Category / Student Engagement

Hidden Microbes in Christchurch House “Pond”

Microscopic investigations of water samples from the half-barrel pond in Christchurch House courtyard have revealed a menagerie of single-celled life. These tiny organisms (smaller than one tenth of a millimetre) are incredibly important as they form the basis of food webs.  They also play a major role in maintaining water quality as they feed on bacteria, and stalked species such as Vorticella (image) are responsible for their removal in waste-water treatment plants.  The half-barrel “pond” may be almost as small as its inhabitants but it promises to become a treasure of local ‘hidden’ biodiversity!

For further information please contact Genoveva F. Esteban gesteban@bournemouth@ac.uk, Jack Dazley i7447079@bournemouth.ac.uk, or Damian Evans devans@bournemouth.ac.uk

#TalkBU presents… Rebel Yell: The Politics of Equality and Diversity in Disney’s Star Wars

#TalkBU is a monthly lunchtime seminar on Talbot Campus, open to all students and staff at Bournemouth University and free to attend. Come along to learn, discuss and engage in a 20-30 minute presentation by an academic or guest speaker talking about their research and findings, with a short Q&A at the end. 


 

#TalkBU is back! And we are kick-starting the academic year with…

Rebel Yell: The Politics of Equality and Diversity in Disney’s Star Wars

When: Thursday 26 October at 1pm – 2pm

Where: Room F109, First Floor in the Fusion Building

Since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, the Star Wars saga has become a lightning rod for political debate and discussion. Both The Force Awakens and Rogue One have activated a series of online quarrels hinged on a marked shift in fictional representations of women and ethnic minorities.

In this talk, Dr. William Proctor will examine the forces and factors surrounding these quarrels, specifically the way in which mainstream media outlets promote and publicise the ideologies of right wing commentators in the contemporary age of Brexit and Donald Trump.

Please register here to attend!

If you have any queries, please contact Sacha Gardener.

You don’t want to miss out on #TalkBU!

FMC Placement Development Advisor Vianna Renaud presents at the RAISE17 Conference in Manchester

Last week Faculty Placement Development Advisor Vianna Renaud presented at the RAISE17 Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University. With over 235 delegates representing institutions throughout the UK and Ireland, this conference was focused on student engagement with the theme, “Perspectives on student engagement; looking forward..thinking back.” This was the perfect event to share best practice and information regarding the latest trends in the sector.

Presenting on the campus wide Placement PAL pilot project last year, it was a wonderful opportunity to share with colleagues from a variety of institutions. I found the conference to be of great benefit as there was an open and collaborative atmosphere in the room. The delegates were clearly passionate about this subject area with the same desire to share and learn with colleagues.

RAISE is a network of academics, practitioners, advisors and student representatives drawn from the Higher Education Sector who are working and/or interested in researching and promoting student engagement.  For further information, conference programme and proceedings:

RAISE 17 Conference

 

Back to the future, what are the most in demand skills/attributes of our graduates?

This article was written by Brandon Clark and Edward Court, graduates of the BA (Hons) Business Studies degree at Bournemouth University.  They also completed their consultancy project in industry.

 

Skills…every job description has them, every experience enhances them, but what are the key skills prospective employers want 21st century university graduates to have?

With the UK exiting the European Union, Andrews et al (2010) highlighted the significance to employers of the UK graduate pool. They also stressed the importance for students to have a global mind set and to be culturally aware as many positions will involve working within diverse organisations and potentially with colleagues in other countries. Another factor that needs to be considered is from Marjanis’ (2008) research into challenges for Generation Z. The research finds that Gen Z students find the ‘psychological stress’ of graduate positions very demanding. This, coupled with the changing skills set required from graduates, presents a challenging and changing environment where students need to do everything they can to stand out in the employment market.

Through our research we have found a variety of skills that current employers are looking for (Vora 2008; Diamond et al 2011; Singh et al 2013; Adams 2015; QAA 2015; Levy et al 2016; Target Jobs 2017). These have been collated in to a matrix that can be seen below (Figure 1). Whilst it is clear about the key skills that are currently in demand, our research points towards a future shift, and there are several reasons that are cited for this.

Figure 1 – Matrix depicting the skills that are currently in demand from UK graduate employers.

As members of Gen Z ourselves, we both agree that a wider variety of skills are being demanded from graduates. We experience this through the application processes we are put through, and the countless job descriptions we read. These skills have been enhanced through a multitude of experiences throughout university, from group-work assignments and presentations to extra-curricular activities like volunteering and involvement in societies and most notably our placement year. Without this invaluable experience of a year in industry, neither of us would feel as prepared as we currently do to enter the graduate job market. We each worked with a number of people during our time on placement, including those based in different time zones and continents. This experience has provided us with an edge over what many are citing as the future requirements of UK graduates. However, whilst there are still a number of programmes that do not include a placement opportunity as part of the degree, or there are students who are not successful in securing a year in industry, will the future crop of UK graduates meet industry needs by simply obtaining a degree level education?

Newman et al (2017) points out that these questions are not just the concern of students, but that universities also have a huge role to play. Their report found that 80% of HE students believed that digital skills were vital for their careers however, half of the students felt that their courses weren’t developing these skills. Moreover, The World Economic Forum’s report, Future of Jobs (2016) stated “widespread disruption” in the jobs market with industries such as artificial intelligence growing rapidly. This suggests that students and education systems need to be interlinked with industry in order to future-proof students and develop the best graduates, equipped with the most in-demand skills.

Both of us have recently completed our Business Studies degrees and feel some disconnect between the skills we have gained through the taught part of the course and those that are expected of us when we apply for graduate positions. Whilst many of our assessments were based around verbal and written communication and teamwork, i.e. fundamental graduate skills skills that our research confirmed are in demand , these sorts of skills are required within any role.  We have found personally, through our placement year and through research on this project, that skills need to be more specific to job roles and industry sectors.  For example, we both found data processing and analytical skills using tools like MS Excel were crucial while on our placement year. This kind of in-depth skills assessment is not embedded in our programme.  However, we acknowledge that this may be the right approach. As specific skills such as Excel, need to be chosen by the student as they are the ones who know what roles and industries they want to pursue. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) (2015) states that business and management degrees “equip students to become effective and responsible global citizens” through the “enhancement of a range of general transferable intellectual and study skills”. Whilst this direction provides some confidence that the current HE curriculum is focusing on enhancing the skills demanded by recruiters, are graduates fully prepared for what is ahead?

References:

Adams, S., 2015. The 10 Skills Employers most want in 2015 Graduates [online]. Forbes. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2014/11/12/the-10-skills-employers-most-want-in-2015-graduates/#30ac69b22511 [Accessed 26 June 2017].

Andrews, J. and Higson, H. (2008). Graduate Employability, ‘Soft Skills’ Versus ‘Hard’ Business Knowledge: A European Study1. Higher Education in Europe, [online] 33(4), pp.411-416. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03797720802522627?needAccess=true  [Accessed 3 July 2017].

Diamond, A., Walkley, L., Forbes, P., Hughes, T., and Sheen, J., 2011. Global Graduates into Global Leaders [online]. AGR, CIHE & CFE.

Hawawini, G., (2017)., Higher Education Must Still Go Global. [online] INSEAD Knowledge. [Online} Available at: https://knowledge.insead.edu/leadership-organisations/higher-education-must-still-go-global-6276 [Accessed 3 July 2017].

Levy, F. and Cannon, C., 2016. The Bloomberg Job Skills Report 2016: What Recruiters Want [online]. NYC: Bloomberg.

Marjani, A., Gharavi, A., Jahanshahi, M., Vahidirad, A. and Alizadeh, F. (2008). Stress among medical students of Gorgan. Kathmandu University Medical Journal, [online] 6(23), pp.421-425. Available at: http://www.nepjol.info/index.php/KUMJ/article/view/1726 [Accessed 3 July 2017].

Newman, T., and Beetham, H., 2017. Student digital experience tracker 2017: the voice of 22,000 UK learners [online]. Bristol: JISC.

QAA., 2015. Subject Benchmark Statement for Business and Management [online]. Gloucester: QAA.

Singh, P., Thambusany, R. X. and Ramly, M. A., 2013. Fit or Unfit? Perspectives of Employers and University Instructors of Graduates’ Generic Skills [online]. Malaysia: Elsevir LTD.

Target Jobs., 2017. The top 10 skills that’ll get you a job when you graduate [online]. Oxfordshire: Target Jobs. Available from: https://targetjobs.co.uk/careers-advice/career-planning/273051-the-top-10-skills-thatll-get-you-a-job-when-you-graduate [Accessed 26 June 2017].

The Future of Jobs Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. (2016). Global Challenge Insight Report. [online] Geneva: World Economic Forum, pp.19-20. Available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf [Accessed 3 July 2017].

Vora, T., 2015. Skills for Future Success in a DIsruptive World of Work. qaspire.com [online]. 31 August 2015. Available from: http://qaspire.com/2015/08/31/skills-for-future-success-in-a-disruptive-world-of-work/ [Accessed 3 July 2017].

World Economic Forum., 2016. The Future of Jobs [online]. Switzerland: World Economic Forum.

The 5 W: My experience as a Research Assistant explained

My name is Teodora Tepavicharova and I will be in my second year in September 2017. I have always been interested in Digitalisation and when I found out about the opportunity to work as an assistant for ‘Investigating Forms of Leadership in the Digital Age’ research project, I couldn’t be happier and more excited to apply for it. I knew that working on something like this is a big responsibility but being able to be part of a team of professionals from the area you are passionate about is definitely worth it!  Let me explain you more about my experience as an Student Research Assistant.

What? The Student Research Assistant job role is a great opportunity no matter of the year of study. Every student who meets certain criteria can apply for it. My role for this project was to conduct literature reviews, collect data and make conclusions upon it. It was a challenge to find new information that hasn’t been researched before but working on the project, we found very interesting theories that may be a game changer for the way the Digital World has been looked up at until now. I found the foundation needed for the creation of an evaluative research paper on NVivo 11.

Why? The advantages of working this are many – make new contacts within the university and the environment where you are working, meeting new people, gaining new skills etc. In my opinion, one of the best things that you can learn is the information that you are looking for. I wanted to meet and work with tutors who will be teaching me in future and URA gave me this opportunity. Being able to dive so deep into a topic is a great way to learn new things, theory and real-life examples about something that you are passionate about. I found it very interesting to read and observe different papers, websites and get in touch with people who can give you inside of a brand-new topic is amazing experience for a student.

Where? The job is extremely flexible. Depending on you and the Project Leaders, you may choose to work from home, local web café, university or any other place where you can be productive. I worked from home and in the university depending on the amount of work I had. For me this was very useful because sometimes I needed much more time to work in the office rather than at home. Being able to choose makes the work pleasurable. I had my own desk, computer and needed materials for working productive.

Who? Every undergraduate and postgraduate taught student who is studying in the university and whose grades are 70 and above can apply for the position. At the end of my first year, I decided to work at least a month during the summer. The unique opportunity is great for everyone because no matter of your year of study, you always need experience in your CV. If you are curious, reliable, focused and enthusiastic, then definitely go for it!

When? I worked from the beginning to the end of June which again was my preferable time. This is another advantage of the job – you can spread the hours depending on your free time. Of course, it depends on the amount of work you have, the amount of time you spent working and the arrangements with your Project Leaders. The job was greater than my expectations as it was dynamic and I was able to learn how to work with NVivo 11.

I think that the most amazing thing about working as a SRA is that you are very welcomed to the team. My Project Leaders are wonderful, intelligent women who made me feel very calm, welcomed and helpful since day one. Being able to work in such cohesion, gives you the motivation and at the same time you are enjoying every moment of this journey. Working with NVivo 11 was a pleasure because it is easy to navigate and manage. I will certainly use the software again for my assignments and dissertation! So, if you are driven and ready to show what you are capable of, apply for Research Assistant!

Fair Access Research project (FAR) webpages are launched

The FAR project webpages have now been published.

BU’s pioneering Fair Access Research project has brought together students, SUBU, professional, service and academic staff from across the university to develop and expand expertise and reflexive practice in the field of fair access to higher education.

Each member of the team has brought different knowledge and experiences to a series of innovative research projects exploring what it means to be a ‘non-traditional’ student in the 21st century. FAR has inspired new ways of thinking about fair access and widening participation through this ‘whole institution approach’,

The team has explored all the different stages in the student lifecycle developing an understanding of the challenges some students face in accessing or succeeding at university, how university is experienced by diverse groups of students and how the university can support them in the optimum way when they are here.

Explore the five themes of the FAR programme on the webpages at https://research.bournemouth.ac.uk/project/fair-access-research-and-practice-far/

 

Outreach

Admissions

Experience 

Continuation 

Ways of Working

 

 

Contact principal investigators Dr Vanessa Heaslip or Dr Clive Hunt for further information

New publication by FHSS PhD student

Congratulations to Faculty of Health & Social Sciences (FHSS) PhD student Folashade Alloh and Dr. Pramod Regmi, newly appointed lecturer in International Health.  They just published ‘Effect of economic and security challenges on the Nigerian health sector’ in the journal African Health Sciences.  The paper is Open Access and can be found here!

Well done!

 

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

CMMPH

HE Policy Update w/e 14th July 2017

Learning gain pilot projects – HEFCE published the first annual report looking at the 13 pilot projects that are looking at how to measure learning gain and the value of the data that such measurements will produce.  The final reports won’t be for a while – and then it will be interesting to see what happens.

  • Learning gain has been suggested by many as a better measure of student outcome and teaching quality than the current metrics used in the TEF. However, to become a core TEF metric there would need to be a national standard measure that was implemented across the sector.  The current position is that institutions are free to include learning gain in their TEF submissions.
  • Of course the QAA or the OfS might start to be interested in any one particular model that they want to become standard.  To make it work nationally there would either have to be mass testing (like SATs for university students) or another national survey alongside NSS and the new Graduate Outcomes  survey (the new name for NewDLHE) – with surveys on enrolment and at other points across the lifecycle.
  • The report suggests embedding measurement “in the standard administrative procedures or formal curriculum” – which means a survey or test through enrolment and as part of our assessment programme.
  • The report notes that some institutions are already using the data that they are getting – for personalised support, in reviewing pedagogy and curriculum, to support promotional work for careers services or with alumni.

Industrial strategy – Greg Clark gave a speech on 10th July about the industrial strategy – notes have not been published, but there has been some tweeting – the main news is that there will be a formal green paper in the autumn. There was a mention of “self-reinforcing clusters that embed productivity via competition and collaboration”, and a repeat of the focus on place. It will be interesting to see what these self-reinforcing clusters look like and how they will be created and supported.

Social Mobility and Widening Participation

Sutton Trust Reports  – The Sutton Trust have published reports on the State of Social Mobility in the UK, Social Mobility and Economic Success, and What the Polling Says

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said Britain had very low social mobility compared with other countries. “Our research shows that if social mobility were brought up to the western European average, GDP would increase by 2.1%, equivalent to a monetary value of £39bn. The government should make improving social mobility a top priority. Alongside other initiatives there needs to be a concerted effort to… provide fairer access to schools and universities and address the numerous social barriers which exist.” Source

Key points include:

  • Public sentiment that people in the UK have’ equal opportunities to get on’ has dropped and only 29% believe today’s youth will have a better quality of life than their parents
  • When asked which measures would most likely improve social mobility and help disadvantaged young people get on in life, almost half of respondents (47%) chose ‘high quality teaching in comprehensive schools’, ahead of two social mobility policies adopted by the main parties in the recent election: ‘lower university tuition fees’ (cited by 23%) and more grammar schools (8%).
  • Without concerted effort, social mobility could deteriorate further due to trends shaping the future of work, including the rise of disruptive technologies, new ways of working, demographic changes and globalisation. Additionally we may see less stable full-time employment, greater demand for technical skills, and an increased value of essential life skills (such as confidence, motivation and communication). This will advantage those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, who typically have greater opportunities to develop these skills.
  • There has been a large increase in demand for STEM jobs. Studies show that there is a greater proportion of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in STEM subjects than in other subjects such as law and medicine. This could be positive for social mobility as the demand for STEM skills grows. In addition, technology could also create more opportunities for individuals to re-skill themselves through the use of free/low cost online learning platforms (such as MOOCs).
  • A modest increase in the UK’s social mobility (to the average level across Western Europe) could be associated with an increase in annual GDP of approximately 2%, equivalent to £590 per person or £39bn to the UK economy as a whole (in 2016 prices). One factor driving this relationship is the fact that improved social mobility should lead to an improvement in the match between people and jobs in society. Greater mobility means both that the talents of all young people are recognised and nurtured, and that the barriers to some jobs are reduced—these entry barriers exist because of biases in recruitment processes or inequality of educational opportunity.

Recommendations:

  • State schools must do more to develop “soft” or “essential life skills” in less advantaged pupils, through a richer programme of extra-curricular activities.
  • Promotion of the apprenticeship model and vocational tracks, including the new ‘T-levels’ will be needed to ensure the supply of skills meets the demand in the labour market. Apprenticeships should combine workplace training with off-site study, and lead to a professional accreditation. There should be a focus on higher and advanced apprenticeships, along with automatic progression.
  • More should be done to increase the study of STEM subjects (particularly among women) to ensure young people are equipped for the changing world of work.

Mary Stuart blogs for Wonkhe: Social mobility can be much more than just widening HE access. Excerpt:  what does this all mean for the work of universities to support upward social mobility? The focus on social mobility already grows our remit beyond widening access towards considering added value and employment. Our role as anchor institutions takes this further, to incorporate the wider economic and societal environment into which our students will graduate. Drawing together the breath of university activities in this way is particularly important for institutions operating in those areas that are seeking to catch up: it can include our work with schools, the design of new courses to meet employer demand, and expanding our provision into further education and more diverse delivery of higher education.

Schools – Justine Greening’s speech at the Sutton Trust Social Mobility Summit 2017 as (reported on the BBC):Education Secretary Justine Greening has announced the creation of an “evidence champion” who will make sure that decisions on improving schools in England are based on real evidence.  “We have a lot of evidence about what works in schools, but it’s not spread within the school system,” she said. Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, will be the first to take the role. Ms Greening said her top priority would be to improve social mobility

Widening ParticipationIn a compelling article, “I went from care to Cambridge University. Let me show you where the barriers are”, a care-leaver student writes about the cultural and psychological barriers she faced at university and urges institutions to do more than just facilitate access and bursaries to HE for WP students. She touches on the persistence of unhelpful messages about “not for the likes of us”, discouragement, peer attitudes and lack of awareness, alongside the general challenges a child in care has to overcome.

  • “Many solutions have been proposed, such as lowering entry grades for students from marginalised backgrounds, which I support. But such remedies will only ever help the tiniest fraction of those targeted, as so few care leavers even get to the point where a lower grade requirement may allow them to apply. Instead, what is needed is a radical overhaul of the way we conceive of social mobility in this country: from the merely economic, to the cultural. And the government needs to ensure that everyone – no matter their postcode or budget – has access to culture, literature, art, politics and science: not just at school, but in their neighbourhood and community. Studying these subjects needs to feel possible for children and young people from all backgrounds. There’s a reason why I’ve succeeded where others like me have stumbled: a reason that’s not related to my hard work, tenacity, or intellect … for most of my childhood I was surrounded by books, art and culture. It was not a lofty dream for me to apply to university. In my experience, nobody gets anywhere worth going without some degree of privilege. Our most important job is not to celebrate those who might have “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps”, but to ensure that those born with little social privilege have access to the information and cultural advantages that most people reading this can probably take for granted.”

Applications – the national picture

UCAS statistics have confirmed a 4% drop in full time applications nationally within the 2017 cycle. Particularly notable is the 19% reduction in nursing applications (attributed to the removal of bursaries and new fee paying status), alongside a 96% fall in EU nurses seeking to work in the UK.

They  also report a 5% decrease in EU applications to HE institutions, offset slightly by the predicted slight rise in overseas applications. Applications from mature students continues to fall, which has also shows up in the nursing applications.

Media coverage

Independent Providers – The Independent HE Survey 2017 highlights few changes to the make-up of independent providers. They remain relatively small organisations that are industry-focussed and often deliver specialist programmes through varying models and durations. The survey found that 55% of independent providers believe the Higher Education and Research Act changes will benefit their institution and only 3% do not plan to register with the Office for Students. The independent sector with their specialist business focussed delivery are well placed to capitalise on the parliamentary drive for industrial strategy, productivity and competitiveness, alongside the reviews of tertiary education and the ripple effects from the shake up of apprenticeships. 22% of independent providers plan to apply for Taught Degree Awarding Powers. The majority of independent providers support a different funding model across tertiary education, with 60% pressing for funding based on academic credit, not the academic year. Of the independent providers surveyed 50% offer part-time and flexible learning (a current government and OFFA priority), 40% offer online, distance and blended learning, 16% run accelerated degree programmes and 10% offer apprenticeships – all of which the Government are pressing traditional HE institutions to do more of.

Graduate outcomes – On Thursday HESA published their Experimental Statistical First Release on Destinations of UG leavers from alternative providers (in 2015/16).

EU (Repeal) Bill – The EU (Repeal) Bill was presented at Parliament on Thursday. See BU’s policy pages for the background and controversial aspects of this element of Brexit legislation.   It is described by the government as “technical in nature rather than a vehicle for major policy changes”.  It repeals the European Communities Act 1972, but as so much UK legislation and rules are dependent on (and cross refer to) EU rules, there are two more controversial aspects.  Firstly, it converts EU law into UK law – preserving existing law as it is, un-amended (but ready to be amended later in the usual way – and then, most controversially, it gives ministers “temporary powers” to “correct” the transposed law if it does not function effectively.  These changes will be made in statutory instruments subject to parliamentary oversight (but these generally get less debate than primary legislation, and the likely volume of them will make long debate very difficult – estimated at 800-1000 statutory instruments).   There is a great deal of concern about the correcting powers in particular, but a few practical examples will be needed to see what this means in practice – these will not doubt emerge in the debates on the bill.  The notes say:

“The correcting power can only be used to deal with deficiencies that come as a  consequence of the UK leaving the EU. Deficiencies might include:

  • Inaccurate references. These could include references to EU law or to the UK as a member state.
  • Law that gives the Commission or EU institution a function to provide services or regulate, if the UK and EU agree these arrangements won’t continue.
  • Law that gave effect to a reciprocal or other kind of arrangement between the UK and the European Commission or EU member states. If these arrangements do not continue to exist in practice, the law that gave effect to them will be deficient”

There are specific fact sheets on a number of areas including:

There’s a helpful BBC article here

Tuition fees, student loans etc.  – The debate on tuition fees has continued, read Jane’s updated blog for the Lighthouse Policy GroupThe BBC had a story  summing up the status of the debate.

Select Committee News – On Wednesday MPs voted for select committee chairmanship using the alternative vote method. The number of committees a political party can chair is proportional to the number of seats they hold within the House of Commons. The news surrounding the chairs appointment speculates that Theresa May will face renewed challenge as many of the MPs elected to chair these powerful committees voted to Remain in the Brexit referendum.

  • Robert Halfron (Conservative, Harlow) has been appointed Chair of the Education Select Committee.
  • Rachel Reeves (Labour, Leeds West) has been appointed Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee.
  • Nicky Morgan (Conservative, Loughborough) has been appointed Chair of the Treasury Committee.
  • Normal Lamb (Lib Dem, North Norfolk) has been appointed Chair of the Science and Technology Committee.
  • Damian Collins (Conservative, Folkestone and Hythe) has been appointed Chair of the Culture Media and Sport Committee.
  • Hilary Benn (Labour, Leeds Central) has been appointed Chair of the Exiting the EU Committee.
  • Dr Sarah Wollastone (Conservative, Totnes) has been appointed Chair of the Health Committee.
  • Yvette Cooper (Labour, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) has been appointed Chair of the Home Affairs Committee.
  • Neil Parish (Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton) has been appointed Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee).
  • Stephen Twigg (Labour and Co-operative, Liverpool and West Derby) has been appointed Chair of the International Development Committee.
  • Maria Miller (Conservative, Basingstoke) has been appointed Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee.

Parliament enters recess next week (Commons on Thurs 20, Lords on Fri 21). This is the period when MPs return to their constituencies and focus primarily on local matters. Although the select committee chairs are now in place due to recess its likely little business will occur until parliament reconvenes mid-way through the first week of September.

Parliamentary Questions

Thangam Debbonaire (Labour, Bristol West) has tabled a parliamentary question due for answer next week: What recent assessment has been made of the effect of changes in immigration policy on levels of university recruitment?

Lord Jopling has asked: How any higher education provider that does not obtain a Bronze status or higher in future Teaching Excellence Frameworks will be categorised and which HE providers declined to participate in the TEF? (due for response Wed 26 July).

 

Jane Forster                                               Sarah Carter

VC’s Policy Adviser                                    Policy & Public Affairs Officer

 

HE policy update w/e 7th July 2017

Office for Students

Nicola Dandridge (currently Chief Executive of Universities UK) has been appointed as the Chief Executive of the Office for Students (OfS).

  • Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, said: “Nicola Dandridge’s knowledge and experience will be key for this important role…The OfS will replace an outdated regulatory system with a framework that can truly respond to the challenges of our 21st Century and ensure the university system meets the needs of the students.”
  • Jo Johnson, Universities Minister, stated: “I am delighted that Nicola Dandridge is taking up this crucial role. Her knowledge and experience of the higher education system makes Nicola an excellent choice to work alongside Sir Michael Barber at the helm of the OfS…The new regulator will rightfully put the interests of students at the heart of regulation and play a pivotal role in reforming one of our nation’s greatest assets – the higher education sector.”
  • Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access, has also welcomed and commended Nicola and emphasised her connection to social mobility: “…she is ideally placed to take up this important post. I know from the leadership Nicola showed when she chaired the Social Mobility Advisory Group that she has a strong personal commitment to fair access.”

UUK anticipate announcing their new chief executive in September.

Michael Barber is the Chair of OfS, Martin Coleman is the deputy chair, and five other OfS Board members have been confirmed – two Board spots remain open, including the seat for student experience, which was advertised this week.

In other people news, Chris Husbands (VC of Sheffield Hallam and Chair of the TEF panel) has been appointed as the new chair of HESA. Chris stated: “HESA is a jewel in the crown of UK higher education: a trusted source of insightful data and analysis across the higher education landscape in the UK, which helps to shape policy and promote wider understanding and confidence in the sector. High quality data and data analysis is increasingly critical to successful organisations.”

On Tuesday, Sir Mark Walport, the Chief Executive Designate of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) made a speech outlining his vision for the future of UKRI, which you can watch here.

Focus on tuition fees

Labour’s promises to abolish tuition fees (and forgive loans for graduates) have been credited in some quarters as leading to an increase in turn-out amongst young people at the election, and a consequent increase in the Labour vote. Speculation is building about a government response to this. As a result, tuition fees and the loan system have been all over the press this week, with Jo Johnson on Newsnight and the Today programme, and active on twitter.

The voting problem

Did young people turn out in massively increased numbers as claimed immediately after the election? Some suggested more turn out figure above 70%.

  • The BBC reality check uses two polls – a YouGov poll released on 13th June and an Ipsos Mori poll released on 20thYouGov found that about 58% of people between the age of 18 and 24 voted, while Ipsos Mori estimated that it was 54%. Both of those figures are a proportion of all 18- to 24-year-olds, not just those who are registered to vote.
  • That is compared to an Ipsos Mori poll for the 2015 election showing 28% turnout amongst that group, 43% of those registered to vote. The piece adds “The overall turnout (and these are actual figures – not based on polling) was 69%, compared with 66% in 2015, so it appears that the youth vote increased by considerably more than the overall turnout.”
  • See also the Full Fact article

Of course, we don’t trust polls as much as we used to. There’s an interesting pre-election piece on the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) blog and BU’s Darren Lilleker asked about the impact of polls on voting. After the 2015 general election, an inquiry was commissioned into election polls, which concluded that the main issue in 2015 was unrepresentative samples. Accuracy was an issue again during and after the EU referendum. And the same issues arose in the General Election, although the final BBC poll was remarkably close. The House of Lords have appointed a new committee to look at Political Polling and Digital Media, which will report by March 2018 – so maybe that will give us more confidence.

Did the increased number of young voters vote Labour? The BBC reality check says all the polls show a substantial swing to Labour amongst younger voters (18-24).

So was the swing to Labour amongst the young a result of tuition fee promises? That’s a very reductive perspective – surely, students are interested in the same issues as everyone else? And, of course, many among that group do not attend university. HEPI had a piece on student voting intentions in May based on a YouthSight poll. At BU, the Students’ Union (SUBU) organised the only local hustings for parliamentary candidates with all five candidates present. The audience was mostly students and the debate was wide ranging. It covered public sector pay, Brexit, immigration, the economy, housing, security and local matters amongst other things. Tuition fees barely got a mention.

The tuition fees problem

The debate about tuition fees is complex, and highly political. So some key points:

What had happened before the election?

During the passage of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, issues with fees and loans, and the repayment threshold in particular were regularly discussed, in both houses. There was a debate on a “motion to regret” on 5th April in the House of Lords.

The government amended the bill so that inflation based tuition fee increases (already permitted under legislation, but requiring a statutory instrument to implement each change), now require positive approval by both houses. The inflation-based increase in the cap for students starting in 2018/19 should be announced relatively soon – and is likely to be more than the £250 that takes effect this September.

The government also delayed the differentiated fee cap linked to TEF – see more in our HE policy update from a couple of weeks ago. As I wrote on Wonkhe recently, the link between fee increases and TEF has caused all sorts of problems with the TEF – it isn’t the only reason that the NUS are opposed to TEF and called for a boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS) but it is one of the reasons – apparently 25 student unions supported the boycott, and at least some will not have valid NSS data for the TEF next year.

In the election campaign there was a great deal of debate about the affordability of the Labour commitment to abolish tuition fees – one analysis on Wonkhe here.

Media coverage:

And what is happening now?

Damian Green, the First Secretary of State, called for a “national debate”. Michael Gove explained and defended the current position, and Jo Johnson appeared on Newsnight to defend it.

Jo Johnson argues that the fees improve access to HE for deprived students because of the removal of the student numbers cap, that it provides sufficient funding for universities to offer world-class teaching and research, and is fairer to the tax-paying public. And on Radio 4 today’s programme said that the unpaid written-off debts are the government’s contribution to higher education funding.

There has been speculation that a Conservative manifesto commitment to review Further Education funding will lead to a massive shakeup of university funding – if that is added to a review of tuition fees then change is really on the horizon.

Amongst many blogs and articles on the subject, David Phoenix has written for Wonkhe about why it is time for a review. He argues that while Labour’s abolition of tuition fees isn’t progressive the Conservative alternative doesn’t work either and calls on the sector to find a balanced solution. He writes:  “The majority of students do not object to making a contribution to the cost of their education, but it’s the scale of the contribution that matters. A better balance between the student (or graduate) and state acknowledges that students will benefit financially from their degree, whilst also acknowledging the wider public good of higher education: social mobility, civic engagement, productivity, and innovation.”  Speaking of the recent election result, he states: “It’s clear to me is that young people have, in large numbers, rejected continuity of the current system. We also know that the current funding structure is being quietly rejected by potential mature applicants. The job is now for the universities sector and policy makers to work together to rebalance the system to meet the needs of learners, our economy, and our public services.”

And the Wonkhe article noted above quotes the Dearing Review of 20 years ago, which started the move to debate on tuition fees: “One backbencher in the debate on Dearing nearly 20 years ago presciently remarked: “There is real concern that the Government’s decision not to follow Dearing’s proposal to introduce tuition fees while maintaining the maintenance grant, but rather to abolish the maintenance grant and replace it with loans will, far from widening access, narrow it.” Theresa May – for yes, it was she – hit the nail on the head. Discussions about affordability and access have to take place while looking at the entire student support and HE funding package. Taking a report (as happened with both Dearing and Browne) and cherry-picking politically or economically attractive aspects is not a recipe for a fair or sustainable system.”

Realistically – what might happen now?

Labour are sticking to their policy, despite affordability questions and the regressive nature of the change, and criticism of the repeated – an inaccurate- claim that fewer people from poor backgrounds are going to university.

Looking at the statistics above, it seems unlikely that this policy had as big an impact on the outcome of the election as was initially claimed. Apart from students, the policy may also have been popular with parents – but unlikely to have been a game changer in its own right.

So what will the government do?

  • There might be some sort of review/consultation – it is hard to see that this will result in major changes to the structure but it would look like doing something
  • There might be a change to the interest rate – to delay or reduce the rise that will otherwise happen in September
  • There might be a relenting on the repayment threshold freeze – passed in 2015 for 5 years, so perhaps it won’t be extended
  • They could choose not to increase fees by inflation at all in 2018/19. There is no rule that says they have to; even though they announced that they plan to as part of the White Paper/TEF implementation.
  • There might be more consideration given to maintenance funding arrangements. As noted above, these add hugely to student loans, and disproportionately so for students from lower income families.

It is hard to see more drastic changes than that at a time when there are so many calls on the “magic money tree”. Although I’m still not making predictions in this uncertain world…

International staff and students

Hotcourses insights Brexit report compares global demand for HE over the last 12 months. It finds that international student interest has decreased from 28% to 25.6%, although EU student interest has dropped more substantially from 36.9% to 30.7%. The USA share of the student interest has also dropped, whilst Canada and Ireland have both gained.

Jo Johnson announced the Ernest Rutherford Global Talent Research Fund (£100 million) which aims to attract highly skilled researchers to the UK. Johnson stated: “Rutherford and his immense contributions to science exemplify our vision of a Britain that is open to the best minds and ideas in the world, and stands at the forefront of global collective endeavours to understand, and to improve, the world in which we live…We look forward to welcoming these talented Rutherford research fellows to the UK. The Rutherford Fund will send a strong signal that, even as we leave the European Union, we are open to the world and will reinforce our ambition of making the UK the go-to country for innovation and discovery.”

Widening participation

OFFA and the Open University published a joint report and evaluation tool arguing for more ambitious outreach for mature students

Parliament

As parliament begins to bed down the select committees will re-form and appoint their new chairs.

TES report that Nick Boles, Robert Halfon and Tim Loughton are all contesting for the Education select committee chair. FE week also covers the story.

This week relevant Parliamentary Questions have dovetailed the media interest in tuition fees. Angela Rayner has tabled two PQs (due for answer next week). The first asks the government for a statement on whether they intend to privatise the student loan book. The second asks what estimate has been made of potential revenue in privatising the student loan book.