Category / Business Engagement

Professor Dimitrios Buhalis contributes on the Impact of ChatGPT to tourism marketing

Professor Dimitrios Buhalis contributes on the Impact of ChatGPT to tourism marketing

CUTTING EDGE PAPER ON ChatGPT with key colleagues and examples from KALAMATA and BOURNEMOUTH ūüôā

‚ÄúSo what if ChatGPT wrote it?‚ÄĚ Multidisciplinary perspectives on opportunities, challenges and implications of generative conversational AI for research, practice and policy

International Journal of Information Management, Vol. 71, 102642,

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2023.102642

#chatgpt #artificialintelligence #AI #marketing #technology

 

 

HE Policy update for the w/e 3rd February 2023

office fNews galore. We cover all the major news and provide short commentary and links on the specialist interest topics.

Party politics: tertiary reform?

The next general election is constantly on the minds of policy makers. Last week Kier Starmer rowed back from Labour’s traditional position of abolishing HE tuition fees. This week attention has turned to what could be learnt from Wales’ review and reform of education which has resulted in a joined up tertiary education system. Andy Westwood writes for Wonkhe suggesting that Wales could be a blueprint for policy and suggesting Labour should prioritise tertiary reform over tuition fees.

Some snippets to whet your interest:

  • While the higher education funding system looks unsustainable in its current form and surely can‚Äôt survive the next Parliament without reform, it does not follow that it is sensible to try and fix it in isolation from other parts.¬†
  • ‚Ķthere is likely to be a series of policy priorities that will affect both colleges and universities as Labour draw up its manifesto, alongside any potential plan to reform tuition fees and higher education funding. But designing centralised policy solutions separately ‚Äď e.g. by focusing solely on full-time university tuition fees but not on lifelong learning, apprenticeships or day-to-day funding for FE will only bake in the silos and systemic incoherence that cause so many problems for people, places and businesses.
  • The Welsh model, if not perfect, is certainly better than that currently in England‚Ķ, we have three competing and very different systems ‚Äď a centralised funding and management body (ESFA) running (and underfunding) FE, as well as schools, a market regulator (OfS) and an entirely separate and different system for apprenticeships (IFATE). Adult learning remains a poor relation and a low priority for each. The three funding systems are also different ‚Äď direct funding and loans but managed places, uncapped markets with tuition fee loans, employer levies and grants (and limited access across routes to means-tested maintenance)‚Ķit is complex and counterproductive. And both in part and overall, it is failing.

Chris Millward (former Director for Fair Access at OfS) agrees with Westwood and is keen to bring technical and academic together in a cohesive tertiary system. He also suggests Government could reduce regulation in the areas that are a priority such as higher and degree apprenticeships, modular (shorter) learning, and advanced technical or research courses. Especially if they‚Äôre in geographical areas where the Government wants to drive growth and attract investment by aligning skills and innovation around a university presence. Finally, he suggests increasing fees (only by inflation) where institutions can demonstrate excellence beyond a threshold (I.e. we‚Äôre back to TEF related increases ‚Äď which the House of Lords originally threw out). You can read Millward‚Äôs blog for Research Professional in full here.

Lifelong Learning

Earlier this week THE reported the Government were considering uncontroversial legislation surrounding the Lifelong Learning loan entitlements. These loans allow students to borrow up to the equivalent of four years’ worth of student loan funding across their whole life to spend as they will including on shorter or modular courses (more here). The loans are expected to be particularly attractive to mature students who wish to retrain or change careers (assuming they don’t already have a degree). Previous PM Boris Johnson pledged to introduce the LLE by 2025.

The background:

  • In May 2022, the government said in the Queen‚Äôs Speech that it would introduce a¬†higher education bill to implement the LLE in England and, ‚Äúsubject to consultation‚ÄĚ, a¬†minimum entry requirement (MER) for individuals to¬†be eligible for student loans, as well as student number controls (SNCs).
  • After that consultation [results promised soon], the Department for Education was said to favour capping numbers on courses using outcomes measures including the proportion of graduates going into ‚Äúmanagerial or professional employment‚ÄĚ, and an MER set at two E¬†grades at A¬†level. However, ministers changed and current HE Minister Halfon is said to be far less supportive of MER plans. Other sector commentators are also opposed: Any move to reopen the door to minimum entry requirements or student recruitment limits would be extremely concerning and against modern universities‚Äô core principles of inclusion, aspiration and the power of education to transform lives (Rachel Hewitt, Chief Executive of MillionPlus).
  • Lord Johnson of Marylebone, the Conservative former universities minister, said Ministers must rethink their approach and allow ‚Äúmuch greater flexibility in terms of what courses will be eligible for LLE funding‚ĶLearners wanting to access specific skills do not necessarily want or need courses that are simply credit-bearing modules of existing qualifications‚ĶThe DfE needs to ensure that learners have a much broader choice of courses and credentials ‚Äď credit-bearing and non-credit-bearing ‚Äď if the LLE is to fulfil its potential. Lord Johnson was also an opponent to student number controls while he was HE Minister.

The rumours were correct! The Government introduced the Lifelong Learning (HE Fee Limits) Bill on Wednesday. The Bill aims to build upon previous legislation and provides the legal framework to underpin credit-based learning, set fee limits and update legislation in relation to the Access and Participation Plans. It:

  • Introduces a new fee limit method which limits the amount a provider can charge for a course or module based on credits. This means the amount a provider can charge a student is proportionate, whether the student takes up a short course, a module or a traditional full course.
  • Enables the Secretary of State to set maximum chargeable credits per course year, so that students are not being charged disproportionately for whatever course they wish to undertake.
  • Introduces the concept of ‚Äėcourse year‚Äô as opposed to an ‚Äėacademic year‚Äô, to allow fee limits to apply with greater precision according to when the course actually starts. This aims to support more flexible patterns of study.

The Bill‚Äôs financial commitments remain as expected ‚Äď students may receive a loan entitlement, equivalent to four years of post-18 study (¬£37,000 in today‚Äôs fees)¬†which can be used over their working lives. This will be available for both modules of courses and full courses, whether in college or at university. If will fund provision between level 4 and 6 so first degrees, higher technical qualifications, HNCs and HNDs.

Wonkhe add: It is recognised that not all courses fit a credit-based modular model – nursing is cited as one example of a “non-credit-bearing” course that will be funded at a ‚Äúdefault‚ÄĚ level equivalent to a standard number of credits. Prices for all credits will vary depending on institutional registration, TEF award, access and participation plan status, and specific fee limit designation as of now – there will also be separate credit values for placements, study abroad, and credit transfer. Of course, Wonkhe also has a new blog on the topic.

Commenting on the Bill’s introduction Dr Arti Saraswat, AoC HE Senior Policy Manager, makes some good points:

  • Implementing this by 2025 will be challenging and will depend on publishing a detailed rule book, putting the correct systems in place and, most importantly, ensuring programmes are ready so that students can enrol on courses on a more modular basis. Ensuring the scheme has been tested through a thorough pilot process will be vital to building trust in the new system.
  • There is still work needed to explain who will be eligible for the Lifelong Learning Entitlement, where they will be able to use it and how those institutions will be regulated. Colleges already have a track record of teaching HE on a more part-time, flexible and individualized basis to adult learners but this activity has diminished in recent years creating a genuine challenge in rebuilding capacity, at a time when the UK needs higher skills to boost productivity and grow the economy.
  • There are wider challenges involved in reinvigorating adult higher education. The LLE and credit-based student loans are important technical fixes but are not enough on their own. Access to maintenance support is essential to ensure students can afford to study on a flexible basis.

Research

There is lots of research related news. Here are a series of links and blogs which cover the main announcements.

Innovation vision: Last Friday Chancellor Jeremy Hunt set out his goals for the UK. On research and innovation he included:

  • UK world leader in digital and tech, green and clean energy sector, and creative industries
    • Created more tech unicorns than France and Germany combined
    • Fintech in the UK attracted more funding than anywhere in the world outside of the US
    • UK Covid vaccine has saved more than 6m lives around the globe
    • Largest offshore windfarm in the world
  • Golden thread running through industries in the UK ‚Ästinnovation
    • UK ranks 4thglobally in innovation index, responsible for all the productivity growth
  • Hunt asked innovators to the help the UK achieve something both ambitious and strategic
    • He wants the¬†UK to be the next Silicon Valley¬†and for the world‚Äôs tech entrepreneurs and life science innovators to come to the UK
    • UK universities, financial sector, and government will back them
    • Government determined to make the UK a tech superpower
  • Confidence in the future starts with honesty in the present
    • UK weakness: poor productivity, skills gaps, over concentration of wealth in the SE
    • Brexit opportunity ‚Äď make Brexit a catalyst for bold choices
  • Plan for growth ‚Äď not a series of announcements, but a framework for policies in the future

And lots more:

  • Research Professional: the growing tensions around spinouts at British universities.
  • Impact data contribution to society: The British Academy and the Academy of Social Sciences have¬†launchedresearch into what REF impact study case data can tell us about the contribution of the arts, humanities and social sciences to the wellbeing of society, culture and the economy. The research is intended to provide a robust evidence base on which the higher education sector and policymakers can build to articulate the value of research and its impact on society. (Wonkhe 26/01).
  • The¬†House of Lords Economic Affairs Committeehas published a report on¬†research and development tax relief and expenditure credit
  • 45 UK researchers were successful in winning grants from the European Research Council recent round. UKRI‚Äôs Horizon Europe guarantee covers the funds while association is still up in the air
  • Policy influencing: HEPI published a report on¬†how policymakers currently interact with research and how researchers lobby policymakers.
  • Lost money:Top UK economists have criticised ¬£6 million a year in ‚Äúperverse‚ÄĚ quality-related cuts to their field, part of more than ¬£100 million lost in the social sciences more broadly, despite a sharp improvement in Research Excellence Framework ratings. (THE)
  • Women‚Äôs Health Strategy for England ‚Äď implementation.
  • Research security: article in The Times; Wonkhe blog
  • Intellectual Property: The N8 Research Partnership ‚Äď an alliance of eight universities in the north of England ‚Äď has¬†delivereda statement on rights retention, strongly recommending that researchers ‚Äúdo not by default transfer intellectual property rights to publishers and instead use a rights retention statement as standard practice.‚ÄĚ (Wonkhe)
  • ARIA: We‚Äôve been writing about ARIA for so long that it feels like old news. However, it‚Äôs only right to mention the Government has now formally launched ARIA and it was legally established on 25 January. The link contains basic information about the purpose of ARIA and Wonkhe inform that Five new members have been appointed to the board, including former chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce Kate Bingham and new Chief Financial and Operations Officer Antonia Jenkinson and that ARIA also¬†announcedthat it would begin recruiting programme directors in the week of 6 February.
  • NHS Clinical Research at risk: The¬†Lords Science and Technology Committee¬†wroteto the Steve Barclay (Minister for Health and Social Care) warning that the current state of clinical research, pressures on the NHS, and a declining workforce is putting the future of clinical research in the NHS in jeopardy. The committee also emphasised that without urgent action patients will miss out on innovative treatments and the UK will miss out on economic growth. This webpage gives the best summary of the situation and the Committee‚Äôs recommendations which include mention of universities. Postdoctoral career insecurity is also mentioned and the Committee recommend offering longer contracts with the expectation of permanent positions to follow.
  • International collaboration: New Wonkhe blog – Becoming a science superpower relies not only on national research capacity but finding reliable international partners.
  • Research catapults: A new blog on Wonkhe – Catapults in context – Catapults are getting more funding and more political attention. But what do they do and what are they for?
  • Innovation: UKRI announced their cross-research council responsive mode pilot scheme which offers funding for interdisciplinary ideas that transcend, combine or significantly span disciplines. The full fund is worth ¬£32.5 million and UKRI intend to make 26 awards.
  • R&D tax credits for small and medium sized enterprises are still contentious and Shadow BEIS Minister Chi Onwurah voiced concerns during oral questions: AMLo Biosciences is a Newcastle University spin-out whose groundbreaking research will save lives by making cancer diagnosis easier and more accurate. AMLo spends millions on research and reinvests all its research and development tax credits into R&D. The Government‚Äôs tax credit changes will halve what AMLo can claim, meaning less research and fewer new jobs. Its investors may ask for it to move abroad, where R&D is cheaper. Many Members have similar examples in their constituencies. Will the Minister explain why the Government issued no guidance, gave no support and had no consultation on the changes to SME R&D tax credits? Does he accept that whether in respect of hospitality heating bills or spin-out science spend, the Government are abandoning small businesses? Kevin Hollinrake (Small Business Minister) responded on behalf of the Government suggesting that the Government are trying to fix the problem: Clearly, we have to balance the interests of the taxpayer with the interests of small business. We have to make sure that the money that is being utilised for R&D is properly spent, and there were concerns about abuse of the small business R&D scheme. It is good that the Treasury is now looking into the matter and looking to move towards a simplified universal scheme, which I would welcome and on which there is a¬†consultation. I absolutely agree that we need to make sure we have the right support for research and development in this country, not least for SMEs.

Parliamentary Questions:

  • ARIA funding flexibility.
  • Monitoring the UK‚Äôs innovation clusters
  • Confirmation of the total Government spend on R&I in 2018 as ¬£12,765 million, 2019 as ¬£13,542 and 2020 as ¬£15,266
  • Horizon Europe: If the UK does not associate to Horizon Europe, the Government will be ready with a comprehensive alternative, including a suite of transitional measures and longer-term programmes, funded from the budget set aside for association to European programmes. As stated in my speech at Onward UK on 11 Jan 2023, these programmes will enable the UK to meet its global Science Superpower and Innovation Nation ambitions. Details of the transitional measures have already been published, and the Department will publish more detailed proposals on the longer-term programmes in due course.

Regulatory: OfS under fire

Matt Western has been demonstrating his worth as Shadow HE Minister recently by asking a series of useful parliamentary questions. This includes Matt questioning Minister Halfon on whether the OfS will increase the registration fee for universities (because the fee is set by DfE). Halfon’s response:

  • No final decision has been made on any fee increase. The department is currently considering the level those fees should be set at for the 2023/24 academic year, to ensure that the OfS can perform its important functions effectively, ensuring students receive high quality education and value for money.
  • This includes continuing investigations to address pockets of low quality HE provision and deliver new duties under the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill.

It’s this last element that’s the kicker because fee increases are expected to be tied to the newer closer regulatory interventions on course quality and free speech.

You’ll recall a couple of weeks ago that the mission groups wrote to a select committee urging them to look how OfS regulate the sector. The Russell Group have spoken out again, on the same issue because the proposed increase in registration fees is of 13-15% whilst student maintenance loans were only uplifted by 2.8%. Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group stated:

  • We’ve been clear with Department for Education that, before any increase in the Office for Students’ fees is considered, the regulator should demonstrate clearly how this extra funding will bring genuine benefit to students and how it plans to show that it is itself operating in the most efficient and effective way‚Ķ It‚Äôs a frankly bizarre move given the perspective of the maintenance loan uplift, and also because it is not clear if the Office for Students has actually asked for this level of increase. Instead, the 13% figure seems to be coming more from political angles and linked primarily to responsibilities the Office for Students may get if and when the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill becomes law.
  • Instead of bumping up its fees‚Ķthe Office for Students should be cutting them, and substantially‚Ķ
  • while Parliament wrestles with the closing stages of the Free Speech Bill, maybe it should instead put a little more effort into scrutinising existing legislation and the priorities of the Government, its departments and the regulator with respect to students as they try to stay focused on their studies while their maintenance loans run out.

Dr Tim Bradshaw wrote further on the topic in a HEPI blog and you can also read the Russell Group’s analysis on student losses as maintenance loans fail to keep up with inflation¬†here.

Another corker from Matt Western that the Government slightly sidestepped is whether the OfS Director for Free Speech will commit to the IHRA definition of antisemitism. All HE institutions have been pushed hard in recent years to sign up to the definition. Minister Coutinho stated: … We remain committed to the IHRA definition and our belief that providers should adopt it… The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill will require reasonably practicable steps to be taken to secure freedom of speech within the law. The Director will oversee the free speech functions in that context.

The OfS, who haven‚Äôt been sitting idly by whilst the Russell Group launched their offensive. On Friday Wonkhe reported that: The Office for Students (OfS) is seen by providers as ‚Äúseeking conflict‚ÄĚ, lacking independence from government, and poor at communicating, according to findings of¬†independent research¬†into its relationship with the sector. As a result it has set out plans to ‚Äúrefresh‚ÄĚ its engagement with providers – a blog from chief executive Susan Lapworth¬†sets out¬†actions including better communication channels, careful consideration of consultation lengths, and visits to institutions to ‚Äúimprove mutual understanding‚ÄĚ.

The research that Wonkhe mentioned was actually published in July and this entertaining Wonkhe blog picks out the highlights from the research feedback. Seven months passed in which OfS had plenty of time to ruminate on their response/action and on Thursday Susan Lapworth published her own blog setting out what OfS would do. Here‚Äôs a comment from ‚ÄėAndy‚Äô about Susan‚Äôs blog (published on Wonkhe):

  • The blog follows Susan Lapworth‚Äôs now traditional approach of apologising for the fact that the sector doesn‚Äôt understand the OfS, and promising to try and explain more clearly why everything they do is excellent, while not engaging with any substantive criticisms or issues. Coming across, as always, as someone very much untroubled by doubt.
  • The blog also comes with the function to comment but, as always, even mildly critical comments are not published (which is perhaps why the blogs never have any comments on them).
  • There are, as the article gently implies, no obvious signs that anything is going to get any better.

TEF: Finally the last thing anyone who was involved in the recent TEF exercise will want to read about now is…well…TEF. There is an easy read blog (yes it’s Wonkhe again) which contemplates TEF 4.0 and considers whether to embrace it or firmly place one’s head in the sand. Enjoy!

Students

Student Affordability

  • Reassurance from Paul Blomfield MP who chairs the APPG for Students writing about why students should be a priority in cost of living discussions within Parliament.
  • A useful Commons Library briefing the value of student maintenance support details how student maintenance support levels have changed over time and explores whether it‚Äôs enough, parental contributions and eligibility. A key point is that the real terms value of loans reduce by 7% in the current academic year and 4% for 2023/24 with the impact that the reduction is larger than any real cuts seen in student support going back to the early 1960s.
  • Parliamentary question confirming there are no plans to offer a repayment holiday on student loans when a graduate falls on hard times.
  • Scotland have suspended their student rent cap stating it had limited impact on annual rents set on the basis of an academic year.
  • Jersey have confirmed that the previous temporary (2022) increase in student maintenance will become permanent. However, the administration are coming under fire because the funding arrangements for next academic year haven‚Äôt yet been released.
  • Wonkhe report that Rising costs are ‚Äúruining‚ÄĚ the university experience by 54 per cent of students, according to¬†new pollingon the cost of living. Seven in ten have considered dropping out, with 37 per cent of these citing living costs as the main reason. The survey, conducted by Opinium on behalf of higher education software provider TechnologyOne, covered a representative sample of more than 1,000 university students across the UK in December and January.

Additional Hardship Funding: In our recent policy update we covered the announcement of additional student hardship funding for 2022-23. Overall there is ¬£11.1m through full-time student premium, ¬£1.6m through the part-time student premium, and ¬£2.3m through the disabled students‚Äô premium.The OfS has now shared allocations with providers and tasked them to consider how to distribute the additional funds. What is interesting policy wise is that Wonkhe highlight that the money is a redistribution of funds which were originally designed to support preparation for the Lifelong Loan Entitlement and ‚Äúemergent priorities‚ÄĚ funding. So, another Government initiative that under Rishi‚Äôs administration the brakes have been applied to (just lightly). This slowdown could mean that the PM is taking a more considered approach to previous policy initiatives rather than steamrollering them out‚Ķor if could just mean a general election is looming on the who-knows-how distant horizon.

Student Accommodation: Wonkhe cover resistance to the Government‚Äôs plan to abolish fixed term tenancies: A group of universities, student accommodation providers, and landlord bodies have¬†written¬†to the government warning against the abolition of fixed-term tenancies for students renting privately. The letter, co-signed by Universities UK chief executive Vivienne Stern, argues that the introduction of open-ended tenancies to the student housing market, as proposed by the government, will ‚Äúundermine the stability and proper functioning of the sector‚ÄĚ which is ‚Äúdependent on property being available at the start of the academic year‚ÄĚ. The Telegraph¬†reports¬†on the letter.

Quick news and blogs

Admissions: BTEC still under threat

  • Opposition to the removal of funding for some vocational qualifications continues. The Lords have been vocal in their opposition and a cross-party group urged Education Secretary Gillian Keegan to withdraw plansto cut funding for recently reformed applied general qualifications, such as BTECs.
  • Recent analysis from the Protect Student Choice campaignrevealed more than half of the 134 qualifications currently available (undertaken by 200,000 pupils) and included in the DfE‚Äôs performance league tables would be ineligible for funding from 2025.
  • The letter to Minister Keegan included high profile figures such as previous Education Secretaries of State David Blunkett and Ken Baker, former Education (and HE) ministers David Willetts and Jo Johnson, the Deputy Speaker of the Lords Sue Garden, and Labour peer Mike Watson. The letter highlights that previously they had been assured that only a small proportion of the applied generals would be removed, which is why they had supported the Skills Bill. It also states that qualifications to be defunded, which include health and social care, science, IT and business, are popular with students, respected by employers and valued by universities and states that removing them will have a disastrous impact on social mobility, economic growth and our public services. The Peers call on Keegan to remove the qualifications from the scope of the level 3 review and reforms, which are being cut to streamline the current offering and make way for new T Levels.
  • In other House of Lords news a rather eminent group of Peers has come together to launch a select committee on 11-16 year olds‚Äô Education with reference to the skills necessary for the digital and green economy. Former HE Minister Lord Jo Johnson will chair the Committee and you can view the other Members here. The calibre of Peers participating makes this committee one to watch. They include a former education secretary, a Teachers Union general secretary, the Lords deputy Speaker, president of the Independent Schools Association, co-chair of the engineering APPG, and several party education spokespersons.

HESA statistics | Grade inflation (deflation)

It‚Äôs always an interesting half hour to peruse the HESA data releases. This time it‚Äôs the first look at the overall 2021/22 student statistics. For ease of reading we‚Äôve popped the overall key points here. They cover student numbers and characteristics including disability, ethnicity, deprivation, religion, and age; by subject (spoiler ‚Äď languages are down again); and qualifications awarded. HESA also published an insight brief ‚Äď some interesting points:

  • A decrease in EU enrolment coupled with an increase in non-EU international numbers – unsurprisingly there may be a link with the end of home fee eligibility for EU students and the introduction of the Graduate route visa scheme.
  • A decrease ‚Äď although not to pre-pandemic numbers ‚Äď in the number of students being awarded first class honours, following a surge in high grades during the 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic years. The government will be pleased although they want it to go back to pre-pandemic as a start and maybe further.
  • An increase in students studying abroad as pandemic-era travel restrictions were lifted.
  • A decrease ‚Äď although not to pre-pandemic levels ‚Äď in students living in their parents‚Äô or guardians‚Äô home, following an increase during the height of the pandemic. (Remember this data is before current cost of living concerns.) This is interesting because we wondered if there would be a permanent shift, it seems not but cost of living may mean this changes again.

Wonkhe have a blog on the data release.

On the topic of grade inflation OfS Chief Executive, Susan Lapworth, stated: Today’s figures show a welcome decrease back towards pre-pandemic levels in the proportion of first class degrees awarded to students graduating in the 2021-22 academic year‚ĶLeft unchecked, grade inflation can erode public trust and it is important that the OfS can and does intervene where it has concerns about the credibility of degrees. Universities and colleges understand that they must ensure that the degrees they award are credible and properly represent students’ achievement. This is the way to maintain the confidence of students, employers and the wider public in higher education qualifications.

Susan also mentioned the UUK and GuildHE initiative which aimed to increase transparency in degree awards: Last year, members of Universities UK and GuildHE committed to address the rising proportion of first class and upper second degrees and pledged to return to pre-pandemic levels of grading. We welcomed that commitment and will continue to monitor trends in classifications to understand factors that may contribute to the sector’s performance.

UUK has a good explainer about the initiative on their website (stick with it through all the drop down clicks): How universities are turning the corner on grade inflation.

If you’re interested in the latest statistics on HE staff from HESA you can read the analysis here.

ChatGPT

ChatGPT was THE topic of conversation over the last few weeks. Here’s a selection of links which vary in their focus and take on the topic.

Inquiries and Consultations

  • Here is the updated inquiries and consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you‚Äôd like to contribute to any of the current calls.
  • Other news
  • Targets and measures: Wonkhe blog – ¬†the unique strengths of higher education¬†are at risk from the excessive standardisation of targets and performance measures.
  • Emerging Tech: Previous universities minister Chris Skidmore has been appointed to support Sir Patrick Vallance‚Äôs work to accelerate the development of emerging tech. Chris will work on green industries. Skidmore will be stepping down as an MP at the next election
  • Degree apprenticeships: Wonkhe tell us Universities UK has¬†released¬†a ten point plan on how to grow degree apprenticeship provision, calling on government to review the costs and burden of regulation ‚Äď the scale and complexity of which currently ‚Äúcreates a potential barrier to entry‚ÄĚ ‚Äď and reopen the register of apprenticeship training providers, so that universities new to delivering degree apprenticeships ‚Äúcan take the first step to be able to deliver them‚ÄĚ. Also: Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon¬†praised¬†universities‚Äô role in promoting degree apprenticeships ‚Äď including excellent Ofsted inspection reports, which he noted as confirming his belief that universities ‚Äúare brilliantly placed to deliver these unique programmes‚ÄĚ. And we have a Parliamentary Question: Promoting degree apprenticeships to disadvantaged young people.
  • Health workforce: The Welsh government has¬†announced¬†an expansion in training places for the health professional workforce in Wales, with ¬£281.98 million to be invested in 2023-24, an eight per cent increase from the current year. The funding includes ¬£7.14 million for medical training places. (Wonkhe.)
  • Refugee/asylum access to HE: Wonkhe report that a new online portal has¬†launched¬†to promote opportunities for refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK to access university. The Displaced Student Opportunities UK website ‚Äď created by Refugee Education UK, Student Action for Refugees, and Universities of Sanctuary ‚Äď is intended to showcase academic scholarships, grants, short courses and mentoring for displaced students.
  • Minimum entry requirements (or limiting student numbers): there is an interesting THE article Second chances. It covers the Netherlands universities who may revert to using lotteries to decide which students are admitted to fixed-capacity programmes. Supporters say we do believe it would promote equity between students. Interesting, but this approach isn‚Äôt (currently) being considered for UK HE policy.
  • THE has an article on the MPs who also work in Universities. It‚Äôs mainly concerned with the impact of second earnings but does mention how having an MP on staff, even temporarily, could be a lobbying route. This Evening Standard article quantifies the detail a little more on second earnings noting former PMs within the top earners but unfortunately doesn‚Äôt dish on how much universities are paying their parliamentarians.
  • Carbon footprint: The Government wants HE (and FE) to publish carbon footprint data by 2025 but there isn‚Äôt a reliable data collection system in place. Wonkhe: Enter the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) and a Standardised Carbon Emissions Reporting Framework agreed in consultation with every relevant sector group you can imagine. It‚Äôs a voluntary, consensual requirement that will align with an updated and streamlined HESA estates management record and aims to meet providers where they are in terms of collection and reporting. Here‚Äôs the blog.
  • New Uni: Blackpool to receive ¬£40 million to build a new carbon neutral university.
  • Turing troubles: Opinion piece in THE on the problems with the Turing Scheme. The authors recommend offering funding more promptly and flexibly.
  • Contract cheating: Wonkhe blog – Daniel Sokol describes a case of blackmail by an essay mill¬†and proposes a new approach to how universities should handle such cases.
  • Student dropout: Wonkhe blog – What sort of support should be offered when students drop out of university?¬†Stephen Eccles shoots and scores.

Subscribe!

To subscribe to the weekly policy update simply email policy@bournemouth.ac.uk. A BU email address is required to subscribe.

External readers: Thank you to our external readers who enjoy our policy updates. Not all our content is accessible to external readers, but you can continue to read our updates which omit the restricted content on the policy pages of the BU Research Blog ‚Äď here‚Äôs the link.

Did you know? You can catch up on previous versions of the policy update on BU’s intranet pages here. Some links require access to a BU account- BU staff not able to click through to an external link should contact eresourceshelp@bournemouth.ac.uk for further assistance.

JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

VC’s Policy Advisor                                                              Policy & Public Affairs Officer

Follow: @PolicyBU on Twitter                    |                       policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

 

SciVal training for ECRs and PGRs – 22 February 2023

Bournemouth University’s staff and students have access to the research intelligence platform SciVal, a tool that provides access to research analytics data.

Join us in this upcoming online session, delivered by our dedicated SciVal Customer Consultant.

You will learn how to:

‚ÄĘ Effectively identify the right body of literature for a review paper or thesis chapter beyond keyword searches.
‚ÄĘ Summarise the amount of scientific activity in a certain field over time.
‚ÄĘ Discover which corporates or other institutes do research in a certain field.

To find out more about how to sign up for this session, visit this link on the Staff Intranet –

https://staffintranet.bournemouth.ac.uk/workingatbu/staffdevelopmentandengagement/fusiondevelopment/fusionprogrammesandevents/rkedevelopmentframework/careers/scivalforecrsandpgrs/

If you do not have access to the Staff Intranet, you can access the booking form directly via the link below –

https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=VZbi7ZfQ5EK7tfONQn-_uHL-6XoUudlNkJOS948yf5NUNEUyMUJSWUVUR1ZRWUNEVjhVT0lIS01QVyQlQCN0PWcu

Funding Development Briefing 01/02/23 Spotlight on: KTPs Рwith Business Engagement and Knowledge Exchange Managers_re-scheduled!

What are Funding Development Briefings?

Each session will cover the latest major funding opportunities, followed by a brief Q&A session. Sessions will also include a spotlight on a particular funding opportunity of strategic importance to BU. Sessions will be on Wednesdays, from 12 pm for half-an-hour. The same link can be used each week to join here.
Next Weds 01 February 12:00-12:30, we will cover the Knowledge Exchange Partnerships (KTP) and we will have the pleasure of having the Business Engagement and Knowledge Exchange Managers along to talk to us about the KTP process and tips about getting partnerships together.
Sessions will be recorded and made available after the session for those who cannot attend.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships – Now is THE time to apply!

Innovation, impact and challenge.

 

If there is one (three) thing(s) to take from this post, it’s innovation…impact…and challenge.

 

You may have heard of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP), or even been part of an academic team delivering one (or more!), and if you have an interest in not only finding out more about KTP but leading/being involved in one, now is a great time to apply. There is a large pot of KTP funding available from Innovate UK that is waiting to be spent by business/university collaborations. If you are working with a business on what could be an innovative project with a financial impact that is a challenge for the project team, do get in touch.

 

KTP is a three-way partnership three-way partnership between a knowledge base (in this case, BU!), a business and an associate (a graduate-level employee) that is part-funded by Innovate UK.  KTP is a great way of bringing in income and developing knowledge exchange with a clear pathway to impact.

 

The main criteria of KTP is innovation (must be an innovative project), impact (must have at least a financial impact to make a step-change within the business) and challenge (must be challenging for all three parties). There is a fourth criteria of cohesiveness to ensure the application has a clear narrative running throughout it.

 

KTP has regular submission deadlines throughout the year with the next KTP deadline as 23 January 2023.

 

In addition to this, we have just been successful in bidding to enhance our KTP capacity via a grant from Innovate UK, so you will see more KTP activity taking place around the University, please look out for it.

 

If you would like to find out more about KTP and how you can be involved/reap the benefits, please do contact your Faculty Business Engagement and Knowledge Exchange Manager (Health and Care Partnerships Manager for HSS).

 

  • The Business School ‚Äď Finn Morgan (in my absence, though will be back!)
  • The Faculty of Health and Social Sciences ‚Äď Mary-Ann Robertson
  • The Faculty of Media and Communications ‚Äď Matt Desmier
  • The Faculty of Science and Technology ‚Äď Finn Morgan

 

So, as they say, watch this space!

 

 

Photo by Ameen Fahmy on Unsplash

Prof John Oliver appointed to Horizon & Foresight Scanning Board

Prof John Oliver has been appointed to the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology‚Äôs new Advisory Board responsible for Horizon & Foresight Scanning. The new board has been set up in response to an inquiry into the effectiveness and influence of the Select Committee system by the 2017‚Äď19 House of Commons Liaison Committee.

The advisory board aims to improve the efficacy of horizon and foresight scanning processes to inform the identification of Areas of Research Interest (ARI). ARIs are lists of policy issues or questions used by Select Committees, parliamentarians and by parliamentary staff to produce more research evidence in certain topics to scrutinize the government and to inform future policy work.

The advisory board will also be responsible for developing ‚Äėfutures thinking‚Äô capabilities by developing training opportunities and resources for parliamentarians and staff to enable them to think more long-term and manage the uncertainty in policy-making.

Prof John Oliver commented that ‚Äúthe world is becoming more and more uncertain with Covid-19, Brexit, Russia-Ukraine War and global economic uncertainty. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund‚Äôs World Uncertainty Index recently reported that global uncertainty has reached ‚Äúunprecedented levels‚ÄĚ in recent years. This makes horizon and foresight scanning more of a priority for many policy-makers and organisations as it helps them manage the uncertainty around future dynamics‚ÄĚ.

This new role builds on Prof Oliver’s previous scenario planning research and work with the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology and the House of Commons.

Apply now for travel grants for impact development 

Grants of up to £200 are available via the Research Impact Fund to facilitate relationship building with external stakeholders such as policymakers or industry contacts leading to impact development. 

The aim of this is to support ad-hoc requests leading to impact development, such as media appearances, meetings with policy makers, meetings with industry contacts, or attendance at industry/policy/third sector events where network-building (leading to potential impact) is the key reason for attending. 

The funding can be used to meet with new stakeholders, organisations or groups or meet with existing stakeholders to gather testimonials or other evidence to demonstrate how research has made a difference (e.g. has resulted in real world impact). 

Please note that the travel fund cannot be used to fund conference attendance except in instances where attendance will result in achievable impact or evidence of impact. 

Eligibility:  

You will be eligible to apply if you meet the following criteria: 

  • You are an ECR and / or you are new to research, or¬†
  • You can demonstrate you have emerging impact from existing research¬†

Please familiarise yourself with BU’s Research Impact Policy and Research Impact Fund Guidance Notes before applying. 

The online application form can be completed here. 

Please contact researchimpact@bournemouth.ac.uk with any queries.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ‚ÄėOther Side of the Story: Perpetrators in Change‚Äô (OSSPC) project

The ultimate aim of the ‚ÄėOther Side of the Story: Perpetrators in Change‚Äô (OSSPC) project is a 2.5 year project which has aimed to prevent further violence and change violent behavioural patterns by increasing the capacity of professionals to support DVA perpetrators to change. The OSSPC project is a European Commission funded project between partners in the UK, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, and Italy. The UK team is a partnership between Dr Jade Levell at the University of Bristol, and Dr Jane Healy, Dr Orlanda Harvey, Dr Terri Cole, Professor Colin Pritchard at Bournemouth University. Our local front-line partner is The Hampton Trust, who deliver perpetrator interventions across Hampshire and Dorset. We are grateful to the CEO Chantal Hughes for supporting this work tremendously. The national and international reports from the first two phases of the project can be found here.

We are now in phase 3 of the project and will be leading a free Event on 6th June 2022.

Event booking

Other Side of the Story: Perpetrators in Change Training & Networking Event Tickets, Mon 6 Jun 2022 at 09:30 | Eventbrite
The event will share findings from an ongoing research project exploring the dynamics of Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) perpetration. It will provide an opportunity for professionals from health, social work, the charity sector and criminal justice agencies to explore and discuss the barriers and challenges working with perpetrators of DVA as well as include training sessions on key elements of perpetrator work. This event will be of particular interest to professionals working in the fields of health, social work and criminal justice.

This event is framed around the delivery of specialised training modules developed in partnership and led by our project partners in Italy (CAM). We are also thrilled to announce we will have the manager of RESPECT Make a Change, the national umbrella body who oversees quality and best practice for perpetrator services across the UK. ‚ÄėMake a Change‚Äô is their flagship early intervention arm. The manager Rebecca Vagi will be our special guest in this event. We will also aim to have several front-line victim support services offering lunchtime stalls to promote their services.
We will have a range of modules and topics covered throughout the day, including dynamics of domestic abuse, engaging with perpetrators, working in a coordinated community response network. We will be using a blend of large discussion to smaller facilitated breakout rooms to promote multi-agency engagement throughout the day.

Please feel free to share this event within your wider professional networks.

End of year HE policy update December 2021

2021 drew to a fairly quiet close from an HE policy point of view ‚Äď with all the excitement saved for the new year, as the government focuses on other things (which might well also be very present concerns in the new year too).¬† This is our last (planned) policy update for 2021, so we look forward to seeing you after the break.

The festive period is usually a time for much speculation and opinion as various people set out their ‚Äúwhat I would like to be different in the New Year‚ÄĚ thoughts in the press, a bit like new year‚Äôs resolutions for other people, and the rumour mill can get a bit carried away if there isn‚Äôt enough real news and people have time on their hands.¬† So don‚Äôt believe everything you read over the holiday.¬† We predict a slow start in the new year for HE policy changes although it may be a big year when it gets going.¬† Although here‚Äôs what we said this time last year:

  • ‚Ķit is already clear that 2021 is going to be an important year in terms of tougher rules and interventions from the OfS driven by the government agenda.
  • Meanwhile, the government have announced that the budget will be on 3rd¬†March.¬† Is that the date we will hear about the response to Augar and plans for the TEF?
  • And of course Brexit.¬† Who knows what is going to happen there.¬† MPs are starting their Christmas recess on Thursday ‚Äď but they are likely to be recalled if a deal is achieved ‚Ķ

Well, Brexit happened.  But we are still waiting for most of the rest.

Big changes…on hold

Apparently the levelling up white paper is delayed because it has not been agreed by government, which is not really surprising given the tight deadline that was given for it.  We have not had the second part of the OfS consultation on quality and standards that we were promised, or the TEF consultation that would build on those minimum baselines.  Is it a coincidence, or is that related to the fact that we have not had the white paper, or policy paper or whatever it was going to be that gave us the definitive answer to the outstanding HE-related questions in the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding?

So whether these are all connected and part of a grand plan that will be unveiled at some point, or whether they will dribble out as people get used to working in the new normal 3.0 after the holidays, we end another year with a lot of water having passed under various bridges, but very little clarity about the potentially big changes that are coming.  And given how tired everyone is, and how disappointed we are to be approaching the end of the year festivities with a strong sense of pandemic-related déjà vu, that’s probably just as well.

Levelling up: Labour¬†stated¬†the Government is in “disarray” over its levelling-up plans, arguing that it has failed to devise a “single idea” for effectively reducing regional inequality. However, government sources dismissed this, and Boris insisted that reforms will ensure a “win-win” situation for the whole UK, rather than wealthier areas losing out to others. Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, has suggested the aim of the paper will be to help young people ‚Äústay local and go far,‚ÄĚ creating opportunities outside London and the south-east. The paper is expected to set out new proposals for devolution including county mayors and a shake-up of boundaries of existing mayoralties.

Dods report that insiders say it will offer a ‚Äúframework‚ÄĚ for more devolution, with details to be agreed in consultation with local leaders. Other themes are likely to include skills, transport and investment ‚Äď but not planning, with reforms to the planning system still on ‚Äúpause‚ÄĚ as they are reconsidered. Revised proposals are not expected to be published until the new year. More information here.

There was also a levelling up Tweet that garnered much interest this weekend.  Esther Webber summarises things for Politico.

YouGov’s recent polling highlights public opinion on levelling up priorities:

  • Further education should be prioritised by the Government to ‚Äėachieve levelling up‚Äô, according to a new YouGov survey of 1,712 UK adults, commissioned by the Education and Training Foundation.
  • Overall, four in 10 UK adults (40%) said further education should be prioritised for achieving levelling up, when asked to select their top three. This was followed by investment in transport (33%), and work-based training and continual professional development (32%).
  • In contrast, just 15% of the public said that higher education was a top three priority, with the same number indicating that early years education was important for levelling up.

Augar: Oral Education Questions took place in the House of Commons. Wonkhe provide a succinct summary: Michelle Donelan once again promised a response to the Augar Report ‚Äúshortly‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúin due course‚ÄĚ. Sustained questioning from Andrew Bowie, Carol Monaghan, and Matt Western did not yield any insight into thinking about changes to the student loan repayment threshold level. Donelan also fielded questions on visas for international students and researchers. SEND, technical qualifications and studying abroad were also discussed. You can read the detail of what was said in Hansard.¬†And for a more entertaining take on the personalities involved take a quick skim through this Times article.

TEF, Wonkhe blogs:

Skills Bill: Wonkhe: The Commons Skills and Post-16 Education committee met for its fifth and sixth sitting during which they discussed several amendments including a change which would alter the definition of higher education courses to allow for the recognition of individual modules as well as full courses. The Lords also discussed universal credit entitlement while studying and sharia-compliant lifelong learning loans.

Free Speech: The Lords debated Freedom of Speech last week. There were numerous mentions of universities including: the dangers of playing it too safe and not discussing controversial topics, of avoiding group-think and building resilience, condemning recent events were staff members lost or stepped away from their job after outcry for their expression of opinion, of the line between sensitivity and hurtful, of the silencing of the gender-critical voice, and voices challenging the currently fashionable, progressive consensus.

Lord Sandhurst placed a foot in both camps: In December 2019, the Policy Institute at King‚Äôs College London published an important report after a survey of some 2,150 students. It observed that universities increasingly face criticism over freedom of expression and for a perceived increase in safe-space policies and no-platforming. Yet this perception, it found, was often disproportionate to the number of instances where freedom of expression had actually been violated‚ĶNone the less, it is important to note that the same report found signs of a ‚Äúchilling effect‚ÄĚ whereby some students were reluctant to express their views for fear of repercussions.

And there’s a parliamentary question: Free speech on university campuses

Labour Reshuffle

Labour reshuffled the shadow Cabinet replacing the Kate Green with Bridget Phillipson as Shadow Education Secretary and Stephen Morgan takes up the post of Shadow Minister for Schools (replaces Peter Kyle). Matt Western¬†remains as Shadow Minister for Further Education and Universities, and Toby Perkins¬†remains in post as Shadow Minister for Apprenticeships and Lifelong Learning. TES have a good short piece –The key battlegrounds for Labour’s new education team. It gives brief insight into the new shadow education and school ministers and the challenges they face.

Research

Horizon Europe: BEIS published a written ministerial statement guaranteeing to provide a financial safety net for successful UK applicants to Horizon Europe. Delays to association are laid at the feet of Europe and the Government insists it continues to be a priority to associate to Horizon Europe.

  • UK researchers, businesses and innovators have been able to apply to calls as ‚ÄėAssociated Candidates‚Äô since early 2021. So to provide reassurance to UK-based applicants, the Government has decided to guarantee funding for the first wave of eligible, successful applicants to Horizon Europe who have been unable to sign grant agreements with the EU. The guarantee is a short-term measure intended to address the continued delays from the EU to formalise the UK‚Äôs association to Horizon Europe. The funding will be delivered through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) who will publish details on how the guarantee will work including eligibility, scope and how to apply in the coming weeks.
  • The Government has always been clear that our priority is to support the UK‚Äôs research and development sector and we will continue to do this in all future scenarios. As announced in the 2021 Spending Review, in the event that the UK is unable to associate to Horizon Europe, the funding allocated to Horizon association will go to UK government R&D programmes, including those to support international partnerships.

PhDs: The Economic and Social Research Council has¬†formally responded¬†to October‚Äôs review of the PhD in social sciences. The council pledges to raise funding from three to three-and-a-half years, it will ensure that support on ‚Äúresearch in practice‚ÄĚ is included in all doctoral training, and a Master‚Äôs will no longer be a prerequisite for an ESRC-funded PhD. These and other changes – including the requirement for an equality, diversity, and inclusion strategy – will form a part of the doctoral training centre recommissioning process, due to start in early summer 2022. (Wonkhe)

UKRI review: The Westminster government has published terms of reference for the independent review of UKRI. Led by David Grant, the report will examine questions of efficacy, efficiency, accountability, and governance, and is projected to publish a final report by summer 2022. (Wonkhe)

Research Integrity: GuildHE has announced it will be partnering with UK Research and Innovation and Cancer Research UK to explore indicators of research integrity. The partnership hopes to open a national and international discussion on the topic and its direction, noting that no agreed framework currently exists to define integrity indicators in research. (Wonkhe)

University/Business Collaboration: The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) published analysis on the number of interactions between universities and businesses, which finds that collaborations and partnerships fell by nearly a third (31%) between 2018/19 and 2019/20 as the impact of the pandemic started to be felt. In one year, there was a 39% fall in the number of SME interactions and a 2% fall in the number of interactions with large businesses. Despite falls in the number of interactions, universities’ contribution to research commercialisation grew in 2019/20, with the number of licenses granted increasing by nearly a third (30%) compared with 2018/19. Full report here.

ARIA: Wonkhe РThe Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) Bill was discussed in the House of Lords [on Wednesday 14 December]. Amendments around intellectual property were debated, with Lord Lansly stating that the Bill does not explicitly enough define ARIA’s relationship to intellectual property or whether the agency will be able to benefit from revenue from its investments.

Blogs:

Parliamentary Questions:

Access & Participation

Disabled Students: The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced a new Access to Work Adjustment Passport scheme to help ease the transition for disabled students from university into employment by reducing the need for repeated health assessments when starting a new job.

A passport will be offered to students who already receive extra support while studying at university, capturing information about their condition and the adjustments they already benefit from, avoiding repetitive disclosures when it comes to applying for the grant once they start work. The passport will also support potential employers by documenting the in-work support the student requires and raising awareness of Access to Work and the possibility of support the student could receive.

The scheme is being piloted, as part of the National Disability Strategy, at University of Wolverhampton and Manchester Metropolitan University with 2022 graduates the first to use the Adjustment Passports. The pilot will be completed by March 2023, but if it’s successful the Government intends to consider rolling the scheme out before it ends. DWP will also be piloting Adjustments Passports with disabled young people on a supported internship, apprenticeship or a traineeship, in March 2022.

Meanwhile Wonkhe report that a series of¬†questions¬†discussing the Disabled Student Allowance have been raised in the House of Lords. Several peers stated that they believed the scheme needed overhauling, with Lord Holmes of Richmond calling for changes to ‚Äúthe 150-day wait between application and potential award‚ÄĚ to better serve the scheme‚Äôs applicants. The discussion is here.

And Wonkhe report on a policy briefing from the Child Poverty Action Group which raises concerns that the length of time it takes to receive an assessment for universal credit may stop disabled learners from entering higher education. The Independent has the story.

Care Leavers/Student Finance:

  • DfE: Colleagues at Student Loans Company England (SLC) have resolved a funding issue for care leavers who are the responsibility of the Local Authority but live with their parents. These students previously had been turned down for student finance as a care leaver, but it has now been agreed that these students will be treated as care leavers for funding purposes. It is estimated that this will help around 400 young people per year. Interim process – The student application portal will take these students down a non-Care leaver route due to the fact they live with parents. The portal is being updated to provide an alternative route as soon as it is developed. NNECL explain and provide a template here.
  • HEPI have a blog about care leavers: Creating an inclusive and sustainable future for estranged and care experienced university students (HEPI)

Hardship: The BBC have also reported on the rise in students seeking hardship funds.

Blogs:

Disability/WP: NEON: New regulations will come into force on 15 December 2021 that further restrict access to universal credit (UC) for disabled young people in education. This contradicts government policy to support disabled people ‚Äėto live independently and achieve their potential‚Äô¬†by making it harder for them to advance their skills or in some cases complete basic education.¬†Evidence from the Child Poverty Action Group¬†shows that this change will severely affect disabled young people who reach the age of 19 before finishing non-advanced education,¬†and those continuing to higher education. The forthcoming regulations will force disabled young people to make an impossible choice between continuing education and not accessing the means-tested benefits they need, or dropping out of education to access these benefits and damaging their future employment opportunities. You can read Child Poverty Action Group’s briefing here

Why University? An article in Conservative Home by Dean Machin aims to challenge the ‚Äėproductivity‚Äô view of university attendance ‚Äď it is worth the short read. It also highlights 3 reasons why student choose to attend university.

  • It‚Äôs a pervasive aspiration ‚Äď parents want their children to go.
  • The UCAS system is universal and ‚Äėeasy‚Äô ‚Äď Dean argues that FE and apprenticeships need such a system.
  • With reference to disadvantaged students: school leavers have few good alternatives to university¬†but¬†‚Äď and this is the central point ‚Ästfor disadvantaged young people, university is by a long way¬†their¬†best bet.¬†The state pays upfront for¬†their¬†education and¬†offers¬†(means-tested) living-costs¬†‚Äď weighted to enable¬†them¬†to move to another¬†town or city.¬†There is no comparable level of support for any other option. if you¬†do not live in a place that offers many economic opportunities, and if you have¬†few financial resources¬†and¬†little¬†social capital¬†(so¬†no¬†friendly aunt in Islington to provide lodging while¬†you¬†find your way in the media),¬†university is your best¬†bet to¬†reduce¬†the degree to which your background determines¬†your future.

Interestingly Dean’s point that the Government’s well-intentioned reforms might have perverse consequences, for which he gives the example of the Apprenticeship Levy which unintentionally resulted in a decline in intermediate and advanced apprenticeships at the same time as a significan[t] increase in higher apprenticeships, is familiar to some.

In fact Matt Hancock and Nadhim Zahawi state similar views in their book Masters of Nothing:

  • For too long, policymaking made assumptions about how people¬†ought¬†to behave, without stopping to observe how we actually¬†do‚ĶIt is astonishing‚Ķthat even as events tested prevailing assumptions and found them wanting, no-one listened.

Hancock and Zahawi were writing about the financial crisis of 2008, and Research Professional who highlighted the book draw a parallel with the current pandemic and the tussle between scientific advice and Government policy. The irony is that, as Dean highlights, it also applies to the current speculation about changes in HE. It seems likely that the Government’s hopes for changes within HE may be sent off course by what people actually do in response.

Access Cap: Part of the end of year speculation is continued talk of minimum grade entry requirements to access the student loans to attend HE provision. Over the weekend the Guardian highlighted data analysis conducted by MillionPlus on DfE data which finds that 48% of disadvantaged pupils in England would be ineligible for a student loan if the Government decides on a minimum level 4 (old system ‚ÄėC‚Äô) GCSE entry level¬†for higher education. This is because only 52% of disadvantaged young people achieve a grade 4 in English and Maths compare to the 71% national average. Particularly controversial is that the analysis highlights that northern England would be disproportionately hit harder by the policy than the south. Research Professional explain it all nicely in Entry Barriers and particularly emphasise what it means for specialist provision such as music degrees or for refugees with limited English.

Mental Health

Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, has called on all universities to sign up to the Student Minds Universities Health Charter within five years. Donelan noted the good work taking place in this field already but pushed for more progress particularly given the increased concern for student welfare during the disruption caused by the pandemic. Institutions will have the opportunity to sign up from summer 2022. And Wonkhe report that the DfE will also commission a new survey of university policies on mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention. University Business has the story.

HE Staff

Wonkhe tell us about a new report on HE staff in higher education (written by Alison Wolf and Richard Jenkins, published by King’s College London, and funded by the Nuffield Trust). It finds

  • that there has been a sharp increase in the numbers of senior managerial, administrative and teaching-only staff in a little over a decade. Numbers of managers and non-academic professionals increased by 60 per cent to almost 51,000 between 2005-06 and 2017-18, with a decline in support staff for academics in the same period. Of the increasing number of non-academic professionals, many are in marketing positions to attract new students, or are focused on the student experience, including welfare workers and careers advisors.
  • The authors found an 80 per cent increase in teaching-only staff in the 13 years to 2017-18, compared to an increase of 16 per cent in traditional roles combining teaching and research.

OfS priorities

The OfS published its annual review stating all students should expect a good quality experience of higher education. The review looks at the state of the English HE landscape, as well as the work the OfS has carried out in the last year, and what it expects to prioritise in the next. It makes clear that most HE courses in England are high quality, with the majority of universities and colleges expected to comfortably meet the OfS‚Äôs requirements in this area. It argues that a minority of providers are letting students down with poor quality and uninspiring courses. And that poor quality courses ‚Äď even in otherwise highly performing universities ‚Äď are not acceptable.

They also outline research conducted around graduates moving into the labour market with their degrees. They find that almost a third of employers are only sometimes able to recruit the quality of graduates they want. A similar survey in 2019 by the CBI found a quarter of respondents dissatisfied with the literacy and numeracy skills of young people leaving education. Other research has found that weak literacy skills are relatively common among graduates in England, and that poor literacy may keep graduates in jobs that school leavers could do.

On equality of opportunity, the regulator says that, despite progress, stubborn gaps in terms of both access and success mean that talented people still miss out on the life-changing opportunities higher education can bring.

OfS Priorities for 2022:

  • Quality
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Harassment and sexual misconduct

The Times has also reported¬†that new (incoming) OfS Director for Fair Access, John Blake, is planning a ‚Äúcrusade‚ÄĚ against campuses. They say an associate of Blake said that he had been fired-up by the poor university experiences of pupils he had taught. He said: ‚ÄúFor 12 years as a school teacher, [Blake] told his students to strive to go to university because it was the best way to improve their lives, but it turned out that simply wasn‚Äôt true for many of the young people he taught. Now he wants to right this wrong. This isn‚Äôt a political project: it‚Äôs a moral cause.‚ÄĚ

Alongside John Blake in the Fair Access role (starts January), there will be a new OfS Chief Executive (April) and a free speech champion role is also being created. It all dovetails nicely with the newer ministerial team who have already clearly stated the Governmental priorities for the OfS to address on the Government’s behalf.

HEPI have a blog on the new reportable events framework: Rebooting the regulatory framework

Student Accommodation

While concerns start to mount about the impact of the Omicron variant of coronavirus and what it might mean for students starting or returning to university in January (with red list requirements in place for many already, and bad memories of last year‚Äôs ‚Äústay where you are‚ÄĚ requirements for home students), there is a House of Commons Library set of FAQs on student accommodation in the pandemic.

Unipol and the NSS have done a survey about student accommodation costs.

  • The average annual cost for student accommodation in the UK now stands at ¬£7,374 but in London it is ¬£9,488
  • ‚Ķeven if students received the full student maintenance loan, rent would consume 88% of it in London, leaving students just ¬£38 per week to spend on anything else.
  • Outside of London accommodation costs account for 72% of the maximum loan, leaving students with ¬£69.52 to spend on other living costs
  • ‚ĶStudent rents have risen by 16% since the last survey in 2018/19 and 61% since 2011/12. Last year, rents increased by 4.4%.
  • Private providers dominate the market, with 70% of the bed spaces surveyed, as universities move away from their own accommodation provision

There are lots of recommendations including about universities and the sector working together (Bournemouth gets a mention as an example of good practice but the report doesn’t say more about that), increasing bursary support as well as providing better information about costs, and a specific redress system for private student accommodation.

In the meantime, Wonkhe report:

  • ‚Ķthe way that private renting is regulated in England is ‚Äúnot effective‚ÄĚ in ensuring the sector is consistently fair for renters or that housing is safe and secure, according to a¬†new reportfrom the National Audit Office (NAO). Noting that tenants face several barriers to enforcing their rights, and arguing that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) does not yet have a detailed plan to address the problems that renters face, the report notes that the department does not have any formal joint working arrangements with the Department for Education.

Wonkhe blogs on the topic:

PQs:

Admissions

UCAS provides insight from the 2021 end of cycle analysis data highlighting a record number (103,010) UK 18 year olds were accepted onto courses at the most competitive (higher tariff) universities and colleges in 2021 (up 11% from 2020, up 28% from before the pandemic in 2019). The 11% rise contrasts with the 3% increase in the UK’s overall 18 year old population during the 2021 cycle.

The number of applicants achieving A level grades equivalent to three A*s nearly quadrupled from pre-pandemic levels to 19,595 (5,655 in 2019), and close to doubled compared to 2020 (12,735). UCAS are careful to note the impact of Teacher Assessed Grades whilst emphasising that these grades were deserved alongside the flexibility shown by universities and colleges.

Other key headlines include:

  • The proportion of all UK 18 year olds with a confirmed place increased to 38.3% (275,235 students), up from 37.0% (257,895) in 2020 and 34.1% (241,515) in 2019.
  • 223,315 UK 18 year olds secured their first choice of course (81% of all those placed), up from 194,035 (75%) in 2020 and 177,680 (74%) in 2019.
  • The number of UK 18 year olds choosing to defer starting their course for a year rose by 3,185 to 24,855, a 15% increase.
  • 606,645 people of all ages across the UK applied (+5% on 2020), with 492,005 accepted (+1%).
  • Internationally, a total of 142,925 people of all ages applied (-5% on 2020), of which 70,055 were accepted (-18%). This is split between 111,255 people from outside the EU applying (+12%), with 54,030 accepted (+2%); while 31,670 people from the EU applied (-40%) and 16,025 were accepted (-50%).
  • A total of 749,570 applicants of all ages and domiciles applied in the 2021 cycle (+ 3% on 2020), of which 562,060 were accepted (-1%).

However, what we don’t know is where students were placed (data to be released in January 2022). This will highlight whether the expansion at the most selective universities will have widened access and admitted proportionally more disadvantaged students or changed their traditional recruitment patterns in other ways.

The Commons Library has also published a briefing on HE student numbers. The paper considers  trends in the size of the student population, changes in the number of entrants overall and for different types of students/courses and entry rates for different groups and areas. It notes concerns where there has been a downturn in student numbers such as part-time undergraduates, some postgraduates students, EU students, mature students and some disadvantaged groups and considers the impact of the pandemic. For a quick read there is a shorter summary.

Parliamentary Questions

Other news

One Nation Universities: a new HEPI paper The One Nation University: Spreading opportunity, reducing division and building community.

International: Wonkhe describe a new report from former universities minister Jo Johnson, Shashank Vira, Janet Ilieva, Jonathan Adams and Jonathan Grant for the Policy Institute at King’s College London on UK-India collaboration highlights India’s contribution to several areas of knowledge and suggests a comprehensive India-UK knowledge partnership including making it easier for students to move between the UK and India through mutually recognised qualifications, tackling visa fraud, promoting international student exchange, and increased funding for collaborative science project.

Careers Guidance: Wonkhe: The House of Commons Library has produced a briefing on careers guidance for schools, colleges and universities in England. The briefing outlines how careers advice enhancements promised in the Skills for Jobs white paper have been incorporated into the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill.

UUK changes: Chief Executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, tweeted to confirm he will leave UUK in June 2022 to take up the post of Pro Vice-Chancellor (Partnerships and Governance) at the University of London. Jarvis has served more than 8 years in UUK’s senior leadership team, 5 of which have been as chief exec.

International students: UUK have published an 8 page briefing – The UK immigration system must keep attracting exchange students ¬≠‚Äď calling on the Government to reform the visitor immigration route so that short-term exchange students can stay in the UK up to one year without need for a student visa (c. ¬£700). Wonkhe have a blog. Research Professional discuss UUK‚Äôs briefing here.

Gender Based Violence: EmilyTest – a Scottish charity that tackles gender based violence in education – has¬†released¬†a Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Charter for Colleges and Universities. The charter lays out minimum requirements that the charity states need to be in place at institutions to tackle GBV and pass the ‚ÄúEmily Test‚ÄĚ. The Herald has the¬†story. (Source: Wonkhe.)

Turing Exchange Scheme: The Guardian covers criticisms of the announcement that the administration of the Turing exchange scheme has been awarded to Capita over the British Council.

Essay Mills: Wonkhe blog РThe essay mills debate in Parliament may not be perfect, but Gareth Crossman and Michael Draper argue that they may be good enough to make a difference.

Student Loans: The DfE announced a change to maximum Plan 2 and Plan 3 student loan interest rates. From 1 January 2022 until 28 February 2022, the maximum interest rate applied to Plan 2 Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) student loans and the interest rate applied to Postgraduate loans will be capped in line with the prevailing market rate for comparable unsecured personal loans, which have recently reduced. From 1 March 2022, the maximum Plan 2 and the Postgraduate loan interest rates are expected to revert to RPI +3%.

Student Midwives: Health Education England has celebrated that record numbers of students were accepted to study nursing and midwifery. Over 30,000 students were accepted places which represents a 35% increase in comparison to 2018. (Wonkhe)

Placements: Student placement agencies or migration agents that have faced disciplinary action and had legal troubles are recruiting international students for universities and colleges around the world, PIE News reports. (Wonkhe)

Civic London Mapped: An interesting short blog on HEPI where Diane Beech of London Higher introduces the map illustrating the combined civic engagement of the London universities. Map here.

Value for Money: Wonkhe report on the latest OfS key performance indicator which asks students if they are getting value for money through their HE education – Of the 614 undergraduates surveyed, 32.9% said they thought they were receiving value for money, down from 37.5% the previous year.

Subscribe!

To subscribe to the weekly policy update simply email policy@bournemouth.ac.uk. A BU email address is required to subscribe.

External readers: Thank you to our external readers who enjoy our policy updates. Not all our content is accessible to external readers, but you can continue to read our updates which omit the restricted content on the policy pages of the BU Research Blog ‚Äď here‚Äôs the link.

Did you know? You can catch up on previous versions of the policy update on BU’s intranet pages here. Some links require access to a BU account- BU staff not able to click through to an external link should contact eresourceshelp@bournemouth.ac.uk for further assistance.

JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

VC’s Policy Advisor                                                               Policy & Public Affairs Officer

Follow: @PolicyBU on Twitter             |                       policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

Understanding the determinants of employing apprentices: From an economic perspective

Lei Xu has written a piece on the timely topic of apprenticeships:

Motivation

Apprenticeship is high on the political agenda and the government has set a target of 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020.[1] Apprenticeships were intended to train young workers with the right set of skills and match them with suitable employers. However, new starts were much lower than expected partly because of the apprenticeship levy and partly because of Covid.[2] Since the introduction of the levy fund in 2017, much of the fund has gone unused , suggesting some employers are not well prepared to provide apprenticeships.[3] Prior to the levy, many apprentices were converted from existing employees in firms. This went against the original objective of apprenticeships which was to train young unskilled workers. In this context, this analysis aims to understand the determinants of employing apprentices from an economic perspective. Information is collected primarily from semi-structured interviews with training-related managers and providers, using a detailed interview schedule.

The merit of apprenticeships has been extensively discussed in qualitative research, such as steeping in company values, and reducing labour turnover. In a survey conducted by Mieschbuehler et al (2015), 51% of employers responded that they had difficulty recruiting the skills they needed.[4] Based on the interviews, it is commonly accepted among providers that apprenticeships are a better way of attracting and screening workers to fit with employers and embed them in a firm’s culture.

The cost of employing and training apprenticeships has seen as one of the main obstacles to boost the number of apprenticeships.  Although generous subsidies could increase the supply of apprenticeships, the cost-effectiveness of funding would decrease. Our interviews also showed that some firms, especially larger firms, are not sensitive to the direct costs, such as wages and benefits, whilst smaller companies are more cost sensitive. In general, they argue that the cost might not be the priority because the wage of an apprentice is not expensive and some providers have also argued that the wage is too low to attract good candidates.

This analysis highlights the importance of managerial practices on the decision of taking on apprentices. Apprenticeships are operated by firms and hence need to align with firms’ business plans and the decision of taking on apprentices might be complex due to the complex structure in an organisation. In addition, call center recruiting Utah and training apprentices is a complex activity, involving significant inputs of senior members, especially the team leaders who provide personal guidance for apprentices. A hypothesis is that managers’ ability and motivation is vital in employing apprentices and the success of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are unlikely to be successful if the managers are not in place to arrange suitable work for apprentices. A successful scheme encouraging employers to recruit apprentices depends on thoughtful consultation with employers.

This analysis explains the observations from the interviews that affect employers recruiting apprentices.

 

Observations from the interviews:

First of all, we observed that lots of apprentices are recruited by apprenticeship providers rather than employers via publishing job adverts on the government’s website, which is strange since apprentices are be employed by employers rather than the providers. Some hidden costs might be associated with employing apprentices. The responses suggest that providers have largely engaged in recruiting and screening apprentices as an additional service of the business. Some providers believe that the additional service provided for employers is value-added, additional to the training. From this perspective, they are providing as much value as they could to retain their clients. The providers will help employers to recruit, screen, and select the most suitable candidates and support the managers and apprentices throughout the training until they complete the training and become independent workers. The providers have argued that they have spent time on talking about procedures and guidance with employers. The evidence suggests that employing apprentices may put both pecuniary and non-pecuniary burdens on employers. The employers are specialised in their own businesses rather than recruiting and training apprentices, especially small firms which normally don’t have the capacity to deal with extra administrative duties. Some employers may have concerns about retaining apprentices after the training. In addition, due to limited managerial resources, the quality of apprenticeship is hard to maintain. The responses suggest that the retention rate is key for the firms hiring apprentices.

The decision of taking on apprenticeships might be complex and often involves different parties, in the same way as every business decision made. The majority of interviewers argue that line managers are vital to the success of apprenticeships. Not all line managers have committed to the idea of training apprentices, resulting in undesirable training outcomes. Since the decision of taking on apprentices might be a collective decision or may come from more senior managers, line managers may not be motivated to take on apprentices. However, line managers need to provide necessary guidance and distribute work to apprentices and are required to provide encouragement at a personal level sometimes. Contrary to experienced colleagues, training apprentices may substantially increase the workload as line managers need to provide guidance to the apprentices and communicate with providers and assessors.

At present, most vacancies are advertised on the website and the virtual platform may result in low efficiency of matching, especially when managers have a  lack of information on job seekers.[5] Employers often screen workers based on their historical performance on relevant tasks. In the absence of prior experience, it is hard to ascertain candidates’ genuine productivity. Good matches between employers and candidates also requires substantial knowledge of both the firms and young workers. Outsourcing agencies have emerged to help inexperienced candidates with high productivity to match with employers. Stanton and Thomas (2016) argue that workers affiliated with an outsourcing agency have a higher probability of finding a job and receiving a higher starting wage as well.[6]

There is divided opinion on whether it is hard to convince employers. It takes more effort to persuade line managers to take on apprentices when they would rather work with existing employees, suggesting the cost of running apprenticeships is associated with social cognition. Apprentices concentrate on several sectors where there is a long tradition of employing apprentices. Some providers argue that a company whose CEO was formerly an apprentice is more likely to accept apprentices . Most of the providers argue they will explain the procedures and the benefits of apprenticeships to employers and discuss with employers how to develop a plan for apprenticeships. On the other hand, some providers argue that the information is not enough for candidates to understand the nature of the job and the required skills, especially when the employer’s job description is vague. Some firms tend to make the job adverts quite generic as they may want more potential candidates to apply. But it may create issues for apprentices who usually are new to the job, potentially resulting in a matching problem.

 

Suggestions and implications

The government’s aim to increase apprenticeships might not be successful without comprehensive consulting with firms. Firms may need to adjust their business models to adapt to apprentices. Successful apprenticeships require collective efforts, especially the support from line managers.

The costs of running apprenticeships are often regarded as one of the most important factors affecting the decision of taking on apprentices. However, this analysis notices that some large firms are not sensitive to the direct costs, contrary to firms with smaller scale. In general, they argue that the cost might not be the most important reason for not employing apprentices and some providers argue that the wage is too low to attract good candidates. Moreover, one of the social costs of running apprenticeships is due to the low social recognition. This explains why the most successful firms operating apprenticeships often have senior managers who understand and share the value of apprenticeships.

Some managers might be reluctant to take on apprentices as there is no incentive. Given that managers are one of the fundamental factors of a successful apprenticeship, the government should not only provide financial aids to support employers to train more apprentices but also introduce the genuine benefits of apprenticeships, especially to managers, by disseminating research findings and communicating with them openly. The objective is to make employers and managers fully understand how to operate apprenticeships and what benefits apprentices could bring to the team. Firms should develop a suitable plan to allow apprentices to grow and keep the apprentices busy, investing time and effort in apprentices and help apprentices to make progress throughout their career.

In addition, the research also has some interesting observations. Generally, no issue on the flexibility of adjusting programs has been raised. But it is worth noting that some firms may have special needs as different businesses tend to have different models. Both digital skills and higher levels of apprenticeship have attracted more attention. Given the small number of interviews carried out for this report, it is worth noting that the discussions are indicative rather than definitive for all employers.

[1] House of Commons, Briefing paper CBP 03052.

[2] From April 2017, all UK employers of pay bill over £3 million need to pay the levy.

[3] The Open University. 2018. The apprenticeship levy: one year on.

[4] Mieschbuehler, R., Hooley, T. and Neary, S., 2015. Employers’ experience of Higher Apprenticeships: benefits and barriers.

[5] https://www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship

[6] Stanton, C.T. and Thomas, C., 2016. Landing the first job: The value of intermediaries in online hiring. The Review of Economic Studies, 83(2), pp.810-854.

Ingenuity launches at BU: sign up today to help drive the UK’s recovery and rebuild a better society after Covid-19

The Ingenuity 2022 Programme is now live and open to Bournemouth University staff, students and alumni

Ingenuity exists to tackle the UK’s major social and environmental challenges through the creation of innovative start-ups. Registration is open to everyone, no matter your background or experience. If you have an idea or are motivated to see change, Ingenuity is ready to help. Find out more at ingenuityimpact.org.

Register today: forms.office.com/r/m39e80f2Rw. Deadline: 2 December 2021.

What is Ingenuity?

The Ingenuity Programme helps you turn your ideas for change into a business that creates impact. If you want to build stronger, more inclusive communities, improve the physical or mental health of those around you, or are interested in tackling climate change, then register for the Ingenuity Programme today.

Participants will hear from industry experts and gain support from specialist mentors to develop their idea into a business plan. They can submit the idea to a competition and be in with a chance of winning significant investment and support.

Ingenuity Summit

Ingenuity‚Äôs ‚Äėstate of the nation‚Äô summit will explore the following three areas of focus from local, national, and lived experience perspectives:

  • Building Stronger Communities
  • Improving Health
  • Tackling Climate Change

The summit takes place 6 ‚Äď 8 December 2021 and brings together industry experts, regional panellists, and the local community to share their insights on how to build stronger communities, improve health, and tackle climate change.

HE policy update for the w/e 8th October 2021

Parliament was still in recess whilst the Conservative Party Conference takes place. We have the news from the Conference, some movement on Essay Mills and several new reports.  And we have a big primer on student finance, ahead of the budget.

Conservative Party Conference

After the first day of the Conservative Party conference Wonkhe speculate what the personalities and lack of fiscal room for manoeuvre mean for HE in the forthcoming spending review (looming on the later October horizon):

  • At last night‚Äôs¬†Policy Exchange¬†fringe meeting, new Secretary of State Nadhim Zahawi represented a breath of fresh air insofar as he was keen to stress that decisions would be ‚Äúevidence-led‚ÄĚ, that he understood that universities delivered vocational skills and that a consultation is still coming over aspects of Augar. But the spending envelope isn‚Äôt his call – and the big question for this spending review remains ‚ÄúWhat does Rishi Sunak want?‚ÄĚ If he wants to balance the books and demonstrate fiscal prudence ‚Äď and all the signs point to a reining in after the immense scale of public spending during Covid-19 ‚Äď then universities could be in for a rough ride when stacked up against other pressing priorities. The potential for a fee cut, in particular, will be keeping university finance directors up at night. Without a complete rethink of the funding system, there are few good available options to reduce the overall cost of the system. Thanks to inflation, even maintaining the status quo of the frozen fee level means diminishing funding to higher education over time.
  • It now seems likely that a new financial settlement, aimed at reducing the Treasury‚Äôs exposure to higher education, will see changes to graduate repayment terms, perhaps even retrospectively for existing students. Last week, former universities minister David Willetts, in a pamphlet for the Higher Education Policy Institute, suggested that this option is more politically defensible at a time of constrained public spending than reducing funding to universities via tuition fee cuts. Minimum entry standards could also do its bit to cap the supply of students over time, thus saving Her Majesty‚Äôs Government a little more money, though with few outside the fringes of the Conservative Party genuinely believing that fewer people benefiting from a higher education is a desirable outcome, and ever-growing numbers of school and college leavers hoping to go ‚Äď it‚Äôs a policy that if implemented could end up coming back to bite the Conservatives in the future.
  • So with so many moving fiscal and political parts around the spending review and Budget, there‚Äôs every chance that late deals could lead to unexpected outcomes and changes to what was previously thought to be a direction of travel. As ever in politics, decisions are not made until they are announced in public, and with this prime minister in particular, huge changes of direction can be made on a whim

New Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi gave a keynote address at the Conservative Party Conference. It focussed heavily on schools (including emphasis on English and maths). Nadhim also gave HE a nod in crediting Oxford University for the vaccine development. The Government’s intention towards T levels remains.

  • DfE is investing in maths hubs, while at post-16 there is funding for a further 2m courses. One day soon I want T levels to be as famous as A levels.
  • Zahawi promised a schools White Paper in the new year to focus on illiteracy and innumeracy. I will work tirelessly…to unleash the brilliance of young people in this country.
  • Nadhim added that as Vaccine minister he used evidence to deliver a world-leading vaccines programme and that DfE will deliver the same for education.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised new scholarships in artificial intelligence:

2,000 elite AI scholarships for disadvantaged young people within the Government’s focus on innovative technology which he stated was a sign of the party’s ambition for the future.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a particularly colourful rambling speech to entertain the Conference attendees. It was light on HE content. Within the context of levelling up he questioned why York (2 universities) had so many graduates yet Doncaster (a FE/HE college) didn’t. Perhaps not the best example his aides could have chosen.

  • There was also familiar messaging about the alternative routes than university: our universities are world beating, I owe everything to my tutors and they are one of the great glories of our economy but we all know that some of the most brilliant and imaginative and creative people in Britain and some of the best paid people in Britain did not go to university and to level up you need to give people the options the skills that are right for them and to make the most of those skills and knowledge and to level up you need urgently to plug all the other the gaps in our infrastructure that are still holding people and communities back
  • On foreign investment: It was not the government that made the wonder drug it wasn‚Äôt brewed in the alembics of the department of health. It was, of course it was Oxford University, but it was the private sector that made it possible behind those vaccines are companies and shareholders and, yes, bankers.

Lots of focussed discussion took place during the Conservative Party Conference fringe events. Here are some summaries of the content prepared by Dods with bold emphasis added so you can pick out the most relevant HE points.

Contract Cheating

On Tuesday the DfE stated¬†it will introduce a ban¬†on ‚Äėessay mills‚Äô via the¬†Skills and Post-16 Education Bill which is currently making its way through Parliament. The Government intends to make it a criminal offence to provide, arrange or advertise cheating services for financial gain to students taking a qualification at any institution in England providing post-16 education including universities.

You’ll recall from our regular coverage on contract cheating that Lord Storey has campaigned to this end for a long period, including introducing two Private Member’s Bills (PMB) which the Government was not opposed to but neither succeeded. In contrast to Lord Storey’s PMB the DfE’s intention is to apply the legislation to all post-16 providers including colleges and sixth forms.

Previously the Government urged the QAA (Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education), UUK and the NUS to collaborate and produce institutional guidance on combatting the threat from essay mills and compiled guidance for students to make them better aware of the consequences to send the clear message that these services are not legitimate.

Minister for Skills Alex Burghart said: Essay mills are completely unethical and profit by undermining the hard work most students do. We are taking steps to ban these cheating services. We have also announced a new measure to make sure all young people receive broader careers guidance so everyone can get the advice that’s right for them. [Perhaps meaning to pursue T levels and an alternative route than university.]

Gender Differences in subject choice

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) paper Gender differences in subject choice leads to gender pay gap immediately after graduation highlights how course choice exacerbates the gender pay gap.  IFS notes:

  • In 2019 ‚Äď before the pandemic disrupted data collection ‚Äď women were paid 16% less per hour than men on average. The gap in average annual earnings was even larger, at 37%, since women are much more likely to work part-time.
  • The financial return to getting a degree ‚Äď how much more a graduate earns compared to an otherwise similar non-graduate ‚Äď varies enormously across subjects.¬†Previous IFS research estimates that studying economics at university boosts women‚Äôs pay by 75% by age 30; this is more than ten times the return to studying creative arts (7.2%). However, women make up nearly two-thirds of creative arts graduates but less than a third of economics graduates.
  • In general, women are overrepresented in degree subjects with low financial returns. There are some exceptions ‚Äď for example, medicine and law both have average or slightly above average shares of female students and very high returns.
  • Differences in degree subject choices explain most of the gender pay gap soon after graduation.
  • Of the 5% gap in annual earnings at age 25, 2.9 percentage points (55%) can be accounted for by university subjects, with A-Level subject choices making up a further 0.2 percentage points (5%).
  • Subject choice continues to contribute between 3 and 5 percentage points to the gender pay gap over graduates‚Äô early careers.
  • But over this period, other factors lead to a widening of the gender pay gap, so that by age 30, subject choice explains only a fifth of the total gender pay gap.
  • Other factors that come into play could include motherhood, gender differences in attitudes towards risk, recognition for group work, hours worked, the propensity to bargain over wages and ask for promotions, and discrimination.
  • We should be concerned if information on the returns to different subjects isn‚Äôt easily available to young people, and if the large differences in subject choice (arts for girls, economics for boys) are driven as much by gender stereotypes as by true preferences.
  • When it comes to a subject like economics, which delivers the very highest financial return for female (and male) graduates, there is an additional concern that many students cannot access the subject at all because it is not offered in their school.
  • More needs to be done to educate and inform young people about subject choices at A level and university, particularly in a system like the UK where subject choices narrow at an early stage and where decisions taken early can have long-lasting effects.

Research

Research and innovation review: BEIS published the terms of reference for the Review of the Research, Development and Innovation Organisational Landscape. The independent review (announced on 22 July) will be led by Sir Paul Nurse with the final report expected during Spring 2022.  The goals of the Review are to:

  • explore the features and characteristics in the existing ecosystem of RDI-performing organisations across the UK, learning from the best in the world and drawing on transformative examples
  • identify whether improvements to the organisational research landscape are required to deliver the government‚Äôs objective for the UK to be a science superpower at the forefront of critical and emerging fields of science and technology, and drive economic growth and societal benefit
  • futureproof the UK landscape of organisations undertaking all forms of RDI, from pioneering, visionary blue-skies research to practical support for innovators to commercialise or implement their ideas, and ensure an agile and sustainable system that can respond to future priorities and developments

The Review will consider the full and varied policy and funding context within which RDI-performing organisations are set up and operate. The Review is focused on the landscape of organisations that deliver research rather than on mechanisms for funding research and will:

  • analyse how the various organisations that contribute to the ecosystem of RDI-performing organisations across different parts of the UK ‚Äď including universities, institutes and laboratories, across UK government and the devolved administrations, public, private and non-profit sectors ‚Äď compare to each other and that of other countries with strengths in RDI
  • learning from international examples, consider the role that different mixes of organisations can play in delivering economic and societal impact from RDI, and the mechanisms and business models that will best enable the UK to capitalise on emerging and new fields of science and invention
  • consider how best to secure an organisational landscape now and in the future that delivers high-quality RDI outputs, and which is sustainable and cost-effective
  • consider options to support the UK‚Äôs strengths and what targeted interventions in the public sector might enhance the quality and diverse mix of RDI-performing organisations through our policy framework and the policies of the devolved administrations

Research Budget distribution: MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, published a policy briefing calling for the pledged increase of the R&D budget to £22bn to be shared more equitably around the country in the name of the Government’s levelling up goal.  The briefing emphasises the importance of re-balancing the way research in the UK is funded so that modern universities, many of which sit in marginalised areas of the country, and those hit hardest by the pandemic, can do more to support a world-class system of research and innovation, for the benefit of their regions and the country. Recommendations:

  1. Scale up the Higher Education Innovation Fund, so that knowledge exchange makes up a greater proportion of overall grant funding from Research England.
  2. Increase the number of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships funded across the UK.
  3. Expand the Strength in Places Fund.
  4. Ensure that the Shared Prosperity Fund is devolved, based on long-term funding cycles, and accessible to universities and local businesses.

MillionPlus also published Innovate and generate: modern universities supporting local businesses aiming to highlight the partnerships that modern universities with local roots and an industry-facing outlook  have with businesses in their regions. The document emphasises their calls for Government to prioritise and dedicate specific R&D funding streams for such relationships and the positive impact it can have on levelling up the UK.

Quick news

  • Incentivising business innovation through taxation – CBI Economics consider the arguments for R&D tax credits
  • Imperial College London announced their new Institute for Infection. The aim of the Institute is to address some of the biggest unanswered questions in the field of infectious disease, such as how is climate change impacting the spread of diseases transmitted by flies and mosquitoes, how can gene-editing technologies help to reduce the spread of disease (such as Dengue and Zika), and how can animal vaccination programmes help to curb diseases which also affect humans.

Access & Participation

Student Hardship funding: Hitting the news last week (from the July OfS Board papers) was that £1.66 million of the additional £70 million hardship funding provided by the Government was unspent and recovered by the OfS.

Wonkhe say: Despite overwhelming evidence that the hardships caused by Covid-19 were near universal, the government was wedded to the idea of individual student problems rather than the systemic issues felt across the whole cohort. There were conditions attached to allocation: providers had to distribute funds to students that expressed a specific need, and all of the money needed to be handed out by 31 July…The complexity of existing hardship fund arrangements at providers (many had to recruit extra staff to administer the process) and the tight deadline (three months for the final tranche) made it difficult to get the money to where it was needed.

Mental Health

The Mental Health Foundation released new research combining evidence with expert opinion and public views. You can read about it here but in short it recommends (in order of popularity):

  1. Be aware of using drugs to cope with difficult feelings
  2. Build money skills and seek financial support if you need it
  3. Get more from your sleep
  4. Develop awareness of your feelings and emotions
  5. Have something to look forward to
  6. Get closer to nature
  7. Speak to someone you trust for support
  8. Stay curious and open to new experiences

Almost as popular (chosen by at least 45% of the public panel) were:

  • Have a healthy diet
  • Help others, contribute to something bigger
  • Engage in physical activity
  • Practice gratitude and cultivate hope
  • Strengthen social connections

Our research shows that it’s the fundamentals of life that protect our mental health: our finances, our relationships and our experiences

Student Finance

The DfE updated the information on who is eligible for undergraduate, postgraduate and further education financial support from Student Finance England. The update includes new policy notes on the rights to home fee status and student support for people covered by the Withdrawal Agreements who make a valid late application to the EU Settlement Scheme, and rights for joining family members under the EU Settlement Scheme:

Possible changes to fees and funding have been in the news a lot over the autumn in the build up to the Comprehensive Spending Review on 27th October when, yet again, we are promised the final response from the government to the Augar report and an outcome for the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding, which Augar was meant to inform.

Some changes have already happened:

  • Some OfS funding for ‚Äúnon-strategic‚ÄĚ subjects was cut this year ‚Äď but it was a small cut to a tiny amount of funding. Anxiety was heightened because the former Education Secretary kept saying in the HoC and to newspapers that he was ‚Äúslashing‚ÄĚ funding, but he was exaggerating.¬† A lot.¬† The OfS got very defensive about it.¬† You can read what they did here.¬† Anyway, it set the tone for what may be more to come.¬† The OfS were told to stop calling the main funding a ‚Äúteaching‚ÄĚ grant and call it a ‚Äústrategic priorities‚ÄĚ grant.¬† You get the point.¬† Let‚Äôs hope the updated Ministerial team choose their language more carefully, to avoid future misunderstanding.¬†¬†¬† Words matter.
  • The OfS decided to distribute a chunk of their capital funding via a competitive bidding arrangement, in a big departure from previous allocation methods. You can read what they did here.¬† This may well also set the tone for the future, and is consistent with what is expected to happen with some streams of research funding going forwards.

The main pre-announcement that we are expecting to see followed through with a consultation at the end of the month is on minimum entry requirements.¬† This is a technique to reduce or at least limit the growing cost of the student loan portfolio by applying a floor to the academic entry requirements that applicants must meet in order to qualify for a student loan.¬† Students could still go to university, if they pay their own way, of course, or are able to borrow the funding another way.¬† Widely criticised as a cap on aspiration and a retrograde step for social mobility, because of the risk that many of the potential students who will be excluded from university will be those whose prior attainment does not reflect their true potential, and because many of those will be in that position as a result of some form of disadvantage. ¬†¬†We have commented on this extensively before and note that Augar suggested that it be deployed as a last resort if universities did not clean up their act on quality.¬† We note that we are not convinced that there is necessarily a direct link between ‚Äúquality‚ÄĚ and low entry tariffs and that it feels a bit early in the cycle for last resorts.¬† But there you are.¬† The definition of quality debate is a much bigger one that is ongoing now as the OfS looks at its licence conditions.

And there could be many other things announced.¬† Most of the press coverage recently has been about a potential cut to the repayment threshold (increased by Theresa May in a shock move after the 2017 election that cost the government a lot of money).¬† This idea has not been well received by students or recent graduates.¬† We note that retrospective changes to the terms of loans (other than interest rates) are not usually allowed (for banks, for example), and that there is a general feeling that students and recent graduates, who have not had a great couple of years, will be asked to fill a government financial hole ‚Äúbecause they don‚Äôt vote conservative anyway‚ÄĚ.¬† Given that Theresa May put the floor up precisely because she was worried about the so-called youthquake in the 2017 election, the link seems to be a fair one.¬† The Tories in 2017 didn‚Äôt have the majority that they have now.¬† And the financial hole is very big.

BU staff can read our May 2021 summary of what else we might have to look forward to here.

Given that there is likely to be a flurry of press stories, better or less-well informed opinion, social media excitement etc, around any changes, we wanted to give you a bit of context.  Apologies to regular readers or those with students in the family who know all this, all too well, but here we go.  And apologies to readers in the devolved nations, we are focussing on England here.  Also we are focussing on undergraduates.

Undergraduate tuition fees

These are capped.  The cap hasn’t moved for a long time.  There is very little prospect of it moving for a long time to come.

They are not tuition fees.¬† The OfS in their most recent publication on the subject (well worth a read) calls them ‚Äúcourse fees‚ÄĚ.¬† They aren‚Äôt really that either.

When they were introduced they replaced a big chunk of government funding for universities and, apart from those universities with huge numbers of international or post-graduate students, or huge proportions of research or donor income, these fees are the main source of income for most universities.  They therefore pay for staff, services, loan interest, depreciation, building maintenance, IT, OfS registration fees, and so on Рthe lot.  They famously cross subsidise research which is generally funded at less than cost.

If a student has a tuition fee loan (most do as otherwise they need to pay up front), the fee is paid by the Student Loan Company directly to the university in three chunks across the year.  The biggest chunk (50%) is paid in the summer AFTER the student has completed most of the year.  This helps avoid a situation where the university gets money for students who don’t stick around.  But it also explains why cash flow across the year is a talking point in universities, and why a temporary change took place last year when the second instalment was paid early because of concerns about financial sustainability of universities in the pandemic.

Maintenance loans

These loans are made available to UK students to help with their living and other costs while at university.  They replaced the grant system.  Before loans were introduced, if students didn’t qualify for a grant they needed parental support or another source of income.  That is still the case.  There is a minimum amount for a maintenance loan, but above that loan eligibility is means tested according to the income of the student’s family.  So the vast majority of students in the UK still need parental support for their maintenance costs, and if that isn’t available, they will need to work or borrow money instead.

You can see more in the SLC document for 2021/22 students.

Maintenance costs are a huge issue for many students.  Unlike the tuition fee, which is paid by the SLC to the university, this is cash the students need to find and spend.  There has been a lot of coverage of the high cost of accommodation in many places (often more than the maximum loan) and of the particular unfairness of the situation over the last two years when students were told by the government not to return to accommodation they had paid for, with money neither they nor their families could afford.  That’s a long and separate story.

Student loans

Although they are called loans, student finance arrangements are very different from the usual loan arrangements we are all used to, and this is where it gets complicated and political.  So apologies again.  This very useful paper from the House of Commons library (September 2021) has lots of context on this.

As noted above, student loans are made up of two items, tuition fees and maintenance loans (you can also use a student loan for postgraduate support but that’s a different story).

Interest starts to accrue on the loan balance straight away, while the student is at university.¬† Interest rates are very high ‚Äď compared to some other rates available in the market.¬† But the interest rate charged varies over time and according to the income of the graduate (not their family, this time).

From an SLC document describing 2021/11 arrangements:

  • While studying and until 6th April after you finish: RPI pls 3%
  • After that:
    • Income ¬£27,295 or less ‚Äď RPI only
    • Income above ¬£27,295 to ¬£49,130 ‚Äď Interest applied on a scale from RPI to RPI + 3%
    • Income above ¬£49,130 ‚Äď RPI + 3%

Martin Lewis explained the latest rate for Money Saving Expert in October 2021:

  • On 1 October 2021, for students from England and Wales who started university in or after 2012, the headline student loan interest rate decreased from 5.6% to 4.1% in line with the current RPI, and the temporary¬†‘Prevailing Market Rate’
  • Despite the decrease, this rate is still higher than most mortgages, and far higher than for students from prior cohorts. And, the headline rate is expected to increase again, to 4.5%, on the 1 January 2022.¬†

Repayment arrangements

This is where student loans really start to look different from ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ loans. The student finance arrangements we have are not really loans at all.¬† Really what we have here is a graduate tax.¬† But shhh ‚Äď it isn‚Äôt called that.¬† Because people don‚Äôt like taxes, so it could never be called a tax.

The notional amount of the student finance grows throughout out the time that a student is studying, and interest is added during that time and afterwards.  So far so like a loan.

But ‚Äď graduates only start to repay it from the April after their course ends, and only when their income reaches a threshold. ¬†Most students are on what is called ‚Äúplan 2‚ÄĚ and we are going to use their data:

  • You‚Äôll only repay when your income is over ¬£524 a week, ¬£2,274 a month or ¬£27,295 a year (before tax and other deductions).
  • G. Your annual income is ¬£28,800 and you are paid a regular monthly wage. This means that each month your income is ¬£2,400 (¬£28,800 divided by 12). This is over the Plan 2 monthly threshold of ¬£2,274. Your income is ¬£126 over the threshold (¬£2,400 minus ¬£2,274). You will pay back ¬£11 (9% of ¬£126) each month.

In other words, repayments are means tested, and only the income over the threshold is used to calculate the repayments.¬† Clearly in a lot of cases that means that the amount you are repaying is not enough to cover the interest that is also still accruing.¬† So the overall amount just keeps on going up, just as it would with a ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ loan if you didn‚Äôt pay enough off each month.

The other big difference with a ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ loan, though, is what happens at the end.¬† The whole thing, interest and all, is written off after 30 years from the April after your course finished.¬† That is a big and growing cost to the government.¬† This very useful paper from the House of Commons library (September 2021) gives some context on what this means.

  • The RAB charge is the difference between the amount lent to a cohort of students, and the value of their repayments as graduates. For 2020/21 it is¬†predicted by the Government to be 53%.
  • ‚Ķ repayments for the 2020/21 cohort will range from just over ¬£1,000 on average in decile 1 to almost ¬£63,000 for decile 10. The average lifetime repayment across all borrowers is just over ¬£19,000.
  • ‚ÄúOverall, 22% of borrowers are forecast to repay their loans in full, this rate varies from 0‚ÄĎ2% in the bottom four deciles to 87% in decile 10‚ÄĚ

So when students say that they are ‚Äúpaying‚ÄĚ tuition fees ‚Äď they aren‚Äôt paying it yet, and in fact most will never pay it all back.¬† Only the highest earners, mostly men, will pay it all back.¬† The paper has charts showing the difference for women and men.

We should also note that the loan is not treated like a normal loan when you are taking out a normal loan, either.  Your potential repayments are taken into account when considering your ability to pay, but it is not treated the same way for your credit score as a typical loan would be.  So it is treated more like a mobile phone contract than a car loan.

So it’s really a graduate tax which stops after 30 years.  Or an income dependent contingent loan (which is written off after 30 years).

Potential changes

The government would clearly like to recover more of this money.  It must be noted that it was never intended that it would all be repaid, however.  When the system was set up it was deliberately intended that only the students with higher income would pay it all back.  This was meant to be progressive.

That‚Äôs why there has been little sympathy for arguments to reduce the interest rate.¬† On the face of it, students seem to be ‚Äúpaying‚ÄĚ a high interest rate.¬† But they aren‚Äôt in fact paying it at all, and most of them will never pay it.¬† It accrues at a high rate, and then most of it is written off.¬† So increasing the interest rate may be an option instead:

  • The impact of a 1 ppt increase in the interest rate would mean that the average repayment per borrower would increase by ¬£1,500 or 5.2%.
  • However, this increase is not spread evenly across borrowers. Only those with higher earnings pay back more. The number of borrowers who repay their loan in full would drop from 22% under the current system to 18%.

For a long time the government was able to keep this cost ‚Äúoff the balance sheet‚ÄĚ until the auditing rules were changed and the whole cost was added to the national debt.¬† That started to change perceptions about it.

And of course, since the scheme was introduced, the number of students going to university has increased, we are just emerging from a demographic dip.  So the potential cost just keeps on going up.

We have already mentioned changes to the repayment threshold may be under discussion.¬† That has all sorts of consequences ‚Äď but they are not very progressive (another HoC library paper):

  • Middle earners would see the largest absolute increase of around ¬£4,000 on average, while the highest earners would see their repayments¬†fall¬†slightly.
  • While the increase for lower earners is below average in absolute terms, it represents the largest percentage increase at around 30%. The number of borrowers who repay their loan in full would increase from 22% under the current system to 25%.

There has also been talk of extending the payment term from 30 to 35 years (Augar said 40) and increasing the rate of repayment (different from the interest rate).  Another helpful briefing paper here.

  • both measures result in¬†increased lifetime repayments especially from middle to higher earners.

What next

We‚Äôll see.¬† But we think there will be some tinkering with repayment arrangements ‚Äď despite the fact that these would be retrospective changes to the agreed terms.¬† And there may be other changes that will reduce the number of people eligible to take these loans out in the future ‚Äď as well as the minimum qualifications requirement.

Or there may a cut in the tuition fee.¬† The latter would reduce the loan book and the notional interest ¬†– and give the government more direct control of university funding though the use of ‚Äústrategic priorities‚ÄĚ to top up (some of) the difference¬† – consistent with the current direction as noted at the start of this section.

There could be caps on the numbers of students studying particular subjects, or at particular institutions (if they don‚Äôt meet quality thresholds, for example). Note in this context that the government is increasingly linking definitions of quality to ‚Äúoutcomes‚ÄĚ, by which they mean highly skilled employment and relative earnings.¬† And that is a whole different subject which we have discussed before, and will again.

Mature students

The Lifelong Education Commission, supported by ResPublica and chaired by former universities minister Chris Skidmore MP, published The Pathway to Lifelong Education: Reforming the UK’s Skills System. It is the first of 8 reports the Commission has planned on on lifelong learning and the UK’s skills system. The Commission recommends how the barriers to adult learning can be removed; what future investment is needed to support this; and what change is needed to ensure the maximum flexibility that will benefit learners and deliver on the promise of a whole system change for lifelong education.

Recommendations:

  1. All citizens will be able to access the loan entitlement regardless of prior qualifications, or how they choose to study, including: modular or full qualifications; part-time or full-time; via face-to-face or distance learning.
  2. The Lifetime Loan Entitlement should allow funding to be applied to different modules of learning to enable (i) existing qualifications to be unbundled into smaller units (e.g. 30 to 60 credits) and (ii) microcredentials to be stacked as part of larger units.
  3. A more ambitious reform would be to create a unified credit-based funding system that does not distinguish between different modes of study and provides equal access and support for learners regardless of how they learn or where learning takes place.
  4. Alongside the loan entitlement, Government should consider means-tested maintenance grants to provide support with living costs and encourage adult learners to access higher technical qualifications, particularly those for whom debt will be viewed as a disincentive and a barrier to reskill.
  5. Government should: (i) Build on the existing credit framework and regional consortia approach to design a networked system that can guarantee the autonomy of higher education providers while enabling the transfer and accumulation of credit. (ii) Consider reform of the wider regulatory framework to simplify the jurisdiction between various bodies (HEIs, the Institute, QAA, Ofsted, OfS, etc.) regarding higher technical qualifications, which has the scope for duplication and inconsistency. (iii) Consider Scotland‚Äôs ‚Äėarticulation agreements‚Äô, which provide a good model for clearer routes between FE and HE.
  6. There is, especially in England, a need to bring together and better integrate the various parts of the careers system: (i) A single integrated careers service is required for all citizens at all stages of their working life. This will need to provide high level, specialist advice, available in every locality. (ii) A system should be established to regulate and support the continued professional development of careers advisers. As a minimum, all careers advisers should be registered with the Careers Development Institute and have relevant qualifications at Level 4 or above.
  7. Retain part-time student premium funding and make part-time learning an explicit priority for the teaching grant to incentivise lifelong education and training.
  8. Remove the remaining restrictions on ELQs so that available funding (including loans for fees and maintenance) can support those who want to study for a second higher education qualification in a different discipline.
  9. Government should explore options, including a ‚ÄėFlexible Skills Levy‚Äô and ‚ÄėTax Credits‚Äô to incentivise employer investment in skills training.
  10. In addition to employers and educational institutions, Mayoral Combined Authorities in England with devolved responsibilities for adult skills should play a central role in the coproduction of local skills plan. Moreover, MCAs should be given genuine power over issues of essentially regional concern. Almost all of the functions currently exercised by the Department for Education could be devolved.

Former universities minister Chris Skidmore said: If there is one policy to deliver ‚Äėlevelling up‚Äô, it is adult learning and skills. Acquiring new skills is something we all do throughout our lives. Yet the formal process for acquiring them is incredibly constrained. There are too few opportunities to return to learning for those who have left it. And those willing to retrain or re-skill can barely see the wood for the trees; the pathways are so complex.

The government is embracing adult learning at just the right time. The Lifelong Learning Entitlement, combined with the prospect of modular and course-based learning and the expansion of Level 4 and 5 provision, has the potential to create new journeys into learning for those for whom a graduate route was not the way. But if these reforms are to succeed, it is essential that new partnerships are forged between HE and FE providers.

Grammar and spelling ‚Äď the next stage of the culture war?

The OfS have published an ominous paper on this.

  • This review examines the policies on spelling, punctuation and grammar in written assessment at a small number of higher education providers. It features anonymised examples of approaches that maintain rigour in student assessment, and examples of approaches that do not.
  • The purpose of the review is to highlight to higher education providers which assessment policies are likely to be a cause for regulatory concern, and encourages providers to adjust their policies accordingly.

This supports the position in the recently closed consultation on quality conditions.

New condition B4.2: 

‚Ķthe provider must ensure that:¬†¬†…c.¬†academic regulations¬†are designed to ensure that relevant awards are¬†credible;¬†¬†¬†….

‚Äúcredible‚ÄĚ means that,¬†in the reasonable opinion of the OfS, relevant awards reflect students‚Äô knowledge and skills, and for this purpose the OfS may take into account factors which include, but are not limited to:¬†¬†…ii. whether students are¬†assessed effectively¬†and whether assessments are valid and reliable;¬†¬†….

Guidance re “Credible”: …identifying circumstances in which it is likely to be concerned about the credibility of a provider‚Äôs qualifications:…c.¬†Students are not penalised for poor technical proficiency in written English. For example, for assessments that would reasonably be expected to take the form of written work in English and for which the OfS, employers and taxpayers, would reasonably expect such proficiency, the provider‚Äôs assessment policy and practices do not penalise poor spelling, punctuation or grammar, such that students are awarded marks that do not reflect a reasonable view of their performance of these skills. ….

Key bits from the report itself:

  • Because of the importance of these issues, we undertook a short review during summer 2021 to gather evidence and examples of practice from a small number of providers about the extent¬†to which technical proficiency in written English is being assessed. This report summarises our findings and sets out their implications for our ongoing regulation of higher education providers.
  • We sought voluntary cooperation from a small number of providers, selected to allow us to explore a range of assessment practices. The inclusion of a particular provider in the review was not driven by whether or not it had featured in press reporting about its assessment practices, and this report does not identify the providers that were involved in the review
  • The common features we have seen in the small number of cases we have considered in this review suggest that the practices and approaches we have set out in the case studies may be widespread across the sector. We are therefore drawing the attention of all registered providers to our findings, because they highlight matters that are likely to raise compliance concerns, now and in the future.
  • The findings in this report are shared as case studies; we have not conducted a formal regulatory investigation. Any regulatory judgements we make in future would depend on the circumstances of an individual case, and would involve detailed consideration of the impact of a provider‚Äôs policies on the marks awarded to students.

If we were to consider compliance with our current regulatory requirements for the practices described in the case studies, we would be likely to have regulatory concerns about the following: 

  • Case studies 1 and 2: In these examples, it seems plausible if not likely that some students are not being assessed on their proficiency in written English. This is because learning outcomes do not include this requirement. In these circumstances we would have concerns about whether the provider‚Äôs courses are well designed and provide a high-quality academic experience. We would also have concerns about whether the qualifications awarded to students are valued by employers or enable further study. We would consider whether such qualifications represent value for money for students and taxpayers.¬†
  • For Case study 2, we would take a particular interest in the effect of the policies on groups of students whose first language is not English
  • Case study 3: In this example, we would have similar concerns as for case studies 1 and 2. We would also consider the adequacy and effectiveness of the provider‚Äôs academic governance arrangements, which have the potential to create inconsistencies in the requirements for students in different subject areas.

We are currently consulting on proposals to clarify and strengthen our regulatory requirements for quality and standards. We will consider all consultation responses carefully before reaching a decision about whether or not we should take forward our proposals, in full or in part. For illustrative purposes, if we were to implement the proposals as set out in the consultation document, the practices we have seen would be likely to raise concerns in relation to proposed conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5

If the policies and approaches identified in this report are leading to students getting higher marks than they otherwise would, for instance because poor proficiency in written English is not being routinely assessed, then this not only undermines the rigour of assessment processes, but also contributes to unexplained grade inflation. 55. We will test this hypothesis for individual providers through our investigatory work.

Local Digital Skills Partnerships

DCMS published the findings of an independent Evaluation of the Local Digital Skills Partnerships  which assessed the impact made by six regions operating Local Digital Skills Partnerships (LDSP). LDSPs are designed to build regional capacity to improve digital skills capability at all levels. They bring together and connect partners from the public, private and third sectors to upskill the current workforce, advance digital inclusion, and raise awareness of the importance of digital skills regionally. The evaluation found the LSDP model to be agile and worked effectively. Therefore, DCMS have confirmed they’ll consider the key findings, and look to build on this early success and expand the model to other parts of the country.

Other news

Academic lockdown time recovery: A Wonkhe blog on the impact of lockdown on academic parents with suggestions on how to help them catch up on missed research and professional time:

  • Potential solutions here are: using a different form of annual evaluation, reducing the teaching load in future semesters on academic parents who‚Äôve seen their research completely stalled, providing more teaching assistants or other types of support to reduce the teaching load, temporarily reduce service and administrative burdens, and/or have better parental leave arrangements. One respondent indicated that their university developed a working parent task force, to get input from the working parents and think about solutions together.
  • Taking a step back, we recommend developing a culture of care, and making our universities places where¬†compassion¬†and solidarity are important values.

Subscribe!

To subscribe to the weekly policy update simply email policy@bournemouth.ac.uk. A BU email address is required to subscribe.

External readers: Thank you to our external readers who enjoy our policy updates. Not all our content is accessible to external readers, but you can continue to read our updates which omit the restricted content on the policy pages of the BU Research Blog ‚Äď here‚Äôs the link.

Did you know? You can catch up on previous versions of the policy update on BU’s intranet pages here. Some links require access to a BU account- BU staff not able to click through to an external link should contact eresourceshelp@bournemouth.ac.uk for further assistance.

JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

VC’s Policy Advisor                                                              Policy & Public Affairs Officer

Follow: @PolicyBU on Twitter                    |                       policy@bournemouth.ac.uk