HE Policy Update


Gender Pay Gap

Information from the Office for National Statistics has revealed that the gender pay gap in higher education narrowed significantly over the past year. Gender pay gap in higher education shrinks (THE).


Graduate Recruitment

Early data collection by the Association of Graduate Recruiters suggests that last year about 8 per cent of job offers by graduates were accepted but turned down at a later date. Graduates are being advised not to rush into applying for lots of graduate jobs as they often turn down offers if they are given another offer later down the line, this can lead to employers not having enough time to fill the vacancy. University students told not to panic over job pitches (Financial Times).

Research and Teaching

The Green Paper is argued to create a possible disconnect between research and teaching with the introduction of a new TEF. Reform could force universities to choose between teaching and research (The Guardian).


Spending Review

George Osborne’s Spending Review revealed the following implications for higher education:

  • The BIS budget will be cut by 17%.
  • A reform of funding for health students by replacing grants with student loans and abolishing the cap on the number of student places for nursing, midwifery and allied health subjects
  • The Nurse Review recommendations will be implemented. Therefore subject to legislation, the government will introduce a new body – Research UK – which will work across the seven Research Councils.
  • The science budget will be protected in real terms including a new £1.5 billion Global Challenges fund to ensure UK science takes the lead in addressing the problems faced by developing countries whilst developing our ability to deliver cutting-edge research.
  • Part-time students will be able to receive maintenance loans from 2018-19.
  • Tuition fee loans will be available for all higher skills students on apprenticeships.
  • Loans will be extended for postgraduate students for everyone under the age of 60 from 2016-17.
  • For all STEM subjects, tuition loans will be extended to students wishing to do a second degree from 2017-18.
  • The government will take forward a review of the Research Excellence Framework in order to examine how to simplify and strengthen funding on the basis of excellence, and will set out further details shortly.
  • The government will reduce the teaching grant by £120 million in cash terms by 2019-20, but will allow funding for high cost subjects to be protected in real terms.
  • Current students and graduates who took out loans after 2012 will be asked to pay more in repayments, via a freeze in the £21,000 repayment threshold until April 2021.
  • Thursday

Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis, founder of the Money Saving Expert website has criticised George Osborne’s plans to freeze the student loan repayment threshold at £21,000, the government had originally pledged to uprate the threshold in line with earnings. It will mean students have to pay back more of their student loan repayments. Martin Lewis: George Osborne ‘doesn’t have balls’ to tell ‘millions’ they must pay more on student loans (THE).


Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute reveals that although universities did not suffer as much as expected in the Spending Review, poorest students may well struggle. Universities got off lightly, but will poorest students pay the price? (Guardian).


Freedom of Speech

Peers have called for Universities UK and the National Union of Students to “live up to their responsibilities” and protect freedom of speech in universities. Lords call on universities to do more to protect freedom of speech. (Research Professional). 


An academic has argued that metrics are ultimately not about the individual student, or teacher.  Rather, they are about making educators accountable which could mean that academics will lose sight of what they are supposed to focus on. Our obsession with metrics turns academics into data drones (Guardian).