HE Policy Update


Research spending

The UK must spend more than £20bn extra a year on research and development to tackle decades of under-investment according to The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. The committee wants the Government to commit to raising UK R&D spending to 3 per cent of GDP in five years’ time in order to fully capitalise on its science base and close the gap on international rivals by bolstering links between universities and businesses. Britain must spend billions to bridge gap in research, (The Independent).

Student votes

Students could tip the balance of power at the next general election, according to analysis by the Higher Education Policy Institute of their voting patterns from 1997 to the present day. Students could affect the outcome in about 10 constituencies including Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband’s seats. Student vote could swing 2015 election, suggests study (BBC News), Collapse in Lib Dem student vote puts Clegg’s seat at risk, (The Daily Telegraph).


Private Providers

The National Audit Office has published their investigation into financial support for students at alternative HE providers. The report found that drop-out rates at these private providers were on average 12% (compared to 4% for HEFCE funded HEIs). The report also reveals that 20% of publicly funded students on Higher National courses at alternative providers may not have been registered with the qualification awarding body in 12/13. This means they would be unable to attain the qualifications they were funded for. Private provider drop-out rates and loan access laid bare by NAO (THE).


Student retention

Following a survey by Blackbullion (an independent Financial Education Training service), one in 10 undergraduates admit that it is likely they will have to drop out of university because they can’t afford to continue with their studies. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of students say they are worried about how they will continue to fund their degree, supporting concerns that the maintenance loan provided to undergraduates may not be enough to cover costs. One in 10 students ‘can’t afford to continue at university’ (The Daily Telegraph).

Postgraduate Loans

It was announced in the Autumn Statement that from 2016-17, income-contingent loans will be available for postgraduate taught masters courses in any subject for those under the age of 30. To provide support for students in the meantime, before the loans become available in 2016, it was announced that HEFCE will allocate £50 million in 2015-16 to universities to offer bursaries on a match funded basis. These will be £10,000 each and will benefit 10,000 students. Autumn Statement: Postgraduate loans of £10,000 (BBC News), Ten thousand bursaries for ten thousand students in 2015 (HEFCE) .


Postgraduate Loan Reaction

The Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that borrowers would face high effective marginal withdrawal rates on earnings, owing to the combined effect of repayments for postgraduate and undergraduate loans, alongside tax and National Insurance. Postgraduate borrowers ‘would face 50 per cent tax’ (THE).


Which? Student Survey

Which? have surveyed students on five extra-curricular aspects and produced rankings. The 5 categories were: sports, political scenes, creative scenes, nightlife and student union activities. Top student-rated universities revealed for 2014 (Which?).

Arts and Humanities

Professor Anne Carlisle, Vice-Chancellor at Falmouth University, has written a piece combating the myth that focusing on arts and humanities subjects restricts future career paths. She quotes recent research which shows that the creative industries will be worth over £100bn and provide 1.39m jobs by 2018. ‘Ignore creative subjects at your peril’ (Telegraph).