The Environmental Audit Committee is running an inquiry into the impact of invasive species and their management. This tackles non-native species living outside their natural range which have arrived by human activity, either deliberate or accidental. Invasive species are those that negatively affect native biodiversity, ecosystem services and public health, through predation, competition or by transmitting disease, costing Great Britain at least £1.8 billion per year. They mainly affect the farming and horticultural sectors but also transport, construction, recreation, aquaculture and utilities. You can read a summary of both of the latest committee evidence sessions (two sessions on 25 June 2019) at this link.
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The government has announced the launch of a campaign to tackle the stigma of feeling alone. Loneliness Awareness Week began on Monday (17th June), led by Minister for Loneliness Mims Davies. The initiative is called “Let’s Talk Loneliness” and brings together The Marmalade Trust, the British Red Cross, the Co-op Foundation, the Campaign to End Loneliness, Mind, the Jo Cox Foundation and Public Health England.
The campaign hopes to end the stigma of feeling alone and create a culture of people feeling comfortable to talk about feeling alone. As part of Loneliness Awareness Week, the government has also announced it is partnering with the Co-op Foundation to match-fund a new £1.6 million initiative that supports activity in community spaces to promote social connections.
A new YouGov poll on loneliness was released on Monday, showing:
- People in cities surveyed had a higher incidence of reporting feeling lonely than the UK overall (56% v. 44%).
- 25% of adults have reported feeling lonely on weekends.
- Over the weekend, the evenings are the most likely time for people to feel lonely (16%).
Minister for Loneliness Mims Davies said:
- Loneliness is one of the biggest health challenges our country faces. It can affect anyone at any time and its impact is in line with smoking or obesity. But we can only begin to help one another if we feel able to understand, recognise and talk about it.
- Let’s Talk Loneliness’ will encourage us all to engage with this issue, speak up without stigma, spot the signs of loneliness and help build more meaningful connections so people feel less isolated.
For the government press release, see here.
Find out more about the Government loneliness strategy, see here: Let’s Talk Loneliness campaign
In December 2018 The Education Committee reviewed nursing degree apprenticeships and produced the report Nursing degree apprenticeships: in poor health? The Committee warned that the uptake of nursing degree apprenticeships has been too slow (only 30 started last year) and that the DfE won’t meet their target of 400 nursing associates progressing to degree apprenticeships from 2019. The Committee stated that nursing degree apprenticeships was more of a ‘mirage’ than a successful and sustainable route into the profession unless delivery barriers are resolved. You can read the recommendations from the Committee’s report here.
The Government have now responded to the Committee’s report (Government response here) largely agreeing with several of the Committee’s recommendations. The response:
- Agrees with recommendations 1 and 2 on maintaining support to develop a sufficient number of quality nursing apprenticeships. It outlines intent of current reforms in achieving this.
- Agrees with recommendation 3 that Nurse Degree apprenticeship cannot act as the lone route to train the nursing workforce and adds “that has never been the intention”. Further outlining reforms in place to achieve this.
- Agrees with recommendation 4 on the need to incentive the NHS to spend time and resource building nursing apprenticeships and outlines the case and plan for making sure “apprenticeships to meet the needs of employers, as well as apprentices and training providers.”
- On recommendation 5 and the NMC’s consultation on whether nursing associate students should remain supernumerary, Government outline that the NMC agreed in 26th September “they have approved proposals for an additional approach to nursing associate training, which is a different choice for employers to the supernumerary approach to training. This alternative option will enable employers to work in partnership with approved education institutions, to identify the proportion of time the organisation will be able to support protected learning time for the trainees.” State the NMC will consider whether to extend this training model to the other professions they regulate once they have undertaken evaluation and review.
- On recommendation 6 and 9, response outlines the incentives for employers to invest in workforce and the role of the levy.
- Does not agree with recommendation 7, on the funding band for nursing degree apprenticeships remaining at a minimum of £27,000 and the IfA should consider increasing. Government say nursing degree apprenticeships are in the highest funding band and “The Institute for Apprenticeships is responsible for regularly reviewing standards to make sure they are high quality, continue to meet the needs of employers, and are value for money.”
- Agrees with recommendation 8 on investment in CPD and state this was recognised in the NHS long-term plan.
The Science and Technology Committee heard suggestions for areas of inquiry that could be undertaken by the committee. Below are the ideas that were pitched to the Committee for further investigation. (more…)
Parliamentary items of interest this week include:
- Immersive entertainment
- How mental health services are failing the young and the mental health workforce crisis
- The use of AI in the education sector
The Government has issued a press release on immersive entertainment:
Innovate UK: UK takes centre stage in immersive entertainment revolution
New projects will use £18 million funding to create cutting-edge immersive experiences in sports entertainment, visitor experience and live performance.
A total of £18 million government and industry funding has been awarded to projects developing the next generation of immersive experiences. Using virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality, the projects will create cutting-edge immersive experiences which will be tested at scale on real audiences.
The projects are part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s audience of the future programme, delivered through UK Research and Innovation. Through this programme, government is helping the most talented storytellers across the UK create engaging immersive experiences.
Immersive sports, performance and visitor experiences
The demonstrator projects will develop immersive experiences in 3 areas; sports entertainment, performance, and visitor experience.
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will lead a consortium of 15 specialist organisations from the theatre, music, video production, gaming and research industries to create a live performance unbound by location. Audiences will use mobile phones, extended reality headsets and live streams to experience live performance like never before.
Factory 42’s consortium will create 2 multi-sensory, interactive worlds in London’s Natural History Museum and Science Museum. At the Science Museum, visitors will take part in a mixed-reality detective experience featuring high-resolution 3D scans of robots. The Natural History Museum will bring dinosaurs to life through the story of a palaeontologist’s discoveries. Shorter versions of both experiences will tour shopping centres across the UK.
Esports – video games played competitively in front of a live audience – has the fastest growing audience for live sports globally. This project will create new esports platform called WEAVR that uses gameplay data to transform how remote audiences experience first esports, and further down the line physical sports.
WEAVR will be developed by a consortium that includes ESL, the largest esports content producer in the world, as well as academics and innovators across immersive technologies, data-driven content production and broadcast.
Leading digital and creative talent
Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James said: The UK is home to some of the world’s leading digital and creative talent. Through our modern Industrial Strategy and multi-million-pound creative industries sector deal, we are bringing them together to give audiences a truly unique experience. The growth of immersive technology has the power to transform the way in which we watch theatre, play games or go to the cinema, and these new projects will demonstrate how we can take people closer than ever before to the live action.
A new era of entertainment
Science and Innovation Minister Chris Skidmore said: We are now in a new era of how we consume entertainment, and these projects announced today could see us walking with dinosaurs and experiencing being in the stands of major football matches from our own living rooms. We have an impressive reputation of producing outstanding sport, cultural institutions and visual entertainment. That is why, through our modern industrial Strategy, we are building on these strengths to make the areas even more accessible and enjoyable to people, whilst supporting high-skilled jobs across the UK.
Changing cultural experiences
UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: New technologies being pioneered in the UK, such as virtual and augmented reality, are fundamentally changing the way we participate in cultural experiences, from watching dramatic performances and visiting museums to playing video games. Through investments such as the projects announced today, the government and UK Research and Innovation will support the creative industries to innovate in exciting ways that will deliver new experiences for audiences of the future with accompanying economic benefits.
Global opportunity for the UK
Professor Andrew Chitty, UKRI’s Challenge Director for Audience of the Future said: The market for immersive content is a global opportunity. The presence of international partners in these ground-breaking projects is a massive vote of confidence not only in UK research and innovation but in our creative companies who will ensure that the UK becomes a world-leading destination for immersive content production bringing the new jobs and investment that is central to the Industrial Strategy and the Creative Industries Sector Deal.
Mental Health / Mental Health Workforce
The Public Accounts Committee have released a report on Mental health – poor NHS provision is failing young people
The report found that:
– Most young people with a mental health condition do not get the treatment they need
– Government should step up action to increase staff numbers and develop required skills
– Cross-departmental planning must improve, with focus on prevention and early intervention
In 2017-18 only three in ten children and young people with a mental health condition received NHS-funded treatment, and many more faced unacceptably long waits for treatment. The government has committed to providing ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health services, but it is still unclear what it means by this in practice. It also has no comprehensive, long-term plan for how it will fulfil its commitment to implement Future in Mind, which set out a cross-sector vision for how to support children and young people’s mental health. There is now a welcome focus on improving NHS mental health services for children and young people, but there are still significant gaps in the data to monitor progress. Recently published figures have underlined the scale of the task faced: one in eight (12.8%) 5-19 year olds have a mental health disorder. There has also been a marked increase in the number of 5-15 year olds who suffer from an emotional disorder: the figure now stands at 5.8% in comparison to 3.9% in 2004.
Work to increase mental health staff numbers and develop the right skills has also progressed more slowly than planned. The recurring issues with relation to the recruitment and retention of NHS staff remain unchanged and it is clear that the government’s inability to increase the number of mental health nurses is a roadblock to progress in this area. New and important ways of supporting young people’s mental health through prevention and early intervention, particularly in schools, are now being developed. The government must make urgent headway on all these fronts if it is to provide the mental health services and support that young people need.
COMMENT FROM PAC CHAIR MEG HILLIER MP: “Children and young people with mental health conditions are being failed by the NHS. Provision is far below required levels and many people who do get help face long waits for treatment. This can be devastating for people’s life chances; their physical health, education and work prospects. The NHS must accelerate efforts to ensure it has the right staff with the right skills in the right places. But there is a broader role for Government in better supporting children and young people. Effective action on prevention and early intervention can help young people more quickly, as well as relieve pressures on health services. We will be keeping a close eye on the real-world impact of the measures proposed in the Government’s 10-year plan for the NHS.”
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Most young people with a mental health condition do not get the treatment they need, and under current NHS plans this will still be true for years to come, while many face unacceptably long waits for treatment. The NHS’s Five Year Forward View for Mental Health (Forward View) aims to increase the proportion of children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition who access NHS-funded treatment from an estimated baseline of 25% to 35% by 2020-21: this would still leave two-thirds of young people in need without NHS treatment. Similarly, the Green Paper plans to introduce new mental health support in schools will only cover up to a quarter of the country by 2022-23. The NHS estimates that just 30.5% of children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition accessed NHS-funded treatment in 2017-18. We heard numerous examples of families unable to access the treatment they need or having to wait too long for treatment. Preventing and intervening early in mental health conditions is thought to reduce the need for more specialist services and reduce future costs. Yet children and young people are being turned away from NHS services because their condition is not considered severe enough to warrant access to overstretched services. There is a clear risk that young people reach crisis point if they do not get help but the NHS has limited sight on what happens to children and young people turned away from NHS services.
Recommendation: From April 2019 to April 2022, the Department and NHS England should provide annual updates to the Committee on:
- the number of young people who:
o request or are referred for treatment (i.e. number of young people who request a CAMHS appointment),
o whose requests/referrals are accepted and
o who subsequently receive treatment, and how long they had to wait;
- the proportion of young people with a diagnosable condition who receive NHS-funded mental health services;
- waiting times across the range of children and young people’s mental health services; and
- progress in implementing and evaluating the pilot schemes for the Mental Health Support Teams in schools.
The first update should also include current understanding of the financial and human cost, and longer-term impacts, of providing no, or delayed, treatment for children and young people, and the steps being taken by the Department and NHS England to address these impacts.
Getting the right workforce in place is the biggest barrier to the government’s ambitions for children and young people’s mental health services. NHS England says that workforce is the single biggest risk to achieving its Forward View ambitions, and other stakeholders have raised similar concerns. Health Education England has limited information to develop its mental health workforce plan, which include an ambition to increase the children and young people’s mental health workforce of around 11,300 by a further 4,500 staff. It still has no data specifically for the children and young people’s mental health workforce to measure progress against expansion plans. Available data on the overall mental health workforce suggests little change in numbers since Future in Mind was published in March 2015, with just a 1% increase overall between April 2015 and September 2017. Given the length of training times (a minimum of 3-4 years), Health Education England’s short-term focus is on retaining current staff and re-recruiting staff who have left the NHS. It estimates that, if the retention of nurses had remained at the 2012 level, then 50% of current nursing vacancies would not exist today. A range of factors, for example the removal of the nursing bursary and the cost of living in some areas, are affecting both recruitment and retention. In addition to increasing numbers, there are challenges in increasing the skill set of the existing workforce: for example, the Royal College of Nursing says that the removal of continuing professional development for nurses has made it harder to provide them with mental health training.
Recommendation: As part of the annual update to the Committee, the Department, NHS England and Health Education England should report on its progress in expanding the children and young people’s mental health workforce, setting out any changes they may have made to plans or targets and knock-on effects to other parts of the Five Year Forward View. It should also include an update on recruitment and retention rates for the mental health workforce and make an assessment on any knock-on effect on other professions e.g. nursing and midwifery.
Tackling mental health issues among children and young people requires significant cross-departmental co-operation, but current approaches do not ensure that this co-operation happens in practice. The government is committed to delivering the cross-departmental vision set out in Future in Mind but has not set out the actions and budget required to deliver it in full, or any measurable objectives or targets. In practice a number of separate work programmes, largely NHS-led, are implementing parts of Future in Mind. There are no cross-departmental accountability arrangements in place for delivering it, or for children and young people’s mental health support more generally. The Department does not intend to revisit Future in Mind when planning future improvements for children and young people’s mental health services, although NHS England is developing a ten-year plan which is likely to prioritise mental health services for children and young people. The Department does not intend to create a corresponding cross-departmental plan but says it will instead take a similar approach to its joint working on the Green Paper with the Department for Education, working on a one-to-one basis with at least five departments. It is not clear how certain cross-departmental issues, for example housing for mental health staff, will be addressed.
Recommendation: By April 2019, the Department should lead on co-ordinating a comprehensive, practical and long-term cross-departmental plan which sets out how the government will achieve the improvements to children and young people’s services and support, as envisaged in Future in Mind. This does not need to be delivered as a single programme of work but should clearly set out what each department is responsible for and be specific enough to hold the contributing departments to account for the delivery of the plan.
Action to improve prevention and early intervention, which are vital in tackling mental health problems among children and young people, have been slower than work to improve NHS treatment. Preventing mental health conditions, or tackling them earlier, is thought to be better for young people and their families and more cost effective since it can reduce the need for more intensive services later. However, many areas of government that provide preventative or early intervention services, for example schools and local government, face significant funding challenges and so have reduced non-statutory support in recent years. For example, the number of school nurses, which are local authority-funded, has declined significantly, despite the fact that NHS England sees them as important to the mental health system. There is limited information about what support is available outside the health sector or understanding about the impact of cuts to such support on the demand for NHS services. A further challenge to implementing prevention and early intervention initiatives is the limited knowledge about which approaches are most effective. The Green Paper aims to improve prevention and early intervention but, as it will only be rolled out from 2019, this will come too late to make a significant difference to the current programme to improve NHS services.
Recommendation: As part of its cross-government planning, the government, led by the Department, should prioritise specific improvements in prevention and early intervention, including, and in addition to, the work currently being undertaken on the outcomes of the Green Paper, taking an evidence-based approach. They should also monitor changes in other departments policies (for example, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions) to anticipate their impact on children’s mental health.
The NHS has committed to achieving ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health services, but has not defined what the practical, meaningful outcomes are in terms of access to services, waiting times, or patient outcomes. For example, it has not yet determined what percentage of young people in need would access mental health services under full ‘parity’. So far, the Department and NHS England have taken a pragmatic approach to identify what they think they can achieve with available funding, rather than considering what improvements are required to support all children and young people in need of mental health support. New estimates, published in November 2018, show that the number of children and young people (5-15 year olds) with a mental health condition increased from 10.1% in 2004 to 11.2% in 2017. This will impact how long it will take and cost to achieve full ‘parity of esteem’ between physical and mental health. The NHS will be producing its ten-year plan by the end of 2018 and mental health services for children and young people is expected to be one of the priorities in this plan.
Recommendation: In or alongside its ten-year plan, the NHS must set out clearly what it wants to achieve for children and young people’s mental health services, including defining clearly what ‘parity of esteem’ means in practice, the criteria it will use to measure progress and what data/information it requires.
Significant data weaknesses hamper the NHS’s understanding of progress against its current improvement programmes. At the start of the Forward View, the NHS lacked the necessary baseline information to measure progress against its plans, for example, on the number of children and young people receiving NHS treatment. The NHS intended that the new Mental Health Services Data Set would provide much of this information but this is behind schedule: for example, reliable data on patient outcomes are not expected until 2019. NHS England commissioned a one-off data collection for 2017-18 to understand how many children and young people were accessing NHS services, but it still does not have the data to understand growth rates in patient access to services. It now intends to repeat the one-off collection for 2018-19. In 2014 and 2015, the government committed to providing an additional £1.4 billion of funding specifically to transform children and young people’s mental health services, but a lack of reliable financial data up to 2016-17 means that NHS England cannot be sure that clinical commissioning groups spent all their additional funding as intended. It has since worked to improve financial information and spending controls, and gave us its commitment to ensuring that the £1.4 billion will be spent as intended by 2020-21.
Recommendation: By April 2019, the NHS should set out to the Committee what arrangements are in place to collect the data it needs to:
- Set up a robust baseline, and monitor progress on children and young people’s mental health services in the ten-year plan for the NHS;
- Reliably measure patient outcomes;
- Fully evaluate approaches in the Green Paper pilot areas to inform the national roll-out of services, including information from outside the NHS.
Use of AI in the education (mainly school) sector
The Education Committee continued their inquiry into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The first session saw the witnesses explain the benefits of using AI in the education sector, explaining how its use could assist teachers in working more effectively and provide children with more bespoke methods of teaching. They explained the barriers they faced in introducing the technology, highlighting a risk aversion to technology amongst teachers and schools, issues around training teachers, and poor infrastructure in schools.
Excerpts from the session follow:
Government on AI
Opening the session chair Robert Halfon (Con, Harlow) asked whether the government understood AI in education. Professor David Brown, professor of interactive systems for social inclusion, Nottingham Trent University, described government as being “slow on the uptake”. Vinous Ali, head of policy, techUK, replied they were aware of it and were looking at international examples of its use. Martin Hamilton, futurist, Jisc, gave the example of the Welsh Government promoting AI’s use at universities. He said more could be done if government acted in a concerted way.
Priya Lakhani, founder and ceo, CENTURY Tech, argued that the government didn’t understand AI in education. She said government failed to comprehend what made AI different and its potential implications, explaining this lack of comprehension had been made evident in a recent technology report from the Department for Education (DfE). As to why this was the case, she said there was a struggle to grasp the nuance of the technology and the ability for machines to make decisions.
Asked what should be done to assist teachers, Brown explained that teachers were often concerned that technology would be used to replace them. He added there were also concerns at schools about the need for regular training and costs. Ali said there was an issue with technology not being integrated into systems, resulting in it not being properly used. Hamilton spoke of there being an issue with digital skills amongst teachers, using the positive example of Wales and Scotland, he said they were embedding it into their teacher training. Lakhani said teachers were often time constrained and which impacted on their ability to undertake training. She also called for technology companies to make a concerted effort to ensure proper training.
Role of DfE
The chair asked whether an DfE had given any strategic direction on the issue, Lakhani said they hadn’t and would welcome it if they did. Hamilton welcomed that department having an education technology policy unit, highlighting that they were in the process of developing a strategy. Ali said a strategy was needed to ensure technology was embedded.
Please note: The above summaries are for BU staff and student use only, they are provided by Dods Monitoring Consultants.
Colleagues with an interest in the sustainability of the seas may be interested in this summary of an Environmental Audit Committee Sustainable Seas session.
Click this link to read the summary. The summary has been provided by Dods political monitoring consultants and is only available to BU staff and student readers.
Alternatively you can view the session on Parliament TV here.
To read the policy update in full with the infographics click here or continue to read below without the infographics for widening participation.
It’s been a busy week for activity in Parliament along with several new reports published, including the subject level TEF details and a focus on part time and flexible provision. Meanwhile the sector continues to lobbying efforts in hope of influencing the forthcoming outcomes of the Review of post-18 Education and Funding. It’s a bumper update this week so do scan through to read the sections of most interest to your role.
TEF and Grade Inflation
Sam Gyimah spoke on Monday to outline a new measure to discourage grade inflation within HE institutions which will be piloted through the second year of TEF subject level pilots. The DfE news story states:
Announcing a second year of pilots to move subject-level TEF a step closer, Sam Gyimah confirmed today that these will also look at grade inflation, with TEF panellists reviewing evidence to see whether universities are taking a responsible approach to degree grading and not awarding excessive numbers of firsts and 2:1s. It means a university’s provider-level rating of gold, silver or bronze will take their approach to tackling grade inflation into account.
Grade inflation will be an important feature of the criteria considered alongside how a university is stretching its students through course design and assessment, and through their ability to develop independence, knowledge and skills that reflect their full potential. It forms a key part of the government’s commitment to delivering real choice for prospective students.
This is one of the first measures taken by the government to tackle grade inflation, with the plans confirmed in the government’s response to the subject-level TEF consultation.
In the last five years alone, figures from the Higher Education Stats Authority show the proportion of graduates who gained a first class degree has increased from 18% in 2012/13 to 26% in 2016/17, which means over a quarter of graduates are now securing the top grade.
Despite Gyimah’s speech the grade inflation presence within the subject level TEF pilot will be light touch this year because of the level of opposition to the metric during the consultation process:
Grade inflation is an important issue and the Government is committed to ensuring it is addressed so that students and employers can have confidence in the value of higher education qualifications. It was one of the more contentious topics in the consultation. In response to the question posed, the consultation demonstrated support for our proposal to apply the grade inflation metric only at provider-level and we will therefore maintain this approach. We acknowledge however that challenges to the grade inflation metric were raised in both the consultation and pilot findings. While almost half of respondents agreed to our proposal, many respondents also stated that they did not support the continued use of this metric in the TEF at any level and the pilot found the metric was limited in its current form. To address these concerns, the OfS will use the second year of the subject-level pilots to test some refinements to the grade inflation metric, exploring how it can be improved. This includes presenting additional data such as trends in prior attainment alongside the grade inflation data to help panels better account for other factors that might influence grades. (Pages 6-7 of Government’s response link.)
Research Professional write about the removal of the ‘contentious’ teaching intensity measure.
Subject level TEF
The Government issued its analysis and response to the subject-level TEF consultation. The first year of subject level TEF pilots have concluded (read the findings here). The second year pilots are underway; their design is based on the outcomes from the first pilots and the subject level TEF consultation.
While the second year of subject-level TEF pilots runs the Independent TEF Review (required by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017) will also take place. The Government expects this timing will allow full implementation of subject-level TEF for 2019/20. The subject-level pilots will trial the introduction of LEO (Longitudinal Educational Outcomes data) within the core metrics. And Wonkhe report that the teaching intensity metric has been removed and all the TEF awards currently conferred on Universities will cease by 2021 to dovetail the roll out of subject-level TEF.
There are a plethora of new TEF blogs and opinion on the Wonkhe website.
Yvonne Hawkins, Director of Teaching Excellence and Student Experience at the Office for Students, said:
“The TEF assesses the things that students care about: teaching quality, the learning environment that supports them; and employment and further study outcomes. The development of a robust model for subject-level TEF is progressing well…last year we tested and evaluated two different assessment models for generating subject-level ratings. This year we will consolidate this work, piloting a single approach that draws on feedback about the best elements from the previous models. The TEF’s strength relies not on any single source of evidence, but in drawing together multiple sources and making holistic judgements. This ensures no one issue is over-weighted. The changes we will be piloting are designed to strengthen this approach, so that ratings are informed by comprehensive contextual information. The input of students to last year’s pilot was invaluable, so this year we are also introducing ways to further strengthen their involvement.”
The House of Commons debated the regulations surrounding the Transparency Condition (the requirement for HE institutions to publish data on access and success for disadvantaged and under-represented students). An Opposition spokesperson argued for the inclusion of data on students with disabilities, the age profile of students, and care leavers to be included:
We also believe that, if the transparency duty is to have any impact, it needs to include as many different dimensions of participation as possible by social background. That view was echoed strongly by the Sutton Trust, which did not believe that the Bill and the regulations went far enough in that area. It said, “evidence suggests many universities are favouring more privileged candidates even when levels of attainment are taken into account”…The Bill should be amended to require universities to publish their contextual admission policies clearly on their websites”.
The Opposition spokesperson also raised the key workforce data that has the potential to impact on the quality of students’ education, such as the use of insecure contracts and student-staff ratios as a potential measure to be included within the Transparency Duty. Finally he argued for the OfS to use broader measures and rely less on POLAR data to examine socio-economic disadvantage. The new MEM measure was highlighted (a multiple equality measure which combines various data sources including free school meals) for inclusion to prevent overreliance on just one data source.
Sam Gyimah responded: Quite rightly, the hon. Gentleman brought up the subject of care leavers. Our guidance to the OfS asks it to monitor care leavers as a key target group, which it has done. We expect to see providers focusing on that in their access and participation plans. Whether to add age and disability is a decision for the OfS, but I am pleased that it has included that in its consultation, as we asked.
Further to Gyimah’s show of support for care leavers mentioned above the DfE have launched the Care Leavers Covenant aiming to provide more opportunities and support for Care Leavers through work placements, internships and training sessions (supported by bursaries and accommodation provided by the local universities). Chris Millward, OfS Director for Fair Access and Participation stated: “Disadvantage goes on to follow care leavers through their adult lives. We need a collective effort to ensure that care leavers are not denied opportunity simply because they’ve had a challenging start in life”. Read the Government’s news story on this new post-care scheme here.
Graduate Premium – female living standards
The Institute of Fiscal Studies have released a new paper analysing the female graduate premium: The impact of higher education on the living standards of female graduates. As the title suggests it looks wider than just wages on the benefits that achieving a degree brings. It uses data from two longitudinal surveys providing a sample of 1,000 women born in 1970 (so all attended university before tuition fees were introduced) and quantifies the role of working hours, life partners, and tax liability. It finds a graduate premium (compared to female non-graduates) and demonstrates how the above mechanisms vary in importance over women’s life cycles and have changed over time to impact on female graduates’ living standards.
- HE significantly increases the probability a women is in work and the number of hours they work, boosting labour market returns.
- HE increased the likelihood women worked in their early thirties, but there was no impact on the likelihood of working in their early forties. This reflects the fact that higher education causes women to delay childrearing until later in their careers.
- HE also increases the probability of a woman having a partner who also has a HE qualification, the degree qualified partner is typically more likely to work and earn more.
- However, focusing on gross earnings returns overstates the private benefits of HE, as higher-earning graduates pay more in tax and receive fewer (family based) benefits. This reduces the net financial returns from a graduate wage.
- The benefits of HE can also vary over the life cycle. While HE increases net family income by around 20% (£9,500 per year) for women in their early 30s and early 40s, the mechanisms change over time:
- For women in their early 30s, the impact of HE on income primarily comes through their own labour market earnings;
- By age 40 the importance of the impact on partners’ earnings has increased, likely because at this age women have an increased propensity to work part-time.
It appears that, through the higher education level of partners, HE provides some insurance for women taking time out of the labour market after having children. The role of partners’ earnings remains an important channel of returns, particularly at older ages.
- You can read the research assumption caveats surrounding the impact of children (page 13/14), particularly their effect on the choice to work and the wage rate.
- In summary, as a result of a degree, it is higher wages, more working hours and assortative mating (degree qualified life partner) that explain the graduate females higher living standards
Both the Times and Mail Online articles pick up on the report but mainly emphasise the aspect that female graduates are more likely to marry graduate men – boosting their joint earning potential. The Times go on to consider the male/female gender gap and report that after graduation, women are more likely to have a job or go on to further study than men, but they earn less from the very start of their careers. These figures, taken from The Times, show how the gender earnings gap expands:
|At graduation||(-£1,600 less than men)|
|3 years post-graduation||£24,200||£21,800 (-£2,400 less)|
|5 year post-graduation||£27,800||£24,500 (-£3,300 less)|
|10 years post-graduation||£35,100||£27,100 (-£8,000 less)|
Technological Innovation and Regulation
The Council for Science and Technology have written to the Prime Minister to make four recommendations on how to ensure Britain’s regulatory landscape creates an attractive and welcoming environment for technological innovation. Greg Clark’s (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) response is warm and picks up on several of the recommendations. Furthermore, on Tuesday Greg chaired the new Ministerial Working Group on Future Regulation. One of the aims of the working group is to transform regulation to support innovators to bring new ideas to market. Greg stated:
“We have a world-beating regulatory environment in the UK which has set standards that have been exported around the world. But we can’t move forward by standing still and we must prepare for the technologies and industries of the future.
I am grateful to the work done by the Council and for their recommendations on how we can put the UK at the forefront of these industries. Through the Working Group on Future Regulation we are going to build on our exceptional foundations, ensuring our regulations keep pace with the technological advances that will reshape our economy.”
Those with an interest in this area can read more on the new working group here.
Civic Universities – Mature Education
UPP Foundation has released a progress report from their Civic University Commission which aims to explore and understand what a modern civic university does and how it benefits local people. This additional report was released to inform the Government’s review of post-18 tertiary education as the research uncovered a link between the decline in adult learning and universities’ civic mission.
They found that adult education used to be an integral part of universities’ civic activities but is now in major decline (non-degree courses for over 30’s have declined by 42% since 2012). The Commission states the decline will become more acute as more professional jobs become automated forcing changes in the labour market structure and increasing the need for retraining. The conditions on part time loans for retaining are noted as a barrier:
Those restrictions mean, for example, that a mother returning to work after a prolonged absence from the labour market — but who might have a degree from 15 years earlier — cannot retrain unless she can just pay the fees upfront, and support herself, from her own resources.
The Commission argues for a better adult university education system:
This is precisely the wrong moment to have closed off adult education. Graduate jobs will change, and as we leave the European Union the need for a good domestic skills base will be greater. We have already lost long-term capacity in universities — courses have closed and they are difficult to re-open. Rebuilding this capacity will take effort and time. In our view, that work needs to begin now.
It is also too limiting to see this education in terms of immediate fulfilling of skills gaps. It is extremely hard to predict exactly what the future skills needs of areas are likely to be — many would not have predicted, for example, the size and growth of creative industries and their importance to the economic wellbeing of places.
And even outside pure economic benefit — short and long-term — the benefits of education for adults are huge. It passes down into how children are educated at home — which has a much greater impact on their future success than the school environment. It improves peoples’ health and makes them more engaged in the labour market. It makes people more fulfilled and engaged in civic life. There is clear latent demand. A recent survey by Universities UK (UUK) found that as much as 24% of adults had seriously considered doing higher education, of which around half did not already have a post-A level qualification. …we believe it [is] important to offer education to existing professionals, women returning to the labour market and struggling to attend courses in intensity, and people who want to learn particular things rather than necessarily qualifications.
The report calls for the Government to:
- Relax the ELQ rule so that graduates are able to do further learning;
- Remove the 25% intensity rule so that both short courses, and longer-term learning, are eligible for loans and funding (they consider this particularly important for women with children);
- Allow education that is not deliberately directed towards a qualification (such as a degree).
It also seems clear that the lack of direct public funding, and the funding of adult education mostly through traditional loans with RAB charges, is off-putting to many adults. Postgraduate provision and re-graduate provision, as well as first time undergraduate provision, needs to have some public subsidy. So the government should consider whether the apprenticeship levy has some part to play. Two options could be:
- Hypothecating some proportion of the apprenticeship levy for courses that are shorter and more modular;
- Having an additional, smaller levy for this particular purpose.
The Commission also favours greater pressure on universities to focus on widening participation initiatives that target adults, to be specifically monitored by OfS.
On Knowledge Exchange the Commission stated:
The new KEF metrics should have a strong weighting on knowledge transmission and knowledge exchange between universities and their local population. In our view it is as important that university staff spend time conveying ideas to the local population, and involving them in their activity, as it is to interact with traditional economic stakeholders.
Part time learning and Flexibility
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) are calling for more flexible routes to higher skills noting that the decline in part time students is of crucial importance to the UK’s future economic prosperity. UUK and CBI have published a joint statement drawing on a previous report on the generation of ‘lost learners’. The lost learners are those who are:
- mainly 25-44 years old,
- 48% only have a level 2 or 3 qualification,
- 54% are in full time work
- they are motivated to upskill and train to develop their careers.
However, the study found many of the learners didn’t enrol or were unable to complete their studies. Familiar barriers are cited: unaffordability of tuition fees (44%) and managing cost of living whilst studying (42%), and an inflexible course that couldn’t be managed against other life commitments (26%). Other difficulties were employer inflexibility and lack of employer financial support plus benefits challenges created by studying. Of those that did enrol but subsequently dropped out 33% stated lack of flexibility (even with part time study) was the cause.
CBI emphasise the need for flexible and part time provision is greater now than it ever has been because technological advances are creating different and higher level jobs for which re-training is essential. CBI states: “Meeting the needs of the economy, therefore, rests on widening access to higher-level education and promoting routes that appeal to people for whom a traditional, three-year university degree may not be the best option.
For a whole range of reasons – from family to work commitments, caring responsibilities and many more – if flexible study isn’t accessible then many people don’t study at all.”
CBI and UUK’s calls are very similar to that of the Civic University Commission (described above).
They urge the Post-16 Review of tertiary funding to:
- Reform the apprenticeship levy into a more flexible skills levy so that it can cover a wider range of training (more detail on page 5 here).
- Develop shorter and more flexible provision – enabling students to move between work and study across their lifetimes. Government and higher education providers should work together to consider how a modular or credits-based system for undergraduate study could increase flexibility in the long term.
- Support collaboration between employers, HE and FE – helping learners progress into provision which falls between A levels and a university degree (level 4 and 5 provision). Government should support… through changes in the regulatory environment, funding new partnerships and collaborations and/or facilitating sharing of information on the need for level 4 and 5 skills.
CBI acknowledge that many universities already have extensive collaboration with employers but state this, alongside flexible provision, needs to shift up a gear.
While in the longer-term, the post-18 education system should move to a modular or credits-based system, we must also ensure higher education institutions can deliver more flexible options as soon as possible. Evidence from our project suggests that while institutions are developing innovative and more flexible methods of course delivery there is a limit on the extent they can test the market and/or roll these out due to financial constraints.
Therefore, Universities UK recommends greater government support being given to higher education institutions wishing to innovate, scale up activity or further develop systems for flexible learning in order to overcome financial barriers and future uncertainties relating to these activities. This could be through targeted funding by government. Targeted funding could help institutions achieve greater clarity on the extent of market demand and how best to tailor their courses to meet the needs of students, so that over time more flexible courses become a central part of the institution’s offer.
Matthew Fell, CBI’s UK Policy Director, stated:
“Investing in our skills base is the best strategy for growth a nation can have…The findings of this project are clear. We need to raise overall levels of education and skills in the workforce. Universities need to play a critical role in responding to the changing world of work by offering education and training for learners for whom a three-year bachelor’s degree doesn’t quite fit their circumstances”.
Professor Julie Lydon, VC University of South Wales and Chair of the group that produced the study, stated: “For many years, discussion about higher education has focused only on the traditional route of school leavers heading away to study full-time at university for three or four years.
The evidence from this project shows there is significant demand from learners and employers for more flexible learning, where learners combine study with work, and other life commitments. Learning and improved life chances should not stop when you reach your 20s. It must continue over a lifetime.”
Read UUK’s news blog here, the joint statement here, and their previous publications: the economic case for flexible learning; the employer perspective of Skills Needs In England; report on ‘lost learners’; and the report on flexible learning.
Finally, Research Professional provide their take on the statement here.
Recruitment – record applicants
UCAS report a record number of applicants at the early deadline for the 2019 undergraduate cycle. This deadline mainly covers medicine, dentistry, veterinary and Oxbridge applications, however of interest are the higher than usual rates of applications (+9% from 2018 cycle rates). There are also increases in English applicant rates (+9%) and an 11% rise in 18 year old applicants – despite the further 1.8% 18 year old population decrease. EU applications remained at 2018 levels. The Guardian covers the story and places the high rates within the context of the additional 500 places available through the newly approved medical schools. UCAS are careful to manage expectations in their press release and remind the sector that the recruitment boost seen by these programmes may not mean a corresponding rise in applications for the January 2019 deadline.
Widening participation – evaluating student outcomes
The Sutton Trust has published Student Destinations which looks at the successful impact of their outreach and participation programmes delivered over the 10 year period 2006-2016. They offer three programmes – UK summer schools, a US programme to visit and support applications to study in the US, and pathways to law. Drawing on destinations data from multiple sources and benchmarking progression against controls they have been able to boast excellent outcomes resulting from participation in the programmes.
See this link to view the infographics detailing the impact of the programmes.
Despite their success the Sutton Trust are keen to point out the difficulties in evaluating such programmes brought about by a lack of access to the needed data sources which are owned by multiple other organisations.
By no means is our work on evaluation complete. It will be years of ongoing work looking to refine our methods and working in collaboration with our partners to constantly improve the evaluation we undertake. It will be challenging.
Access to the data needed to evaluate interventions is inconsistent, disjointed and often expensive. Working with NPD, UCAS, HESA, HEAT and co. to negotiate and navigate data requests can be a full time job and typically there is a delay in receiving the data.
We are calling for access to data to become more coordinated and for outreach activity to have a broader definition of success than simply progression to a particular institution. Source.
The Sutton Trust believe their evaluation success lies partly within their unique position whereby they collaborate with groups of universities to deliver their programmes “…this has enabled us to act as a facilitator to outreach collaboration. This allows for larger data sets to analyse, and data sharing across institutions, which we believe ultimately leads to stronger evaluation.”
A gaggle of parliamentary questions related to HE were answered this week.
On Brexit this answer covers the negotiation of science and innovation – excerpt: The White Paper set out that the UK is committed to establishing a far-reaching science and innovation accord with the EU as part of our future relationship. As part of this accord, the UK would like to explore association to EU research funding programmes, including Horizon Europe and the Euratom R&T Programme.
And another on participation in the Ninth EU Framework Programme.
A variation on a questioning theme that regularly surfaces with the House – how a Brexit no deal will affect universities
Q – Jared O’Mara: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to replace potential lost funding for universities as a result of the UK leaving the EU without a deal (link).
A- Sam Gyimah: We remain confident that we will agree a mutually advantageous deal with the EU – we do not want or expect a no deal scenario. It is, however, the duty of a responsible government to continue to prepare for a range of potential outcomes, including the unlikely event of no deal. Extensive work to prepare for this scenario has been under way for almost two years and we are taking the necessary steps to ensure the country continues to operate smoothly from the day we leave. We have now published 106 specific technical notices – including on Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ – to help businesses, universities, citizens and consumers prepare for a no deal scenario.
In the event of a no deal scenario the government’s underwrite guarantee will cover funding for successful competitive bids to Horizon 2020 submitted before exit day. In July 2018, we extended this guarantee to cover all successful competitive bids by UK entities to Horizon 2020 calls open to third country participation submitted between exit day and the end of 2020. The guarantee will apply for the lifetime of qualifying projects, even where this extends beyond 2020.
The government will cover funding for successful Erasmus+ bids from UK organisations that are submitted while the UK is still a Member State, even if they are not approved until after we leave. The government will need to reach agreement with the EU for UK organisations to continue participating in Erasmus+ projects and is seeking to hold these discussions with the EU. The government has also extended the underwrite guarantee to cover the payment of awards under successful Erasmus+ bids submitted post-March 2019 until the end of 2020. The eligibility of UK organisations to participate in calls for bids once the UK is no longer a Member State is subject to agreement between the EU and the UK.
Student Loan Sale
Several questions from Angela Rayner delving into the cost effectiveness of both the prior and intended new student loan book sales – with little in the way of a clear answer given.
First a question requesting the estimated proceeds of the (new) student loan sale and for information shared to be accessed centrally.
Sam Gyimah’s response: The government and its advisers are continuing to refine the range of estimates for the expected proceeds of the sale. A report on the sale arrangements, and the extent to which they gave good value, will be placed in the House Libraries within three months of the date of the transfer arrangements.
Followed by another on the book value of the new student loans sale.
Gyimah responded: The department calculates the book value for the pool of loans for any given sale after the sale has completed, and the fully audited number for the second sale will be available in the 2018-2019 annual accounts.
On the previous student loan book sales Rayner questioned:
Gyimah responded that the report is available within the Parliamentary libraries and disclosing the minimum price was counterproductive as it is commercially sensitive.
On the TEF it is promised there will soon be news on who will conduct the independent review:
Q – Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what progress he has made on appointing the Chair of the Independent Review into the Teaching Excellence Framework (link).
A – Sam Gyimah: We have made excellent progress in appointing an independent reviewer of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework and I hope to make an announcement shortly.
Q- Royston Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what plans his Department has to replicate the provisions of Tier 2 visa requirements for EU students studying in the UK after the UK has left the EU (link).
A – Caroline Nokes: The Government is considering a range of options for the future immigration system and we will publish a White Paper later in the autumn.
The independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its report on the impact of international students in the UK in September 2018. The Government welcomes this report and thanks the MAC for their work. The report makes it clear that international students offer a positive economic benefit to the UK and offers a number of policy recommendations. We will be considering this report carefully and engaging widely as we develop proposals for the future system which will be implemented from 2021.
Q – Paul Blomfield: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he has made an assessment of the potential implications for the Government’s ambition to increase the number of BAME students going to university by 20 per cent by 2020 of implementing the recommendations in the University and College Union report entitled Investigating higher education institutions and their views on the Race Equality Charter; and if he will make a statement.
A – Sam Gyimah: I welcome the report from the University and College Union. Widening access to Higher Education is a priority for this government. We want everyone with the capability to succeed in Higher Education to have the opportunity to benefit from a university education, regardless of background, ethnicity, or where they grew up.
In 2017, 18 year olds from ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely to enter full-time undergraduate higher education than ever before. However, we still have more to do. That is why we asked the Office for Students to continue to ensure ethnic minority groups are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from higher education.
A new transparency condition will also require HE providers to publish application, offer, acceptance, non-continuation and attainment rates by socio-economic background, gender and ethnicity, which will provide greater transparency and help to shine a light on those providers who need to do more.
Finally, a question on artificial Intelligence (autonomous weapons).
Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. There aren’t any new consultations and inquiries this week, however, there have been several outcome reports and Government responses to the consultations and inquiries we are tracking. Look out for the yellow highlighting to find the new information.
Free Speech: i news has an article reporting on the BBC’s research stating universities are not restricting free speech. Here is the description of the BBC’s research findings. The findings suggest there are only a small number of isolated cases where free speech is restricted. However, the article continues: A Department for Education spokesperson said while there was no evidence of widespread censorship, there were some “genuine problems”, including the effect of the “complex web of rules and guidance”, as well as the behaviour of protestors and student groups. The OfS Free Speech guidance is expected to be published before Christmas.
Science after Brexit: Fans of Radio 4’s Today programme will have heard Sam Gyimah grasping for answers during a Brexit discussion with Nobel Prize winning geneticist Sir Paul Nurse. Total Politics and The National both reported following the discussion.
Sexual Harassment: The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published the outcome of their inquiry into sexual harassment of women and girls in public spaces. The report has a whole section devoted to women’s safety at university. BU readers can access a summary of the report provided by Dods Political Monitoring Consultants here.
Cost of Post Study Work Visas: Wonkhe report on UUK analysis which estimates that the UK economy could have lost out on £8bn in export earnings from international students due to changes to student migration policy in 2012, which include the closure of the Tier 1 Post Study Work Route.
Simon Marginson, writing for Research Professional, also had much to say on the post study work visa this week:
“The notion that we beckon [international students] in through the narrow Home Office doorway, extract as much money as possible from them while they are here, and push them out the moment they graduate, is uncivilised, exploitative and counterproductive.
A mature country will recognise the connections between international education and skilled migration, and understand that while the primary purposes of international education are economic and educational, an important secondary purpose is attracting outstanding future citizens.
Post-study work visas are not only a cornerstone of education exports policy, they are a cornerstone of economic policy on skilled labour.”
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of UUK, stated:
“To keep up with competitors, the UK government needs to promptly develop a reshaped immigration system that recognises the value of international students as temporary visitors and tells the world that they are welcome here. This should include improved post-study work opportunities”
Students Union officers: Students Union officers are in the news this week with an article on the York University Students Union Working Class Officer and UWE’s short lived men’s officer, which was scrapped after the candidate withdrew citing harassment.
The Budget: The 2018 Autumn budget will be delivered on Monday 29 October. The House of Commons Library has produced a brief on the background to the budget. Political consultants have also been producing speculation documents detailing what has been leaked or is expected within the budget – so far there has been little content directly on Higher Education within the speculations.
Social economic comparators: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released Equity in Education which tracks the impact of socio-economic background on the academic performance and outcomes of young people. It notes that high performance and more positive attitudes towards schooling among disadvantaged 15-year-old students are strong predictors of success in higher education and work later on. Furthermore, adults in England with tertiary-educated parents were 9 times more likely to complete tertiary education than adults with less-educated parents. However, this is still below the OECD average of 11 times more likely.
The Independent covers the report stating only 1 in 6 of the disadvantaged UK pupils surveyed report they are satisfied with their lives, socially integrated at school and do not experience test anxiety. The UK also trails behind in that only 15% of disadvantaged students are socially and emotionally resilient (compared to 26% average across all countries surveyed). Although the report does state: Disadvantaged students who are socially and emotionally resilient tend to do better academically which suggests that helping disadvantaged students develop positive attitudes and behaviours towards themselves and their education would boost their academic development. It also notes that greater school choice doesn’t necessarily have a positive impact on disadvantaged pupils and that there can be a lack of sense of belonging amongst pupils. The Equity in Education report utilises PISA data (Programme for International Student Assessment). Click here for an interesting short set of infographics.
FE and Sixth Form Funding Crisis: Twelve associations that represent school and college leaders, governors, students, teachers and support staff in England have written to Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond urging him to increase funding for sixth form education in next week’s Budget. The letter launched the Raise the Rate campaign which hopes to increase the funding rate for sixth form students that has been frozen at £4,000 per student, per year since 2013. In the letter, the associations claim that a combination of funding cuts and cost increases “has left much less money for schools and colleges to spend on the front line education of students at a time when the needs of young people have become increasingly complex (for example the sharp rise in students experiencing mental health problems).” The associations use recent research from London Economics to call for a “minimum” £760 per student funding increase. Without this the campaign states that minority subjects such as languages are at risk of being dropped and there will be decreased extra-curricular activities, work experience opportunities and university visits. As major funding decisions are not likely to be taken until next year’s spending review, and would not take effect until 2020/21, the associations urge the Chancellor to introduce a “modest increase” to the funding rate of at least £200 per student in next week’s Budget “to provide some much needed financial stability and ensure that schools and colleges can continue to deliver the high class education our young people deserve.”
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders stated:
“It makes no sense whatsoever that the basic funding rate in sixth forms and colleges is a miserly £4,000 per student, while universities are charging tuition fees of up to £9,250, often for fewer teaching hours. Government cuts to 16-18 education have severely damaged a sector which is pivotal to the life chances of young people, and an immediate funding uplift is essential.”
Emily Chapman, Vice President (Further Education) of the National Union of Students said:
“Successive budget cuts have left many colleges in a state of financial instability. The result has been course closures, cuts to student support, and reductions in teaching provision.”
Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association said:
“Sixth form education is not just about exam results, it includes a host of essential wrap-around experiences. If we don’t fund it properly, something must give and young people won’t get the high-quality education they deserve. Every year, colleges are being asked to do more with less, and we must not sit idly by while young people are short-changed.”
Student Opinion: Read this blog on the latest research from an amalgamation of students’ unions: Asking the right questions on student lifestyle which covers wellbeing, living, eating and community identification. There are also previous research summaries giving the student perspective on Value for Money and Teaching Excellence.
Allied Health Professions: The OfS have published the blog Let’s shine a light on the opportunities in allied health professions educating about the wider NHS careers opportunities and how the OfS is supporting growth in recruitment to these programmes.
Immigration salary threshold: Research Professional discuss how the proposed retention of the £30,000 salary threshold for skilled migrant visa will dissuade talented social science researchers from considering a career in the UK.
Unconditional offers: Unconditional offers continue to make headlines as UCAS confirm they will publish data highlighting which HE providers make significant levels of unconditional offers. The data will be shared when UCAS release the annual end-of-cycle data in January 2019. A spokesperson for UCAS stated: “Unconditional offers can be made for a variety of reasons… Universities may also need to provide necessary context of their figures when they are published for the first time.” Research Professional state that UCAS will publish an analysis of unconditional offers during November to explore the different types of offers and how they are made.
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Nursing and midwifery both featured in Parliament last week.
Last Wednesday the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, announced an increase in bursaries (to £10,000) for Scottish student midwives and nurses to help cover accommodation and living expenses.
The Royal College of Midwives Scotland Director, Mary Ross Davie, commented: “This is great news and a forward thinking and important announcement…Let us not forget that in England student midwives and nurses do not get any bursary at all, which makes this increase for Scotland even more progressive. This also comes on the back of the best pay award for NHS midwives and nurses in the UK, another important step to ensuring we retain the midwives we have…I would urge the government in England to rethink their decision to take away bursaries in England.”
Suzanne Tyler, Executive Director for Services to Members at the Royal College of Midwives, responded to the announcement: “The announcement is simply great news for student midwives in Scotland…It frankly should shame the Government in England who have taken away bursaries for England’s student midwives, who also have to pay tuition fees. This leaves them tens of thousands of pounds in debt when they qualify.
This is even more worrying given the large shortage of midwives in England, and sits at odds with the Government’s commitment to bring 3000 more midwives into the NHS in England. The RCM [Royal College of Midwives] repeats its call for this Government to give our student midwives and nurses their bursaries back. So that we can attract people into the profession and so that the Government can meet their promise of 3000 more midwives for England.”
There were also two relevant parliamentary questions:
Q – Paula Sherriff: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many mental health nursing students have started degree apprenticeships in the 2018-19 academic year.
A – Anne Milton: In the 2017/18 academic year reported to date (from August 2017 to April 2018), 260 apprenticeship starts were recorded for the standard ‘Registered Nurse’. This is the level 6 degree apprenticeship approved for delivery on 9 May 2017. Mental health nursing remains an optional element within the nursing apprenticeships.
Additionally, there have been 640 apprenticeship starts reported to date (from August 2017 to April 2018) for the standard ‘Nursing Associate’ (level 5 apprenticeship standard, approved for delivery on 20 November 2017; note that we class apprenticeships at level 6 and above as ‘degree-level’). There were no starts on these standards in the 2016/17 academic year. Full final year data for the 2017/18 academic year will be available in November 2018 and data covering 2018/19 will be available in January 2019.
In England, there have been 64,830 apprenticeship starts in the Health, Public Services and Care sector subject area reported to date in the first three quarters of the 2017/18 academic year (August 2017 to April 2018). This data can be accessed at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/further-education-and-skills-statistical-first-release-sfr .
We want to increase the number of nursing apprenticeships and now have a complete apprentice pathway from entry level to postgraduate advanced clinical practice in nursing. This will support people from all backgrounds to enter a nursing career in the National Health Service (NHS).
We are working closely with employers, Health Education England and ministers in the Department of Health and Social Care to make sure the NHS is fully supported to recruit apprentices, both in nursing and in a range of various occupations.
Q – Paula Sherriff: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many students started mental health nursing degree courses in the 2018-19 academic year.
A – Matt Hancock: The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) collect data on acceptances to mental health nursing degree courses.
Acceptances for 2018/19 entry can still be made until the end of clearing on 23 October 2018.
The final number of acceptances for mental health nursing degree courses for 2018/19 will be available following the publication of end of cycle data by UCAS in December 2018.
To read the policy update in full with all the accompanying charts please click here, or continue reading below for the text only version.
The build up to A level results day and clearing has dominated this week, amid much talk of the future of technical and vocational education.
Admissions and Clearing
HEPI provide a guest blog by Mary Curnock Cook (previous Chief Executive of UCAS).
The blog notes that higher tariff institutions have benefited most from the buyers’ market this year.
Mary describes the increase in disadvantaged students in detail:
Things also look good for more disadvantaged students, measured by the serviceable but imperfect area-based POLAR4 measure.
Here we see that participation rates for POLAR Quintile 1 (roughly the fifth of the population living in areas having the lowest participation rates in higher education) has again grown, up 0.3% to 16.4%.
Quintile 5, from the highest participation areas, is also up by 0.7%.
The most advantaged (Quintile 5) are still 2.4 times more likely to enter higher education than the least advantaged (Quintile 1).
On ethnicity Mary writes:
Although white students are still the largest group of undergraduate students, BAME students have a higher and faster growing appetite for higher education. Today’s data from UCAS indicate that while the number of placed white students from the UK is down 3%, placed BAME students are up 1%. The entry rate by ethnic group is the lowest for the White group and Asian students are 15% more likely to enter higher education.
Mary’s analysis is based on A level results day data which captures 80% of the End of Cycle data, it cannot be fully comprehensive but is sufficient to indicate trends.
Education Secretary of State Congratulatory Speech
Damian Hinds congratulated A level students on results day and welcomed record numbers of 18 year olds who intend to enter university study. The Government’s news story provides a national picture of the A level results:
- Maths continues to be the most popular subject at A Level, with the number of entries up 2.5% on last year – up 26.8% compared to 2010;
- Entries into STEM subjects continue to rise, up 3.4% on last year and up 24% since 2010;
- An increase in entries to STEM A Levels by girls, up 5.5% from last year and 26.9% since 2010 [see this Financial Times article for a chart illustrating female STEM study programmes];
- The proportion of entries to art and design, music and modern foreign languages remains broadly stable;
- In the second year of reformed A Levels, the percentage of UK entries awarded the A* grade remains stable at 8.0% this year, compared with 8.1% in 2010 and the overall UK pass rate remains stable at 97.6%, compared to 97.9% last year.
Damian stated that the reforms to A levels mean students are better prepared for future study or the workplace and reiterated messaging around choice of progression pathway on from A level study:
We’ve worked to improve education for every child – from their early years through to secondary school and beyond. I also want young people to have wider choice, whether that’s going to university, earning through an apprenticeship or in future taking technical qualifications that match the best in the world…As young people receive their results and prepare for the next steps, for the first time National Careers Service advisers will be giving young people information, advice and guidance on skills, learning and work alongside the UCAS clearing service. This will help ensure young people are aware of all the education and training options available to them.
Sam Gyimah said:
Thanks to the support offered by this government, no student with the talent and potential is restricted from studying in our world-class university sector. We have worked with employers to design new high quality apprenticeships – including degree apprenticeships – making them longer, with more off-the-job training and proper assessment at the end so that apprentices are learning the skills that industry really needs.
Wider sector perspectives
CBI Head of Education, John Cope, spoke ahead of the results stating:
There are many great routes to a successful career whether that’s at a university, college, or learning on the job. It’s important that those getting their A-Level results consider the whole range of options available.
University absolutely offers students a great next step but is by no means the only route to a higher-level education. There are a range of different options – a Higher National Certificate or Diploma, a foundation degree, or a ‘degree apprenticeship’, with an apprenticeship offering the chance to gain both a qualification employers value and start earning a salary straight away.
He went on to talk about the rise in the number of unconditional offers:
What’s driving the growth of unconditional offers is complex. To protect the credibility of our world-class sector, universities must ensure that unconditional offers are used carefully, such as helping widen access to university and driving social justice
The Chartered Management Institute’s statement also cites the growing favour for degree apprenticeships quoting a parent survey which found half (49%) of respondents said they would encourage their child to start a degree apprenticeship rather than an academic-only university course. 52% of parents said they were put off the traditional academic route by substantial university costs. In addition, 71% of those surveyed believed degree apprenticeships provide a better chance of getting a job than a traditional university degree, with many considering them to be the best value-for-money option for young people currently. (Note, CMI partners with 12 universities and major corporates to deliver a degree apprenticeship offer.)
Times Higher report that UK student acceptances are down by 2% on A level results day with lower-tariff institutions continuing to feel the squeeze.
- The number of placed applicants for nursing continued to drop – down another 2% from last year.
- There has been a small rise in the percentage of students from the most disadvantaged groups accepted to universities.
- There was also an increase in EU acceptances (up by 1%) plus a record 31,510 international (non-EU) students.
Nationally, there were 26,000 unfilled places on A level results day
Research Professional published comments from the University and Colleges Union who have refreshed a pitch from earlier this year calling for a post-qualifications admission system. The article also reiterates familiar themes on Government’s concern over the rise of unconditional offers.
The Guardian ran a piece highlighting that some students who missed their grades and had entered Clearing to obtain an alternative university place may need additional support to adjust.
Times Higher pull together statements from key HE sector figures in response to A level results and early UCAS acceptance data.
University – declining as the ‘default’ choice?
The Sutton Trust has published research on young people’s attitudes to university across a 16 year period, conducted by Ipsos MORI. School pupils indicated how likely they were to attend university compared to the previous responses for the last 15 years. Overall figures fluctuate slightly and in 2018 more pupils indicated they were fairly likely to go, but less were certain enough to select ‘very likely’. Delving into the reasons why pupils were unlikely to attend HE all the major reasons were scored lower than in previous years (period 2013-2017), except for social concerns (friends not attending, teachers advised something else for me, people like me are not expected to go to university) which remains turbulent. See the Sutton Trust news article and report overview for more analysis of the data.
(See link for the tables, chart and Twitter snapshots)
The Guardian reported on the research in: Young people ‘more sceptical about value of university’ – poll
Economics of Post-School Education
The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee undertook an inquiry into the Economics of Post-School Education, publishing their concluding report on 11 June 2018. You can read a summary of it in our previous policy update (pages 3 to 5). The Committee report called for immediate reform stating there was too much emphasis on university degrees, with undergraduate study dominating post-school choices, which isn’t in the country’s best interest. Their report attributes this dominance to the ‘lack of alternative viable, consistent and quality alternatives’ with the guaranteed HE Finance system and the removal of the student number cap acting as enablers.
This week the Government published their official response to the House of Lord’s report. The response continuously acknowledges the current Government Review of Post-18 Education and Funding throughout the replies to the Lords Committee’s calls for change. In general the Government’s response echoes the Lords sentiment for better post-school careers options and alternative technical routes with equal recognition as a degree. This is unsurprising as these are both current policy pushes and set within the context of the reform of technical education which aims to span FE and HE. As expected the Government’s response focuses on pathways to employment, provides a nod to automation, and emphasises all forms of education as a driver of social mobility. However, it disagrees with the Committee’s calls to revisit student finance. In the full response the Government references the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding at the end of each reply –the effect is to set out a firm policy position but allowing room for future manoeuvre.
The key recommendations of the Lords inquiry report are set out below with the Government’s response in blue beneath.
- Sector rhetoric has long held FE to be the poor cousin of HE and the Lords report called for better distribution of public funding across FE and HE with separate single regulators for level 4 and above (OfS) and sub level 3, including apprenticeships.
- The Government response notes the DfE review of classroom-based, level 4 & 5 technical education launched in October 2017 (interim findings here) which it states is ensuring that learners have high quality, accessible and attractive study choices at Levels 4 and 5. The response doesn’t comment on the funding aspect deferring an answer until after the Post-18 Review concludes: Access to loan funding and maintenance support for all courses at Level 4 and above including wider funding for FE colleges will be considered as part of the Review of Post 18 Education and Funding.
- On single regulators the Government confirms the role of the OfS as the HE regulator, only for those on the HE register, but with a wider student focussed outlook: In his strategic guidance letter 2018/19, the Minister for Universities asked the OfS to ‘look beyond its register, develop an understanding of providers and students in the currently unregulated parts of the HE sector and consider ways of encouraging such providers to register and engage with good regulatory practice.’
- Address the decline in part-time and mature students by removing loan restrictions and maintenance support, by introducing innovative methods of learning, working with employers, and cooperation between universities to ensure a flexible credit-based modular system where individuals can learn at their own pace.
- The Government response noted the changes already introduced aiming to support part-time and mature students, including the 2018/19 starter part-time maintenance loans, and the Masters and Doctoral loans. The push for accelerated degrees, with the revised finance arrangements to facilitate this (outcome of consultation on this due autumn 2018), and greater ease and transparency for students wishing to transfer credit between institutions were characteristics of Jo Johnson’s stint as HE Minster. While the Government has been quieter on these aspects under Gyimah the impetus for a system that incentivises student choice remains and the Government’s response describes on-going government work to empower people to study at different times in their lives and sets out their commitment to the value of innovative methods of provision as a means of broadening choice available to students. One of which is the growth of new and alternative providers to plug cold spots and increase competition. The feel behind the response is that the Government is genuinely committed to reversing the dearth of mature and part time students and are looking to universities to collaborate, attract, innovate and offer sufficient flexibility to reinvigorate this group of learners to return to HE study, whether they chose a traditional academic programme or follow a higher level technical or employer focussed route.
- Specifically on credit transfer systems the response highlights that the Higher Education and Research Act tasks OfS to monitor and report on the availability and utilisation of student transfer arrangements, and confers on the OfS the power to ‘facilitate, encourage, or promote awareness of’ the provision of transfer arrangements’ whilst recognising the autonomy of HE providers in England to determine the content of particular courses and the criteria for the admission of those courses. It also notes that from August 2019 the OfS will require all registered HE providers to publish information about their arrangements for student transfer.
- Refresh apprenticeships – remove targets to prioritise quality over quantity, focus on the skills employers really need, abolish the Institute for Apprenticeships, increase the status of apprenticeships to be seen as a valid and worthwhile alternative to a degree
- The Government response sets apprenticeships within the wider policy vision of a refreshed, high-quality, economically productive technical education and training pathway that delivers the cutting edge skills employers need. Including T levels and the 15 new technical routes, the National Retraining Scheme, Institutes of Technology, National Colleges, the role of Skills Advisory Panels in supporting local skills needs and business growth, and emphasising student mobility across all academic and technical routes and levels. The response also noted the Government wanted to have a positive impact on the progression and earning potential for apprentices over their lifetimes.
- The Government confirmed their aspiration for the technical route to have equal status and validity to an academic degree route and cited the introduction and continued growth of degree apprenticeships within the sector:
The development of degree level apprenticeships aims to widen access to the professions and develop the higher-level technical skills needed to improve productivity and make sure businesses compete internationally. Not all occupations will lend themselves to a Degree Apprenticeship and not all people will want to work whilst doing their degree. Sitting alongside… Degree Apprenticeships provide another route for employers and people to gain the skills that they need.
- The Government’s response acknowledged the poor quality within current apprenticeship provision: we agree with the Committee that for too long apprentices have not received the quality of training we would expect. Yet resisted the Lords calls to abolish the Institute for Apprenticeships, instead stating the Government has given the Institute for Apprenticeships a clear remit.
- Alternative viable non-degree routes with parity of esteem – moving away from university undergraduate study as the default post-18 choice. The Lords also recommended a simpler approach to post-school choices through a single UCAS-style portal covering all forms of higher education, further education and apprenticeships.
- The Government shares the Lords’ vision for alternative non-degree routes as set out under 1a, 2a, 2b, 3a and 3b above.
- With regard to redressing university study as the default choice the Government response acknowledges more could be done to improve information on post-18 options provided in schools and references the Careers Strategy. There is a statutory duty on schools to provide independent and impartial careers guidance on the full range of education and training options, including apprenticeships, and provide pupils with access to the full range of training providers. The Careers strategy also sets out a requirement for schools to facilitate a number of employer encounters for pupils. However, they resisted the Lords call for a single UCAS style entry system:
We agree that it is important that students have the necessary information to consider all of their options, not just the academic route. We are making sure that all Government careers information is available in one place on a new National Careers Service website. Online resources will include information on routes into apprenticeships, including higher and Degree Apprenticeships, and T Levels. We are improving the functionality of the post-16 course directory. This provides information about all the courses that a young person might choose at 16..We will consider what further action might be helpful in ensuring that young people are able to make informed decisions about their education, training or career options.
We have considered whether apprenticeships should be included in a centralised application system (either at age 16+ or at 18+). Our discussions with employers have made it clear that they value having their own recruitment processes and so would not welcome an attempt to standardise the process.
The Review of Post-18 Education and Funding is considering how we can help young people make effective choices between academic, technical and vocational routes after the age of 18.
Again the task of implementing this aspect of the Careers Strategy falls upon OfS shoulders:
The provision of information is one of the OfS’s top priorities. The strategic guidance letter asked the OfS to play a key role in ensuring better information, advice and guidance is provided to students so that they can make the right choices for them. The Government expect the OfS to combine this with the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data on salary outcomes and to reform Unistats, whilst working with students to identify what information they need to make effective informed choices and how to present it most effectively. The OfS are expected to publish an information, advice and guidance strategy by Autumn 2018.
- Structural changes including addressing the high level of interest charged on student loans, criticism of the removal of maintenance grants, and censure for the masking effects in the way the student loan book is calculated and reported
- The Government rejected the recommendations surrounding the student finance system. The response notes that cutting the interest rates would be socially regressive as it would primarily benefit the highest earning graduates. This runs counter to Government policy, the introduction of the 2012 higher fees and cessation of student maintenance grants, which states that students who benefit financially should pay for their degree rather than the public. However, there is a slight softening within the Government’s response which references the Review and states [we] will consider the report of the independent panel in this regard.
- On maintenance support the response defends the Government’s position stating the move from grants to loans ensures that students contribute to the cost of HE – creating a fair balance of contribution between those who benefit – society and the student. It reiterates the familiar messaging which establishes the non-repayment of loans as a deliberate and conscious investment subsidy in the long-term skills capacity of the economy. Again there is a softening in the now familiar final statement on the Review which provides room for manoeuvre in future policy direction: The Review of Post-18 Education and Funding is considering how disadvantaged students and learners receive maintenance support, both from Government and from universities and colleges.
- The Director General of the Office for National Statistics also writes to Lord Forsyth (Chair of Lords Economic Affairs Committee) to respond to the Committee’s recommendation on the way the Office for National Statistics (ONS) accounts for the loan deficit. The letter acknowledges the complexity of the current accounting method and references the ONS’ own review tackling the pros and cons of the various alternative options in calculating the deficit.
Research Professional report on the student finance elements of the Government’s response in: Department rejects interest rate cuts for student loans.
Finally, while the majority of the Government’s official response to the House of Lords inquiry report holds to the current familiar policy lines it consistently acknowledges the importance of the Post-18 Education and Finance Review, including the role of the independent expert panel (chaired by Philip Augar). Perhaps portending movement on some of the key HE issues, such as finance, alongside a shake-up of sub level 4 provision. The independent panel is due to report later in autumn 2018 with the Government concluding the full Review early 2019. Potentially the Review could mean the biggest change in the sector landscape since the Higher Education and Research Act, and all set against the backdrop of impending Brexit.
Parental role in funding university
This week also brought an upsurge of articles on funding the costs of university timed ahead of the A level results.
Times Higher ran: Parents worldwide contribute to the cost of university, finds survey. It compares the differing levels of finance parents provide to facilitate their child’s degree study – UK and French parents contribute the least worldwide. The article also considers variety in global parental opinion on which skills are most important for their children to learn at university.
The Association of Investment Companies ran the article: A-Level results day approaches and parents vastly underestimate student debt.
Educating the world’s leaders
HEPI, Times Higher and Research Professional cover the news that America has overtaken the UK in the statistics which recognise the country who educates the most world leaders. America has educated one more serving monarch, president or prime minister than the UK to take the top spot. Nick Hillman (HEPI) states:
You build up incredible soft power if you educate the leading lights of other countries. In the past, we have been more successful than any other country in attracting the world’s future leaders. But these new figures suggest our position could be slipping. To ensure this does not become a long-term trend, we need to adopt a bold educational exports strategy, remove students from the main migration target and roll out the red carpet when people come to study here.
One practical way to make all that happen would be to end the Home Office having complete control over student migration and to share it across government departments instead, as they do in other countries.
The Conservative leaning Centre for Policy Studies has published Technically Gifted – How Selection Can Save Technical and Vocational Education. It makes bold suggestions on how to achieve parity of esteem for technical and vocational education through exclusive selection methods. The document’s authors are no strangers to controversial headlines. It is written by Toby Young, the Free Schools guru who resigned from the OfS Board within days of appointment following public outcry at his past inappropriate tweets; with the Foreword by Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s ex-special advisor and Chief of Staff who advised her to call the snap election in 2017 which left the Conservatives without a majority in Parliament.
Toby highlights the growing skills gap in Britain – by 2022 it is anticipated there will be 3.6 million vacancies in skilled technical occupations despite the Government’s technical education policy agenda. He notes that, with a few exceptions, University Technical Colleges, Studio Schools and Free Schools have all failed to thrive and achieve quality outcomes. Toby believes the difficulty lies in student recruitment numbers – for viability the providers accept all applicants including those marginalised or excluded from other local schools and often have higher numbers of pupils with behavioural difficulties or low attainment. This makes the institution unattractive for pupils who excel within the educational specialism the institution provides, creating a negative downward spiral of declining numbers and status.
The document lands at a time when the Government and Lords are striving to engender a culture of parity of esteem between technical and academic education, where a higher level technical or vocational qualification is considered of equal value to a degree. The Government has invested heavily and is introducing T levels reforming vocational education into the 15 new technical routes, and promoting degree apprenticeships; focusing more on choice for young people and promoting technical and vocational options through the Careers Strategy and the National Retraining Scheme; continuing to provide new funding to invest in Institutes of Technology and the National Colleges; whilst maintaining their support for the Institute for Apprenticeships. The quality and status of vocational education has been an issue throughout successive Governments so it remains to be seen whether the new approach will successfully bring the economic and skill benefits that Britain needs. What has been noticeable in the run up to A level results day this year is the additional volume of media stories and promotions espousing the benefits of degree apprenticeships and alternative choices.
For Toby the answer to both of the above conundrums – high quality technical education and equal status to an academic route – lies within exclusivity through selection. He believes being selected for a technical institution should be a high status achievement (like passing the 11-plus for grammar school entry) rather than a negative decision because the pupil is unsuitable for a standard academic route.
…if the Government wants England’s technical/vocational schools to survive and thrive, it must cut the Gordian Knot linking technical and vocational education to a lack of aptitude for academic subjects and allow these schools to select pupils according to aptitude for their particular specialisms at the age of 14. Not only would this transform the fortunes of these schools, it would also enable the Department for Education (DfE) to set up new 14-19 technical/vocational schools that would be likely to succeed….This would not require any amendment to primary or secondary legislation. A policy change by the Secretary of State for Education would suffice…. Above all, it would fundamentally improve the life chances, income and well-being of those who have an aptitude for this type of education and would like the opportunity to pursue it, rather than treating them – as we have done for so long – like second-class citizens… Members of the professional class, including headteachers, must stop thinking of this type of education as second best – as only being appropriate for ‘other people’s children’.
Toby goes on to argue that:
- technical courses should be as intellectually rigorous as academic subjects, including a common core of academic GCSEs
- specialist schools should commence at age 14 as technical aptitude cannot be measured at age 11; children need time to develop the cognitive skills required by such courses. Moreover the pupils need an interest and passion in the specialist technical area they will study – this comes through experience and maturity
- technical education should be delivered in specialist schools, not mainstreamed. The requirement for schools to enter 75% of their pupils for the narrowed subject mix of the English Baccalaureate (90% by 2025) means the wider range of subjects needed for vocational education aren’t being delivered
- Technical education has to start pre-GCSE. He believes the post GCSE T levels will be a bolt on and won’t work because of the prior standard academic content with its narrowing mix of subjects. He calls again for the Government to signal that it regards this type of education as suitable for children of all abilities, not just those who find themselves without the necessary qualifications to do three A-levels
- Toby notes a school admitting children at age 14 does pose a difficulty because it is not a standard transfer point in England’s schools system. Parents are reluctant to move children who have already settled and established friendships away from their current secondary school, and the middle school system moves children on at the end of year 8 not year 9. Furthermore, secondary head teachers have a financial incentive to retain their current pupil roll. In particular they are motivated to avoid additional funding cuts on top of those expected from pupils leaving to pursue post-16 options elsewhere. Toby highlights that persuading the local multi-academy trust to run a technical school is a potential solution, even better if they worked in partnership with local industry.
- Selection methods should be commensurate with the type of specialist education delivered (e.g. the one day workshop style auditions common to the BRIT school) measuring interest/passion and technical aptitude rather than standard intelligence testing.
- Currently there are two successful selective specialist technical schools. Through these Toby highlights that exclusivity doesn’t run counter to social mobility. In these schools both have significantly higher levels of pupils previously eligible for free school meals – 15% and 29% respectively compared to the 7% national average.
- Abroad, nearly every country that has rolled out successful technical/vocational schools has allowed those schools to select.
Nick Timothy’s supports Toby’s proposals, writing in the foreword:
Young has identified why schools providing technical education have struggled in England: too often a pupil’s suitability for technical education is judged by their lack of suitability for an academically rigorous alternative. This is a false choice, and it inevitably means technical education is treated as second best. As a result parents and pupils shun technical schools, which end up being treated as dumping grounds for unruly students who are unwanted elsewhere. If we want to become world leaders in the STEM fields and meet our skills shortages with homegrown talent, this has to change. Young people should be encouraged to study technical subjects, and not only when teachers judge that they are not equipped for a purely academic education. For that to happen, a new generation of prestigious schools – selecting their pupils by aptitude, specialising in technical subjects, and still offering a core of academic subjects – can lead the way.
Graham Brady MP writes in Conservative Home in support of selective technical schools:
Wouldn’t it be better, as Young argues, if these schools were able to select those students with a particular aptitude for their specialisms? This should be the starting point in the Government’s efforts to revitalise technical and vocational education – a journey that leads to T-levels (which include a mandatory work placement), a place at an Institute of Technology, before entering a skilled occupation.
The choice, in other words, is not between grammars and comprehensives. It is between a flourishing ecosystem of schools, both selective and not, which do the best possible job of matching pupils and education – and a one-size-fits-all model which is increasingly out of step with the modern world.
Level 4 & 5 Qualifications
On Tuesday the DfE published findings from its ongoing review of level 4 and 5 qualifications. These shorter qualifications such as Foundation Degrees and diplomas are lower than the full undergraduate degree at level 6. However, the Government believes they are becoming a more important part of the employer skills jigsaw and pursuing them will lead to a healthy salary. The initial findings from the review note:
- Studying at this level can increase earning potential and employability – students achieving a Level 4 or 5 qualification by age 23 had higher median wages by the time they were 26 and were more likely to be in sustained employment than students who achieved a Level 3.
- A growing demand for qualifications at this level from employers in key sectors such as ICT and Engineering – meaning increased take up could play an important role in the UK economy, helping to plug technical skills gap and boost productivity.
- Learners at this level often study part-time, and come from diverse backgrounds – highlighting how studying at this level could boost learning and job opportunities for hundreds of thousands more people across the country.
However, only 7% of people in England aged between 18 and 65 are undertaking training at this level, with the majority ceasing study at level 3 or instead pursuing a full degree. These latest findings fit with the Government’s call on the HE sector to offer a wider range of study options and structural flexibility to appeal to a wider audience –progressing social mobility and meeting the UK’s economic ambitions.
Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton stated:
We want everyone to be able to access high quality technical education and training so they can get the skills they need. Having these skills can change people’s lives, leading to a rewarding career and fantastic opportunities. These early findings show how learning at Level 4 and 5 can benefit people of all ages and a wide variety of backgrounds, whilst helping employers get the skilled workforce they need. This research will play an important part of our ongoing review of Level 4 and 5 qualifications so we can understand how we can make education at this level work even better for everyone.
Research Professional report on the findings focusing on the low update of the level 4 and 5 qualifications.
This week the Government responded to a parliamentary question on visa delays which cause students to miss the start of their course:
Q – Stephen Kerr: How many tier 4 [visa] applications that have not been processed within the timescale set out in the service level agreement for processing such applications have caused students to miss university start dates in the latest academic for year for which figures are available.
A – Caroline Nokes: …The latest available data indicates the vast majority, 98.1% (and 99.8%) of straightforward cases were dealt with within service standards. Information on students who may have missed their university start date is not collated for publication on Home Office visa case-working systems.
International: The Pie News explores the popularity of UK HE delivered in Hong Kong, with 39 institutions delivering programmes. Pie News also reports that international students attending Chinese universities may be permitted to work part time in future to increase the attractiveness of the Chinese education system.
Brexit: On Friday the European Commission and the UK team continue to negotiate the future EU-UK relationship. Here is a helpful chart which sets out the UK and EU key players since the post Chequers cabinet reshuffle.
Buzzfeed News capitalises on a leaked listing of the Brexit technical papers in which the Government explore the consequences of leaving the EU on a ‘no deal’ basis. In part the papers aim to advise individuals and businesses on how to prepare for ‘no deal’ within their operating sphere. You can see the list of topics covered here, however, no content from the papers has been leaked. The list includes Erasmus, Horizon 2020, Broadcasting, Environmental Standards, EU citizens in the UK, Life Sciences and many more. Buzzfeed report that a Government spokesperson stated the Brexit technical papers will be published for all to see in August and September on www.gov.uk website.
New consultations and inquiries this week:
- NICE consultation on charging for technology appraisal and highly specialised technology recommendations
Horizon 2020: The Financial Times explore the Horizon 2020 funding figures released last week questioning whether collaboration is the major Brexit concern and noting the stabilisation effect Horizon funding provides for researchers. Meanwhile this Government Horizon 2020 paper, issued last Thursday, explains the Withdrawal Agreement, the Underwrite and Post EU Exit Extension Guarantees, along with mobility and the Government’s position to Horizon Europe. It is written in plain language and an accessible catch up read.
Horizon Europe: Research Professional report on the Russell Group’s position paper which urges the EU to not seek to focus on closer-to-market projects at the expense of basic research.
Social Mobility Action: With the recent appointment of Dame Martina Milburn to lead the Social Mobility Commission comes a call to the public and industry to get involved with the social mobility movement for change. The news story is here, with a promise to update the page as more opportunities to get involved arise. It also contains details for interested colleagues to join their mailing list.
Masters fee hike: Times Higher report that since the postgraduate loans have been introduced many universities have increased the tuition fee for masters study.
Nursing: Nursing Times writes on the most recent NHS digital data showing the number of practicing learning disabilities nurses has dropped by 40% and that students choosing this form of nursing is decreasing. The article also references the Council of Deans for Health survey which found that 46% of education institutions considered dropping learning disability nursing from 2018/19 due to low student interest meaning courses are not financially viable. In this article the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) criticise the Government for doing too little too late – with the £10,000 golden hello for postgraduate students having little impact on recruitment. In this older news story RCN raise the removal of the NHS bursary for student nurses as a major factor in declining recruitment to degree programmes. It is likely that the decline in mature students contribute to the fall in numbers too. Mature students, with their greater life experience, are more likely to study learning disability or mental health nursing. The Independent also cover the recruitment drop warning of a return to Victorian era practices where patients are moved away from family to institutions because of insufficient trained expertise locally.
Justin Madders MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said:
“The Royal College of Nursing’s powerful warning must serve as an urgent wake up call to the new Health Secretary. Under this Government learning disability nurses have been cut to the bone, and they appear to have gone quiet on their plans to attract more students into the profession. This unprecedented workforce crisis is completely unacceptable.”
£9k fees unjustifiable: Times Higher report on a YouGov poll which found that although students are satisfied with the quality of their degree they don’t feel the fee level is justified or results in a sufficiently high graduate job pay off.
“The data shows that while students’ satisfaction with the quality of their degree teaching is very high and a large majority still expect to be better off financially and in terms of being able to find a good job, this seems to be in spite of the costs of tuition, which the majority consider unjustified.”
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Review of Post-18 education
Tim Bradshaw, who leads the Russell Group, was in the media this week as he called for maintenance grants to be restored to help improve diversity in HE.
- BBC coverage here
- “…Mr Bradshaw said the government should make more funding available to help improve access to higher education, instead of “putting all the blame on universities”.
- The group is due to submit proposals to the government on how maintenance grants could be restored as part of a review into post-18 education funding. Their options include a “living wage” for students who had been eligible for school meals during their school years. The £8,192 grant would reduce the debt of a student by £27,800, according to the proposal.
- Mr Bradshaw said:
“It could be very targeted, really cost-effective and actually make quite a substantial difference to those from disadvantaged backgrounds who may inherently be very nervous about taking on an additional loan.”
- A Department for Education spokesman said poorer undergraduates will get more help than ever when they go to university in the autumn. He said:
“Finance should never be a barrier to a young person’s education, and we are seeing real progress, with disadvantaged 18-year-olds 50% more likely to enter full-time university in 2017 compared with 2009. We have increased the maximum grants and loans available to support students with costs, and disadvantaged students starting their courses this year will have access to the largest ever amounts of cash-in-hand support for their living costs.”
- The spokesman also said the department was working with the national regulator for higher education in England – the Office for Students – to encourage more young people from disadvantaged groups to apply to university and give them support when there.
- Guardian here
- When asked whether the loss of maintenance grants, coupled with £9,250 annual tuition fees, could be dissuading students from poorer backgrounds going to university, Bradshaw conceded: “Yes it might be. The student loans system is very complicated and difficult to understand.”
- The grants were replaced in the 2016-17 academic year by loans which students would start paying back when they earned more than £21,000 a year.
- In effect, this means that the poorest students – whose parents are unable to supplement their loan, or indeed help them repay their loans – face an even greater burden of debt after their studies, which could amount to about £58,000 for a three-year course.
- This could also put them off from studying in the most expensive parts of the country, such as London and Oxford.
- The Russell Group has been told it needs “to go further” in improving access for disadvantaged pupils with just 6.5% of students in last year’s intake from the poorest parts of the country.
The story was also reported in Politics Home.
In the Independent Robert Halfon (Chair of the Commons Education Select Committee) is sympathetic to the restoration of maintenance grants but doesn’t see it as a magic panacea to bring more disadvantaged students into university. In turn he called on the Russell Group to accept vocational qualifications. Halfon also stated that degree apprenticeships at all universities would be transformative in allowing disadvantaged students to earn whilst they learn – implying this would significantly widen access.
UUK report – future skills
UUK have released a report today “Solving Future Skills Challenges”. It is only 32 pages but contains a lot of data and analysis from a range of sources. The recommendations are set out below.
The Guardian covers the story here:
- The UK economy could benefit from more people of all ages attending university.
- The advance of automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and digital technology, as well as the challenges of Brexit and an ageing population are creating greater demand for those with level 4 and above qualifications. Including HNC/Ds, foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
- The Universities UK report highlights the need for continual upgrading of skills, lifelong learning and study of higher education qualifications at all levels.
- The percentage of young people from England entering higher education has reached 49%, but there has been a steady decline in part-time and mature student numbers.
- The report calls on policymakers to help reverse the latter trend and encourage closer links between universities and employers.
- The recruitment gap widens: in 2016 440,000 new professional jobs were created but there were only 316,690 first-degree UK-based graduates – leaving a recruitment gap of 123,310 – more than double the gap in 2015.
- By 2030, it is estimated that there will be a UK talent deficit of between 600,000 to 1.2 million workers for both our financial and business sector, and technology, media and telecommunications sector.
- 65% of children entering primary schools today will ultimately work in new jobs and functions that don’t currently exist.
- Universities provide around 41% of all professional and technical qualifications
- Government plays a key role in providing an overarching strategy that brings together and enhances the range of policies and interventions that support skills development and educator–employer engagement, including higher level skills, to ensure a ‘whole-skills’ policy approach. Pathways, progression routes and bridging provision, avoiding an artificial ‘binary divide’ between academic and vocational education, and enhancing opportunities for learners, should together be an essential part of the skills strategy.
- Government can facilitate the development and sharing of more robust, comprehensive and adaptable intelligence about future skills needs across sectors and localities.
- This approach needs to be supported at both national and local level, including being embedded in sector deals, and with skills advisory boards providing a strong foundation for local industrial strategies.
- Policies to support employers to provide opportunities for work experience should be a priority, especially among SMEs.
- Universities should ensure that they enhance and improve their role through:
- having an integrated, embedded strategy that captures, builds upon and enhances the feedback and intelligence gained through existing partnerships, draws in advice and evidence at the sectoral, regional and the national level, and drives teaching, learning and course development
- committing to increasing employer advice and input, work experience opportunities, and the delivery of enterprise skills
- having a co-ordinated, effective and clear employer engagement service – extending their relationship with students beyond graduation to include careers advice, skills provision and engagement with alumni to enhance employer advice and input
- Employers need to invest in training, development and partnerships as part of enhancing their talent strategies. Staff at all levels should be encouraged to engage with universities and to enhance their recruitment of talent. More work experience opportunities should be offered and greater collaboration in the development of transferable skills. Sector collaboration should be supported to adopt a collaborative ‘eco-system’ approach to developing skills and enhancing their skills-supply chains.
- Employers and universities must also test and develop existing partnership approaches and collaborative processes to ensure that they will be both robust and agile enough to succeed in an increasingly uncertain and disrupted future.
In order to develop specific policy recommendations to meet the challenges outlined above, Universities UK will be undertaking a range of research projects and activities over the coming months, including the following:
- The economic case for flexible learning – this project, undertaken in conjunction with the CBI, will look specifically at how the government can encourage learning that is more flexible, and support people to study at different times in their lives.
- High-level skills through effective partnerships and pathways – this work will consider how partnerships between higher education and further education providers are meeting the local skills needs of businesses and how the policy environment can help promote and enhance these partnerships.
- Integrating higher level skills and adopting a ‘wholeskills’ approach to local industrial strategies and skills advisory boards – we will be developing advice and guidance based on practical examples to support the development of effective skills strategies and partnerships at the local level.
- Technical and professional education – this project looks at developing effective links, pathways and bridging provision to ensure effective opportunities for learners and employers.
- Enhancing intelligence on employer needs – this collaborative project aims to ensure a detailed analysis is undertaken of the Employer skills survey to provide intelligence for universities, employers and policymakers.
Research Professional also ran an article related to the UUK report in Vice-chancellors set out ideas to avoid future skills gaps. It talks of maximising attendance at university, incentivising university/business links, and reversing the part time and mature decline through flexible and lifelong learning.
Part time work
The Financial Times writes of the reduction in working students in The decline of the student summer job.
In 1997 the number of young students (aged 18-24) that worked whilst studying decreased by 12% (from 48% in 1997 to 36% in 2017). The decrease was more pronounced in working 16-17 year olds (22%). The article continues on to consider automation (less low skill jobs available), the pressure to undertake unpaid internships, and tuition fees (which increase focus on academic success) as reasons for the decline. It also considers the attractiveness of the gig economy to students.
There is a section on unpaid internships which highlights their attractiveness to employers over low skill employment whilst acknowledging the elements privilege and unfairness play.
Ben Lyons (from Intern Aware) says that internships at high-profile companies, even if they are unpaid, typically count for more with prospective employers than paid work in a bar. Ben continues: “It might be the case that someone working several unrelated summer jobs might have more get up and go. Employers often assume that people who have done 20 internships have more initiative rather than thinking that they have more advantages.”
The OfS have published a City University blog on social mobility recruitment within their summer placement scheme. It notes that almost half of top UK firms have introduced questions about applicants’ education, free school meals and parents’ jobs in their recruitment process. Their Micro-Placements (MPP) career exploration scheme addresses soft skills development amongst students from underrepresented groups.
The blog talks of how the messaging can drive an organisation’s corporate social responsibility agenda, helping to attract diverse talent by raising their profile with students across all backgrounds, having them recognised as a key recruiter that acknowledges the necessity of a wide range of talents and driving social mobility.
It is rewarding that employers are very interested in how the MPP gives underrepresented students the opportunity to increase their employability skills. Dissemination through promotional events and tailored messaging encourages employers of all sizes and sectors to see the benefits of diversifying their recruitment pool and the necessity of offering these flexible opportunities to attract a wealth of talent, experience and perspectives.
By mobilising talented student cohorts early…we believe we can really address the most pressing issues our students face around employability. By engaging employers in a creative way we can develop the skills and networks students need to successfully enter employment after graduation.
Post study work visa
New Zealand has radically changed its post study work visa. From November international students completing level 7 bachelor’s degrees, or above, will be given a three-year open work visa. Lower level students (studying for at least 60 weeks) will be given a one-year work visa. The employer-sponsored visa will be abolished. The Immigration minister stated: “Our changes to post-study work rights will boost New Zealand’s economy, reduce student exploitation and promote our regional education offerings.”
Education Technology Enhancement
Damian Hinds (Secretary of State for Education) has called on the tech industry to ‘launch an education revolution for schools, colleges and universities’. A Government news story notes that few schools are harnessing existing technological opportunities and Damian urges the tech sector to tackle five classroom challenges to innovate and improve teaching and revolutionise unnecessary workload.
- Inclusion, access and improved teaching practices
- Effective and efficient assessment processes
- Flexible methods of teacher training/development
- Reduce non-teaching admin burden
- Lifelong/online learning solutions (post compulsory education)
Read more here.
Clearing: Nick Hillman from HEPI blogs on clearing in How to land a jumbo jet on a postage stamp. He highlights how 2018’s clearing is a buyer’s market, considers the decision making art of when to stop recruiting, and the limitation of official student planning numbers.
New approach to immigration: CBI argue the Government should scrap the net migration target. Alternatively they suggest EU citizens should instead be registered on arrival and have their visits restricted to three months, “unless they can prove that they are working, studying or are self-sufficient”. See the Politics Home or Financial Times articles; read the CBI document in full; or a much shorter summary provided by Dods which includes a focused education sector analysis section.
International Students: Times Higher use the results of a student survey to highlight UK student opinion on studying alongside international students can be mixed. It proposes universities should do more to promote the benefits experienced by engaging with international peers.
Horizon 2020: The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published Horizon 2020 participation statistics. It shows the number of times UK organisations participated Horizon 2020 and the value of the EU’s contributions. The UK remains the second strongest participant in Horizon 2020 (for participation and total funding obtained). The data tables break down and also list the top 50 universities for participation.
Stronger Communities: This week the Government launched the Civil Society Strategy policy paper as a mechanism to create stronger communities by bringing together businesses, charities and the public sector. They define civil society as individuals or organisations deliberately acting to create social value, independent of state control. The paper focuses on five key foundations of social value: people, places and the public, private, and social sectors.
It emphasises a connected society and creating opportunities for people to actively take part in community decisions, as well as highlighting ways to harness the power of digital and technology for public good. It will complement the Government’s Industrial Strategy by boosting productivity through thriving communities.
As part of the Civil Society Strategy, the Government will:
- Unlock £20 million from inactive charitable trusts (those which spend less than 30% of their annual income) to support community organisations over the next two years.
- Launch an ‘Innovation in Democracy’ pilot scheme in six areas trialling creative ways for people to take a more direct role in decisions that affect their local area. This could include Citizens’ Juries or mass participation in decision-making on community issues via an online poll or app.
- Establish an independent organisation that will distribute £90 million from dormant bank accounts to get disadvantaged young people into employment. This new organisation will harness the experience of grassroots youth workers, businesses, and other local services, to help young people achieve their full potential. Also use £55 million from dormant bank accounts to tackle financial exclusion and the problem of access to affordable credit.
- Support charities to make their voices heard on issues that matter to them and ensuring that charitable trustees reflect the diversity of the society they serve.
- Strengthen Britain’s values of corporate responsibility, through the launch of a new Leadership Group, formed of senior figures from the business, investment and social sectors, to put social and environmental responsibility at the heart of company decisions.
- Improve the use of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 to ensure that organisations can generate more social value for communities when spending public money on government contracts.
- Use digital technology to improve the work charities can provide to support healthy ageing, bolster online safety and better connect people in an effort to tackle loneliness.
Read the executive summary (5 pages) here.
Catapult Funding: On Friday Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced £780 million of funding to expand Catapult centres developing a range of innovative new technologies for tomorrow across the UK.
Intellectual Property: If patents, trademarks, design rights, and copyright confound you read this clear and simple blog post by Research Fundermentals.
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Dods (political monitoring consultants) have produced a series of short policy lookahead guides contemplating what is coming up politically in the following spheres over the next few months:
The viewing permissions on these guides have been set to BU staff and students, please don’t download and share more widely.
The Guardian draws on a leaked document to report that the UK will only have limited access to Horizon Europe through a costly ‘third countries’ deal, despite the PM’s intentions for full participation.
Theresa May’s appeal for a special Brexit deal on science and research collaboration, worth billions to the British economy, is being stonewalled by Brussels as it prepares to offer an arrangement less privileged and more expensive than that given to non-EU states such as Israel… the UK is set to join Canada and South Korea in the category of countries that will have to pay a higher price for the privilege of collaborating, while being barred from a particular raft of programmes designed to encourage innovation.
According to the draft paper, so-called “third countries” will not have a seat on the new European Innovation Council, which sets priorities, and their companies will not have the opportunity to apply for “fast, flexible grants and co-investments” designed to “bridge the ‘valley of death’ between research, commercialisation and the scaling-up of companies”.
The Guardian reports that Thomas Jørgensen, the senior policy coordinator at the European University Association (EUA) working on Brexit-related issues, stated: the commission was acting to protect its interests in the face of the emergence of the UK as a rival economic power. He said: “It is entirely understandable that you would want to help small countries in your neighbourhood, but why would you do that for small and medium-size enterprises in South Korea or other third countries such as the UK?”
The Guardian also report that on Wednesday the EU confirmed the UK could take part in Erasmus (for a fee) but would not allow the UK to influence programme’s design. More detail is provided in the Times Higher: In its proposal for the Erasmus+ programme for the period 2021-27, published on 30 May, the European Commission said that countries outside the EU and the European Economic Area would be able to participate fully as long as they do not have a “decisional power” on the programme and agree to a “fair balance” of contributions and benefits.
Earlier this week Sam Gyimah discussed how international collaboration strengthens research excellence: The UK values international cooperation. That is why we will remain a leading power in science and innovation, and why our Industrial Strategy has a target that 2.4% of our GDP will go to R&D funding by 2027. We are committed to ensuring that this investment leads to real results for everyone.
We are also committed to remaining a place for scientists. Our success is built in part on the contribution of researchers and innovators who come to the UK from across the world to study, to research and to do business. Over half of the UK’s researchers come from outside the UK. And, as the Prime Minister said, we will ensure that this does not change.
Although we are leaving the EU, it’s important to remember that science is an international enterprise and discoveries know no borders. We are all strengthened by our collaborative links.
On the European research access Sam stated:
Full association would mean a particular amount – of course it’s too early in our discussions to put a figure on what this would be but based on existing precedents it would be billions of euros. Anything less than full association and we would need to consider whether this was a fair ask. I am accountable to the UK Parliament and would need to demonstrate that the amount contributed actually is fair.
The latest news on our regularly featured topics.
- OfS Board Member Carl Lygo has resigned (moving to new role in Germany).
- OfS have a new blog: The ‘value’ of a degree is academic and vocational.
- Just in case you missed it previously OfS released information showing an increase in masters’ student numbers since the introduction of the postgraduate loans.
- The OfS Board met on Wednesday. OfS have committed to sharing the papers from the Board meeting soon.
A parliamentary question from Peter Dowd on the accrual of debt interest on student loans had Sam Gyimah clarify that the Student Loans Company does not apply interest to accounts until the information about repayments is received from HMRC. This means that borrowers are not disadvantaged by the time taken to exchange the data between HMRC and SLC…The government is taking steps to develop systems to allow the sharing of student loan repayment information more frequently between HMRC and SLC from April 2019. This will allow for repayments to be credited and for interest calculations to be undertaken regularly throughout the year.
Freedom of Expression
Q – Baroness Deech: How they propose to include representatives of student victims of (1) inhibition of freedom of speech, and (2) disruption of meetings, in the preparation of new guidance to promote freedom of speech at universities.
A – Viscount Younger Of Leckie: At the free speech summit on 3 May 2018….it was agreed that the report from the Freedom of Speech in Universities inquiry by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) would be used as the foundation for a shared approach to free speech. The JCHR inquiry included evidence from a number of groups including those who had experienced disruption of events and student representatives with a range of experiences related to free speech. The new guidance will be drafted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who will work with a number of groups including the National Union of Students.
Research Professional report on Sam Gyimah’s latest Free Speech interview with Spiked stating: He [Sam] suggested that UK academics were marking down students whose political opinions they disagreed with…In what is attributed as a direct quote from Gyimah, the minister said that “there seems to be the development of a political monoculture” in which students are afraid to speak up in class because “80 per cent of the class disagrees with you…and [one of] them is going to be the one who gives you your grades”.
Gyimah has not tried to distance himself from the quote…Jack Grove of Times Higher Education wrote…“Is Sam Gyimah really claiming…that students should be genuinely afraid that their left-leaning lecturers are marking them down because they disagree with their politics? Extraordinary.”
Gyimah replied to Grove: “Nothing extraordinary. We need real diversity of thought on campus, and to be mindful that in some cases a monoculture means students and lecturers with legitimate but maybe unpopular views self-censor for fear of opprobrium. This is what I’m hearing on campus.”
The minister’s evidence for campus inhibitions on free speech has moved some distance: from claims of systematic censorship by students’ unions and masked gangs closing down events to unsubstantiated anecdotes about reluctance to speak up in class. Very different things are being lumped together here… For a minister to accuse academics of political bias in assessing students—without a scrap of evidence—is totally irresponsible.
Value for Money
A short article in Times Higher this week discusses the four myths surrounding value for money. It digs below the surface to explain why the four factors can’t really be used to determine value for money. A clear and simple read. If you continue to read the comments section you’ll find some alternative viewpoints too.
A parliamentary question tabled by Rehman Chishti established that there are 102 universities listed on the register of apprenticeship training providers and all are eligible to deliver anywhere in England.
A further question from Barry Sheerman asked: whether there are any requirements that must be satisfied in order for bachelor’s degrees pursued at an institution of higher education to be described by that institution as a degree apprenticeship.
Anne Milton responded: In England, providers who want to deliver apprenticeship training, including higher education institutions (HEIs) offering degree apprenticeships, must be on the register of apprenticeship training providers…Employers must choose a provider from the register to deliver their apprenticeship training. A degree can be included in an English apprenticeship if the degree meets the mandatory qualifications criteria laid out in the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) guidance. The IfA website lists the degree level apprenticeships that include a degree. The Enterprise Act 2016 protects the term ‘apprenticeship’ to make sure that training providers cannot brand their products as apprenticeships if they do not meet our core quality requirements.
Accelerated Degrees – no news yet
Lord Luce questioned the government this week asking What decisions have been made about the provision of accelerated degree courses in higher education following their public consultation completed on 11 February. The Government responded: The Department for Education received a range of detailed and comprehensive responses from providers, organisations and individuals across the higher education sector. We are currently considering these responses and will respond to the consultation in due course.
Widening Participation and Achievement
National Collaborative Outreach Programme
OfS have released their first annual report on the National Collaborative Outreach Programme’s (NCOP) delivery. NCOP is a collaborative network endeavour between HE, schools, colleges and local businesses. It delivers a sustained, tailored outreach programme within geographically targeted areas and aims to rapidly improve progression to HE for school pupils in areas where the numbers accessing HE are lower than expected by the young people’s GCSE success. The current NCOP commenced in January 2017 and consists of 29 partnerships to pupils in Years 9 to 13.
The report states that NCOP has actively engaged 12% (52,878 pupils) of the identified target population. This is forecast to increase to 114,700 pupils (25%) by the end of 2018. It emphasises that the first year of the programme has been focused on creating local partnership infrastructures and with these now established OfS expect to see significant increases in the numbers of young people engaged over the next year. Demonstrating impact is integral to the NCOP programme. OfS require clear evidence to continue with the programme in the future and a comprehensive evaluation framework including longitudinal tracking, analysis of national datasets, and randomised controlled trials is in place. The report concludes that progress is promising (see page 14 for details) although at present: “it is too early to evidence the causal impact of the programme in terms of which interventions have the most impact on students progressing to higher education.”
NCOP is expected to significantly contribute to the Government’s social mobility action plan (launched Dec 2017) which ‘places social mobility at the heart of education policy and seeks to provide a framework for action to help transform equality of opportunity. It emphasises the importance of leaving no community behind with resources targeted at the people and places that need it most’.
The social mobility goals are to:
- double the proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in higher education by 2020
- increase by 20 per cent the number of students in higher education from ethnic minority groups
- address the under-representation of young men from disadvantaged backgrounds in higher education.
Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation, said:
“We know that sustained and targeted outreach is key to reducing the gaps in higher education participation…So I am very pleased to see the progress made by the OfS-funded NCOP… In its first year of operation, NCOP is already showing signs of success…It has reached significant numbers of schools, colleges and young people and looks set to increase its reach even further in the next year. And the early signs are that NCOP activities are contributing to improved information, advice and guidance for young people at key milestones in their education…NCOP is a great example of the kind of outreach activity we need – evidence-based, targeted, robustly evaluated, bringing local partners together and harnessing university resources and expertise to meet the needs of schools and teachers, students and their families. The OfS will ensure that this learning drives improvements to higher education outreach in the future.”
Gareth Oliver, Careers Lead at Broad Oak Sports College, said:
“Without the valuable support of [NCOP partner] GM Higher, both in terms of experience and one-to-one support, we would not have had the opportunity to access resources and programmes to aid the aspiration of our pupils. Already the number of pupils wanting to aspire to higher education has increased, but more importantly, the programmes and resources have allowed our pupils to have an ‘I can do it’ attitude. Schools like Broad Oak need organisations like GM Higher to ensure we break the mould that ‘higher education is only for the affluent families’.”
Next week (4-8 June) is an NCOP week of action aiming to spotlight the range of outreach activities occurring from motivational talks and role model sessions to live social media FAQs.
A timely blog by Stuart Billingham, Emeritus Professor of Lifelong Learning at York St John ponders the progress made in the 40 years Stuart has worked within the social mobility sphere. He urges patience from the Government, reviewing the initiatives they tried and dropped before they fully came to fruition, and noting that collaborative results take longer:
If quick returns are the priority, then learn the lessons of history and stop calling for greater collaboration and partnership working to widen participation. If, however, the real priority is to significantly and permanently change the social and economic student profile in our universities and colleges, then collaboration/partnership working is essential – but please don’t look always, or only, for quick wins.
School League Tables Outcry
The BBC ran an article on the new method by which secondary school league tables are devised stating it unfairly stigmatises schools in white working-class areas. Head teachers are opposed to the Progress 8 methodology calling it “toxic” for schools with a combination of high levels of deprivation and lower numbers of pupils speaking English as a second language. The DfE have responded: “Far from being unfair, our Progress 8 measure means that schools are now recognised for the progress made by all pupils, as every grade from every pupil contributes to the school’s performance – taking into account their ability when they started school.”
A Debut study publicised on the Royal College of Midwives News site has demonstrated widespread reluctance to disclose mental health issues to potential employers amongst students in order to avoid negative impact on their career progression. 70% of the 1,000 full time employed graduates that were sampled would not inform their employer and 88% stated they believed there is still a negative stigma attached to admitting to suffering from a mental health issue.
Of the 70% who said they would avoid telling an employer about their mental health issues, 83% said they would be more inclined to seek mental health support if their employer offered an ‘off-the-record’ or fully anonymous service that would be kept separate from their employment record. Their preference for off the record support methods were: face-to-face meeting (61%), WhatsApp, or other instant online chat (19%), email (10%), via video call (7%), SMS/text-messaging (3%).
The study states that graduates don’t feel their workplaces are properly equipped to support workers with mental health issues. The graduates described their employer’s support system as: 15% – good; 51% – adequate; 34% – poor.
The study states: It appears that while mental health concerns are being discussed more openly in wider society, there is still work to be done in regards to the stigma associated with admitting to suffering from mental health issues and support offered to those transitioning from university to work.
CEO of Debut, Charlie Taylor, said that supporting new graduates as they transition from university to work should be a major consideration of progressive employers. ‘If graduate recruitment specialists want to attract – and more importantly keep – the best talent as they emerge from education, they need to know what issues students and graduates are facing, and how best to support them… Graduate programmes can be fiercely competitive, which can exacerbate mental health issues and employers need to ensure they are providing anonymous, ‘off the record’ support for this future workforce.”
Meanwhile in iNews Bristol’s VC has said poor mental health among students is the “single biggest public health issue” affecting universities and feels the perfectionism culture perpetuated through social media is a causal factor.
Disabled Students’ Allowances
The parliamentary questions pertaining to disabled students continue.
Q – Angela Rayner:
- what the evidential basis is for his statement that students spend on average £250 on computers.
- what costs Disabled Students’ Allowances are planned to cover.
A – Sam Gyimah:
- This figure comes from the most recent student income and expenditure survey …This shows that the average spend on computers by full-time students across the academic year was £253. The average spend on computers by part-time students across the academic year was £243.
- Disabled Students’ Allowances are available to help students with the additional costs they may face in higher education because of their disability. There are four allowances available and for 2017/18 these are: a specialist equipment allowance of up to £5,358 for the duration of the course, a non-medical helper allowance of up to £21,305 for each academic year, a general allowance of up to £1,790 for each academic year and a uncapped travel allowance for each academic year. They can be used for the purchase of specialist equipment, to pay for a non-medical helper to support students with their studies, for other assessed disability related costs and for travel. As noted in the Oral Answer, the £200 student contribution is for computer hardware only. Students are not expected to pay for recommended specialist software or for training to use it.
Part Time Students
Welsh Universities will now be able to claim a full premium when recruiting part time students. Wales also enjoys a fee-waiver allocation for students in receipt of certain benefits when studying at less than 25%. It will be interesting to watch these developments in comparison to England’s declining part time student population.
HEPI continue to share ideas and blog related to their prior report: Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director for Fair Access and Participation.
Sonia Sodha (The Observer) states: If we were really committed to improving access to top universities, we would bite the bullet and introduce class-based quotas. Progress on this front has been pathetically slow: yes, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to universities in greater numbers than before, but they remain disproportionately shut out of the highest-ranking institutions. The Office for Students should reintroduce a cap on student numbers…and introduce hard quotas for students from working- class backgrounds for each university. This would help break down the unfair and stubborn middle- class lock on privilege. It would also force more middle-class students down a vocational route – surely the only way we are ever going to get parity of esteem between post-18 vocational and academic qualifications.
Rosemary Bennett (The Times): [There should be] a universal system in transferrable credits so bright students who really take to their studies at university can trade up to a better institution after a year. If there is thriving competition between universities, as we are often told, it should not stop at the point of admission. Users need to be able to switch supplier.
Nik Miller (Bridge Group): The creation of the Office for Students is an important opportunity to… also look outwards; to convene influencers across sectors to deliver coherent approaches, and to dismantle prevailing contradictions….Employers play a critical role in determining students’ prospects. This demands greater scrutiny. For example, many employers continue to attract students from a limited list of the least diverse institutions, refuse to consider students below a certain A-Level tariff – as university contextual admissions opens the door for many students, it is slammed shut once more upon graduation – and offer unpaid and unadvertised internships.
Lorraine Dearden (Institute for Fiscal Studies): The Office for Students needs to fully link…data in one place. IFS research linking schools and Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data shows that students who get the same GCSE results at age 16 are equally likely to progress to higher education, irrespective of their socio-economic status. However, there are socio-economic gaps in access to elite universities and the types of subjects studied, even allowing for school outcomes. We do not know fully whether this is because (i) bright disadvantaged students are less likely to apply for these courses, and/or (ii) they do, but do not get accepted, and/or (iii) their predicted grades and/or subject choice have some role. There are also socio-economic differences in drop-out rates, completion rates and outcomes once a person starts university. Good data would not only help us find out why these things are happening, but which access programmes are best at tackling them.
Read more sector change suggestions on the HEPI blog here.
Damian Hinds, Education Secretary, has announced progress towards the commencement of T levels. T levels will be two year courses combining technical education and workplace experience making an important contribution to economic skills gaps and forming the third route for post-16 study (alongside apprenticeships and A levels). The BBC report that the new two-year courses will have more teaching hours than most current technical programmes and will include a compulsory work placement of 40-60 working days. The Government have committed to learn from countries, work in partnership with business and the course content will be developed by expert employer panels. T Levels will commence from 2020 (construction, digital, and education and childcare) and be expanded into other sections from 2021 (finance, hair and beauty, engineering, and the creative industries). Controversy has dogged the announcement as earlier in the month a DfE official stated a 2020 start would be rushed and questioned whether the teaching would be of a high standard. These concerns were rejected and Hinds pushed ahead to unveil the 52 approved providers.
The Times article T levels have employers scratching their heads notes only 16% of employers understand T levels: Business owners, who will be essential to the success of the new regime, say that they are not prepared for it. Just one in 12 employers at present provided placements of the duration required for T levels, and four in every five felt that financial support would be needed to enable them to offer the number of work placements needed.
Next week the House of Lords will hold a one-hour debate on equality of opportunity in university admissions.
Fraudulent UCAS Applications
Previously The Independent challenged UCAS stating black students were 22 times more likely to have their university applications investigated for fraud than white students. UCAS investigated the issue and have published a report. Read the key points here. The story is covered by The Times and The Guardian.
UCAS have also made news this week following their decision to not require applicants to declare criminal convictions when they apply for most courses.
Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said:
“Unlock very much welcomes the removal of the main criminal conviction box from the UCAS form. This is a significant change that has the potential to help many people with convictions see a university education as a positive way forward in their lives. For far too long, universities have operated arbitrary, unfair admissions practices towards those who ticked the box. Unlock has seen first-hand how people have been put off from applying to university as a result.
If universities are committed to widening participation, they should be considering the widest number of potential applicants. The change by UCAS provides a strong signal to universities that criminal records shouldn’t feature in their assessment of academic ability.
Many institutions are now rightly looking at how to amend their policies and practices. We look forward to working with UCAS and individual universities in developing fairer admissions policies towards students with criminal records.”
Nina Champion, Head of Policy at Prisoners’ Education Trust, said:
“People with convictions who are applying to university are showing a huge commitment to turning their lives around. As a society, we should be doing all we can to support them. The chance to go to university helps people to move fully away from crime, build careers and contribute to our communities. Their presence is also hugely beneficial for universities, which gain highly committed students, who help create a more diverse and inclusive learning environment for everyone. “We look forward to working with universities at revising their own admissions procedures in light of UCAS’ decision, ensuring fair chances for every student.”
Peter Stanford, Director of the Longford Trust, said:
“We…urge that, whatever arrangements universities now decide to put in place around risk assessment for those with criminal convictions, they do so in a manner that learns from the mistakes of the recent past, and enables the widest possible levels of participation”
Jackie Labbe from De Montford University blogs for Wonkhe on the changes her university has made in Admissions to rely less on tariff based selection. Jackie states the changes have had a positive effect:
We support them [new students] via transitions programmes bridging their course of study and student services, so that any obstacles they have encountered in the past don’t continue to impede them.
We have seen success in our students’ improving outcomes, particularly our black and minority ethnic (BAME) students. We are now more than 50% BAME, and consider (in common with the sector) that the attainment gap is an unacceptable element of the status quo. We’re proud that our attainment gap is closing, and aim to continue to reduce it exponentially over the next few years.
Nursing – fall in Access course registrations
Nursing recruitment takes another hit as QAA data confirmed registrations onto the Access to HE Diplomas for nursing and health care fell by 18% (20,050 registrations) in 2016/17. Overall Access courses are down by 10%
Dr Greg Walker, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, calls on the HE Review panel to take the drop seriously:
“The news that registrations to these diplomas have dropped by almost a fifth in the space of a year is deeply concerning. The withdrawal of bursaries now appears to be impacting further down the supply chain for nursing degree students. A stalling pipeline of potential nursing students will offer no assurance to NHS employers as they struggle to fill vacant nursing posts…now is the time to review the impact of the shift away from bursaries.
New consultations and inquiries this week:
- Nuisance calls and texts
- Automation and the future of work
- AI and data
- Ageing Society
- Clean Growth
- Future of mobility
Gender Gap: Using data from a French study Times Higher discusses how automatically considering women for senior positions would reduce the gender gap at the top.
Teaching excellence: Times Higher talk on how linking promotion to quality teaching may work better than the TEF!
Civic University: Read the latest from the Civic University forum.
Poaching: PIE news has an article on the poaching of international students that takes place in the US.
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JANE FORSTER | SARAH CARTER
Policy Advisor Policy & Public Affairs Officer
Follow: @PolicyBU on Twitter | firstname.lastname@example.org
A smorgasbord of content for you this week – rifle through to find the topics most of interest to you. We’ve got: pollinators, research integrity, mental health, nursing news, plastic waste, several new funded competitions from the Government, praise for the arts and creative sectors, smart energy systems, immersive technologies, the Industrial Strategy’s Grand Challenges, tackling social challenges, Guidance from Innovate UK and on Horizon 2020, an important survey on international students, new Royal Society Fellows, an article on the AI brain drain, and the forthcoming Environmental Principles and Governance Bill. Enjoy!
On Tuesday Ben Bradley (Conservative, Mansfield) made his case for a Private Members’ Bill to make provision about the protection of pollinators. Permission to progress the Bill was granted and our regional MP Oliver Letwin will take part in presenting the bill.
Sam Gyimah was interviewed for the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee investigation into research integrity. The committee heard that universities should be held responsible for the full compliance of upholding standards of research integrity but the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation declined to assert that funding should be dependent on this. Other topics covered included concordant sign up, self-assessment and disclosure in clinical trials. Read the full summary of the session provided by Dods Consultants here.
The Commons Education, Health and Social Care Committees have published their response to the inquiry on young people’s mental health: The Government’s Green Paper on mental health: failing a generation. An oral parliamentary question was also asked on the topic on Tuesday:
Q – Helen Whately: I welcome the Green Paper on mental health in schools, which was published earlier this year, but it does prompt a question about the mental health of students in further and higher education. Does my right hon. Friend have any plans to look into that issue? If he does not, may I urge him to do so?
A – Jackie Doyle-Price: I thank my hon. Friend for her question and her continued industry on these matters. As she mentioned, the Green Paper outlined plans to set up a new national strategic partnership focused on improving the mental health of 16 to 25-year-olds. That partnership is likely to support and build on sector-led initiatives in higher education, such as Universities UK’s #stepchange project, whose launch I attended in September. The strategy calls on higher education leaders to adopt mental health as a strategic priority, to take a whole-university approach to mental health and to embed it across policies, courses and practices.
Nursing has been in the news again this week. A series of oral parliamentary questions reveal the Government’s unwavering approach towards nurse training and on Wednesday there was a debate on the Government’s plans to remove funding from post-graduate converters into nursing (announced in February). The removal affects the two-year course for those who hold degrees in other subjects. It is controversial as this is the fastest way to train a registered nurse and there is currently a shortage of 40,000 nurses in England. The change brings the post-graduate courses in line with the undergraduate nurse training which has already lost the NUS bursary and now falls under the student loan system.
The Commons debate was secured as a result of opposition pressure, following a report by the Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which referenced evidence submitted by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). The RCN arranged for a number of student nurses, who currently receive post-graduate funding, to visit parliament during April to meet MPs and peers and explain what financial support has meant for them.
Michael Lawton, who received the NHS post-graduate bursary and is currently working as a registered nurse, said: “Without the bursary I couldn’t have applied and I wouldn’t be in a career I love, giving patients the great care they deserve. I know I make a difference every day.
MPs I’ve spoken to are shocked at how many hours we do in clinical placement. By removing the bursary, the Government is asking people to pay to work on placements to keep the NHS afloat and that isn’t right.
Current post-graduate nursing student Georgie Ellmore-Jones said:
“After my undergraduate degree I was already in a lot of debt. When I looked at pursuing a career in nursing and saw it was funded, it made it more certain in my mind that I wanted to do it. At post-graduate level many of the students have families and children to look after so adding more debt will only discourage potential students.”
On Tuesday there were a series of oral questions on nursing to the Minister for Health (Stephen Barclay), his answers reveal the Government’s thinking towards nurse training.
Q – Gill Furniss (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) & (Lab) Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op) & Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op): What assessment he has made of the effect of the withdrawal of NHS bursaries on applications for nursing degrees.
A – The Minister for Health (Stephen Barclay): Nursing remains a strong career choice, with more than 22,500 students placed during the 2017 UCAS application cycle. Demand for nursing places continues to outstrip the available training places.
Q – Gill Furniss: Figures from the Royal College of Nursing show that applications have fallen by 33% since the withdrawal of bursaries. At the same time, the Government’s Brexit shambles has led to a drastic decline in EU nursing applications. How many years of such decline do we have to see before the Secretary of State and the Minister will intervene?
A – Stephen Barclay: What matters is not the number of rejected applicants, but the increase in places—the number of people actually training to be a nurse. The reality is that 5,000 more nurses will be training each year up to 2020 as a result of the changes.
Q – Stella Creasy: The NHS already has 34,000 nursing vacancies. Given that there has been a 97% drop in nursing applications from the EU and that studies show that nearly half of all hospital shifts include agency nurses, will the Minister at least admit that cutting the bursary scheme has been a false economy for our NHS?
A – Stephen Barclay: It is not a false economy to increase the supply of nurses, which is what the changes have done. Indeed, they form part of a wider package of measures, including “Agenda for Change”, pay rises and the return to practice scheme, which has seen 4,355 starters returning to the profession. More and more nurses are being trained, which is why we now have over 13,000 more nurses than in 2010.
Q – Grahame Morris: I respectfully remind the Minister that this is about recruitment and retention. The RCN says that we can train a postgraduate nurse within 18 months, which is a significant untapped resource, so why are the Government planning to withdraw support from postgraduate nurses training, too?
A – Stephen Barclay: We have a debate involving postgraduate nursing tomorrow, but the intention is to increase the number of such nurses by removing the current cap, which means that many who want to apply for postgraduate courses cannot find the clinical places to do so. That is the nature of tomorrow’s debate, and I look forward to seeing the hon. Gentleman in the Chamber.
Q – Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Will my hon. Friend, on top of the degree nursing apprenticeships, rapidly increase the nursing apprenticeship programme so nurses can earn while they learn, have no debt and get a skill that they and our country need?
A – Stephen Barclay: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to signpost this as one of a suite of ways to increase the number of nurses in the profession. As he alludes to, there will be 5,000 nursing apprenticeships this year, and we are expanding the programme, with 7,500 starting next year.
Q – Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) (LD): With every reputable independent body showing very clearly that we have a staffing crisis in the NHS nursing profession, can the Minister explain how cutting bursaries actually improves the situation?
A – Stephen Barclay: I am very happy to do so. We are removing the cap on the number of places covered by the bursaries and increasing the number of student places by 25%, which means that there will be 5,000 more nurses in training as a result of these changes.
Q – Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP): The Secretary of State’s removal of the nursing bursary and introduction of tuition fees have resulted in a 33% drop in applications in England. In Scotland, we have kept the bursary, a carer’s allowance and free tuition, which means that student nurses are up to £18,000 a year better off, and indeed they also earn more once they graduate. Does the Minister recognise that that is why applications in Scotland have remained stable while in England they have dropped by a third?
A- Stephen Barclay: The hon. Lady speaks with great authority on health matters, but, again, she misses the distinction between the number of applicants and the number of nurses in training. It is about how many places are available, and we are increasing by 25% the number of nurses in training. That is what will address the supply and address some of the vacancies in the profession.
Q – Dr Whitford: Workforce is a challenge for all four national health services across the UK, but, according to NHS Improvement, there are 36,000 nursing vacancies in England, more than twice the rate in Scotland. The Minister claims that more nurse students are training, but in fact there were 700 fewer in training in England last year, compared with an 8% increase in Scotland. The key difference is that in Scotland we are supporting the finances of student nurses, so will the Government accept that removing the nursing bursary was a mistake and reintroduce it?
A – Stephen Barclay: The distinction the hon. Lady fails to make is that in England we are increasing the number of nurses in training by 25%; we are ensuring that nurses who have left the profession can return through the return-to-work programme; and we are introducing significant additional pay through “Agenda for Change”. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) said, we are also creating new routes so that those who come into the NHS through other routes, such as by joining as a healthcare assistant, are not trapped in those roles but are able to progress, because the Conservative party backs people who want to progress in their careers. Healthcare assistants who want to progress into nursing should have that opportunity.
Q – Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): When defending the decision to scrap bursaries, the Secretary of State said that, if done right, it could provide up to 20,000 extra nursing posts by 2020. Well, that figure now looks wildly optimistic, with applications down two years in a row. Is it not time that Ministers admitted they have got this one wrong and joined the Opposition in the Lobby tomorrow to vote against any further extensions to this failed policy?
A – Stephen Barclay: If Members vote against the policy tomorrow, the reality is that they will be voting for a cap on the number of postgraduate nurses going into the system, and therefore they will be saying that more people should be rejected—more people should lose the opportunity to become nurses—because they want to have a cap that restricts the supply of teaching places.
The Government have announced a new research and innovation hub to tackle plastic waste in the oceans.
Arts Projects Support for the North
The PM spoke on Tuesday to praise Britain’s arts sector:
But of course, the value of culture and creativity lies not only in its economic strength. Just as important is the less tangible contribution that it makes to our national life. The work you do brings joy to millions. It fosters unity, gives us a common currency. It helps to define and build our sense of national character.
“Without culture […] society is but a jungle”. Your work is a vital part of our national life and our national economy, and I am absolutely committed to supporting it.
Our ambitious sector deal for the creative industries, announced just before Easter, will see a further £150 million invested by government and industry, spreading success and making the sector fit to face the future.
She also announced a £3 million fund of new money to support creative projects within the Northern Powerhouse region on Tuesday. Offering a mix of grants and loans, the social investment fund will be open to non-profit, community-based organisations that deliver a positive social impact.
Full speech here.
Smart Energy Systems
The Government announced £41.5 million funds for design and trial of of new business models that intelligently link supply, storage and demand in heating, power and transport. Thee Innovate UK competition has two elements: up to £40 million is available for 3 smart energy system demonstrators, while up to £1.5 million is available for studies into new, smarter approaches to local energy.
Audiences of the Future – Commercial opportunities in the creative industries
The Government has announced a funding competition – Audience of the future: demonstrators opening Monday 21 May. £16 million will be invested in 4 large scale creative industries demonstrator projects (£5-£10 million each) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. It aims to explore future global, mass market, commercial opportunities in the creative industries. Primarily this will be through pre-commercial collaboration at scale. Projects should significantly improve the current state of art in their field. The projects must explore new ways of communication with mass audiences (100,000+) using new immersive technologies and experiences that are a significant advancement on the state of art in the chosen area. The high level of innovation and scale should be capable of transforming the sector and replicable across the creative industries. The project should generate audience and consumer information that could be used to test the viability of new business models. The Government suggests that areas with strong potential could include moving images, access to live sporting events, visitor experiences in museums and galleries, and music and theatre performance. See here for more information.
A further £1 million is available for early-stage projects (£20-60k) that seek to understand customer needs for immersive experiences and the tools needed to deliver them. Early-stage projects should use human-centered design and look at audience behaviour to develop ideas for new products and services. Particular areas could include:
- advancing the state-of-the-art with immersive experiences that are desirable and fit-for-purpose
- producing high-quality immersive content cheaper, faster and in a way that is more accessible
- improving physical devices such as eyewear and controllers, or haptic feedback
- new digital platforms and services to deliver immersive content
See here for more information on the early-stage projects.
Resolving Social Challenges
On Thursday Oliver Dowden (Minister for Implementation) announced a series of competitions for tech firms to develop solutions tackling current social challenges. While the initiatives focus on the business sector some of the topics are interesting. Each contributes to the Government’s Grand Challenges – the data economy; clean growth; reducing plastic waster, tackling loneliness and healthy ageing and the future of mobility – the competition is designed to incentivise Britain’s tech firms to come up with innovative solutions to improve public services.
The forthcoming challenges:
- Identifying terrorist still imagery (Home Office). Home Office research shows that more than two-thirds of terrorist propaganda disseminated online is still imagery. This project will support both Government analysis of, and broader efforts to remove, this harmful material.
- Tracking waste through the waste chain, submitted by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). A new technological approach could help record, check and track waste, helping boost productivity, reduce costs, and protect both human health and the environment.
- Tackling loneliness and rural isolation, submitted by Monmouthshire Council. The government recognises that rural transport is vital to local communities, and businesses. A technological solution, exploiting vehicles with spare capacity could support rural economies.
- Cutting traffic congestion, submitted by Department for Transport (DfT). Greater collection and new analysis of data could help target interventions to cut congestion.
- Local authorities have large numbers of council vehicles crossing their areas every day. If they can be equipped with innovative data capture systems, they could understand potholes, litter, recycling, parking, air quality and more in real-time, every day, for no added cost. This could mean reduced service delivery costs and better local services.
The first of these competitions opens on Monday 14 May and runs for six weeks, with the remaining competitions being launched in subsequent months. Tech firms bidding to the fund will have free rein to create truly innovative fixes. Winning companies will be awarded up to £50,000 to develop their ideas.
Innovate UK have released general guidance for grant applicants, including applying for a business innovation grant, funding rules and participation levels.
The Government have released guidance on Horizon 2020: what it is and how to apply for funding.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been tasked by the Government to assess the impact of international students. Previously they asked for evidence of impact from the HE sector with much response from HE institutions but little response from international students themselves. To redress this evidence gap the MAC have issued a survey directly to students. Universities have been asked to disseminate this survey and encourage their students to complete it. Here is the link.
Environmental Principles and Governance Bill
Michael Gove has announced the introduction of the Environmental Principles and Governance Bill, which will “ensure environmental protections will not be weakened as we leave the EU.” It will introduce a new body to hold the Government to account for environmental outcomes. Subject to consultation, the new body could specifically be responsible for:
- providing independent scrutiny and advice on existing and future government environmental law and policy;
- responding to complaints about government’s delivery of environmental law; and
- holding government to account publicly over its delivery of environmental law and exercising enforcement powers where necessary.The Government is also consulting on an intention to require minister to produce a “statutory and comprehensive policy statement setting out how they will apply core environmental principles as they develop policy and discharge their responsibilities”. The new Bill will also ensure Government’s continue to have to regard environmental principlesRoyal SocietyArtificial Intelligence
- The Financial Times has an article: UK universities alarmed by poaching of top computer science brains.
- Wonkhe report that: 50 new Royal Society Fellows and Foreign Members have been elected to join the existing c.1,600. They are all scientists, engineers, and technologists who are from, or living and working in, the UK and the Commonwealth. New additions include Jim Al-Khalili, Michelle Simmons and Elon Musk, with David Willetts the Honorary Fellow,. Of the 50 12 are women.
- The consultation will run for 12 weeks, closing on Thursday 2 August. The draft will be published in the Autumn, and the Bill will be introduced in the second session of this parliament.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey made an announcement on funding for microplastics research
Digital media experts discuss internet regulation
The Commons Select Committee have opened an inquiry into the challenges and opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Contact the Policy Team if you’d like to contribute to BU’s response to this inquiry.
The Foreign Affairs Committee held an evidence session questioning academics on the responsibility to protect and humanitarian intervention.
Key personnel changes:
Which? – Peter Vicary-Smith to stand down as Chief Executive.
Cancer Research UK – Michelle Mitchell to replace Harpal Kumar as Chief Executive in the summer.
Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards – Stuart Dollow appointed as Chair from 1st June for three years.
Care Quality Commission – Ian Trenholm to replace David Behan as Chief Executive in July.
Have a lovely weekend!
Macmillian has published the specialist cancer adult nursing and support workforce census 2017.
The Education Policy Institute has published research on vulnerable children and social care in England.
On Tuesday there is a Westminster Hall debate on safeguarding children and young people in sport, and a Health and Social Care Select Committee examining childhood obesity.
Meindert Boysen has been appointed as Director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation.
On Friday Jeremy Hunt launched a review into the impact of technological advances on the NHS workforce.
On Wednesday there will be an adjournment debate on Mental Health Services
Clive Efford has joined the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee as a member. On Wednesday this committee will meet to consider Fake News.
David Clark, Kenny Dey and Nick Terrell have been appointed as members of the Oil & Gas UK Trade Association.
On Tuesday the Education Select Committee will examine Alternative Provision.
On Tuesday the Home Affairs Committee will meet to discuss Policing for the future.
On Wednesday there will be a Westminster Hall debate on reducing plastic waste in the maritime environment.
There is a new register of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG). Check the list to see which fit with your research interests (scroll down past the country groups to the subject groups).
This week the following APPGs will meet: Social Work (on Tuesday), Industrial Heritage (Tuesday), Archaeology (Tuesday), Carers (Wednesday).
Catch up on last week’s policy news here, or email email@example.com to subscribe.
A week of intense debate over fees, artificial intelligence, student nurses and the decline of part time provision. Enjoy!
Fees, fees, fees…and the HE Review
HEPI’s Free and Comprehensive University
HEPI have published a new blog The Comprehensive and Free University by Professor Tim Blackman (VC Middlesex, but writing personally). In essence it argues for free fees and a greater focus on the comprehensive university model (institutions that service their regional community with less focus on entrance requirements, generally less research intensive too).
Blackman commences by tackling the current HE Review. He highlights that because the Government have informed the ‘independent’ panel conducting the HE Review that abolishing tuition fees isn’t an option there is already a political bias. He addresses the arguments against abolishing fees (unfair – non-graduate taxpayers footing bill for those that will become higher earners and unaffordable to the public purse) and raises cross-generational fairness (older graduates had no fees and maintenance grants). Instead he feels the simple solution is to raise income rates within the higher and additional tax bands (effectively raising the repayment threshold to £45,000). He notes approx. 66% of graduates are within these tax bands (so 34% are non-graduate high earners that would contribute). He states the cost of abolishing fees is £7.5 billion per year and that increasing the higher rate tax from 40% to 45% (and the additional rate from 45% to 65%) would fully cover the £7.5 billion.
This approach would see the Treasury holding these taxation purse strings. So a pertinent question is – how much of this funding would actually reach universities and who would be the winners and losers from the Government’s allocation method? Currently the funding going direct from students to Universities is a neater, perhaps fairer, system from the University prospective and one that many within Government appear keen to retain. As the tax would be retrospective we could question whether student number controls be reintroduced, at least until the Treasury was confident the public purse would be repaid. And surely there would be even more focus on graduate outcome earnings?
Returning to Blackman, he isn’t a fan of writing off the loans of existing graduates, despite the unfairness of their being the only paying meat within the chronological free tuition sandwich. He feels those paying off their loans will “know that new cohorts paying no fees will still contribute if and when they become higher earners”. He also doesn’t propose the re-introduction of maintenance grants (as the tax income wouldn’t cover this) and states its right for students who chose to move away from home to study to take out a loan to do so. Blackman believes far more students should study locally and the costs commuter students incur to study at their nearest university could be partly met by public transport discounts funded by reducing the subsidy away from the over-60’s away free travel. Note, adjustments for rurality or areas without public transport aren’t adequately addressed.
At first Blackman’s suggestions that only students that are willing to take loans and pay fees should attend a distant institution appears socially regressive. After all it seems to close down student choice – preventing selection of an institution dependent on whether the course content best fits their interest, selection for the perceived quality of the institution, or attending a prestigious institution for the reported employment outcome boost. There is a clear hit to social mobility in expecting those in the poorest areas, who may be most debt adverse to only attend their nearest institution. What if their local institution doesn’t deliver their programme, e.g. medicine. Is Blackman suggesting the choice would be loans and fees or abandon their career aspirations? Blackman defends his localism by explaining that moving away to attend university residentially is a colonial legacy, and happens less in other countries (America, Australia). He sees moving away as a perk which would only continue via the loan system. He states:
A policy of encouraging local study has many benefits. It is less costly to students and taxpayers, greener in transport terms and would take pressure off many local housing markets. It also offers an option for phasing in free higher education. Just as going to university ‘in state’ in the United States means considerably lower fees than studying out of state, free higher education in England could at least initially be restricted to studying ‘in region’, based on the Government Office regions abolished in 2011. Studying out of region would mean paying a regulated fee, at a level to be decided, but similar in principle to how students from Scotland pay fees to attend English universities.
He does go on to address the social mobility elements:
…of course, [its] potentially an argument against this idea if local study becomes the only choice for many people from low income households because they cannot afford the out-of-region fee or lack the resources to maintain themselves away from home. This would only really be an issue of educational disadvantage if the effect was to narrow the choice of types of university or course, but this choice is already narrowed by ‘top’ universities using academic selection in a way that excludes many such people, whose prior attainment tends to be significantly lower than those from better-off households.
Blackman feels the answer lies within requiring all universities to have more diverse intakes – socially, ethnically and by ability: Institutional quotas incorporating a required balance across entry grades and social background – basically an elaboration of current access benchmarks – would provide a basis for the diversification I advocate even without initially confining free higher education to local study. But it would enable such a policy to be managed so that there are enough free local places for the range of prior attainment in any region.
Above all, at a time when young people are under pressure from so many directions, and the number of part-time adult learners is collapsing, abolishing fees and using higher rate tax bands to pay for it would be an important statement about those who are successful in their careers and businesses investing in young people and adult learning.
Blackman pushes back against HE sector criticism that it is seen as the only way and discredits other vocational routes by weaving in the Government push for more flexible methods of degree delivery:
It also seems possible that with this review we will see the progressiveness of student loans for degree study being criticised as a market distortion, tempting students who would be better opting for shorter vocational courses or apprenticeships. Not only does that threaten to undo the progress made so far with widening access to degree study, but it fails to address far more important issues about what we are teaching and how, such as replacing outmoded academic years and credit with more flexible competency-based learning and assessment.
Blackman does believe there is a risk that student number controls could be reintroduced, even with the current fee loan system by noting that the Treasury’s purse isn’t unlimited. The expected future rise in the number of young people aspiring to enter higher education (as outlined in HEPI report 105) will challenge any funding system, but loans no longer mean that student number controls are off the agenda given the level of taxpayer contribution to settle unpaid debt and support high-cost subjects. The idea that fees and loans would guarantee university autonomy and funding has also worn thin with the Office for Students’ new regulatory regime and a further fees freeze.
Loan Interest Rates
The RPI inflation rise created renewed criticism this week as it means student loan interest rates will increase to 6.3% in September (up from 6.1%). Much of the controversy stems from the use of RPI which has been denounced as inappropriate method for student loans (RPI is no longer used as a national statistic). The Government now uses the consumer price index for many calculations and there have been calls for it to be applied to student loans. The Guardian ran with the story: Ministers under fire as student loan interest hits 6.3% on Wednesday. To put this into context re-read Martin Lewis’ explanatory article for his clear explanation of why (for 83% of students) the interest rate rise won’t mean they ever pay more. Here’s an excerpt:
The interest doesn’t change what you repay each year
You become eligible to repay your student loan in the April after you leave University.
From this point, students must repay loans at a rate of 9% of everything they earn above £25,000 each year (or more technically £2,083 a month). So if you earn £30,000, as that’s £5,000 more than the threshold, you repay 9% of it – which is £450 a year.
This means the amount you owe (the borrowing plus interest) never has an impact on what you repay each year. I know people really struggle with this, so let’s pick out of the air a current salary of £35,000 (purely done for maths ease as it’s £10,000 above the threshold) and look at how different levels of borrowing impact your repayments – though the same principle applies whatever you earn.
As you can see, changing what you owe – even to the absurd level of £1 billion – simply doesn’t impact your repayments (you may find it easier to listen to my BBC Radio 5 Live student finance podcast to understand this).
HE Review and Fees
At UUK’s Political Affairs in HE Forum on Thursday HE fees received frequent mention. A wide range of personal views were stated: Conference Chair Stephen Bush (New Statesman) opened by declaring the days of £12,000 fees are gone. Katie Perrior (previous Director of Comms at No 10) highlighted how if the Government can only make a measly concession on fees its better ’not to go there’ with the nuance the review should focus on wider issues instead. Her take was that the review outcome would tackle loan interest rates and perhaps address maintenance grants. Speaking officially in the session on the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding Philip Augar (Chair of the HE Review panel) set out to bring the audience ‘up to date’ and provide an ‘inking into the panel’s current thinking’. The official word on the HE Review is that it will be much broader than a review of fees, covering far more ground. The review has to fit with the Government’s objectives to reduce the deficit and the national debt, and decisions must be taken based on evidence.
The panel are approaching the review based on two questions:
- What should the tertiary education system be doing for the country (what are its objectives)?
- How does the current system match up to this?
The panel are subdividing the evidence between economic and social objectives.
Economic requirements for tertiary system:
- Innovation (expectation for the tertiary system to create innovation)
- The assertion that FE and HE is crucial for economic dynamism
- Value for money (one of the biggest issues)
- The premise that all must be done transparently and in the most official manner
- There must be a balance of contributions between state and employers
- Improving life chances
- Accessible education and training
- Cultural issues – education fostering good citizenships and interaction
- Excellence – any changes must not risk the sector’s academic excellence
Philip confirmed workstreams matching and measuring against these criteria were currently in progress, including reference and focus groups across the range of students, employers and providers. He stated he felt there was ‘room to improve value and coherence’, and then promptly left the conference for a pressing parliamentary engagement before questions could be asked.
Other members of the panel were:
Rt Hon Lord Willetts, former Universities and Science Minister (Conservative)
Professor John Denham, Professor, University of Winchester and former government minister (Labour)
Each went on to give their opinion of the HE Review.
Willetts presented a supportive stance for Universities and felt the problems and challenges within tertiary education mainly lay outside of the University sector. He felt the review should tackle:
- The underfunding of FE
- Strengthening non-university routes
- Part time and mature HE opportunities
He felt the current fees model was the best way (for young, full time, undergraduates) – but that the grievances over the interest rate should be addressed. He was clear that fees were over-debated and echoed the need to move away from fees to tackle the more pressing above three issues he described. On part time and mature he felt an entirely different funding model (non-loan) is needed.
An interesting point he highlighted is that public spending on apprenticeships now exceeds public spending on Universities.
John Denham presented a range of more complicated messages questioning whether the HE system is actually producing what the UK economy and students need, specifically on graduate underemployment. He felt how an institution responds to the funding system is pivotal – more than what the funding system is.
Although Denham is a Labour party member, and while he conceded that abolishing fees is attractive, he doesn’t feel it’s the answer. He noted if fees are abolished but everything else stays the same the result will be a costly system that delivers exactly as it does already (and doesn’t tackle any of the systemic problems – widening participation, achievement gaps, graduate outcomes). Denham’s argument was that the HE system can be made cheaper. He also noted that the investment in FE is ‘pathetically low’ and requires addressing [although presumably not at the expense of the HE sector – which the current system of direct fee payments from student to institution provides a limited safeguard against].
Quality of Apprenticeships & Skills
On Tuesday the House of Commons Education Select Committee met to consider the quality of apprenticeships and skills training. Witnesses called to provide evidence were:
- Mark Dawe, Chief Executive, Association of Employment and Learning Providers
- Lady Andrée Deane Barron, Group Education and Central Skills Director, Central YMCA
- Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy and External Affairs, Chartered Management Institute
The session focused on apprenticeships and what support could be offered to apprentices who were struggling. There was discussion about entry level requirements to apprenticeships and whether they would be able to recruit the kind of able candidate who could not suit or afford university.
Dawe was sceptical of the idea that everyone should be a level 3 or level 4 apprentice. He stated there was a lack of level 2 apprentices and the UK really needed more of these.
Degree-level apprenticeships were discussed with Lucy Powell (Lab/Co-op, Manchester Central) explaining that the committee had met a lot of degree-level apprentices, and despite the impressive quality of candidate, many had needed an A grade in their maths exam to win a place. She questioned what this meant for social mobility.
Dawe responded that high grades did not necessarily differentiate between different social classes. However, many organisations were considering different ways of assessing potential candidates, e.g. Dyson has an “amazing programme” full of “incredible applications“. Dawe argued the more high-grade students who moved in, the more tertiary education would transform. Petra Wilton presented statistics to argue that apprenticeships were supporting social mobility: 49% of apprentices were aged 30, 52.5% were female, and 51% were from disadvantaged regions. She went on to say the all age process means that those that did not get a degree the first time round, had access now and ‘failed graduates’ found it opened their career prospects in ways “they had never imagined“.
It was also noted that travel cost support for apprentices would particularly benefit those living in rural areas and could improve attendance at face to face delivery sessions.
More generally it was argued that the external evaluation of apprenticeship quality requires improvement to support employer deliver and stronger progression pathways are needed.
Other apprenticeship news
DfE’s Apprenticeship and levy statistics note a drop in apprenticeship starts – down by 31% (25,400 starts in Jan 2018 compared to 36,700 in Jan 2017). The Independent covered the story noting ‘the structure and implementation of the apprenticeship levy has acted as a barrier and brake to skills development’.
The House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence has published AI in the UK: ready, willing and able? following their recent inquiry. The inquiry concluded the UK is capable of being an AI world leader and a great opportunity for the British economy. Excerpts:
As soon as it works, no one calls it AI anymore …
Artificial intelligence has been developing for years, but it is entering a crucial stage in its development and adoption. The last decade has seen a confluence of factors—in particular, improved techniques such as deep learning, and the growth in available data and computer processing power—enable this technology to be deployed far more extensively. This brings with it a host of opportunities, but also risks and challenges, and how the UK chooses to respond to these, will have widespread implications for many years to come.
‘Access to large quantities of data is one of the factors fuelling the current AI boom.’ The report describes how balancing data gathering and access with personal privacy needs careful change. To do this means not only using established concepts, such as open data and data protection legislation, but also the development of new frameworks and mechanisms, such as data portability and data trusts. A nod is made to safeguarding amid the recent scandal too: ‘Large companies which have control over vast quantities of data must be prevented from becoming overly powerful within this landscape’.
The report calls for:
- Government and the Competition and Markets Authority to proactively review use and monopolisation of data by big technology companies
- To ensure use of AI does not inadvertently prejudice the treatment of particular groups in society. Government to incentivise the development of new approaches to the auditing of datasets used in AI, and to encourage greater diversity in the training and recruitment of AI specialists.
- Create a growth fund for UK SMEs working with AI to scale their businesses; a PhD matching scheme (costs shared with private sector) and standardisation of a mechanism for spinning out AI start-ups (based on University research).
- Increasing visas for overseas workers with valuable skills in AI.
- An AI Council is formed to rationalise the hopes and fears associated with AI and to inform consumers when artificial intelligence is being used to make significant or sensitive decisions.
- Government investment in skills and training to mitigate the digital disruption to the jobs market that AI is likely to exacerbate. The National Retraining Scheme may be vital, needs to be developed in partnership with industry taking on board lessons learnt from the apprenticeships scheme. More AI in children’s curriculum. Conversion courses (3-6 months) to meet needs of researchers and industry.
- The Presenti-Hall Review (intellectual property management in AI) recommendations be endorsed and the government commit to underwriting, and where necessary replacing, funding for European research and innovation programmes.
- Law Commission should provide clarity regarding the adequacy of existing legislation should AI systems malfunction, underperform or otherwise make erroneous decisions which cause harm.
- AI developers to be alive to the potential ethical implications of their work and the risk of their work being used for malicious purposes. (This was discussed on Monday 16th’s Today programme on Radio 4). Funding applications should demonstrate consequential understanding of how the research might be misused. 5 principles were proposed to form a shared ethical AI framework.
Read the report in full here.
The report has been heavily criticised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (see their press release) who state: The recommendations on how the UK can become a global leader in Artificial Intelligence are off the mark. While the report contains numerous uncontroversial and welcome suggestions on such topics as increased use of AI in the National Health Service, more visas for talented technologists, and the need to make public sector data sets available to the private sector, many of the recommendations would hamper the development of AI domestically and antagonise foreign innovators.
The report acknowledges the need to make it easier for universities to form “spin-out companies,” which are effectively startups with university ownership of intellectual property. Reform of the current spin-out procedure is necessary, though that is only a small part of the large amount of regulatory barriers for startups in the UK. It is not enough to care only about university research when the large American companies criticized for being too large were not university spin-outs themselves.
It is helpful that the UK’s Parliament is examining the opportunities that artificial intelligence creates. However, it would do better to focus on removing the barriers currently in place, rather than developing new ones.
Do read the short press release for critique on other elements of the Lords report if you have an interest in this area.
UKRI – Interim Executive Chair
UK Research and Innovation have appointed Dr Ian Campbell as the new interim executive chair of Innovate UK. Campbell will take over from 4 May until a permanent Executive Chair is appointed. His background is within aging, life sciences, medical devices and diagnostics.
Dr Ian Campbell said: “I am absolutely delighted to be appointed as interim Executive Chair of Innovate UK. Our role as the business-facing arm of UK Research and Innovation is more important than ever as we seek to meet the target of spending 2.4% of our GDP on research and development. Innovate UK, working together with all the research councils has a key role to play in realising that ambition through flagship programmes such as the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. I am really looking forward to working with and leading our fantastic team to make sure that businesses have the support they need.”
Here is the press release on the interim appointment.
Widening Participation & Achievement
HE’s influence on life and death
Nora Ann Colton (UCL) blogs for Wonkhe to explore the link between lack of HE provision and high rates of mortality within cold spot areas. Excerpt: In 2014, HEFCE published maps that revealed “cold spots” in higher education provision across England. These maps revealed gaps in subject provision, student mobility, and graduate employment. Though this work was significant in providing useful information for higher education providers and local authorities, there is more to the question of educational “cold spots”. There has always been an understanding that a lack of employment opportunities, poverty, and deprivation lead to higher mortality rates, but recent research suggests a link between a lack of higher education provision and high rates of mortality.
Nora highlights Blackpool as an example of ‘death by no higher education’ where demand for professional occupations is increasing and fewer and fewer jobs are available for lower skilled workers. Nora discusses the research demonstrating that better-educated people live in less-polluted areas, tend to be less obese, are more physically active, are less likely to smoke, and do not as frequently engage in risky behaviours. She argues against an economically focussed reductionist approach to HE: A reductionist approach to higher education, its mission, and its impact fails to recognise the profound effect that it can have on an individual in terms of shaping their quality of life, health and life expectancy. Nora calls for the sector to re-consider their messaging:
If a university education is the best signifier of future good health and high earnings, the higher education sector needs to get its messaging right. This approach requires that we recognise that higher education and the missions of universities are more than simply getting a student a job. Institutions must work with the government and the health sector to ensure these life changing outcomes. The higher education sector needs to start adopting this approach to fulfil its role in ensuring that we not only have a better-educated working population, but a healthier one as well.
Q – Sir Mark Hendrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the introduction of the £200 self-contribution for disabled students who are in receipt of disabled student allowances on (a) the take-up of the equipment needed to study independently and (b) trends in the level of participation of disabled students; and if he will make a statement.
A – Sam Gyimah: The most recent data show that, for full-time undergraduate students domiciled in England, 4,600 fewer students were in receipt of equipment Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) in 2015/16 than in 2014/15. The main reason for this fall is that the £200 student contribution to the costs of computer hardware took effect from September 2015.
This government remains committed to supporting disabled students in higher education, both through DSAs and through supporting higher education providers’ efforts to improve the support they offer their disabled students. Alongside this commitment, we are keen to better understand the impact of DSAs on eligible students, including that of recent DSAs reforms. We have commissioned a research project to explore this – we will respond to the research findings when they are available in spring 2018.
6.6% of UK-domiciled full-time first-degree students received Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).
On the non-continuation rates of part-time first-degree entrants, and rates of resumption of study after a year out – of the 31,155 full-time, first-degree entrants who did not continue into their second year in 2015/16 10% resumed study at the same provider the following year. The release also shows that, two years after entering higher education, around a third (33.5%) of part-time students had terminated their studies. The Open University accounted for 83% of these students.
Lifelong Learning (House of Lords)
On Tuesday the House of Lords debated Lifelong Learning. Baroness Garden of Frognal (Lib Dem) opened the debate by discussing the huge decline in part time degree uptake and stated the higher fee system was “undoubtedly one of the major factors that prevents adults from upskilling or reskilling” She asked the minister to comment on fee changes and its impact on disadvantaged groups. Shadow spokesperson for education, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, agreed that fees were a cause of decline and raised questions on the Government’s target for apprenticeship starts.
The impact of technology creating changes within employment and employment opportunities was raised and the Baroness called on the minister to comment on the Made Smarter review (proposes to digitally upskill 1m people over the next five years through an online platform). Lord Knight of Weymouth (Labour) stated a lifelong learning culture was vital as technology will force multiple career changes within an individual’s life. He concluded that radical reform was needed and “not just tinkering with a redundant system“.
The Baroness stated craft and creativity had “been squeezed out” of the school curriculum in favour of academic content and she asked the Government to discuss their engagement on this topic, along with how the Government were encouraging adults to learn languages.
She said that Government should recognise that lifelong learning was critical and explicitly give the recommendation that all universities should “consider how best to support this educational provision, either through developing a more flexible curriculum or producing open educational resources.” Lord Addington (Lib Dem) added the importance of lifelong learning and skills for those with dyslexia and other hidden disabilities.
Baroness Bakewell (Lab), a member of the Artificial Intelligence Committee, asked if the post-18 review of funding would confront the fourth industrial revolution.
Lords Spokesperson for Higher Education, Viscount Younger of Leckie, discussed the points made throughout the debate and stated that ‘lifelong learning was becoming increasingly important due to a number of trends and challenges that are shaping the future of work in the UK.”
He outlined the various Government schemes and initiatives that aided in the development of skills throughout life which included the national retraining scheme, career learning pilots, the flexible learning fund and the outreach and cost pilots. He stated that the response to the T-level consultation would be released “very soon.”
On barriers to part-time learning he said that the review of the post-18 education-plus funding would look at how we can encourage flexible and part-time learning to allow people to study throughout their lives.
Earlier in the academic year some nursing students were overpaid on their student loan.
Helen Jones asked a parliamentary question to follow this up:
Q – Helen Jones: what estimate he has made of the number of nursing students who have received incorrect payments from the Student Loans Company and who have been told that money will as a result be deducted from their future payments.
While the parliamentary question hasn’t been answered yet (due on Monday) the Government have responded on how they intend to recover the funds from nursing students who have been overpaid on their student loan. Additional payments of up to £1,000 and a deferred re-payment scheme have been set up. The Government says affected students can apply for this additional, non-repayable, maintenance support for the rest of this academic year if they are facing hardship. The Student Loan Company will also defer the recovery of the overpaid funds until affected students have finished their courses and can afford to repay. Overpaid students will be eligible for normal support as per usual in the next academic year.
Sam Gyimah stated: “My priority has been to ensure none of the affected student nurses should suffer hardship as a result of an administrative error. These short-term, practical steps will provide immediate help for those who need it so they can concentrate on their studies and their future careers without concern.”
The Royal College of Nursing have responded:
“This is a small but welcome recognition of the problem. But it does not go anything like far enough. Student nurses will still struggle to pay bills and childcare costs and they must not be forced to turn to loan sharks or even quit their studies as a result.
“This was not a problem of their making and we will not let them pay the price. The overpayment mistakes must be written off and they need money this month without a bureaucratic nightmare.
“This announcement lacks detail and we will keep asking the difficult questions until students have the answers.”
Student Loans – Appointment
Q – Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Education when he plans to appoint a new permanent chief executive of the Student Loans Company.
A- Sam Gyimah: The Student Loan Company’s (SLC’s) Shareholding Administrations (the Department for Education, the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and the Northern Irish Executive) are working closely with the SLC Board on the appointment of a new permanent CEO. This appointment will take place as soon as possible.
Q – Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Education when he plans to appoint the independent chair of the review into the Teaching Excellence Framework.
A – Sam Gyimah: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State is planning to appoint a suitable independent person to report on the operation of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework by autumn 2018. The department is currently engaged in a process for identifying people who have both the required experience and can command the confidence of the sector.
Q – Gordon Marsden: what discussions he has had with the (a) Home Secretary and (b) Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union on universities being able to continue to recruit academics to teach STEM subjects after the UK leaves the EU.
A– Sam Gyimah: The government recognises that the ability to continue to attract Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) academics from across the EU post-exit is a priority for the higher education (HE) sector. That is why departments are working to ensure the interests of the HE sector are represented in EU exit planning, and the government has been clear that the UK will remain open to academic staff and researchers from Europe and beyond.
To help provide certainty to current and prospective EU academics, in December 2017 we reached an agreement with the EU that EU citizens living in the UK when we exit will be able to get on with their lives broadly as now, and enjoy rights such as access to healthcare, benefits, and education. We will extend the December deal to those that arrive during the implementation period, but EU citizens who arrive here during this period must register with the Home Office after three months residence in the UK.
We are considering the options for our future migration system and a crucial part of this work is the government commissioning the Migration Advisory Committee to assess the impact of EU exit on the UK labour market. Their report in September will help to inform our thinking.
Elsewhere, the government is taking steps to increase the supply of important STEM skills, including by supporting new institutions such as the New Model in Technology and Engineering and the Institute of Coding, where a consortium of employers and universities will ensure HE courses meet the needs of the economy.
Q – Stephen Timms: what assessment he has made of the prevalence of fraudulent dissertation-writing services for university students; and what plans he has to address that practice.
A- Sam Gyimah: Higher education providers, as autonomous organisations, are responsible for handling matters of this nature, including developing and implementing policies to detect and discourage plagiarism. To help providers tackle the issue, we asked the Quality Assurance Agency, Universities UK and the National Union of Students to produce new guidance, which was published in October 2017.
This guidance is the first set of comprehensive advice for providers and students on the subject. It makes clear that where providers are working with others to deliver programmes, such as through validation, care should be taken to ensure that partner organisations are taking the risks of academic misconduct seriously. Providers are also encouraged to consider steps to scrutinise potential partners’ processes and regulations when developing validation arrangements. This is in line with the wider expectations set out in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education which all providers must meet. The code establishes the fundamental principle that degree awarding bodies have ultimate responsibility for academic standards and the quality of learning opportunities, regardless of where these opportunities are delivered and who provides them.
Going forward, I expect the Office for Students to encourage and support the sector to implement strong policies and sanctions to address this important issue in the most robust way possible.
2019/20 EU student fee levels
Q – Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether non-UK EU students starting university courses in the UK in academic year 2019-20 will be charged home student fees for the full duration of their course.
A – Sam Gyimah: Applications for courses starting in 2019/20 do not open until September 2018, and we will ensure EU students starting courses at English Institutions in that academic year have information well in advance of this date.
Social Media: a new All Party Parliamentary Group has launched on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing. It will be chaired by Chris Elmore MP (Labour).
Disadvantage: An Education Policy Institute report comparing educationally disadvantaged pupils within England with other nations has concluded England needs to double the number of disadvantaged pupils achieving the top GCSE grades to match the performance of the best nations.
Industrial Strategy: Ministers have announced £8 million for innovation to tackle global climate change and prepare for natural disasters as part of the Industrial Strategy for Commonwealth countries.
Transition to work: Stephen Isherwood writes about the stark differences between academic and working life in Communicating the university-to-work transition to students.
He states we underestimate the difficulties of the transition that students have to make when they start full-time work. That it’s a myth that employers expect fully work-ready hires who don’t require any development, but the spectrum of experience ranges from the student who hasn’t even had a bar job, to those with a one-year placement and more. The biggest development need is found in the complex areas of working with others. “Teamwork” is vague – a term used to describe managing up, dealing with conflicts, and working across complex team structures – University group exercises don’t match up to this. Real on the job experience is valued most and graduates with meaningful work experience are more employable. Isherwood states employers think that interns are much more likely to have the skills they seek than those without work experience:
But not all work experience has to be gained via a city internship in a gleaming Canary Wharf skyscraper. Work experience comes in many forms. Pulling shifts in a restaurant often involves dealing with demanding people. A student on a supermarket till can see around them the business decisions that companies make on a day-to-day basis. The fact that fewer and fewer young people are now working part-time during their school years is a problem.
Students who interview well demonstrate how they proactively developed relevant skills. A problem with course-related group work examples is that everyone has them. Employers are more likely to hire the student who has done more than they were told to, and can explain how they overcame difficulties and got stuff done.
It’s in the interests of employers, universities, and the students themselves to improve transitions into work. The more students gain meaningful experiences to develop the skills that will get them started in their career, the deeper their understanding of their strengths, and the easier and quicker they will transition to the world of work.
The Guardian ran a related article this week: Working while you study: a means to an end or a career opportunity.
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On Thursday BU will host Sam Gyimah, the Minister for Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, for a question and answer event. This is an amazing opportunity for students and staff to directly question the Minister on HE and wider political matters.
This event forms part of Sam’s tour to a handful of universities. Entry to the event is by (free) ticket only. At the time of blogging approximately 50 tickets were still available.
Click here to book your ticket and for more details go to.
The event is being held in KG01 on the Talbot Campus on Thursday 15 March from 17:45-19:30.
Nibbles and refreshments will be available at the end of the event.
Tweeting and sharing on social media is encouraged!
The House of Commons Digital, Culture , Media and Sport Committee has published a report on the potential impact of Brexit on the creative industries, tourism, and the digital single market – click here for the full report.
Here are excerpts from the Conclusions and Recommendations
The UK creative, tech and tourism industries need sufficient access to talent to continue as world leaders. That is self evidently in the nature of being a global centre of excellence in these areas. The then Secretary of State, Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, said that Brexit is an opportunity to think about “how we can upskill our native workforce”, but this alone will not address the challenges that businesses face today particularly in an increasingly globalised and international sector. Brexit will place a greater urgency on developing the skills of the domestic workforce, but we cannot allow a skills gap to occur which could create shortages of essential workers for businesses in the UK as a result of our departure from the EU. (Paragraph 32)
The then Secretary of State’s assertion that analysis of the workforce must be completed on a sector–by–sector basis is a sensible approach. However, the lack of detail regarding precise numbers is problematic. There is a lack of clarity about reliance on EU workers. For instance, figures cited to us for the number of people working in tourism ranged from 3 million to 4.5 million. (Paragraph 33) It is imperative that any analysis examines regional demand for staff and the operational requirements of businesses and organisations, ranging from very small start-ups to international corporations.
Irrespective of Brexit, the Government should overhaul the existing visa system for non-EU nationals, who also make a valuable contribution to the UK economy, including our creative, technology and tourism industries. These industries rely on EU workers, and their commercial success is built on having a diverse workforce. The Government must heed warnings that SMEs across creative industries and tourism will not have the capacity to manage a new system that foists additional bureaucracy upon them. (Paragraph 52) We believe that salary levels are a crude proxy for value and fail to recognise the central role that workers from the EU and beyond play in making British businesses successful. We recommend that the Government explores ways in which commercial value, and value to specific sectors of the economy, can be factored into the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system. (Paragraph 53)
Simplicity should be a key feature of the future migration arrangements that the UK will agree with the EU. In particular, the creative industries and performing arts need a system which complements the spontaneity that defines live performance. (Paragraph 54)
The ability to utilise Creative Europe to secure additional sources of funding, combined with the freedom it gives to British organisations to lead projects with partners from across the EU (and outside the EU), means that there are clear incentives to maintain our participation. (Paragraph 67.) If the UK were to depart Creative Europe, this would represent a significant blow to the performing arts, museums, galleries, publishing and many other sectors in the creative industries. The limitations of participation experienced by other non-EU members illustrates that reaching agreement may not be straightforward but, equally, neither the UK nor EU member states will benefit from the UK’s departure. (Paragraph 68)
The Government should publish a map of all EU funding streams that support tourism and creative projects, whether dedicated to this specific purpose or not. This mapping exercise should:
– spell out where previous EU funding has, directly or indirectly, benefitted these sectors;
– indicate those streams that will need to be replaced;
– provide an overview of the total sum of funding that the UK government will provide to cover these costs; and
– clarify the role of the devolved administrations in the present arrangements and their proposed role in the future in the eyes of the UK Government.
In addition, the Treasury and DDCMS should illustrate how ‘value for money’ will be measured in any assessment of those EU funds that will be honoured by the Government’s guarantee. (Paragraph 79)
Some businesses, in the fashion and textiles sector, for instance, do see opportunities to improve trade links beyond the EU post-Brexit, and to develop strategies to support more UK-based production.(Paragraph 88)
The success of the UK’s digital economy is underpinned by ongoing data transfer across the globe and particularly within the EU. In order to preserve the UK’s policing and security arrangements, and to maintain commercial confidence, the Government must aim to deliver certainty from March 2019 onwards. (Paragraph 117) It is important to recognise that Brexit creates a potential risk that the UK’s ability to transfer data across borders will be limited.
The conclusions of the House of Lords Committee expose two key concerns.
Firstly, leaving the EU may not give the UK the flexibility to develop data protection law in the manner called for by witnesses such as Dell EMC.
Secondly, once we leave the EU, our influence over the development of the legal framework that will guide UK law will be reduced, undermining our ability to agree structures and exemptions for the UK, and diminishing our role as a world leader in data protection law. (Paragraph 119)
Brexit puts at risk the UK’s position as a world leader in developing and implementing the regulatory system for data protection. To address this concern, the Government should lay before Parliament an action plan which describes how, post-Brexit, the UK will be able to develop policy on data protection to support businesses and protect consumers, in order to keep pace with the demands of fast moving and developing technologies. (Paragraph 120)
It is very encouraging that the tourism and aviation sectors believe that existing aviation arrangements will be replicated once the UK has left the EU. Unfortunately, the then Secretary of State could provide very little detail as to the nature of the discussions, potential stumbling blocks and, crucially, the timing associated with reaching an agreement. The Government should recognise that it needs to provide certainty to an industry that is already marketing holidays for summer 2019, and for the consumers who will purchase them. (Paragraph 132) We believe reaching an early agreement in relation to aviation is a key priority for the Government. Nevertheless, the Government must provide an assurance that contingency plans are being made in the event of no deal being agreed and provide more information as to what any contingency arrangements would mean for businesses and travellers. (Paragraph 133) The development of a new system of entry to the UK for EEA visitors will be a key aspect of the UK’s relationship with the EU after Brexit. In its consideration of the implications of altering the principle of free movement, the Government must be aware of the detrimental impact this could have for the UK as a tourist destination. Businesses and organisations within the tourist industry are understandably concerned and we believe that the Government should be cautious about taking any steps which could harm the ‘welcome’ the UK provides to tourists. (Paragraph 138) Given the potential benefits to the British tourist industry, while the Government is grappling with the challenges posed by Brexit, it would be wise to design a new system also to encourage more tourism from non-EU markets. We recommend that the Government publishes an analysis of how the visa system could be developed to boost inbound tourism by visitors from beyond the EU. (Paragraph 139)
Preserving a strong, robust Intellectual Property framework is crucial for the continued success of the creative industries after Brexit. As such, the Government should clarify its position on whether EU Intellectual Property transposed into UK law (via secondary legislation or otherwise) will continue to apply after Brexit, and if not, what contingency plans the Government has in place to ensure that the current level of Intellectual Property protection remains following the UK’s departure from the EU. At the very least, the Government should commit to ensuring that the current level of Intellectual Property protections offered by EU and UK law, including those that are vital to the success of the Creative industries, will remain unchanged. (Paragraph 158.) Equally, the Government should clarify how it intends Intellectual Property enforcement to operate after the UK has left the EU. The Government should lay out its plan for cooperation with EU states after Brexit on Intellectual Enforcement Property matters, and outline what improvements, if any, it intends to make to the current enforcement framework. (Paragraph 159)
If Country of Origin rules cease to apply after Brexit then we must expect this will have an impact on the broadcasting industry within the UK. The Government must set out the steps it is taking to avoid that outcome, explaining its negotiating objectives and the timescale for such negotiation. The Government should provide an update to the Committee on progress made in securing a deal by the end of May 2018. (Paragraph 184.) The Government should also confirm as soon as possible that it intends for the United Kingdom to remain members of the European Single Market and under the terms of the current Country of Origin rules, for a transitional period after Brexit, until the end of 2020. (Paragraph 185)
The concerns of audio-visual sector, including broadcasters, producer and rights holders, over terms of the Draft Digital Single Market Directive which would affect territorial licensing are just one example as why it is crucially important that the UK needs to preserve its influence while Brexit proceeds. The Government should clearly spell out its strategy for doing so and how it proposes to embed its future participation in the widening of the digital single market in any Withdrawal Agreement. (Paragraph 191)