Policy impact – some steps you can take and why it’s a good idea (despite appearances)
We wrote a blog on this topic – you can read it here.
Choosing a university
The Ofs have published a survey that shows the role of parents and friends in applicant decision making. There’s a big research paper by CFE Research.
The OfS respond to the survey:
- There are a huge number of different things that you could consider when thinking about higher education. And as CFE emphasised, ‘there are limits to the amount of information processing that people can undertake’. Often when we’re faced with more information than we feel we can process, we just switch off because it is overwhelming. The solution is not to throw more and more information out there, but to support and empower people to find the information that is important to them and to make sense of it.
- We’ve started work shaping and defining what our approach to improving information, advice and guidance will look like. It is vital that our approach in this area draws on the best and most reliable evidence. Most importantly, this will mean adopting an approach informed by an understanding of how people make decisions in the real world, supported by the latest thinking and technology. It will be rooted in behavioural psychology approaches, and driven by research and collaboration directly with students and those who advise them.
- We are taking the first steps in developing a new resource to better support decision making about higher education. This new resource would help students navigate and understand available information and data, and would be integrated with other key sources of information. It would use personalisation to ensure that students can quickly identify and find the information that is most important for them. This would be combined with carefully designed data visualisations that would make engagement with key datasets easier.
- Our aim is to create a resource that can support a seamless journey through available information and which responds to individual needs. This is an ambitious project, but our research shows that it is needed. The next steps will be to build on the research we have already carried out with prospective students, parents and teachers, and develop prototypes to test with them. If the outcomes of this testing give us a clear way forward, we will begin building the new resource in the spring.
Sector issues: Graduate Outcomes
Prospects have published a series of reports on graduate outcomes since September.
What do graduates do? draws on DLHE data to take a first look at the outcomes of first degree completers in the six months after completing their studies. It breaks the degrees down into sensible programme groups and dissects the outcomes for each. It looks at the 2016/17 year noting the political volatility surrounding early Brexit and the snap general election. There is a good introduction section which gives an overview: The graduate labour market remains robust and by some measures is as strong as it has been for some time. Some details on the destination of first-degree graduates:
Page 14 talks of the valuing of work placements and page 15 has an interesting discourse on social mobility and the influence of careers provision, including how universities may need to brand their careers provision differently to attract those from lower social economic groups who had a disappointing or negative prior experience of careers support.
Wonkhe summarise the report:
[It] finds the graduate unemployment rate to be 5.1%, the lowest in 39 years.
Starting salaries for graduates rose 2.9% over the last year, from £21,776 to £22,399.
Plus there are 7,895 more graduates in professional roles. Skills shortages appear to have helped job prospects, especially in fields such as IT, engineering, accountancy and marketing.
However, there were small but increasing numbers of graduates on zero-hours contracts – 4% of those employed, up from 3.6% last year. Retail employs the highest number of graduates in non-graduate roles. While 12.8% of graduates went to work in retail, around two-thirds of them were in jobs below a professional level.
Wonkhe also have a guest blog on the report written by Charlie Ball, Prospects’ Head of HE Intelligence.
Prospects also published Graduate resilience in the labour market (in conjunction with Lancaster University) which explores graduate ‘resilience’, specifically looking at how students transition after graduating. It explains that developing a graduate’s commercial awareness and improving their connection with employers could ensure they are prepared to make the transition from university into the workplace, and meet the demands of employers. And that: recommendations are made to improve marketing strategy, student engagement and developing graduate confidence.
The key findings in this report are:
- 57% of respondents stated that confidence issues affected their transition after graduating.
- 45% were concerned over a lack of relevant experience.
- 43% of respondents felt they lacked soft skills.
- There was a difference between genders, with women more likely to report they lack of relevant experience and soft skills.
- There is a disparity between faculties regarding their graduates’ resilience.
- There is little connection between having a 2.2 degree and unemployment/underemployment.
- Graduates with a 2.1 classification were most likely to be unemployed in this study.
- Of the seven students who identified as having a disability, 86% reported issues with confidence, 43% felt they lacked relevant experience and 71% felt they lacked softer skills.
What’s the best way to teach employability? draws on a study at Essex University to consider whether generic or bespoke discipline specific employability modules are most effective. The study found negative results and concluded there were no significant advantages in contextualising employability teaching as opposed to a standard generic approach:
- No improvement in student engagement, performance, satisfaction or inclination to take work experience was evident following the completion of a degree-specific credit bearing module.
- Integrating intellectual degree content into employability modules was neither useful nor valued by students.
- Students reported a preference for the more practical rather than intellectual aspects of the teaching.
- Students showed no preference for a contextualised rather than pure employability module.
However, the students did like:
- Providing graduates with labour market information relevant to their degree was met with positive response.
- Students also valued recruitment tips and meeting professionals and employers.
Transitioning from study to work
Finally, in partnership with the University of Salford, What factors contribute to a successful graduate transition?, looks into humanities, arts and creative arts graduates to better understand what the transition from university into the workforce is really like for graduates. They state: Finishing university represents a massive change for individuals as they leave the security of their student identity. This can be a turbulent time of adjustment, but research indicates that there is steady improvement in the circumstances of graduates in the first two years after completing their degrees.
Universities can support graduate transition in many ways, for example by ensuring careers support is still available for graduates, as well as embedding a strong infrastructure that helps students understand career planning and employability before they leave.
The key findings are:
- Movement and change is commonplace in early graduate careers: 58.9% of graduates changed their job and/or career status between 6 and 16 months after graduating.
- Changes in career ideas after graduating is normal: at 16 months post-graduation, only 25.9% stated their career plans hadn’t changed since finishing university.
- Many graduates are proactive when faced with initial challenges in finding fulfilling work; examples include moving into self-employment, undertaking further study, and venturing overseas.
- The support of family and friends is vital for graduates, as well as engaging in career conversations with people they trust.
- Location matters. Those living in small towns with fewer graduate opportunities can feel stuck if they feel there are fewer suitable opportunities.
- Career attitudes are influenced by graduates’ social background, e.g. 91% of higher-class respondents were confident discussing their skills/strengths and 85% were confident at an interview; in comparison, just 68% of lower-class graduates agreed to both those statements.
- Gender differences were also evident. For example, men (81%) report greater confidence at interviews than women (75%), but 83% of women said they were proactive in taking action about their career in contrast to 56% of men.
- Graduates can sometimes blame themselves incorrectly when a hoped-for career doesn’t materialise quickly. Graduates need to be aware of wider labour market issues that may make a certain career harder to get into.
- Graduates need support to reflect on how their degree-level skills and knowledge can transfer into areas of work unrelated to their degree subject.
There is a separate report on the transition from PhD study to employment.
National Hate Crime Awareness Week
As National Hate Crime Awareness Week begins, Yvonne Hawkins explains in a new blog post how the Office for Students is working with universities and colleges, students and others to eradicate hate crime on campus.
Student safeguarding and welfare is a priority for the Office for Students. We are shining a spotlight on key issues, support improvements in policy and practice, and identify ‘what works’ to ensure that interventions and initiatives deliver maximum impact and benefit.
- Read the blog post in full.
- View case studies of some of the OfS-funded projects.
Fees and funding: FE Spending
Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Committee, has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to highlight the stark disparity between funding for pre- and post-16 education and urge the Government to ‘look very carefully’ at the core level of funding for FE ahead of the Budget and Spending Review.
In a letter to the Chancellor Halfon states that ‘it cannot be right that a funding ‘dip’ exists for students between the ages of 16 and 18, only to rise again in higher education’. He continues that ‘successive governments have failed to give further education the recognition it deserves for the role it pays in our national productivity puzzle’.
The Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the level and distribution of school and college funding and last week heard from a panel on the current issues faced by the FE sector.
Q – Grahame Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the press Association of Colleges’ release entitled AoC update on college pay, published in July 2018, if he will he take steps to close the £7000 a year pay disparity between teachers working in further education colleges compared with their counterparts in schools.
A – Anne Milton:
- The further education (FE) sector – including FE colleges – has a different legal status and relationship to the government when compared with schools. FE colleges are private sector institutions, independent of the government. It is for individual FE employers to agree local pay structures with unions, based on local needs.
- The department values all of our teachers and leaders in FE who change lives for the better. Since 2013, we have invested over £120 million in the FE workforce, including investing in workforce development through the independent Education and Training Foundation (ETF).
- Having enough highly-skilled FE teachers in place to deliver high-quality, work-relevant skills training is essential, particularly for the successful delivery of T Levels and apprenticeships. This is why we have committed up to £20 million to help providers, teachers and leaders prepare to deliver T Levels. This includes launching Taking Teaching Further, a £5 million programme to attract industry professionals to teach in FE.
- FE providers help to make sure people have the skills they need to get on in life, which is why we have protected base rate funding for 16 to 19 year olds until 2020. However, we acknowledge that FE faces cost pressures. This is why the department has been actively engaging with the sector to look closely at how we fund providers to ensure that the system supports sustainable, high-quality education. We will be looking carefully at these issues in the Spending Review.
Q – Grahame Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the validity of the findings of the Institute for Fiscal Studies 2018 annual report on education spending in England that funding for further education has been reduced more than other areas of education since 2010.
A – Anne Milton:
- The Institute for Fiscal Studies report uses published data on funding and student numbers to derive a trend in real terms expenditure per student. Their report shows that funding for school pupils aged 5 to 16 will be more than 50% higher in real terms per pupil in 2020 than in 2000. The government chose to prioritise pre-16 schooling because that is absolutely fundamental to later learning and achievement.
- We have protected the base rate of funding for 16 to 19 year olds for all types of providers until 2020. Our commitment to the 16 to 19 sector has contributed to the current record high proportion of 16 and 17 year olds who are participating in education or apprenticeships.
- We are investing in the sector to support providers to deliver the new T level qualifications from 2020. This will mean an additional £500 million every year once they are fully rolled out. We recently announced a further £38 million for the first wave of T level providers to invest in equipment and facilities to support the roll-out of T levels.
- We are currently considering the efficiency and resilience of the further education sector and assessing how far existing funding and regulatory structures meet the costs of delivering quality further education.
Adult learning – changes afoot
Currently progressing through Parliament are a set of Statutory Instruments which aim to transfer adult education functions of the Secretary of State for Education to Combined authorities. This applies to Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Tees Valley, the West Midlands, and the West of England who all have an elected metro mayor. These statutory instruments will devolve control of the adult education budget from the Government to each combined authority from August 2019, meaning from the 2019/20 academic year, Mayors and Combined Authorities would be responsible for adult education funding, and management for learners.
This may be of interest locally when Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch combine.
Proposed transferred functions:
- education and training for persons aged 19 or over and others subject to adult detention
- provision of facilities to support the learning aims of those aged 19 or over
- payment of tuition fees
- functions related to apprenticeship training
- functions related to persons subject to adult detention
Joint responsibility between Secretary of State and Combined Authority for:
- encouragement of education and training for persons aged 19 or over and others subject to adult detention
- provision of financial resources
Access and Participation
The Government has published the final research report Implementation of Opportunity Areas: An Independent Evaluation which aim to improve social mobility. The area delivery plans can be viewed here. The nearest opportunity area to BU is West Somerset: their plan.
HEPI issued a policy note by Professor John Raferty ex-VC of London Met University who reflects on turning around a struggling institution and focuses on his social mobility mission including increasing the number of his institution’s BME students entering highly skilled graduate employment by an increase of 56%..
This week there was a parliamentary question on the requirement for HE provisions to work with Electoral Registration Officers to support students to register to vote and respond to requests for information. A question on comparative take up of engineering and physics careers by gender and divided between Scotland and England (the Minister didn’t compare). Another Brexit and Horizon 2020 question (with a familiar response) and one on the Russel Group favoured European Skills Passport.
On mental health in Universities:
Q – Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will meet the Secretary of State for Education to discuss mental health in universities. 
A – Matt Hancock:
- The Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education continue to work closely on the needs of all young people, including university students.
- The University Mental Health Charter announced in June 2018 is backed by the Government and led by the sector, and will drive up standards in promoting student and staff mental health and wellbeing. The Charter, which will reward institutions that deliver improved student mental health outcomes, will develop in an iterative process, shaped by co-production with students, staff and partner organisations. Prospective students and their families will be able to identify providers who
BU has subscriptions with Wonkhe and Research Professional who send out daily news and updates on all the latest happenings. If you would like to subscribe to either (or both) to stay more current throughout the week contact email@example.com and we’ll sign you up. Happy reading!
Here is the link to all BU’s consultation responses. Recent submissions cover Access and Participation, the REF guidance, and Student Numbers.
Contract Cheating: The Conversation talks plagiarism and considers whether international students are more at risk.
Loneliness: The Government have published their loneliness strategy ‘a connected society’ with schools and the education sector centre stage in its aims to enable meaningful social interactions. Key points:
- A review of best practice to identify and support young carers
- DfE partnering with the National Apprenticeships Service to encourage employers to offer placements to young people with SEN or disabilities
- DfE publishing guidance for schools on maximising the use of their premises for beneficial community purposes
- Embed loneliness into the relationships education curriculum in schools
- DfE commitment to improve mental health support for students in HE, and establish a working group with the sector to review support for students transitioning into university
Thank you for reading the BU policy update. Is it something your colleagues would find interesting or useful for their role? If so please share this update with them and encourage them to subscribe to the weekly update by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org we would love to take our reader count to 200!
JANE FORSTER | SARAH CARTER
VC’s Policy Advisor Policy & Public Affairs Officer
Follow: @PolicyBU on Twitter | email@example.com