What happened in HE last week…


Labour have accused the coalition of “complete confusion” after Vince Cable said the write-off estimate on student loans will be revised downwards. Vince’s comments, in the House of Commons, appear to contradict recent remarks made by David Willetts. Coalition in ‘complete confusion’ over RAB, says Labour (THE) 

Immigration policy
The Financial Times argue, in an editorial, that the UK will have to abandon its myopic policy on immigration for one that maximises the contribution that skilled foreign workers can make to the UK economy. UK should scrap its migrant targets (FT)

Student compensation
The OIA is expected to reveal that it ordered more compensation to be paid to students in 2013 than the £1m it demanded in 2012. Surge in student complaints about poor-value universities (Sunday Times)


Immigrants to Britain are better qualified than the existing population — and many of those who settled here generations ago are considerably outperforming their white neighbours in education, according to a new study.

As the Times Higher Education releases its 2014 Reputation Rankings, Ben Jackson advises prospective students to take league tables with a pinch of salt. He speaks to Dan Seamarks, a prospective journalism student, who thinks league tables are an outdated form. “I was constantly told that I must look at league tables and use them when making my final decisions,” he said. “However, all of my universities’ strengths lay in different places.” No league table is perfect: Why you shouldn’t worry about university rankings (Independent)

Student recruitment
Universities are allocating more time and money to marketing open days, engaging with students on social media, improving their prospectuses and developing their university websites, a Guardian survey finds. Of those polled, 57% of marketers said open days were more important than five years ago, alongside external digital advertising (72%) and marketing on social media (98%). Have traditional student recruitment campaigns lost their bite? (Guardian HE)

Advice and guidance
Michael Gove’s decision to marginalise careers professionals and hand legal responsibility for careers guidance to schools, with no extra resources to back it up, has united a diverse array of voices in opposition. Gove faces criticism as delays to careers guidance jeopardises students’ futures (Guardian)


The CBI has said that the government needs to do more to make careers in STEM more attractive. It recommends cuts in tuition fees for some STEM subject courses and better training for existing workers.

Destination data
A ‘pioneering school’ set up in a poor area of London, under the free schools policy, is celebrating news that 100 of their students have received offers to study at Russell Group institutions. The Department for Education will certainly be happy. Let’s just hope the students have had the right advice and guidance from the school. New academy offered 100 places at top universities (Times)


HE policy
Student places: David Willetts has cautioned universities that they may not fill the tens of thousands of extra undergraduate places, being made available over the next two academic years, at least in the short term. Sector’s challenge is to fill the gap when the cap comes off  (THE)

Two-year degrees: The Conservative party in Wales has floated the possibility of cutting degree courses from three to two years to help cut student debt and get youngsters into the workplace more quickly if it wins power in Cardiff. This is similar to the work currently underway by John Denham MP in England. Welsh Conservatives float idea of two-year ‘fast-track’ degree courses (Guardian) 

Student attitudes: Most students still feel positive about their investment in their education despite the higher tuition fees faced by first- and second-year students at university in 2013-14, the Sodexo-Times Higher Education University Lifestyle Survey reveals. How has debt from higher fees changed students? (THE)

Connecting research and growth
Catapult Centres: Vince Cable has commissioned Hermann Hauser, co-founder of Acorn Computer, to look at how the catapult centres might be further developed. Technology research centres face entrepreneurial scrutiny (FT)

N8 Research Partnership: The N8 Research Partnership of universities is investigating the possibility of pooling its academic expertise for a major research project, according to the organisation’s new chair, Sir Alan Langlands. N8 to pool research to make a big splash (THE)

RCUK grants: Women are less successful than men in securing research council grant funding, according to new data. The analysis by Research Councils UK suggests that female scientists lag behind men in terms of grant success rates at almost every stage of their careers. Women trail men in securing research council grants (THE)

Research and development: UK spending on research and development as a proportion of gross domestic product fell in 2012, according to new figures. This ranks the UK 12th in terms of research and development expenditure in the EU-28 group. R&D spending drops as share of GDP, new statistics show (THE)

Student visas: Some universities could lose their licences to recruit overseas students if the government goes ahead with plans to further tighten visa rules, a former Home Office official has warned. The plans were outlined in a speech given last week by James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, in which he said the Conservatives would plough on with their drive to cut net migration to the “tens of thousands” by 2015 – despite the figure having risen recently to 212,000. Licences to recruit overseas students at risk (THE)

Expansion: “Visionary” vice-chancellors are pushing universities to expand overseas in ways that are not properly thought through and lack an “analytical” rationale, according to a consultant who has interviewed a number of senior university leaders. V-cs urged to put data first in race to expand overseas (THE)

The weird world of the Daily Mail
Don’t hire any staff: A bit of a strange article from the Daily Mail. Why does Open University chief on £400,000 need a speech writer? (Daily Mail)


The Times is looking at possible reasons behind the growing number of Russell Group Vice-Chancellors who are leaving their posts. They have apparently learnt that “governing councils are being urged to be tougher in making vice-chancellors justify their performance.”  University heads roll in drive to justify salaries (Times)

The OFT published today the outcome of its call for information on higher education in England, launched in October 2013 to see “how choice and competition were working” in the sector. The report recommends that the Competition and Markets Authority – the OFT’s successor body which takes over on 1 April – undertakes a “compliance review” of the sector. 

Industry is being starved of highly-skilled workers because of a shortage in the number of teenagers studying subjects such as science and maths to a high level, business leaders warned today. Semta – the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies – warned that it was facing a shortfall of 80,000 workers within the next two years alone. Telegraph challenge to show science and engineering are the way ahead (Telegraph)