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

Dear all

Schools that work for everyone consultation

In addition to the consultation workshop (second one on 17th November) we have set up a short survey for staff members who have experience of working with schools as governors or otherwise – please complete the survey here and let us have your views (closing on 18th November).  Please do pass it on to other colleagues if you know that they are involved with schools.  I would also be grateful for relevant research, evidence or case studies about what does and doesn’t work to improve attainment in schools.


The big story this week is of course the court decision that Parliament must be consulted before article 50 is triggered.  It is hard to say at the moment what the impact will be, there will be a government appeal, the House of Commons may well approve it (after what will no doubt be a lively debate), there may be a more difficult debate in the House of Lords.  The only effect may be a delay (although the government say there won’t).  There is also speculation about a possible early election either before a vote on article 50 (if it looks difficult) or after if the government loses.  There will also be efforts to link approval of the article 50 issue to a further approval of the deal and a possible second referendum  – the latter seems unlikely to succeed.

The Committee for Exiting the EU is running an inquiry into government objectives in the Brexit negotiations.  There is no deadline but written submissions are requested as soon as possible to inform later oral evidence sessions.

In an article in the Telegraph on 28th October, Alastair Jarvis of UUK writes about government priorities for HE in the Brexit debate:  “So what should Government do to maximise the positive impact of universities? In my view, there are four priorities: encouraging students from around the world to choose to study in the UK; making the UK an attractive destination for talented staff; enhancing international research partnerships; and increasing public investment in research and innovation.”

Using research to influence policy: Kate Dommett from the University of Sheffield in the Guardian on 1st November, on why Michael Gove may have a point and experts need to raise their game “There are some easy ways to improve things. At a basic level, academics can focus on timely ways of translating and communicating their research, in a form that is clear, accessible and relevant to parliamentary requirements. They can ensure that expertise is targeted at the most appropriate part of parliament, recognising that the various elements of the system – MPs, advisers, committee clerks and others – have different knowledge requirements. The deeper challenge is to incorporate an understanding of what different audiences want into the research process itself. Whether working with parliament, government, charities or the media, academics can benefit from engaging in a more open dialogue throughout the research process, to ensure that evidence and expert input come in a useful and accessible form.”

Teaching Excellence: The HEFCE TEF guidance was issued this week along with the template for the provider submission, and HEFCE launched its National Mixed Methodology Learning Gain Project to add to the existing pilot studies.  The new study will involve 27,000 students from 10 organisations.  There is an interesting article on Wonkhe looking at learning gain and other alternative metrics that could be used in the TEF

International Students: Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has criticised Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s proposals to limit the sector’s ability to recruit international students based on quality. The article, which appeared on Conservative Home, questioned how ‘high-quality’ universities and courses would be defined.  The consultation on this is expected at the end of the month – possibly after the autumn statement.

Credit transfer.

The government is due to respond on to its consultation on credit transfer and accelerated degrees before Christmas.  The consultation apparently received 4500 responses (which will have been the result of a request for evidence from individual students about their own experiences.  Credit transfer already happens but in a provocative and interesting article anticipating the response, Wonkhe suggest 4 areas for review:

  • “Credit can only flourish if it is constituted as a form of common currency, grounded in the clear demonstration of outcomes against a national standard (the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications) and subject benchmarks.”
  • “If providers don’t recognize credit given by another higher education institution, the implication is that QAA’s expectations for standards, and the whole UK quality assurance system, might be called into question – a dangerous double standard.”
  • “In hierarchical subjects, where higher level work builds directly on a lower level grounding (I need to do Biochemistry 1 before I can do Biochemistry 2), then there is a need for a close matching of course content, but not all subjects are like this. When learners are making a substantive personal and financial commitments to their education this is unnecessarily restrictive.”
  • “most graduates don’t go into employment in areas directly related to their degree subject and learners who are in employment, seeking to transfer credit and have their wider learning recognised, may find that traditional honours degrees are not the most appropriate progression route or benchmarking point.”



Stern review of the REF – what next?

ref-logoThe Stern review of the REF was published in July 2016. The government have accepted the main recommendations, and we are expecting in November a HEFCE technical consultation on implementation – to affect the next REF exercise (probably in 2021). It is expected that the new arrangements will be settled by the summer of 2017.

So what did Stern recommend – and what is likely to be in the consultation?

  1. The main thing that Stern might have done, but did not do – following widespread concern in the sector – was move to a metrics-based approach for the REF. Peer review and case studies will remain and there will be an opportunity to celebrate success wherever it is found in the REF – not a metrics based ranking. There may be new metrics, and a new Forum for Responsible Research Metrics has been launched, but the key is that these metrics should be used responsibly and carefully.
  2. All research active staff should be returned in the REF (and allocated to a unit of assessment).
  3. Outputs should be submitted at Unit of Assessment level with a set average number per FTE, but with flexibility for some faculty members to submit more and others less than the average. A total cap should be set based upon two outputs on average per FTE with an individual cap (e.g. six) and a minimum per FTE (potentially 0).
    There has been some concern expressed about these changes – Maddalaine Ansell (University Alliance) via Wonkhe and James Wilsdon in The Guardian, 29th July 2016. At BU, our strategy is that all academic staff should be active in research as part of Fusion, so we will not be moving towards teaching only contracts. We hope the sector will not do so either – we will consider pressing for all staff to be included and remove any risks around the definition of “research active” to avoid this
  1. The total number of outputs per UoA should be adjusted so that it does not significantly exceed the 190,000 reviewed in REF2014. This may require the average number of outputs submitted per faculty member to be below two.
  2. Outputs should not be portable. The review proposes that outputs should be submitted by the HEI where the output was demonstrably generated and that work should be allocated to the HEI where they were based when work accepted for publication. There may be some flexibility around maximum numbers when staff have moved- e.g. maximum three outputs from those who have left.
    Concern has been expressed that this will restrict employment options for early career researchers, e.g. Paul Kirby. James Wilsdon again “the broader move to reduce output numbers and decouple them from individuals should reduce pressure on those at the start of their career, or who take time out of research because of childcare, illness or caring responsibilities” Other views: – it might be fairer to early career researchers who will be recruited on potential not previous publications
  1. Institutions should be given more flexibility to showcase their interdisciplinary and collaborative impacts by submitting institutional level impact case studies
  2. Impact should be based on research of demonstrable quality. However, case studies could be linked to a research activity and a body of work as well as to a broad range of research outputs
  3. Guidance on the REF should make it clear that impact case studies should not be narrowly interpreted, need not solely focus on socioeconomic impacts but should also include impact on government policy, public engagement and understanding, cultural life, academic impacts outside the field and impacts on teaching – the report recommends that research leading to impact on curricula and/ or pedagogy should be included. BU welcomes these changes and we look forward to seeing more details of these plans.

So watch this space – once the consultation is launched the Research and Knowledge Exchange team will be working with the policy team to prepare a BU response. You can read more about BU’s policy and public affairs work on our intranet pages.

HE Policy update

Teaching Excellence

The Higher Education Academy released a report on teaching excellence in a range of subjects – part of their response to the teaching excellence framework.  It includes a useful literature review and a report following interviews with academics.  The conclusions of the report include:

  • pedagogic approaches are different for different subjects – the roles and relationships between teachers and students, the degree of independence and engagement expected of students, the sources of knowledge and their modes of transmission, and the balance between a subject -centred and a student-centred emphasis;
  • on some important issues, there is a lack of clarity about causality, especially in distinguishing between the effects of input and process factors. There is very considerable diversity in the HE student population, in relation to social and educational backgrounds, aspirations, support networks, nationality, age, race and gender and so on. To what extent do different students require different pedagogic approaches and different measures of ‘teaching excellence’?
  • several of the deans interviewed mentioned the uncertainty of students’ futures. They would be living in a fast-changing world. Higher education was seen as an important preparation, but a preparation for what?
  • past excellence was no guarantee of future excellence. Teaching in higher education would need to adapt, recognising both the changing and diverse backgrounds of its students and their changing and uncertain futures

Schools and universities – and raising attainment:

Here is an interesting HEPI blog  – it cites the BU Fair Access research and is an interesting perspective on attainment v aspiration from Nottingham Trent.

Changes to plans for schools were announced this week – while introducing the Technical and Further Education Bill, Justine Greening confirmed that plans to force schools to become academies have been abandoned (which was expected).  This does not affect the  “Schools that work for everyone” consultation which includes provisions relating to grammar schools and the way universities work with schools: We will be holding workshops to discuss our response to this proposal:

  • Friday 4th November in Studland House S206 from 9.00-11.30
  • Thursday 17th November in Christchurch House from 2.00-4.00

Please contact if you would like to attend one of these sessions and read a presentation about the questions in the consultation here, and a specific presentation about the questions relating to universities here.

International Students:

UCAS released their early 2017 application figures on 27th  October with extensive press coverage – notable highlights are a call in 9% in EU students – of particular concern given that funding reassurance has now been provided for this group – and interesting in the light of the next few bullets.

After last week’s storm in a teacup when Philip Hammond and “other sources” seemed to suggest that international students would be excluded from immigration numbers, quickly stamped on by No 10, who said firmly that this was not being considered, there have been a couple of WonkHe articles looking at the impact of the immigration changes (due to be out for consultation in the next few weeks).  Of course, we don’t know what the proposed changes might be yet, and while removing students from the numbers might mean that there is less focus on them, it isn’t a complete answer to everyone’s concerns about potential limits on international students – and it also doesn’t address concerns about how restrictions might affect international (and EU) staff recruitment.

The first WonkHe blog (David Morris, 24th October) highlights where the international students are

  • there are some very high percentages at UG level – mostly in London and in Scotland but also Liverpool – 25%, Manchester – 19%, Coventry – 18%, Sheffield – 17% – for example.
  • the story in Scotland is different as reported widely (see the report by Audit Scotland July 2016) because the funding arrangements in Scotland have pushed them to recruit increasing numbers of international students and fee paying students from the rest of the UK.
  • at PG level, the percentages are much higher – 64% at Cardiff Metropolitan, 48% at Sheffield, 45% at Newcastle, 49% at Leicester, for example.

In a second blog published on 26th October, David looks at the anticipated link between quality and immigration using the THE’s Mock TEF (flawed, as we know) – flagging particular risks for London universities but also pointing out our own position (at 94 in the Mock TEF and with 9% international students according to their analysis).

The article concludes:

“From the Home Office’s point of view, there seems an added futility here. There are more than twice as many international students at the top 20% institutions of THE’s mock TEF than there are at the bottom 20%. Only 36,900 international students study at institutions that are projected for a Bronze TEF award, and several institutions in that category are more oriented to serving their local communities (and so not on the above list), such as Abertay, Cumbria, Bolton, and Suffolk.”

Impact, research and political engagement:

The Parliamentary outreach service have announced an event on Research, Impact and the UK Parliament in Southampton in 18th January – it costs £40 but should be interesting – if anyone does go, please let me know how it goes.

I held a first workshop on “influencing policymakers with research” this morning as part of the RKE Development Framework – thank you to those who attended – we will do more.

Latest calls for evidence are listed here  -lots of new ones added this week, including:

As always, if you are interested in contributing to a BU response to any of these, please let me know- and read our responses to previous consultations here

Best wishes


HE Policy update

Posted a little late – I’ve missed a couple of blogs so catch up on the last few here.

Read the UUK evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee inquiry into industrial strategy.
This highlights the role of universities in:
• making long -term, sustainable contributions to productivity and growth,
• creating the best possible environment for businesses to thrive
• sustaining the world-class excellence of the UK’s research base to attract businesses from all over the world to locate and invest in the UK
• meeting the demands of business through a strong supply of higher-level skills

Research Professional have highlighted a sharp drop in H2020 participation from members that are not full or associate members – “Only 11.7 per cent of Horizon 2020 grant agreements were found include a partner who was not an EU member or Horizon 2020 associated country, the report said. Under Framework 7, 20.5 per cent of agreements included at least one non-European country.”

The Higher Education and Research Bill has finished its Commons committee stage and the amended legislation has now been returned to the Commons. A date for its third reading, when MPs will vote upon whether to pass the amended legislation, has yet to be set. Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, batted away all opposition amendments at the final committee meeting on 18 October, which examined the bill’s research provisions. The opposition amendments sought to provide additional protections for the existing research councils and to ensure a closer relationship between research and teaching, which Johnson said were “unnecessary” since such powers will be developed in the framework documents, and would jeopardise the flexibility he wants for the legislation. He also confirmed that If the bill is passed into law in its present form, ministers would have powers to change the names and functions of the research councils without consulting the academic community. Meanwhile, peers are holding informal conversations about how to approach the bill when it enters the Lords.

Brexit speculation continues – this week there was a rumour that students would be excluded from immigration figures after all, squashed quickly by No 10:
“The Government objective is to reduce annual net migration to the tens of thousands, and in order to deliver this we are keeping all visa routes are under review.
“Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included.”

A UUK task force has been looking at violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students and has now reported. See the UUK press release here.
“The evidence showed that while many universities have already taken positive steps to address these issues, university responses are not always as joined-up as they could be. There is more work that can be done to share effective practice across the sector.

HESA published a report on the DLHE consultation – this is not the outcome of the consultation, just an analysis by HESA of the responses, but it gives a sense of direction. HESA will publish a proposal based on this feedback and run a second consultation on it towards the end of the year.

Two research reports were also published – these were commissioned by HESA to support the review.
CFE Research’s report on ‘What do good outcomes from HE look like’ considers what good outcomes are for a range of groups, including students and graduates, higher education providers, employers and society/the state.
Warwick Institute for Employment Research’s report on ‘Richer information on student views’.

And a reminder to engage in the “Schools that work for everyone” consultation – workshops on 4th and 17th November – e-mail for more information

Influencing Public Policy Workshop

Calling all researchers! Would you like your research to influence policy?

BU’s Policy Advisor, Jane Forster, will be running a workshop this Thursday 27 October to help you to use your research to influence policy makers.

Working alongside policy makers is a useful tool to get your research recognised and used by professionals in your relevant field, which can then have an impact on society.

Influencing policy is a great way of raising the profile of the research, this can also help benefit society and help raise the profile for the academic behind the research. This also creates room for new partnerships and future collaborations, for both the research and the academic.

Research is a useful tool to influence policy, as this provides evidence based change or amendment to legislation. This is a powerful way of developing research impact. As this can be a complex process, Jane Forster will explain the process of influencing policy and how your research can influence policy makers.

The workshop will run from 09:30-11:30 on Lansdowne Campus. You can find out more information here or you can complete the booking form here.


Influencing public policy – training session


Working with policy-makers can be a really useful way of getting research recognised and used by professionals in the relevant field, resulting in an impact on society.  Not only can attempting to influence policy raise the profile of the research and have profound implications for society, it can also considerably raise the profile of the academic behind the research, creating room for possible new partnerships and future collaboration. However, it isn’t always obvious where to begin.

As part of RKEO’s new development framework BU’s Policy Adviser, Jane Forster, will be running a training session on 27 October about how to influence public policy with research.  Research can be particularly influential in policy making as it can provide the basis for an evidence-based change or amendment to legislation, but knowing how to go about it is key.

Further details and information about how to sign up can be found on the staff intranet.

This workshop forms part of the ‘planning for impact and communicating research‘ pathway, which includes sessions on working with the media, developing a public engagement event and using social media.

Committee inquiries: open calls for evidence

Below is a list of committee inquiries with current open calls for evidence. Please contact Emma Bambury-Whitton if you would like to discuss submitting evidence

Commons Select Committee inquiries

Lords Select Committee inquiries

Joint Committee inquiries

Public Bill Committees


Policy Update

Technical education

HEFCE has published a report on employer demand for intermediate technical higher education. The report finds that employers generally recruit graduates from Level 6 for technician roles despite not requiring this level for the job, and this practice is increasing. Recruiting graduates from Level 6 is largely due to prestige of degrees and the ready supply of graduates. You can view the report here.

Safe spaces

Speaking during prime minister’s questions, Theresa May said it was “quite extraordinary” for universities to ban the discussion of certain topics which could cause offence. She warned that stifling free speech could have a negative impact on Britain’s economic and social success. Theresa May hits out at universities ‘safe spaces’ for stifling free speech.  (The Telegraph).  

 TEF panel members

The members of the Teaching Excellence Framework panel have been announced. The panel includes academics, students, employers and widening participation experts. It is said that the The Department for Education will likely make further appointments by the end of September to strengthen employer representation. You can view the list of panel members here.

 Research metrics

A new Forum for Responsible Metrics is being set up as a partnership between HEFCE, Research Councils UK, Wellcome, Universities UK and Jisc. The forum will develop a programme of activities to support the responsible use of research metrics in higher education institutions and across the research community in the UK. New Forum for Responsible Research Metrics launched (HEFCE).

 HEFCE stats

HEFCE has published its Higher education in England 2016: Key facts report. The report finds that approximately three-quarters of all undergraduate students are studying subjects in the arts, humanities and social sciences, while almost one in four postgraduate students is studying a business-related subject. You can view the report here.

 The Department for Education

The Department for Education has published data on initial participation rates for higher education from 2006/07 to 2014/15. The data finds that participation rates rose 1.7% between 2013/14 and 2014/15, with an increase of students across the majority of age groups. The report also estimates that there has been an increase of 1,900 mature students entering higher education between 2013/14 and 2014/5. You can view the report here.

Changes to the Research Landscape

The upcoming changes to the research landscape have been in the limelight once again. The Higher Education and Research Bill had its second evidence session on Thursday 8th September which touched on the parts of the Bill that will have implications for research.

The session was joined by Phil Nelson, Research Councils UK; Dr Ruth McKernan CBE, Innovate UK and Professor Ottoline Leyser, The Royal Society. The following points were raised and discussed in the session.

  • UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) will allow for the research councils to be greater together than they are separately
  • It is important to ensure the individual identities of the different research councils are not lost under UKRI
  • How knowledge and research information transfers to government as a whole is crucial- aside from information exchange between research councils.
  • The UKRI is missing an executive committee, the Board will not be able to provide the correct oversight concerning detail and how the organisation will interact with government.  This should be included in the Bill
  • UKRI will help with the business view of research, it will help businesses use the latest knowledge and innovation
  • The Bill does a good job of offering assurances around dual support and the protection of it
  • The UKRI will help with disparities between councils that currently exist
  • The Bill should include more detail around how the Office for Students (OfS) and UKRI will work together, for example with the provision for PGR students. The Bill should precisely outline the involvement that research should have with teaching as a way to help the connection between the OfS and UKRI
  • The focus on interdisciplinary research will help with societal challenges
  • UKRI will also help with ensuring collaboration at a strategic level
  • There are concerns that Social Sciences and the Arts and Humanities may be at risk in UKRI. The Bill could do more to protect these areas.
  • If any changes to individual research councils are proposed, they should be consulted on

Additionally, Jo Johnson MP has written to Lord Selborne in response to the Future of Innovate UK inquiry by the Science and Technology Committee. The letter makes the following points

  • Bringing Innovate UK into UKRI will ensure we have the structures in place to exploit the knowledge and expertise we have for the benefit of the whole country
  • Collaborative projects, supported by Innovate UK, with two or more academic partners have twice the economic return compared to those with no academic partners
  • Innovate UK is not, and will not become, the commercialisation arm of the Research Councils
  • We have included multiple safeguards, such as specifying its business-focused mission on the face of the Bill, specifying a board which both balances both research and business interests and which will include a specific innovation champion.

HE Policy Update


The Times Higher discusses the reputational damage that could occur if leading institutions opt out of the TEF. The Times Higher argues that opting out would mean that teaching-focused institutions, who have the most to gain from the TEF, could once again find themselves losing out in an environment where research is king. Who suffers if leading universities opt out of the TEF? (THE).

The government has released an updated timetable for the TEF-


September- TEF panel announcement and publication of DfE Technical Consultation response

October- Submission portal open (guidance published; metrics available)

Mid-November – Early December- Provider briefing events


January- Deadline for submissions

February to May- Assessment period

May- TEF awards announced


If Switzerland is formally kicked out of Horizon 2020 after February 2017, there is fear that the consequences will see severe damage on their ability to attract leading researchers and, thus, weaken a nation that relies on innovation to maintain standards of living. What lessons does Switzerland hold for the UK post-Brexit? (THE). However ETH Zurich president has said the whole European research system would suffer if it no longer includes the UK and Switzerland. European research system ‘cannot afford’ to lose Swiss and UK elite (THE).

Oxford University

Oxford University’s intake of new students this autumn will have the highest proportion of state school pupils for at least 40 years. The university has offered 59.2% of places to pupils from state schools, up from 55.6% of places taken last year. Oxford University to have ‘most state school students for decades’ (BBC News).

Graduate jobs

The Association of Graduate Recruiters’ annual survey reveals that the number of graduate jobs on offer shrunk by nearly 8 per cent this year as employers reacted to Brexit and shifted their focus to apprenticeships. Graduate jobs market shrinks 8% after Brexit vote, survey says (THE).

 Brexit inquiry

On 8 September the EU External Affairs and EU Internal Market Sub-Committees will hold a joint double evidence session launching their new inquiry “Brexit: future trade between the UK and the EU”.  You will be able to watch the session live here.

Disabled students

The number of disabled students studying at HE providers is increasing year-on-year. In 2014-15 over 6,000 UK first-degree entrants were reported as having a mental health problem – an increase of 160 per cent since 2010-11. However, there are concerns around support for disabled students, as those with a disability were typically two to four percentage points less likely to be awarded a first or 2:1. Dismantling barriers to success for disabled students (HEFCE).


Congratulations to Prof. Brooks

Ann Brooks 2016Congratulations to FHSS Prof. Ann Brooks on her latest academic article in the July issue of Cultural Politics. The article ‘The Cultural Production of Consumption as Achievement’ is co-authored with Lionel Wee.

Brooks, A. & Wee, L., The Cultural Production of Consumption as Achievement Cultural PoliticsCultural Politics (2016) 12 (2): 217-232

doi 10:10.1215/17432197-3592112

EU Funding Post-Brexit

Over the weekend, the UK government announced a commitment to EU funded research projects when the UK leaves the European Union.

The announcement confirms that the Treasury will underwrite funding for approved Horizon 2020 projects applied for before the UK leaves the European Union. The Treasury went on to say “As a result, British businesses and universities will have certainty over future funding and should continue to bid for competitive EU funds while the UK remains a member of the EU.

The announcement has been heavily criticised since it only relates to funds won whilst the UK is a member of the EU, but falls short of making any commitments for when the UK leaves the EU. Scientists for EU have commented on the announcement “the reason why the Chancellor’s announcement is decidedly underwhelming is that they represent no boost to science, but rather the most minimal assurances possible.”

However, it is hoped that the announcement will ensure the UK is not viewed as a risk to European partners and therefore will help to maintain stability across the research community.

Brexit and Bills- what it means for the HE Sector and Research.

With a new Prime Minister, new Government department restructures, the second reading of the Higher Education and Research Bill and Brexit, there is a lot of change around the corner for universities and research.

Now that responsibility for higher education has been transferred to the Department for Education, whilst research and science are under the remit of the newly named Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, there are concerns that universities and research and science will become unaligned. The government has attempted to dilute some of these fears by ensuring that the Minister of State for Universities and Science, which is still held by Jo Johnson MP, jointly looks after both universities and science across both government departments.

In addition, leaving the European Union has already sparked concerns for the higher education sector, and in particular for research. On the 25th July Jo Johnson MP attended the European Science Open Forum in Manchester. He spoke of reports that UK participants are being asked not to lead or participate in Horizon 2020 project bids and went on to reassure that the UK remains an EU member during the 2-year renegotiation period, which includes the rights and obligations that derive from this. He also stated that the UK remains fully open to scientists and researchers from across the EU.

Concerns among the sector are still very much present, the Times Higher Education reported worries around possible changes to the way the European Research Council (ERC) could distribute funds. Currently, money is distributed on the basis of excellence, meaning the UK does comparably well in relation to other EU nations, however this could change after Brexit if the ERC decided to run a more redistributive approach- rather than excellence focused. Additionally, the Guardian found cases of British academics being asked to leave EU funded projects or to step down from leadership roles because they are considered a financial liability.

The second reading of the Higher Education and Research Bill also touched on the implications of leaving the EU. Jo Johnson MP said that he is working closely with Brussels, and is grateful to the commitment of his European counterparts that the UK will not be discriminated against. Justine Greening, the new Secretary of State for Education confirmed that the new UK Research and Innovation body (UKRI), which will see the research councils being grouped together, is critical in providing a unified voice to represent the interests of research and innovation when negotiating our new relationship with the EU.

The Higher Education and Research Bill has also prompted concerns around Innovate UK, with the Bill controversially proposing it is included in the new UKRI. This change has not gone unnoticed and the The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee recently ran an inquiry into the implications. The committee has informed the government that the plans to incorporate Innovate UK into UKRI are “wrong and endanger its important business-facing focus.” The inquiry argues that innovation is not a linear process and merging Innovate UK with UKRI runs the risk of linking innovation with science and research too formally. The inquiry is currently waiting for a reply from the Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson MP.

In addition, the outcome of Lord Stern’s review of the REF has been published. The report sets out 12 recommendations for the REF, but broadly supports the REF as a way to deliver quality-related research funding. You can view my previous blog post about this here.

Lord Stern’s REF Review- the outcome

The outcome of Lord Stern’s independent review of the REF has been published. You can view the report here. The recommendations from the report are as follows.

1.       All research active staff should be returned in the REF (and allocated to a unit of assessment).

2.       Outputs should be submitted at Unit of Assessment level with a set average number per FTE but with flexibility for some faculty members to submit more and others less than the average (this hopes to shift the spotlight from the individual to the Unit of Assessment).

3.       Outputs should not be portable (to encourage a long- term approach to investment).

4.       Panels should continue to assess on the basis of peer review. However, metrics should be provided to support panel members in their assessment, and panels should be transparent about their use.

5.       Institutions should be given more flexibility to showcase their interdisciplinary and collaborative impacts by submitting ‘institutional’ level impact case studies, part of a new institutional level assessment(for a more strategic approach).

6.       Impact should be based on research of demonstrable quality. However, case studies could be linked to a research activity and a body of work as well as to a broad range of research outputs.

7.       Guidance on the REF should make it clear that impact case studies should not be narrowly interpreted, need not solely focus on socioeconomic impacts but should also include impact on government policy, on public engagement and understanding, on cultural life, on academic impacts outside the field, and impacts on teaching (the report recommends that research leading to impact on curricula and/ or pedagogy should be included).

8.       A new, institutional level Environment assessment should include an account of the institution’s future research environment strategy, a statement of how it supports high quality research and research-related activities, including its support for interdisciplinary and cross-institutional initiatives and impact. It should form part of the institutional assessment and should be assessed by a specialist, cross-disciplinary panel. (Institutional-level environment statement will allow for a more holistic view of the HEI).

9.       That individual Unit of Assessment environment statements are condensed, made complementary to the institutional level environment statement and include those key metrics on research intensity specific to the Unit of Assessment.

10.   Where possible, REF data and metrics should be open, standardised and combinable with other research funders’ data collection processes in order to streamline data collection requirements and reduce the cost of compiling and submitting information (to reduce burden and improve transparency).

11.   That Government, and UKRI, could make more strategic use of REF, to better understand the health of the UK research base, our research resources and areas of high potential for future development, and to build the case for strong investment in research in the UK (to help with the UKRI’s aim of being the strategic voice for research in the UK).

12.   Government should ensure that there is no increased administrative burden to Higher Education Institutions from interactions between the TEF and REF, and that they together strengthen the vital relationship between teaching and research in HEIs (the report notes that successful institutions do not separate teaching and research missions, a common dataset that can describe university research and teaching staff is recommended).

Brexit: The future for UK Higher Education

Since the announcement last Friday 24th June that the UK had voted to leave the EU, some light has been shed on the implications for UK universities.

The Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson MP released a statement on 28th June on higher education and research following the EU referendum.

  • He confirmed that EU citizens currently studying in the UK or starting their courses in September 2016 will continue to receive loans until they finish their courses.
  • There will be no immediate changes concerning immigration rules of British students living in the EU, and European students living in the UK.
  • There are no changes to students studying in the EU, beneficiaries of Erasmus+ or those considering applying in 2017.
  • There will be no immediate effect on those applying to or participating in Horizon 2020.

Brexit should therefore not result in any immediate changes. However, there could be significant changes in the years to come, although this will depend on the arrangements negotiated between the UK and EU. The negotiations could begin when a new Prime Minister is announced, this will definitely be by October 2016, but could be as early as September with the conservative contenders due to launch their leadership bids imminently.    They could take up to two years, or even longer (if the EU partners all agree).

Although there is uncertainty ahead about the impact of Brexit for UK higher education, there have been some positive reports about the possible future of the sector’s relationship with the EU. On the 28th June, the Italian Prime Minister said he wanted to find a way for UK students to gain passports while they studied for degree courses. Additionally, the Independent has outlined some reasons to be optimistic about the future relationship of the UK universities and the EU, and states that as long as the UK government commits to higher education, and recognises the role it plays, the future for the sector could remain bright.   An article including quotes from the Minister in the THE is also interesting.

Our Vice-Chancellor has commented in an updated statement and Jane Forster has written a blog on what happens in HE after the vote.

HE & Research Bill

Following on from the blog post after the release of the White Paper, the HE & Research Bill provides both clarification and a bit more insight into what the higher education reforms mean for research.

The bill reiterates the creation of the umbrella body United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) which will include the UK’s seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England. Research England will take over responsibility for HEFCE’s current functions in relation to the allocation of quality-related research funding and knowledge exchange.

The bill also gives away slightly more detail around the reforms and what they mean for research.

  • The Secretary of State may add, omit or change the name of a council although this does not apply for Innovate UK or Research England.
  • The Secretary of State will also be able to change the field of activity associated with each of the councils.
  • The Secretary of State may give UKRI directions about the allocation or expenditure by UKRI of grants received.
  • However the Secretary of State will not be able to give direction in respect of functions exercisable by Research England concerning particular courses of study or programmes of research, or the criteria for the selection and appointment of academic staff and for the admission of students.
  • The last post highlighted the issue of continued dual support. As expected, the bill introduces the “balanced funding principle” which will ensure that a reasonable balance is achieved in the allocation of funding between the 7 councils and Research England.

As part of wider reforms to higher education, the introduction of the new Teaching Excellence Framework has caused the sector to raise concerns around the possible wedge between research and teaching. Although there is a reference in the White Paper ensuring that teaching and research remain coherent and coordinated at the national as well as the institutional level, the HE & Research Bill provides very little clarity apart from the provision that there will be cooperation and information sharing between Office for Students (OfS) and UKRI. The discussions around the distance between research and teaching have not been diluted since the publication of the bill and this area is one to watch over the next coming months. Jane Forster has written for Wonkhe on research and teaching, you can view her blog here.

Higher Education White Paper- What it means for research

The Higher Education White PaperSuccess as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice’ was published on Monday 16th May. The White Paper outlines the government’s stance on research activity within UK universities. This follows what was proposed and discussed in the Green Paper in November 2015 and has taken into account the recommendations of the Nurse Review.

The key points for research from the White Paper are set out below.

  • The White Paper has confirmed that the seven existing research councils, Innovate UK and the research and innovation functions of HEFCE will brought under one body- UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
  • UKRI aims to focus on multi-and inter-disciplinary research, enabling effective and rapid response to future challenges. The different functions being brought under the one body aims to facilitate the sharing of expertise and best practice to improve decision making within the UK, as well as ensuring strategic coordination across the research landscape.
  • UKRI will have a combined budget of more than £6 billion.
  • The government recognises the unique nature of Innovate UK and has highlighted that it will remain a separate council within UKRI.
  • The Secretary of State will appoint UKRI’s board members which will be supported by a central team of staff. John Kingman, a former Rothschild banker and second permanent secretary to the Treasury will be the interim chair of UKRI.
  • The government maintains its commitment to the Haldane principle.
  • The Secretary of State will set the budgets for each of the 9 councils through the annual grant letter.
  • The dual support system will continue with the continuation of hypothecation for the two funding streams.
  • The UKRI will work closely with the new Office for Students to ensure a strategic approach to the funding of research and teaching. Future legislation will ensure that OFS and UKRI will share information and data.

One of the biggest concerns the sector had regarding the proposed changes affecting research in the Green Paper was around dual support. Many have been worried about the level of protection the dual support funding system would receive in the event of merging the research councils into one body. It is expected that the new Higher Education and Research Bill, announced in the Queen’s speech today (18th May), will ensure there is legislative protection for the dual support system to try and eradicate some of the sector’s fears. The White Paper reveals that efforts will be made to ensure the individual identity of the separate research councils and Innovate UK remain under UKRI. The White Paper also confirms that the Secretary of State will have responsibility to balance the two arms of dual support.

Despite this, there is still concern among professionals in HE that the research councils could dramatically change, or even be reduced once the UKRI is officially set up. Research Professional reports that science policy commentators are warning “there will be no technical impediment for a more radical merger of the councils once the UKRI is in place and the existing research councils formally lose their independence.”

The Higher Education and Research Bill is yet to be published, and very little was given away in the Queen’s Speech concerning research. When it is published, we will expect to see more information concerning the legislation around research for UK HE. Although it has been reported that the UKRI will launch in 2018, hopefully the bill will also give us more information and clarification around timescales.

More information will follow this blog when the Higher Education and Research Bill is published. In the meantime, you can view more commentary on other aspects of the White Paper here.