Category / policy

This part of the blog features news and information about higher education policy and how BU’s research is influencing policy.

HE policy update w/e 23rd June 2017

Two items have dominated this week – the Queen’s Speech at the state opening of Parliament, and the TEF results.

Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech sets out the government’s legislative agenda for the session of parliament. In a rare departure this year the parliamentary legislative session is planned to last for two years, instead of one, to accommodate Brexit and the Repeal Bill. Both the Commons and Lords will debate the planned legislative programme for six working days.  Education will be debated on Tuesday 27 June by the Commons and Thursday 29 June by the Lords. Usually during the final days of debate two Opposition amendments are considered and one is voted upon – it will be interesting to see what they pick. The Commons vote on the final motion takes place on Thursday 29 June. The government must win this vote  -although the DUP are likely to support the government, Labour are hovering in the wings ready to capitalise on any opportunity.

The significance of the Queen’s Speech for HE was more about what it did not contain. Across the board many manifesto commitments were absent or lacked detail, but that is not unusual.

Schools were addressed with a commitment to increase the schools budget further and to make schools funding fairer. Furthermore, of importance to HE, in line with the ‘Schools that work for everyone’ consultation, the Queen’s Speech makes reference to encouraging more people, schools and institutions to come forward to help to create more good school places. This falls short of promising legislation to force universities or independent schools to sponsor or open free schools, as mentioned in the manifesto. However, legislation isn’t required to force universities into sponsorship.  We await the next steps in the response to the Schools consultation.  Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Angela Rayner, has tabled the parliamentary question: What her policy is on the involvement of universities in academy sponsorship and the founding of free schools and charging maximum tuition fees. We’ll bring you the response in next week’s policy update. Grammar schools were not mentioned. While the policy has not been officially dropped the BBC cite a DfE source who stated ”the Queen’s Speech was an unambiguous decision not to go ahead with creating more grammar schools”.

The commitment remains to refreshing technical education, funding and delivering the new Institutes of Technology as part of the Industrial Strategy. Angela Rayner has also tabled a parliamentary question on reviewing funding across tertiary education. HEPI published a report on technical and professional education this week.

Immigration – the government pledged “A Bill to establish new national policies on immigration, completed by legislation to ensure that the UK makes a success of Brexit”. The new factor in this debate is the role of the DUP which has indicated it wants a policy that meets the skills needs of Britain. This may not completely dovetail with May’s commitment to the net migration target. In the election aftermath there have been rumours that the government will soften their immigration stance. However, the migration cap was confirmed again by Damien Green on Wednesday.

The Queen’s Speech also addressed Social Care, Mental Health and the tech sector. Please contact Sarah for a summary if these areas interest you.

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)

Relish or rubbish it TEF is one of the most significant policy initiatives in recent years. Despite sector opposition and Lords legislative amendments, Jo Johnson’s drive to bring teaching excellence into focus survived largely intact with a review promised in 2019. The categorisation of universities into a single label of Gold, Silver or Bronze gives a highly visible message to the public. A debate rages on how much influence TEF will have on prospective students’ choices and their parents’ opinion. However, including the awards on unistats, and UCAS course pages means that  TEF is a force to be respected.

What is TEF?

TEF is a government endorsed evaluation of teaching excellence. Wonkhe have a useful beginner’s guide to the TEF which sets out the component parts within the three categories of Teaching Quality, Learning Environment and Student Outcomes and Learning (also see diagram, and explanation of  TEF flags). Controversy within the sector (and Lords debate during the HE and Research Bill) centred on the metrics- which use measures of student experience, retention, and outcomes as a proxy for teaching excellence. In May Jo Johnson stated that TEF was ‘an iterative process’ and would ‘evolve and develop’ over the years. New metrics including LEO will be considered for inclusion as TEF matures.

The government’s aims for TEF are to:

  • Inform prospective student choice
  • Recognise, reward and drive excellent teaching (balancing a research focus at the expense of teaching experience)
  • Inform and meet employer, business and industry needs

Read Wonkhe’s interesting political history of the methods successive policy makers have attempted to drive progress. And HEPI’s (short!) idiots guide to the arguments for and against the TEF.

Participation in TEF was voluntary but most (nearly all in England, fewer in the devolved administrations) chose to participate. TEF is linked to the raising of the higher fee cap.  However, to allow the HE and Research Act to pass swiftly the government agreed to postpone the further link which differentiated the fee cap based on TEF ratings. This has been postponed until 2020 and can only be reinstated after an independent review of TEF has been conducted. Read John Vinney’s research blog which highlights the Lords unease over the TEF fees link as the HE and Research Bill made its way through parliament.

TEF also aligns with the government’s social mobility agenda. The metrics deliberately split out widening participation indicators such as BME and part time students to ensure consideration of these groups at institutional level.

TEF – the outcome

As the data that underlines the metrics are widely published, he sector already had a ball park idea of where institutional ratings would fall, although the subtlety of the individual benchmarking process did make it hard to predict with confidence.  For some the TEF heralds a refreshing shake up of the sector, a move away from research influenced league tables.  For pre-results release comment see TEF will check the most complacent and privileged and Performance management is here to stay, but TEF needs a rethink.

The TEF results for all participating providers were released by HEFCE on Thursday 22 June. At the time of writing the HEFCE TEF webpages were very slow, as an alternative see this Times Higher page which lists all institutions results but not the provider results statements. The Times Higher page also compares each provider’s TEF result with their THE World University Ranking and REF GPA.

As the policy wonks digest the national results picture, questions emerge about the relative influence of the provider statement against metrics, and a good article by Wonkhe provides volumes and information on institutions that were up or downgraded against their initial metric based ranking. There are interesting results analysis tweets and diagrams by the University of Huddersfield.  Chris Husbands, the chair of the TEF, has responded to the reaction with a strong defence of the system on Wonkhe.

Jo Johnson, in the TEF results release, harks back to the original TEF objectives:  “These results, highlighting the extraordinary strengths of our higher education system, will help students choose which university or college to study at. The Teaching Excellence Framework is refocusing the sector’s attention on teaching – putting in place incentives that will raise standards across the sector and giving teaching the same status as research. Students, parents, employers and taxpayers all have a shared interest in ensuring that higher education equips the next generation of graduates for success.”  He also tweeted “Kudos to all 295 institutions that volunteered for the first Teaching Excellence Framework assessment”.

BU’s approach

BU’s continuing approach to TEF reflects our fundamental commitment to Fusion. Read John Vinney’s HEPI blog which addresses the importance of both research and teaching in inspiring learning excellence, and the comments from Professor Holley on this research blog: “BU is unusual in the sector in drawing together preparation for both REF and TEF, mirroring their Fusion agenda of excellence in research, education and professional practice. It is exciting to be at the centre of these policy opportunities, to build synergy in a way that will further enhance the student experience. At BU we pride ourselves on delivering innovative teaching and learning that works for all of our students, regardless of background.”  If you missed it, you can read about BU’s silver award here.

The Future

Amid the excitement of ‘results day’ it is easy to forget that TEF is still evolving. There will be an extended two-year subject level pilot in 2017/18 and 2018/19, with a final version rolled out in 2019/20 (TEF year 5). Despite extensive sector consultation and comment over the past year few decisions have been made about the complexity and level of detail that will dictate the subject level structural framework.  The approach based on many categories of disciplines will most genuinely reflect the learning experience of students but could be  burdensome and costly – some say broader groups will be easier and less time consuming to manage but will have a masking effect by grouping together subjects that don’t really belong together. For example, subjects as diverse as geography and nursing could banded together under a social sciences heading. Subject level TEF will also make labelling harder. How will a silver institution with a range of gold and bronze subject judgements market themselves effectively but unambiguously? Will parents and prospective students (who need clear, simple branding to make decisions) pay more attention to the Gold rating for their intended subject or an overall Bronze for the intended institution? If that doesn’t have you reaching for the headache medication read Wonkhe’s article which delves further into the complexities of subject level TEF.

Also don’t forget postgraduates. Postgraduate TEF was scheduled for TEF year 4 (assessed in 2018-19 based on 2017-18 data); however, many speculate that given the extension of the subject level TEF pilot and the independent review of TEF, as well as everything else, postgraduate TEF may be shelved until further notice.   See Wonkhe’s TEF article about postgraduate TEF.

But with the Bill passed, what will the Universities Minister do during this parliament? Perhaps focus more on the Science and Research part of his portfolio, with the Industrial Strategy and Brexit issues to deal with.

Lastly, at a June Wonkhe TEF conference Mark Jones (HEA) called on the sector to ‘take back control’ of teaching excellence and play a part in developing teaching metrics rather than simply critiquing them. He advocated engaging with Gibbs (2010) Dimensions of quality research and looking at international initiatives as part of potential metric development.  Chris Husbands repeated this call in his blog this week.

Media Coverage

Times Higher has a hub page where they gather together key articles and comment on the TEF, and Wonkhe gather together many articles and blogs whilst also providing key results analysis. You may like eight first lessons from the TEF results.

Media coverage has focussed mostly on the mixed ratings achieved by Russell Group members:

Sector response

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:  ‘The Teaching Excellence Framework would have comprehensively failed if it had simply replicated existing hierarchies. It was always designed to do something different to other league tables and rankings – namely, to show where there are pockets of excellence that have been ignored and to encourage improvements elsewhere.

‘So the fact that some of the results seem surprising suggests it is working. I visit around 50 universities a year so know the Gold ratings have been hard won by committed staff and students and are very well deserved.

‘Nonetheless, in this early guise, the TEF is far from a perfect assessment of teaching and learning. While it tells us a lot of useful things, none of them accurately reflects precisely what goes on in lecture halls. I hope university applicants will use the results in their decision making but they should do so with caution, not least because the ratings are for whole universities rather than individual courses.’

 

Jane Forster                                   Sarah Carter

VC’s Policy Adviser                                    Policy & Public Affairs Officer

 

HE policy update w/e 16th June 2017

New Parliament – On Monday we sent out a special edition policy update to keep you current on the political arrangements as the new government is formed. If you missed it you can read it here. Locally, all the incumbents were re-elected, meaning the whole of Dorset continues to be represented by Conservatives. A breakdown of the local MPs, the profile of their vote share, and current political interest areas is available here. It has now been confirmed that the Queen’s Speech and state opening of Parliament will take place on Wednesday 21 June. Since Monday’s update it has been confirmed that Jo Johnson remains in post as Universities Science Research and Innovation Minister. Anne Milton is the new Apprenticeships and Skills Minister. Locally Tobias Ellwood will move to the Ministry for Defence.

  • Student voting preferences: YouGov’s post-election poll states that 64% of full time students voted Labour, 19% for Conservatives, 10% Lib Dems. For graduates Labour got 49% and Conservatives 32%.
  • Effect of age: The survey states that young turnout was not as high as the media initially reported – 59% of 20-24 year olds voted. The survey highlights that age is a new dividing line in British politics. For every 10 years older a voter is, the likelihood they will vote Conservative increases.
  • Effect of education: The survey reports that education is also an electoral demographic divide with support. In the recent election support for the Conservatives decreased the more educated a voter was, with the reverse for Labour and the Lib Dems. Age is a factor, the young have more qualifications than the old, however YouGov report even accounting for this the Conservatives still have a graduate problem.

Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data – The full longitudinal education outcomes (LEO) data was released this week. It shows graduate earnings and employment outcomes from 2014/15 taking data from the students graduating 1, 3 and 5 years before 2014/15. The methodological of how the data measured prior attainment has changed and ethnicity identifiers have been removed from the dataset for this release. LEO will be published alongside the Key Information Set on Unistats. Wonkhe ran a live LEO blog on release day (BU got a mention) and have an assortment of articles discussing the LEO findings as well as university rankings for each subject area. Polar data is available so comparison of the class effect on graduate earnings is possible even at a subject level. BU is generally positioned well within the LEO data, which is consistent with our DLHE outcomes data.

Gender pay gaps: Wonkhe reported on the first trial release of LEO data highlighting that the pay gap between women and men is visible from graduation. Wonkhe have explored this gender pay gap through the full LEO dataset released this week. Their new article identifies that, while the gender gap remains, subject area has an affect and where there are lower numbers of men than women on a subject, e.g. nursing, the men outperform the women’s pay by an even greater margin. The article questions whether universities are failing to prepare women to enter the most well-paying graduate jobs, and failing to encourage women’s aspirations on the same par as men. The article also anticipates that when the pay data can be cut by ethnicity that further gender racial divides will been seen. The Guardian also report on the gender pay gap.

Brexit – residency rights for EU citizens wishing to remain in the UK post Brexit are not as black and white as it seems. This report from Migration Watch UK on the EC’s negotiating position explores the shades of grey. There are ongoing rumours of pressure to soften the approach to Brexit but no indication of it – the formal negotiations with the EU start on Monday.

Higher Education and Research Act (HERA) – With Jo Johnson, Justine Greening and Greg Clark’s continuation of their cabinet roles the sector anticipates that both TEF and the HE and Research Act will move forward with more certainty now. UUK have published a briefing on the implementation of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. UUK remain positive in their approach to the act whilst acknowledging the potential risk to institutional autonomy. The act replaces HEFCE with the OfS, establishes the combined UKRI, and begins to establish the new regulatory system for the sector. UUK call for universities to engage and influence how OfS and UKRI approach their remit and to consider the implications of these split bodies with reference to the relationship between teaching and research within universities.

Regulation: The sector will be regulated through the register of HE providers. The OfS can vary the conditions applied to providers (as the pool of providers will be wider) and requirements relating to access and participation. A technical consultation on registration fees is expected during autumn 2017. Student protection plans will be a requirement of registration, including transparency in enabling provision for student transfers. The OfS will consult on whether there are appropriate bodies that could perform quality assessment and data collection in advance of April 2018 and that would command the confidence of the sector.

Teaching quality: During amendment through parliament conditions of registration relating to quality and standards of teaching meant conditions should relate to sector recognised standards. The detail and ownership the sector will have over the definition of standards is unclear. However, amendments within the Lords ensured that ‘quality’ and ‘standards’ should be properly defined and separate and the independent ability of institutions to set their own standards was protected. The UK-wide standing committee on quality assessment is working to coordinate a shared regulatory baseline and is also reviewing how the quality code, including standards, may need to evolve in the context of the new regulations. HEFCE is also expected to conduct a review of the Annual Provider Review in the autumn.

Degree awarding powers: will be subject to independent quality advice from either the designated quality body or an independent committee, and replicates much of the role of the QAA’s Advisory Committee on degree awarding powers (Section 46). A consultation on how the OfS should exercise its new powers, including ‘probationary’ degree awarding powers, and the removal of degree awarding powers is expected. There are additional conditions to be met before OfS can vary or revoke degree awarding powers or university title, royal charters cannot be revoked in full. There is to be additional ministerial oversight of new providers without a validation track record. Amendment discussions secured tightened regulation around degree awarding powers and university title to protect both students and the sector reputation on sector entry for new providers.

Financial powers: OfS will have the ability to make grants or loans to a HE provider, replicating HEFCE’s powers to provider funding for high cost or strategic/vulnerable subjects. It’s likely any support for providers in financial difficulty would require DfE and Treasury input.

Fee limits & TEF: Fee limit changes require (active) approval by both Commons and Lords, even if the increase is below inflation. An approved access and participation plan is required. There are three levels of fee limits:

  • the higher amount which will ordinarily increase by inflation (LINKED TO TEF)
  • an intermediate cap LINKED TO TEF (but won’t be implemented before 2020)
  • a basic cap (currently set at £9,000)

Until the academic year 2020/21 all providers participating in TEF with approved access plans will be permitted to charge the full inflationary increase up to the higher amount. Before differential fees determined by TEF rating can be implemented an independent review of TEF must take place. The review would need to take place in winter 2018/19 for differential fees to be implemented in 2020/21. The review will cover:

  • the process by which ratings are determined under the scheme and the sources of statistical information used in that process
  • whether process and statistical information are fit for purpose in determining ratings under the scheme
  • the names of the ratings under the scheme and whether those names are appropriate
  • the impact of the scheme on the ability of higher education providers to which the scheme applies to carry out their functions (including in particular their functions relating to teaching and research)
  • an assessment of whether the scheme is in the public interest
  • any other matters that the appointed person considers relevant

Subject level TEF have been delayed by an additional year but will be piloted in 17/18 and 18/19.

UKRI: will operate from April 2018 and is expected to commence by drafting its research and innovation strategy in collaboration with the sector. Research England will have to consult on the terms and conditions attached to the quality-related funding it provides. The government must publish details of the funding provided to UKRI, the terms and conditions attached, and the amount granted to each of the seven councils. This is designed to give public oversight of the process, and to encourage responsible allocation of funding to the different councils. The dual support system will not be undermined. The Act enshrines the Haldane principle within the legislation ‘decisions on individual research proposals are best taken following an evaluation of the quality and likely impact of the proposals (such as a peer review process)’. UKRI should give equal regard to all nations of the UK.

Widening Participation – The Social Mobility Commission have published the Social Mobility Barometer surveying the public’s attitude towards UK social mobility. The Barometer is new and there will be follow up polls each year until 2021. It was run by YouGov. Press coverage: BBC; TES focus on the belief education will be better in the future.

  • 48% of the public believe that where you end up in society today is mainly determined by your background and who your parents are; 32% believe everyone has a fair chance to get on regardless of their background.
  • 79% believe that there is a large gap between the social classes in Britain today.
  • A large majority of people believe that poorer people are held back at nearly every stage of their lives – from childhood, through education and into their careers.
  • 71% believe opportunity is dependent on where a person lives (something the government’s intended Industrial Strategy aims to tackle)
  • Young people increasingly feel they are on the wrong side of a profound unfairness in British society. The report links this dissatisfaction with the recent election where record numbers of young people voted.
  • Personal finances, job security and housing are key issues.
  • 76% of the public say poorer people are less likely to attend a top university and 66% say poorer people have less opportunity for a professional career.

Fees and Funding

The House of Commons Library have published a clear briefing paper on HE funding in England. It covers the 2012/13 higher fee increase, removal of maintenance grants and student loan repayment threshold decisions. It also summarises the public spend on HE (within England) and the impact of student loans on the national debt.

Jane Forster                                   Sarah Carter

VC’s Policy Adviser                                    Policy & Public Affairs Officer

Policy and political scene this week: 8 June 2017

Welcome to this week’s political scene.

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

2017 Student Academic Experience Survey

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

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

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

 

Rankings

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

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

 

Academic Gender Equality

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

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

 

Consultations and Inquiries

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

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

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

 

Sarah Carter
Policy & Public Affairs Officer

BU research and KE policies – do you know where to find them?

To make things easier for colleagues across the University, all of the research and KE policies and procedures are available from the Policies and Procedures section of the Staff Intranet: https://staffintranet.bournemouth.ac.uk/aboutbu/policiesprocedures/

They’re located in the Research section and are organised into handy sub-categories such as BRIAN, pre-award and ethics and integrity.

 

Policy and political scene this week: 25 May 2017

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

The role of EU funding in UK research and innovation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bathing Water Quality

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

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

How and when to submit evidence to policy makers

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

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

 

Consultations and Inquiries

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

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

Sports

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

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

The call for evidence closes on 30 June.

Body Image

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

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

The call for evidence closes on 16 June.

Drainage & Flooding

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

The consultation closes on 11 August.

 

HE Policy Update

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

 

Sarah Carter

Policy & Public Affairs Officer

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

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

 

Benefits of Research Collaboration

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

 

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

 

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

 

Collaborative Partners

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

Addressing Collaborative Barriers

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

 

  • Better information on capabilities and strength of UK researchers

 

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

 

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

 

  • Cultural barriers need better understanding

 

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

 

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

 

  • Policy and funding stability is essential

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

References

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

 

 

Policy update for w/e Friday 21 April

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Other news:

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

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

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

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

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

HE Policy Update w/e 7th April

Higher Education and Research Bill: the Bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords this week with little fanfare. An amendment relating to the ‘transparency duty’ (publishing further information on applicants’ backgrounds for better WP policy targeting and transparent admissions) was moved but withdrawn. This followed reassurance from the government that they will require the Office for Students to consult on the transparency duty. Eight minor government amendments were agreed, full details can be read in Hansard. The Bill will reappear in the Commons after the Easter recess, when as noted in last week’s update, the opposition and cross bench amendments are expected to be removed.

Brexit: The Commons Select Committee for Exiting the EU released their report The Government’s negotiating objective: the White Paper. Wonkhe report that not all members of the committee agreed with the conclusions in the report. Pages 68-71 cover science and research and reiterate previous calls from the sector for the immigration system to support researchers and students and for the UK to continue to participate in Horizon 2020.

Tuition Fees: In a non-binding debate in the House of Lords, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Labour) moved that the House of Lords regrets the 2016 changes to the tuition fee regulations and loan conditions which have worsened circumstances for some students, particularly WP and part time students. Lord Stevenson stated it is “virtually impossible to challenge what the Government are doing” and suggested that fee increases, the ending of maintenance grants, and introduction of income-contingent tax liabilities had not achieved what they had set out to do for the public purse whilst burdening students with ever-increasing debts. He asked for clarification on the “huge gap” in public finances the system was creating and explained that his motion would call on the Government to report annually to Parliament on the impact on the economy of increasing graduate debt, provide estimates of payback rates and an estimate of the annual cost to the Exchequer of the present system. Stevenson and other Lords also criticised the linking of fees to the TEF.

The voting was close and the motion to regret was agreed by the Lords.

Speaking for the Government Viscount Younger of Leckie expressed his disappointment about the vote and stressed that the Government’s policy intention remained to link fees to the quality of provision via the teaching excellence framework.

A second motion to regret has been tabled for Wed 26 April by Lord Clark of Windermere to move that the House of Lords regrets the introduction of tuition fees and removal of bursaries for NHS students.

Science Communication: The Science and Technology select committee have reported on their inquiry into science communication. The report notes that public interest in science is high and rising yet most people still lack a personal connection or understanding of science, and there is low trust in science journalism. The committee report concurs with the Stern recommendation for REF to synonymise impact with associated policy-making. Furthermore, the Government has abandoned the intended anti-lobbying clause in government contracts and grants because for research grants it sent the wrong message, discouraging instead of encouraging the widest and fullest possible science communication and engagement.

The full report examines communication of science, including through social media and reaching young people. It also tackles the misrepresentation of scientific results in the media. Highlighting inaccurate interpretations of statistics, and distortion of results to sensationalise the story as source of public suspicion. The report calls for government to ensure that a robust redress mechanism is provided for when science is misreported.

It also recommends exploring multiple aspects of diversity, instead of just gender, so young people have a wide range of role models to inspire them to pursue STEM careers. There is an interesting section (paragraphs 13-21) on outreach to schools and young people in relation to the STEM skills gap and whether science communication has a role to play in addressing the STEM gap particularly through redressing negative messaging.

Recruitment: The latest UCAS statistical release reconfirms the known drop in applications – UK students down by 4% (c.25,000), EU 6% down, international applications increase by 2%.

Apprenticeships: It’s been a busy news week for apprenticeships – the Apprenticeship Levy for business is now in force and the Institute for Apprenticeships was launched on Monday. It has been confirmed that degree apprenticeships will be regulated by HEFCE (QAA) through the Annual Provider Review process, with the quality of training provision inspected by Ofsted, except where the apprenticeship standard contains a prescribed HE qualification – this will be assessed through joint working (HEFCE/Ofsted).

A recent Commons select committee report on apprenticeships has criticised the government’s apprenticeship policy stating it will not resolve the skills gaps as it is not sufficiently focussed on specific sectors nor targets key regions where training is lacking. The Committee also warns that schools are still failing to promote non-university routes.

Technical and Further Education Bill: this Bill has been amended and passed by the Lords. The Lords debate noted improvements are needed in learner support when private providers fail, alongside clarity for targeting apprenticeships in the engineering, construction, IT skills shortage areas. The Bill will now return to the Commons. If you would like more

Other news:

The Times covers Exeter University’s online masters degrees – fees will be £18,000 (same fee for UK and international students).

Radio 4 broadcast A Degree of Fraud, which covered the contract cheating services that provide bespoke essays. UK Essays claim to have sold 16,000 essays during 2016. It is reported that students can purchase a guaranteed 2:1 essay within 12 hours for £450. The broadcast also recognises Lord Storey’s campaign for parliament to outlaw bespoke writing services. You may remember this was covered in an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill which was withdrawn following reassurance from Jo Johnson who has asked the QAA to take steps to combat the ‘essay mills’.

Wonkhe discuss Hobson’s potentially mobile international student survey and look at the positive and negatives of a branch campus with a nod to the Brexit context.

The Guardian presents case studies of two disabled students who are failing to complete their studies after the reduction in disability benefits. It highlights how the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a ‘gateway benefit’ meaning students that lose it are then ineligible to access other supports such as universal credit or carer’s allowance. It is recognised that students with mental health disabilities are particularly affected.

Lily Boulle, student at the University of East London, went to Citizens Advice for help and found she was “locked out” of the benefit system. “There’s absolutely nothing you can get as a student unless you have PIP. It doesn’t make sense.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “Disabled students… may be eligible if they need to take time out from studying due to their condition.”

The Equality Challenge Unit published experiences of gender equality in STEMM academia which expresses disadvantages experienced by women academics (more teaching and admin, less research time, less training, limitations due to caring responsibilities) and intersects the data with ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and age.