and the reputation of the sector by ensuring a suitably high bar to for new entrants
- Strengthening checks and balances for giving and removing Degree Awarding Powers and University Title
- Removing the ability for the OfS to validate degrees and clarifying its role as regulator
- Ensuring the duties of the OfS reflects the diverse range of activities carried out by universities
- Ensuring that the autonomy of the research councils is protected within the new UKRI structure.
The written evidence and transcripts of the Committee’s sittings are available on the Higher Education and Research Bill 2016-17 page of the Parliament website. This includes BU’s submission – we were one of only 11 HE institutions to submit individual responses (out of 63 sets of evidence). We did not attempt a comprehensive review as this was evidence submitted to the Public Bill Committee and not a consultation, so we addressed a selection of the relevant issues, but one of them was the way that the TEF approach muddles standards and quality – and these issues are noted in the Wonkhe blog on the difference between quality and standards. We were also concerned about the link between fees and the TEF, as noted, with other concerns, in our green paper response (see the VC’s blog for HEPI on this).
This includes a number of government amendments, some of which are fairly technical (as happened in the House of Commons) and as in the commons there are a number of amendments that relate to things that are not covered in the Bill (and that the government will resist) – e.g. issues relating to immigration, student loans (Wes Streeting MP: Labour Lords will fight student loan repayment ‘scandal’), Syrian refugees, registering students on electoral registers, Sharia finance. Some of these amendments are very similar to those raised in the House of Commons – e.g. the OfS reporting on international student numbers. Several issues were previously raised, and dismissed, in the green paper process such as changing the name of the “Office for Students” to “Office for Higher Education” and suggesting that all registered providers should be subject to the same freedom of information requirements as universities are now. Changes relating to Brexit and immigration include “a condition that requires the governing body of the provider to collaborate with other registered higher education providers and with the OfS in the promotion of English higher education abroad through the GREAT Britain campaign, the British Council, or otherwise”.
New and interesting proposals include amendments to transfer all the powers of the Competition and Markets Authority relating to universities to the OfS, and to disapply the Prevent strategy.
Research Professional have an article about the government amendments to the bill strengthening the role of the OfS director – which have been welcomed across the sector.
In terms of changes to the detail of the Bill itself
There are some high level changes proposed– which reflect a great deal of sector concern, e.g. including provisions up front which state that universities are autonomous institutions which must uphold the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech. One amendment states that universities should not be “for profit” organisations.
There are long insertions in the bill relating to a new Quality Assurance Office to replace the Quality Assessment Committee in clause 23. See the Wonkhe blog on the difference between quality and standards
There is a proposal to replace the TEF with ratings on a scale of 1-10 which “may only be awarded for each aspect of each course separately” and “may not be published as an average or otherwise summarised for a course or a provider”. Other TEF related proposals include suggestions about verifying the metrics that will be used (ensuring that they will be linked to teaching quality, statistically valid etc.) and that the TEF arrangements must be approved by Parliament. On this topic:
- a blog was published by the VCs of the University of Essex and East Anglia yesterday which argues that the NSS is an important part of the TEF because it ensures that the student voice is part of the process.
- Times Higher 3rd January – challenging why we need a TEF at all
- the Chair of the TEF panel, Chris Husbands (VC of Sheffield Hallam) has written on Wonkhe – busting 5 myths about TEF.
- Wonkhe have published an interesting analysis of the TEF metrics and benchmarking and how they work complete with data about the current likely outcomes of the TEF.
- Wonkhe report that Professor John Raftery, vice chancellor for London Metropolitan University, has written for the Telegraph on the TEF, calling for the metrics to include a measure for number of qualified teachers in universities – something BU also called for in our TEF consultation response.
- An expert in dyslexia has written a blog for Wonkhe on potential benefits for disabled students as a result of the implementation of the Teaching Excellence Framework with its focus on “split” metrics.
There is a proposal for a joint committee to be established by UKRI and OfS which will look at various aspects of how the Bill is operating and the sector, such as the health of the higher education sector, work relating to equality of opportunity, the health of different academic disciplines, knowledge exchange, skills development (amongst other things).
There are some helpful proposals about the confidentiality of concerns about institutions that may be at risk of sanction by the OfS.
There are extensive proposals for amendments to the information collection and publication requirements for the OfS – including contact hours, mental health of students, academic freedom and freedom of speech,
There are also extensive proposals for amendments to the process and requirements for new alternative providers. See also:
- Wonkhe blog on alternative providers
- Thursday’s HEPI report on alternative providers and the response from Independent HE
On research structures the amendments are towards the back of the Bill.
- I have noted above the reference to the OfS and UKRI working together, and there are other proposed changes that link the OfS and UKRI such as requiring the OfS to consult with UKRI before awarding research degree awarding powers.
- There are proposals to require particular experience for people on the UKRI board (see the proposed amendments to Schedule 9).
- One amendment requires UKRI to encourage and facilitate co-operation between UK and overseas education and research establishments, and there are amendments requiring UKRI to recognise institutional autonomy.
- One amendment requires UKRI to recognise Research Council autonomy and subsidiarity in decision making. There is a proposal (in clause 95) to ensure that funding is allocated separately to each council, Innovate UK and Research England and cannot be varied without parliamentary approval.
- Similar Brexit/immigration related amendments as for the OfS are proposed relating to reporting on overseas staff and students.
Yesterday’s health promotion dissemination meeting in Kathmandu has been widely reported in the national media in Nepal. Some of the national media focused largely (but not solely) on the words of the Minister of Health Mr Thapa, whilst the television news reports included the organisers and presenters at the event. The Green Tara Nepal Health Promotion Dissemination conference in Kathmandu was supported by the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health at BU and Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and Green Tara Trust UK (a Buddhist charity based in London). BU has been working with Green Tara Nepal for the past eight years on a number of maternal health promotion projects in rural Nepal. Overall the media in Nepal had difficulty understanding the notion of ‘health promotion’, therefore many journalists focused on health services as this was mentioned by the Minister of Health.
Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen