The conference was attended by over 1,400 participants from 51 countries in Europe and beyond. During the event more than 1,000 academic presentations were delivered in more than 100 themed sessions and two plenary sessions by Prof. Eszter Hargittai, Dr Lina Dencik as well as Prof. José Van Dijck and Dr Thomas Allmer. The plenaries focused on the central theme of the conference, ‘Centres and Peripheries: Communication, Research, Translation’ and addressed some of the most pressing pan-European issues in the field of media and communication. One of the sessions, delivered in the format of a critical intervention, focused on the issues surrounding the exploitation of academics in the field. Among the conference organising committee members was Dr Paweł Surowiec of the Faculty of Media of Communication, who also serves as the ECREA’s Treasurer. For more information about the conference follow #ECREA2018 or speak to the ECREA Coordinator in the Faculty, Dr Einar Thorsen (Ass. Prof.). The next biennial ECREA conference, 8th European Communication Conference, will take place between 2-5 October 2020. The event will be hosted by the University of Minho in Braga, Portugal.
Category / EU
Welcome to the EU section of the blog! Emily Cieciura (BU’s Research Facilitator – EU and International), Jo Garrad (Funding Development Manager) and Dianne Goodman (Funding Development Co-ordinator) together try to take the pain out of finding and applying for EU funding by horizon scanning many sources and placing the most important information on this page.
We blog as often as possible on everything from calls for proposals and partner searches, to networking event opportunities, all the latest on Horizon 2020 and international funding. We also use the blog to disseminate information on EUADS (BU’s EU academic training initiative), how to write brilliant proposals, how to find partners and other top tips!
The following event may be of interest for BU academics considering applying for EU grants.
The European Commission invites to join the Info day of the new Blue Economy call. The event will be held in Brussels on Thursday 22 November 2018 from 9:30 to 15:30 (a draft programme of the event has been published).
Blue Economy call 2018: Blue Careers, Blue Labs and Grants for the Blue Economy aims to accelerate the implementation of the EU Maritime Policy and the sustainable development of the blue economy across Europe. The call has a focus on three topics – Blue Labs: innovative solutions for maritime challenges, Blue Careers in Europe, and Grants for the Blue Economy: investing in innovation.
EASME and DG MARE will then provide useful information about the new call and the application process. For more details and registration please refer to the event’s web page.
The European Research Council (ERC) has published its 2019 Consolidator Grant call; applicants have to submit their proposals before 4 PM (UK time) 7 February 2019 (104 days left until closure from now).
The fundamental activity of the ERC is to provide attractive, long-term funding to support excellent investigators and their research teams to pursue ground-breaking, high-gain/high-risk research.
ERC Consolidator Grants are designed to support excellent Principal Investigators at the career stage at which they may still be consolidating their own independent research team or programme. Applicant Principal Investigators must demonstrate the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of their scientific proposal.
Consolidator Grants may be awarded up to a maximum of EUR 2 000 000 for a period of 5 years. The Principal Investigator shall have been awarded their first PhD over 7 and up to 12 years prior to 1 January 2019. The effective elapsed time since the award of the first PhD can be reduced in certain properly documented circumstances.
A competitive Consolidator Grant Principal Investigator must have already shown research independence and evidence of maturity, for example by having produced several important publications as main author or without the participation of their PhD supervisor.
For more information please refer to Guide for Applicants. There also are great support opportunities available at BU for academics planning to apply for EU and International funding. If you are considering applying for international funding, contact international research facilitator or any member of RKEO Funding Development Team at your faculty to individually discuss your ideas and the ways we could support you.
Are you a researcher at BU or thinking about moving to the UK?
Do you support researchers?
If so, EURAXESS can help you!
Watch this new video for a great overview of the EURAXESS portal and how it can be of benefit to you!
By registering on the international EURAXESS site, you can gain access to a wealth of resources:
- Career Development tools including progressing your career inside and beyond academia
- Study Tours
- Partnering and Collaboration Search, where you can update your own profile so that others can find and connect with you and your research
- Searching for and posting job opportunities
- Information and Assistance for living in Europe, working in Europe, or leaving Europe to live and work across the world
You can also visit the dedicated UK EURAXESS site for even more information, including their introductory leaflets for researchers and those supporting researchers, as well as signing up to receive their monthly newsletters.
EURAXESS is also one of the highlighted resources within the Research Toolkit > Research Staff pages on this blog.
Find out more, by contacting Emily Cieciura, RKEO’s Research & Knowledge Exchange Development Framework Facilitator and BU’s EURAXESS Local Contact Point, if you are:
- Using EURAXESS as a BU researcher
- Using EUARXESS as an external researcher and want to know more about BU’s opportunities (where your email will be forwarded, if necessary, for further attention)
- Using EURAXESS as a member of the BU Team to make more use of EURAXESS services, in order to promote BU’s research activity, supporting incoming researchers to BU or other related purpose
In February 2018 I was invited by Artercitya on a (still on-going) residency as an audio artist in a very large international project called Freiraum, organised by the Goethe-Institut and funded, amongst other important funders, by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. In the project, 38 cities in Europe, are dealing with the question of freedom in Europe today and consider where or how this freedom might be in danger.
(You can find details on Freiraum here: http://www.artbox.gr/2017_freiraum.html).
My involvement in the project, engaged Artecitya and ArtBOX (a big Creative Arts Management company) with my work as an educator here at Bournemouth University. They became particularly interested in the Graduate Production work created by our Level 6 students in the BA Media Production Course and particularly in the Graduate Production Project Unit, which I lead.
During the unit, ArtBOX, who organise the 3rd Artecitya Art Science Technology Festival – THE NEW NEW, realised by the Thessaloniki International Fair – HELEXPO, with the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, came to the university and students had a chance to present to them prototypes of their graduate production work.
As a result, two of our BAMP Level 6 graduating students and my own supervisees, Daniel Bell and George Fisher, whose work fulfilled the brief of this new media arts event, were selected and presented their work, along with mine, in this major international exhibition, THE NEW NEW, in Thessaloniki –Greece between September 8 -16 2018.
In the link below you can see video and pictures from the exhibition and read details of our artworks and involvement in this major international event: http://www.artbox.gr/AST-2018.html
The three artworks, Daniel Bell’s Spectra, George Fisher’s Echoes in Space and my own Air Free, were very warmly received by the visitors and first survey results from the even organisers suggest that the work was seen by over 10.000 people and that the exhibition was voted amongst the most popular events in this major international fair.
Echoes in Space – George Fisher
Echoes in Space consists of 8 unique soundscapes and visuals themed after each of the planets’ characteristics. These soundscapes are an artistic reimagining of the Voyager probes recordings, though scattered throughout are real excerpts from the original Voyager recordings. Echoes in Space is a blurring of reality and crafted content; it asks the viewer to consider the divide between reality and fiction. As well as to understand the difficulty in comprehending what is real and what is crafted when you find yourself confronted by the unknown, and to ask oneself if there truly is a difference?
Spectra – Daniel Bell
Spectra is an audio-visual installation focusing on the contrast and convergence between the human and natural worlds. Stemming from the artists philosophy that every new concept we face in life comes to us as a spectrum of information, and to fully comprehend new concepts we must appreciate each spectra in their entirety
Air Free Future
The first iteration of my artwork Air Free that was presented in Greece, is made up of interviews with members of local communities in Thessaloniki, responding to questions on isolation and freedom. As a response to the Freiraum brief, the artwork is now entering a second phase. During this phase, I will be visiting Carlisle (UK) in order to conduct further recordings with members of the local community there on the same themes, by bringing the recordings from Greece to them. These new recordings will then be used along with the recordings from Thessaloniki in a second iteration of the artwork, which will be presented in an exhibition organised by the Goethe-Institut in Berlin Germany, between 12-13 March 2019.
Air Free Impact
My own work for Freiraum, due to its themes and very large scale international reach, lends itself rather strongly for an impact study, which I am now working on. Particularly looking at how the work brings forth issues of isolation in Europe today by bringing the voices of local communities, including the voices of minorities, in communication with each other as well as with international audiences.
George Fisher, Echoes in Space, 2018
Daniel Bell, Spectra, 2018
Evi Karathanasopoulou, Air Free, 2018, (audience member listening).
The New New festival at TIF- Helexpo, Thessaloniki
Last week saw the bi-annual meeting of the Stay Active and Independent for Longer (SAIL) Research Team. Research colleagues from Belgium, the Netherlands and France travelled to Hunstanton, Norfolk to meet with UK partners from Norfolk County Council, University of East Anglia and Bournemouth University. The project is in 4 phases: Explore, Design and Develop, Test and Evaluate. October 2018 will see the SAIL project move into the third phase: Test. The visit to Hunstanton provided an opportunity to see at first hand the challenges which face the area in terms of supporting an aging population now and in the future. The Mayor of Hunstanton hosted an evening reception in the Town Hall to welcome the SAIL Research Team and to learn more about the progress which is being made.
Prof Ann Hemingway & Prof Adele Ladkin meeting the Mayor of Hunstanton with Charlotte Watts, a project partner from Norfolk County Council.
On Wednesday, 10th October 2018, BU staff had an opportunity to find out more about current EU funding opportunities. Delivered by BU institutional representative in Brussels, Andreas Kontogeorgos, presentations covered such topics as Brexit, forthcoming ICT calls, COST Actions and MSCA Innovative Training Networks.
Presentations are now available on Brightspace. Please navigate to UKRO 2018 section to access all presentations.
If you have an interest in applying to Horizon 2020 and other European funding, please make full use of BU’s subscription by registering to receive updates from UKRO. On UKRO website, you can access subscriber-exclusive support materials including news, call fact-sheets and UKRO events.
BU staff considering applying for any of these calls and other international funding, should contact international research facilitator Ainar Blaudums or other RKEO’s representatives at their faculties, for further information and support.
Student Loans – further sales
On Wednesday the Government announced their intention to sell off another set of student loans (written statement here). Angela Rayner Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary was granted an Urgent Question within Parliament to raise the sale and requested a statement from Universities Minister Sam Gyimah. Sam stated:
- I want to explain to the House the rationale for the sale of the student loan book and make some important points. The sale will categorically not result in private investors setting the terms or operating the collection of repayments. Loans in scope will continue to be serviced by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Student Loans Company on the same basis as equivalent unsold loans. Investors will have no right to change any of the current loan arrangements or to directly contact borrowers. Furthermore, the Government’s policies on student finance and higher education are not being altered by the sale. These older loans, the borrowers of which benefited from lower tuition fees and lower interest rates, are not in the scope of the current review of post-18 education and funding.
- The sale represents an opportunity for the Government to guarantee money up front today, rather than fluctuating and uncertain payments over a longer period. That will allow the Government to invest in other policies with greater economic and social returns. We will proceed with the sale only if market conditions remain favourable and if the final value-for-money assessment is positive.
Angela Rayner continued to question the Minister stating the sale related to £4 billion of the student loan book and requesting for a valuation of the loans up for sale (it wasn’t provided). She also highlighted that the National Audit Office findings suggested the DfE made a loss of £900 million on the previous student loan book sale, with £600 million in future income lost. Finally she asked:
- Will the Minister confirm that when the sales go ahead the Government will lose a source of income for as long as 25 years in exchange for a one-off payment? Can he give us any justification for the policy of selling off an asset to flatter this Government’s terrible position on national debt? With nearly £1 billion lost in the previous sale, just how low would the sale price have to go before the Government decided that selling simply was not worth it?
- Sam Gyimah responded: Student loan sales in this country have happened over nearly two decades. This is not new…The National Audit Office did refer to the write-down of the loan book, but anybody who has studied accounting will know that the present value of a future income stream will be lower than the value if one waited 30 years. In capturing some of that money, the Government can invest in vital public services today, and that is the rationale for selling the student loan book…The sale will also be good for the taxpayer. Once people have been to university, it serves no public purpose to have the money tied up. The sale will release that money to invest in other priorities. On the valuation, the face value of the sale is £3.9 billion, but what we will do and how we will look to proceed will ultimately depend on market conditions.
The Lords were also granted a debate on the topic and picked up where Angela Rayner left off.
- Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Labour): I listened to Mr Gyimah’s exchange today with my colleague Angela Rayner, the shadow Secretary of State. Unfortunately, he dodged all of her questions on the valuation of the loans the Government are selling. He simply confirmed that the Government would forgo the 25-year revenue stream in favour of a one-off receipt…The Government have said that the revenue from selling off student loans now will enable them to invest in vital public services today. We all know that the Treasury has the final say on specifically where this windfall will go, but surely most, if not all, of it should be reinvested in the education budget; goodness knows there is a need for it.
- In a later statement Angela Rayner, commented: “The last time the Tories sold off a slice of the student loan book they lost hundreds of millions of pounds, yet this latest announcement shows they have learnt absolutely nothing…These repeated experiments with privatisation are not in the interests of either taxpayers or the students facing a mountain of debt for a university education… instead of fixing the problem the Tories are resorting to a short-term fix at a long-term cost to the country.
MoneySavingExpert.com immediately blogged to reassure students their repayments wouldn’t be affected by the proposed sale. MoneySupermarket have a breakdown of student spending which highlights a £142 weekly shortfall in the student loan against outgoings.
Brexit: EU Students and Staff
Wonkhe report: Higher education staff who are EU residents are to be prioritised in a new phase of the EU Settlement Scheme pilot, which will open in November. Eligible to apply are those who are employed by or work at a higher education institution or overseas higher education institution in the UK which is classified as such on the Tier 4 Register of licensed sponsors. The new phase will be a further pilot to scale up the testing of the scheme in addition to HE staff it also covers the health and social care sector. The new phase will open on November 1 and will run until 21 December this year.
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, stated:
“There are nearly 50,000 EU nationals working in UK universities and they make a vitally important contribution to our campuses and communities. Many leading researchers and key university staff in the UK are from other EU countries. This enables our universities to maintain their world-class excellence in teaching and research. Highly trained international technical, professional and support staff also play an important role in our universities.
“We welcome the news therefore that they will be able to obtain settled or pre-settled status as one of the earliest groups in the scheme. This will provide much needed clarity for our EU staff and for universities. It is vital for our economy and society that the UK retains and continues to attract the best and brightest from across Europe post-Brexit.
The Immigration Minister also stated the government’s intention to double the Immigration Health Surcharge (HIS) to £400 per year (or £300 per year for students). This change will require ratification in Parliament by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
AI & Industrial Strategy
Next Tuesday the Education Committee will meet Pepper the robot who will answer questions in a session on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Pepper is part of an international research project developing the world’s first culturally aware robots aimed at assisting with care for older people. The Committee will hear about her work with students across the faculties at Middlesex University, including a project involving teaching primary level children, and what role increased automation and robotics might play in the workplace and classroom of the future. After a demonstration by Pepper, the Committee will explore with witnesses, including those from Middlesex University, how robots can be used to support learning, and the skills needed to adapt to the growth in artificial intelligence and automation.
University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are in the news again with the Guardian drawing on the Education Policy Institute (EPI) report which finds UTCs ineffective as 50% of students drop out. UTCs are for 14-19 year olds, with a strong focus on technical education. They are sponsored by universities and supported by employers. The EPI report notes that there are 50 UTCs open in England. An additional 10 having closed or fundamentally changed into a different institution type in recent years.
UTCs: provision and characteristics
- Many UTCs are struggling with student numbers. A third of students are enrolled at one of the 20 UTCs with decreasing student numbers.
- A huge proportion of UTC students are dropping out after two years. Over half of students enrolled leave between the ages of 16 and 17, failing to progress from Key Stage 4 (14-16) into Key Stage 5 (16-18). Students with lower GCSE results, special educational needs and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are the least likely to continue.
- These significant drop-out rates in UTCs continue after age 16. Those that remain for post-16 study are still far less likely to complete their final studies than students in other types of education:
– 63% of UTC students studying broader vocational qualifications completed their final assessment, compared to 83% nationally.
– 69% studying occupation-specific qualifications finished, compared to 81% nationally.
– For A-levels, 80% of students finished, compared to 94% nationally.
- A large proportion of UTCs receive poor inspection outcomes from Ofsted:
– 1 in 5 were rated ‘inadequate’ – twice the national average.
– 2 in 5 were rated ‘requires improvement’ – four times more than the national average.
– Just 4% were rated ‘outstanding’ – compared to 22% of secondary schools.
Progress and outcomes of students in UTCs
- UTC students make almost a whole grade less progress between leaving primary education and the end of Key Stage 4 than other students in state-funded schools. Significantly, this poor progress is particularly acute for high attainers, who make over a grade’s less progress than high attainers in all state-funded schools. When considering maths alone, UTC students as a whole lag behind by almost half a grade. Only around half of UTC students achieve at least a pass in GCSE English and maths, compared with two-thirds nationally.
- UTC students who stay on to study A levels also perform below the state funded average. The average grade obtained at A level in UTCs is a D, compared to the average of a grade C in all state funded institutions. However, students taking technical and vocational qualifications at a UTC perform close to the national average – but higher than those in Further Education colleges. On average they achieve a distinction in applied general qualifications (mainly BTECs) and Tech levels.
- UTC students perform well when retaking their GCSEs – improving their grades in English and maths by around a third of a grade.
- 20% of Key Stage 5 leavers go on to do an apprenticeship, three times the national average (7%), suggesting that UTCs are delivering good school-work transitions.
Supporting skills needs in the economy
- UTCs offer more technical pathways than other school types, with students much more likely to choose to study STEM subjects: 10% of UTC Key Stage 4 entries are in computer science (2% are nationally), 8% are in chemistry and/or physics (twice the national average), 16% in science general/combined (12% are nationally). All these calculations exclude English and maths.
- UTCs are ensuring students are trained for jobs in technical industries where high-skilled employment is expected to grow. Employment growth is projected in sectors that UTCs specialise in such as construction, IT, and health. This could present increased employment opportunities for students in UTCs.
- The government should consider changing the admissions age for UTCs from 14 to 16. While it is common in other countries for students to make a transition in education before 16, England essentially has a pre- and post-16 system. UTCs have struggled with admissions at age 14. With poor levels of progress and retention, it is not clear that students are benefiting from a 14-19 education.
- With provision starting at age 16, UTCs should focus on delivering high-quality existing technical qualifications and eventually the new ‘T-levels’ – relevant to local and national skill needs. With UTCs only focusing on ages 16-18, this would give them an opportunity to deliver differentiated, specialised, high-quality technical education. This should allow UTC students to progress to higher levels of technical education in Institutes of Technology, National Colleges, university, or other providers, should they wish to pursue further study.
- Better measures are needed that account for the technical-oriented provision of UTCs. Improved destination measures are needed that also account for the characteristics of students, so that the particular intakes of UTCs can be taken into account.
Misrepresentation of Official Statistics: Schools
Last week Nick Gibb, Minster of State for School Standards stated the UK’s spending on education was the third highest in the world. It hit the headlines as it controversially included university student tuition loans as well as fees paid by private school pupils and positively misrepresented literacy rankings. The UK Statistics Authority criticised here, the letter highlighting it was the fourth time in the last 12 months the DfE has misused statistics. Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, responded here providing alternative statistics to blur the lines of the previous misuse. Whereas the Permanent Secretary within the DfE, Ed Humperson, was willing to hold his hands up and say they’ll do better in this letter.
The future of UK research funding
From Research Professional: The House of Commons science and technology committee has published the written evidence for its ongoing inquiry into the balance of UK research funding. This inquiry was launched in July, two months after UK Research and Innovation published a strategic prospectus in which it announced that it was carrying out an internal review of the balance of funds between the research councils, Research England, Innovate UK and interdisciplinary research. It seems that UKRI would like to alter the balance in favour of more research across disciplinary boundaries and possibly more research that yields impact in its many forms.
It is interesting to look at who submitted evidence – not very many universities, although the Russell Group (and some of their members individually), UUK and GuildHE made submissions, alongside many of the Societies and Academies, the Wellcome Trust etc. So did the Department for BEIS.
Widening Participation, Students’ Achievement and Outcomes
A thought provoking blog on Wonkhe this week: Beyond school qualifications: how to make admissions truly inclusive. It tackles the false positives (admitting a student when it would have been better to decline) and false negatives (not offering to a student who would have done well) and considers the influence of a range of WP factors. The article favours foundation years to tackle the false negatives, and considers how efforts could be scaled up to admit on a different basis for a wider range of courses. It also highlights the pros and cons of the radical French université open access system.
The Office for Students published an early evaluation of the Addressing Barriers to Student Success programme covering the first year of programme delivery. It looks at how the programme is working, lessons learnt, and potential for cross-institutional partnerships as enablers for trialling and scaling up as well as the organisational and pedagogical approaches that seek to address differential student outcomes. Figure 3.5 on page 22 lists some of the successful activities which have addressed student success so far and page 33 has a what works diagram:
Finally the recommendation is for a three year programme (rather than the intended two) otherwise the results of the interventions will now be known and that the OfS should consider the academic calendar when funding programmes of this nature.
This week there were parliamentary questions on whether Pupil Premium is being used to supplement core funding, on the opt-in requirement for universities to share student mental health status information with parents, and on transition to university (mental health). Another question tackled the recruitment of Social Mobility Commissioners, the answer simply stated the recruitment was ongoing and no information would be released until the process concluded (and a further ask on the Commission recruitment attempted to establish how many applicants were solicited or unsolicited – same no response was given). . Sam Gyimah also answered a parliamentary question on student mobility study abroad programmes responding that such schemes still focus on the UK participating in the Erasmus successor programme. A further question on unconditional offers highlighted the tasking of the OfS to assess the impact unconditional offers may have on A level attainment. Finally there was a question on childcare support:
Q- David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether his Department has a policy on helping students with children to study at university while providing childcare support.
A – Sam Gyimah:
- The government recognises the value of parents continuing in, or returning to, education and provides support to those enrolled on recognised education courses. Eligible student parents may be able to claim a Childcare Grant, which offers support with up to 85% of their childcare costs, depending on their household income. The maximum Childcare Grant for the 2018 to 2019 academic year is: Up to £164.70 a week for one child. Up to £282.36 a week for two or more children. Parents’ Learning Allowance is additional funding to help students who are also parents. This can be used for everyday costs of study, such as books, study materials and travel.
Birkbeck has announced that it will no longer participate in UK league tables. Their statement notes good REF outcomes and a sliver TEF, but says that their league table position “gives a totally misleading view of the College”.
- Entry tariffs – UK rankings reward universities for high entry grades, measuring inputs rather than outcomes. Birkbeck admits a wide range of students at different stages of their lives to widen access to education. To do this it has flexible entry requirements rather than strict rules about A level grades – the majority of students are mature and while many have valuable work experience, they may have been outside formal education for some time. Birkbeck’s flexible entry grades have the effect of pulling it down the rankings and, in effect, this penalises the College for its mission.
- Retention rates – Birkbeck’s students are often working or caring during the day and more vulnerable to changes in circumstances elsewhere in their lives. To compare this cohort with school leavers learning through daytime teaching elsewhere in the sector is misleading. Tables measure full-time students only. Birkbeck actually has one of the highest completion rates for part-time students in the sector. This reflects our expertise in supporting students combining work, family and other commitments with their degrees.
- Student spend – As Birkbeck students are taught in the evening, and often work during the day, the College does not provide its own dedicated leisure facilities (although students have access to the facilities shared by all members of the University of London). Again these mean Birkbeck’s score is reduced in domestic tables.
This is really a criticism of the over-simplified view that league tables give, compared to (say) the TEF (much criticised in its own right, of course, but much more nuanced). The first point above is one that will resonate with many across the sector. Progression from year 1 to year 2 is of course a metric in the TEF, which uses benchmarks so that Birkbeck would not be penalised for its model.
Postgraduate Research Experience Survey
Advance HE published the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey 2018. They note that 16,000 postgraduates responded to the survey and list the key findings as:
- Postgraduates researchers continue to rate their experience positively, with 8/10 who are satisfied overall. However, this represents a 2% decline since 2017.
- They were positive about their supervision, with 9/10 PGRs satisfied with their supervisors’ knowledge, feedback and availability. Postgraduates were less positive about the research culture, with 63% of respondents reporting positively.
- In contrast to undergraduate survey findings, PRES 2018 results indicate that UK domicile students of black ethnicity are the most likely to believe their research degree programme is worthwhile; and, again in contrast to the Advance HE – HEPI Student Academic Survey, postgraduate students working long hours in paid employment did not appear to be disadvantaged.
- PGRs with a disability, however, were less positive about their experience, facing increasing challenges as they progress through their studies.
The OfS have also issued an invitation to tender for a taught postgraduate student survey. It is described as an exploratory sample based survey intended to gather responses from around 30,000 PG students.
To accompany the tender announcements Conor Ryan, from the OfS wrote a Wonkhe blog: Listening to the postgraduate student voice.
Advance HE will publish the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) later this month, and the UK Engagement Survey next month.
Freedom of speech
Research Professional continues what might be called a campaign to call the Minister out on his pronouncements on free speech. The latest was in the playbook last week.
Playbook readers are familiar with the occasions it has been our journalistic duty to fact-check the claims of the universities minister Sam Gyimah during his campaign for free speech on campus. It was a surprise, then, to read over the summer an interview with the minister, given to the think tank Bright Blue, in which he said he had “received countless emails and letters from students saying that free speech on their campus is being threatened or impeded”. Wondering what amounted to “countless” these days, Playbook submitted a freedom of information request to the Department for Education. We asked for details of how many emails the minister had received from students on this topic. Sadly, the department was unable to comply with our request.
It said: “‘Free speech’ is such a widely applied term, it is impossible to narrow down all of the correspondence related to this subject.” We were told that the information was held in a “correspondence logging system” and not on a spreadsheet. “So the department estimates that the cost of complying with your request would exceed the cost threshold applicable to central government. This is £600 and represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3.5 working days locating, retrieving and extracting the information,” the department said.
Sexual Misconduct: AMOSSHE published an Insight report which researched students’ expectations of their universities following reporting or disclosure of sexual misconduct by or against students. The report notes a reluctance to report sexual misconduct and that emotional wellbeing support is crucial to student’s following disclosure.
Universal Credit: There has been significant hand wringing from the Conservatives over Universal Credit in recent times. FE News runs an article (written by Dept for Work and Pensions) on Universal Credit setting out the exceptions to the rule that full time students cannot claim Universal Credit.
A (short-ish) technical blog on HEPI this week discusses aligning Post-18 Entitlements and Apprenticeship Funding. It provides some facts and figures from level 2 to level 4. It concludes:
Arguably more thought needs to be given to publicly funded re-skilling entitlements. Potential options include:
- an all-age entitlement to free tuition for a second full Level 2;
- positioning fee-loans as the only source of public funding for subsequent Level 3 qualifications;
- creating separate part-time HE and adult FE fee-loan budgets for subsequent Levels 4 to 6 qualifications; and
- funding short courses through the National Retraining Scheme.
EEA Workers: Those following the Migration Advisory Committee’s EEA workers investigation and reporting may find this UCEA webpage interesting. It brings together the major sources on the topic and publishes the UCEA red amber green briefing response to the committee’s report.
Brexit – No deal prep: On Friday the Government released more guidance for various sectors on how to prepare for Brexit should we leave the EU with no deal.
Chief Scientific Adviser (Foreign and Commonwealth Office): Professor Carole Mundell was announced as the new Chief Scientific Adviser. She will also continue in her role as Professor of Extragalactic Astronomy at Bath University. The Chief Scientific Adviser represents UK science interests internationally, using science relationships to deliver the UK’s foreign policy priorities. She will work closely with the UK’s Science and Innovation Network to facilitate links between British and international scientists to drive future economic growth; tackle global challenges such as Anti-Microbial Resistance, Patient Safety, girls’ education and to support the conservation and sustainable use of the Ocean.
- Professor Mundell commented: Science is an international endeavour and is most effective when it draws on diverse talent to push the frontier of knowledge and tackle the biggest challenges facing our planet. I am honoured to have been appointed FCO CSA and am excited to work with the UK’s Science and Innovation Network and add value to the FCO’s prosperity and security work around the world.
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Mr. Georgios Digkas, a PhD candidate of University of Groningen, the Netherlands, visited Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK. He shared his research on the area of Technical Debt with BU partners and colleagues on 27 September 2018. He is also working on EU FIRST project .
If you want to listen to his talk, please visit our EU FIRST project YouTube Channel .
The 7th Call for step 1 applications to the Interreg 2Seas programme is open.
If BU academics are interested or are not sure about participation, there is an introductory and project development workshop scheduled in London on 23rd October.
Here is the link to programme and registration; please be aware that registration closes on 16th October.
Some projects are looking for UK Partners in following areas:
– Recovery of phosphorous from waste water to re-use as fertiliser – looking for very particular types of organisation
– Re-using industrial waste as new products of value
– Circular entrepreneurship in the leisure economy
– Adapting to future risks from coastal storms and compound flood events
– Converting empty buildings into affordable housing.
If you are interested in joining any of above projects, please contact international Research Facilitator or your Funding Development Officer for more details.
More information on the programme available on Interreg 2Seas website.
As previously announced, RKEO will host seminar on EU funding opportunities (FG06, Talbot Campus, Fusion Building) on 10th October 2018. Sessions will be delivered by European Advisor of the UK Research Office Dr Andreas Kontogeorgos.
Please register to allow us to order lunch and refreshments for all attendees this week.
Sessions will commence at 11:30 with an update on Brexit, followed by a networking lunch. In the afternoon there will be a review of future ICT-related calls and more detailed overview of the COST Actions and Marie Curie training networks (MSCA ITN) funding schemes.
Everybody is welcome to choose to attend any of the sessions below:
11:30 – 12:00 – Brexit News, Q&A (to be continued during lunch if necessary)
12:00 – 13:00 – Networking Lunch
13:00 – 14:15 – Cross-disciplinary nature of ICT – forthcoming Horizon 2020 calls and topics under pillars of Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges
14:15 – 14:30 – Comfort break / over-run time / time for people to come and in and out
14:30 – 15:15 – COST Actions – bottom-up driven networks for expanding European Cooperation in Science and Technology
15:15 – 16:30 – Overview of MSCA ITN funding scheme, followed by Q&A session
P.S. If you were unable to register, (quiet) drop-in to any separate session will be accepted.
A Bournemouth University team from the Faculty of Science and Technology visited University of Groningen for FIRST mid-term review. It was a very productive meeting with a lot of effective outcomes for research and knowledge exchange. Dr. Lai Xu and Dr. Paul de Vrieze are FIRST coordinators representing Bournemouth University and the team is pleased to announce that FIRST will continue to move towards a factory of the future for European Union.
If you want to know more about the project and get involved, please contact Dr. Lai Xu or Dr. Paul de Vrieze. You can also follow our social medial links on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube Channel.
During the mid-term review meeting, the FIRST EU project advisor Irina Elena Tiron giving a talk on RISE projects. A useful instrument for researchers in EU (and beyond).
Labour Party Conference
The Labour Party concluded their autumn conference this week. Here are the key pledges from Angela Rayner’s (Shadow Education Secretary) speech:
- Ending the Tories’ academy and free schools programmes. (This should be interpreted as the end of new academies and free schools rather than bringing them all back under LA control.)
- Allowing councils to build schools, create new places and take back control of admissions from academy trusts.
- Allow local authorities to take control of failing academies.
- Stopping fat cat pay for bosses and restoring fair pay for staff (there’s no detailed pay policy for education from Labour but expect there 20:1 pay ratio to apply here as a minimum).
- The re-emergence of cooperative schools as part of the biggest schools building programme ever, backed by £8bn of investment (this will also help modernise schools to improve their accessibility).
- Scrapping the Conservative early years model and introducing “a new public service, offering free early education for all two to four year olds and reinventing our state nurseries.” Rayner called this, “A policy as radical as anything proposed by any Labour government in our history”.
- Integrated HE and FE and invitation of experts to proposed Lifelong Learning Commission headed by Shadow Minister, Gordon Marsden. Free (no fees) FE and HE.
Internal BU readers can also read the summary from the Labour Party fringe NEON event: Open to all? Making the case for HE, and the fringe Immigration discussion – What Skills-Based Immigration System is Best for Britain?
The Conservative Party Conference starts this weekend.
Reputational issues – Essay Mills
With the Radio 4 Today programme in Newcastle this week, there was a lead story on contract cheating, and initiatives such as the current petition to ban essay mills. 40 VCs signed a letter to the Minister arranged by UUK.
- Legislation will not be a magic bullet; it is, however, a vital part of the broader package of measures. Legislation would, amongst other advantages, shut-down UK-based essay mills; prevent the advertising of their services near campuses and in public places such as the London Underground; enable the removal of essay mills from search engine findings and prevent UK-based companies from hosting online advertisements for essay mills.
- Most importantly, it will send a clear statement to the global Higher Education sector that the integrity of a UK degree is valued by the government. Any legislation would need to be carefully crafted, in particular to ensure that the law targeted the essay mills themselves, and did not criminalise students or legitimate educational services.
There is a HEPI blog by Michael Draper and Philip M Newton of Swansea University looking at the law and how this might work in practice – a criminal offence based on strict liability with the offence as follows:
- completing in whole or in part an assignment or any other work that a student enrolled at a Higher Education provider is required to complete as part of a Higher Education course in their stead without authorisation from those making the requirement.
They also note a range of current activity including by the QAA.
Responding to the letter from vice chancellors, Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said:
- “The rise in the use of essay mills in recent years has sought to turn cheating into an industry. Essay mills are deeply unethical, and their operation is unfair on the vast majority of students who hand in their own work.
- “The Office for Students has a central role to play in ending essay mills; universities and colleges wishing to register with us must demonstrate that they are protecting the reliability and credibility of degree standards. We will work closely with the Government and the whole higher education sector in a collective effort to close these operations for good.”
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019 results were announced on Wednesday. BU is ranked within the 501-600 position. Oxford and Cambridge remain the two top institutions but the rankings also reveal the UK national picture is one of ‘modest decline’ as Japan overtakes the UK to become the second most representation nation behind the US. China has also stepped up its ascent, with the country now home to the top institution in Asia for the first time under the current methodology.
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:
- “What is clear from all the various international rankings is that the UK continues to have one of the strongest university sectors in the world. This is based on our well-deserved international reputation for high quality teaching, learning and research, delivered by talented and dedicated staff. But we know that other countries are seeing the benefits of higher education and are investing heavily in developing their universities. If the UK is to maintain its leading position, we must match this investment, and ensure that the UK projects a more open and welcoming message for talented international staff and students. This is more important than ever as Brexit negotiations near their end and the UK looks to enhance its place in the world.”
Fees and funding
There is a Wonkhe blog on How to target maintenance grants by Sarah Stevens, the Head of Policy at the Russell Group. The RG have been calling for maintenance grants as part of the post-18 review.
- The Russell Group asked London Economics to model various options to help inform our submission to the government’s review of post-18 education and funding. One option stands out as striking a balance between providing more generous support for students from the most deprived backgrounds and remaining cost-effective for taxpayers: introducing a living wage maintenance grant for those students eligible for free school meals (FSM) during their school years.
- Giving each FSM-eligible student access to an annual maintenance grant broadly equivalent to the national living wage (around £8,200) would significantly reduce (by £27,800, assuming they choose not to also take up loans) their total notional debt on graduation This should help to address concerns about affordability and debt burden for these students.
- While this policy would add around £200m to the deficit, the long-run cost is likely to be much lower. This is because of the signalling effect which may help to drive social mobility, and because there would likely be a smaller outstanding loan book that would then need to be written-off after 30 years. Such an approach would also mirror some of the reforms which have emerged from the Diamond Review in Wales, which establishes a link between student living costs support and the national living wage.
Access, participation and outcomes
HE Participation rates (Dods): The DfE have published statistics revealing the latest provisional participation rates for HE. The HEIPR is an estimate of the likelihood of a young person participating in HE by aged 30.
- The provisional HEIPR has increased 0.7% to 49.8% in 2016/17
- The gender pay gap in participation has increased from 11.5% to 12.4% in 2016/17
- Individuals are more likely to participate in HE for the first time at age 18 than any other age. The initial participation rate for 18 year olds is at 28%, up 0.9% from 2015/16
Widening Participation and Achievement
Not a week can pass without a Government official naming the Post-18 Review of Education and Funding as the imminent golden ticket for solving the latest thorny problem. This week it’s a parliamentary question on mature students. What is interesting is that the question focuses on mature learners studying up to level 5, rather than tackling a full degree:
Q – Lord Allen Of Kensington: What steps they are taking to increase the number of mature students studying part-time for level 4 and level 5 qualifications in England.
A- Lord Agnew Of Oulton:
Studying part-time and later in life can bring considerable benefits for individuals, employers and the economy. For the first time this academic year, part-time students will be able to access full-time equivalent maintenance loans.
The Review of Post-18 Education and Funding will look at how we can encourage learning that is more flexible, like part-time, distance learning and commuter study options. In addition, the Department for Education is undertaking a review of level 4 and 5 education, focusing on how technical qualifications at this level can better address the needs of learners and employers.
As part of the review, we want to ensure that any considerations are properly addressed and that provision helps support progression for learners of all backgrounds, including young people and more mature learners looking to upskill or retrain.
We expect to publish level 4-5 proposals for consultation alongside the conclusion of the Post-18 Review in early 2019
There was a Wonkhe blog on participation that highlights some challenges for the sector
- There are in the territory of 40,000-60,000 of each of the under-represented group(s) ‘missing’ from HE, compared to if they had the same entry rate as other group(s).
- Increases in the entry rate of the lowest entry rate group (Q1) since 2012 has been very strong – but this has changed in 2018. Typically, young people in these areas have been around 4% to 8% (proportionally) more likely to go to university every year. This year that growth in university entry chances has collapsed to almost zero. Only the fee-perturbed year of 2012 was worse.
- As a triple (low growth, low equality reduction, high target deviation), this is arguably the worst set of POLAR data on record. There would be another 57,000 18-year-olds from England (65,000 at the UK level) starting at university this Autumn if young people in lower entry rate neighbourhoods (quintiles 1, 2, and 3) went to university at the same rate as their peers living elsewhere.
- In 2018 the UK entry rate for 18-year-old men at day 28 was 27.8%, up just 0.1 percentage points. For women 38.1%, also up by not much (+0.4 percentage points), but still four times more than for men. It seems that the slowing overall entry rate has hit men harder, pushing the university gap between men and women to a new record. Young women are now a startling 37% more likely to enter HE than men. The absolute percentage point gap between men and women has gone past 10 percentage points for the first time at 10.3 percentage points. These differences equate to 38,000 men not starting at university this autumn compared to what we would see if men had equal entry rates with women.
- In 2018 there were around 50,000 fewer 18-year-olds from the white ethnic group starting university compared to if they had the same average entry rate (39.6%) as young people from ethnic groups with entry rates higher than average.
Value for money
From Wonkhe: The Guardian has a collection of letters, including one from UUK chief executive Alistair Jarvis, responding to Aditya Chakrabortty’s recent criticism of the university system for failing to deliver on its promises. (Wonkhe, Tues)
Wonkhe report that: The new Administrative Data Research Partnership (ADRP) aims to maximise the potential of administrative data as a resource for research in the UK. Supported by £44 million from the Economic and Social Research Council (a part of UK Research and Innovation – UKRI), the ADRP will seek to provide a secure route for accredited researchers to use de-identified data from across government departments, local authorities and health authorities. This replaces the Administrative Data Research Network, which was funded for five years up until July this year.
Brexit – Horizon 2020
Last week we mentioned that UKRI is gathering basic information about recipients of Horizon 2020 grants. The bespoke portal for the information gathering was launched on Thursday and aims to support continuity of funding. UKRI have undertaken to keep UK researchers and businesses registering their project on the portal informed of the next steps if the government needs to underwrite Horizon 2020 payments. The UK and the EU’s intention remains that UK researchers and businesses will continue to be eligible to participate in Horizon 2020 for the remaining duration of the programme (as set out in the Financial Provisions of the draft Withdrawal Agreement). The portal will also act as a safety net whereby the Government can plan to ensure that cross-border collaboration in science and innovation can continue after EU exit.
Sam Gyimah said:
- “It is imperative that we support our world-class researchers, businesses and scientists to continue to collaborate with EU partners after exit. While we do not want nor expect no deal, it is right that we plan for every eventuality. The launch of the new UKRI portal today is the next step in our commitment to the recipients of Horizon 2020 funding that we will guarantee funding for the duration of the programme.
- The UK government announced 2 years ago that it would underwrite UK funds for all EU-funded projects successfully bid for while the UK is a still a member of the EU. In July of this year an extension to that guarantee said that funding for UK participants successfully bid for from exit day until the end of 2020 would also be guaranteed by the UK government, in a no deal scenario. Last month the UK government announced that if the underwrite needs to come into effect, UKRI is the partner of choice to deliver it. To ensure UKRI is ready for that eventuality, specialist teams have developed a bespoke portal designed to capture basic information about recipients’ grants and identify a relevant contact at the participating organisation for the project, likely to be the LEAR (Legal Entity Appointed Representative), so that they can be informed of the next steps in the process. Those in receipt of Horizon 2020 grants need to input their information into the system as soon as possible.”
UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “I urge our partners in research and business to work with us to capture the information we need via this portal.”
Nature science journal released the article – Six months to Brexit: how scientists are preparing for the split
Brexit – Intellectual Property and Patents
The Government announced further publications within the No Deal Brexit preparation series this week. Four documents deal with the technicalities surrounding intellectual property:
- Exhaustion of intellectual property rights
- EU trade marks and registered Community designs
- Cross-border copyright
The key message is that
- EU legislation will be retained under the EU Withdrawal Act. For patents, for example, this would mean that in the case of a no-deal Brexit, existing systems would remain in place, operating independently from the EU regime, with all the current conditions and requirements. Concerning copyright, the UK would seize to fall under the EU Directives and Regulations on copyright and related rights and would be treated by the EU as a third country. Here, the notice states that the UK Government would make adjustments under the powers of the Withdrawal Act to ensure the retained law can operate effectively.
No new consultations or inquiries this week, however, we are expecting a consultation on grade inflation to be announced in November.
- CMA new starts: View the new appointments to the Competition and Markets Authority here.
- Regional revolution: The Centre for Social Justice released a press statement urging the Government to take action on non-London regions if they want to deliver on the aspirations of the Industrial Strategy and the technological and AI changes that are being called the 4th Industrial Revolution. Read the succinct summary here.
- Bloomberg Global Business Forum: The PM gave her Bloomberg speech on Wednesday touching on the industrial strategy and encouraging global businesses to establish within Britain
- The Budget: Philip Hammond announces the budget will take place on 29 October, via Twitter.
- Student Drinking: A NUS survey announces trends to student drinking at university. Read the key findings here.
- Data Futures: HESA blog on the release of the full Student 2019/20 Data Futures specification.
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Would your research activity benefit from a greater awareness the EU landscape?
Then, sign up for this free MOOC! Please note that you will need to do this soon as this resource will close at the end of February 2019.
Who is this course for?
This course is for everybody interested in the EU and its regional and local affairs, particularly for officials of regional and local administrations involved in EU affairs. It also targets students, teachers, local journalists and citizens in general.
What do I need to know?
Recommended background: basic knowledge of the European Union
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In this course you will learn about how the EU institutions function and work together, how the EU budget is prepared and how this impacts policies and activities at the regional and local level. Present and upcoming EU programmes and policies will be presented, as well as statistics, practical examples and success stories of concrete EU-funded projects across the continent.
MSCA Individual Fellowships 2018 Call Submission Rates
According to UKRO, the European Commission has released the submission rates for the 2018 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Individual Fellowships (IF) call, which closed on 12 September; a total of 9,830 proposals were submitted.
This represents a slight increase in comparison to the previous MSCA IF call under Horizon 2020 in 2017, which received 9,089 proposals. The results can be expected by mid-February 2019.
Open registration for MSCA Innovative Training Networks UK Information Events
UKRO in it’s capacity as National Contact Point for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) will hold two free information days focussing on the 2019 MSCA Innovative Training Networks (ITN) call for proposals (deadline for the submission of applications on 15 January 2019). Registration can be accessed through the following links: Wednesday 10 October, London; Friday 12 October, York.
Participation in the events is free, but registration is mandatory for attendance; places will be offered on a first come first served basis.
Open registration for Societal Challenge 6 Information Day
An information and brokerage event for the Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 6: ‘Europe in a changing world – Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies’ will take place in Warsaw, Poland on 8 November. It is organised by the European Commission (DG RTD) and Net4Society, a network of SC6 National Contacts Points.
The event is free of charge but limited to 2 persons representing the same department/organization. Online registration is obligatory.
EU Partnering event on the use of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence for monitoring health status and quality of life after cancer treatment
Academics are invited to submit an expression of interest to participate in this partnering event.
The aim of the event is to foster and facilitate the development of R&D project consortia for Horizon 2020 EU funded projects in the Healthtech themes. The event is aimed to provide a platform for new commercial and technological collaborations, especially between business and research organisations.
Open registration for UKRO Annual Visit to BU
RKEO will host annual UK Research Office visit to BU on 10th October 2018. The event will take place in FG06 seminar room with the sessions for BU academics commencing at 11:30.
To find more about Horizon 2020 programme and available funding in your area, visit Horizon 2020 website. More details on projects funded under FP6, FP7 and Horizon 2020 may be found on CORDIS website.
For further details on EU and international funding opportunities please contact international research facilitator or any member of RKEO Funding Development Team to individually discuss your ideas and the ways we could support you.
With a slight delay, the European Research Council (ERC) has published the Work Programme for 2019. While the Starting Grant 2019 call is open and preparation of proposals may already be at their final stage, academics may refer to ERC Work Programme 2019 for further information on ERC Consolidator Grant(submission deadline 07/02/2019), Advanced Grant (29/08/2019), Synergy grant (08/11/2018) and Proof of Concept Grant (cut-off dates 22/01/2019, 25/04/2019 and 19/09/2019).
In the meantime, ERC has published an article “Applying for ERC funding – myths vs reality”. Academics might be interested to find out more about ERC grant application process from the point of view of a person who has experience from both sides of the fence; Professor Superti-Furga, a molecular and systems biologist, has won several ERC grants from 2009 to 2015 and became a member of the ERC’s Scientific Council in 2017.
The fundamental activity of the ERC is to provide attractive, long-term funding to support excellent investigators and their research teams to pursue ground-breaking, high-gain/high-risk research.
There are great support opportunities available at BU for academics planning to apply for EU and International funding. If you are considering applying for international funding, contact international research facilitator or any member of RKEO Funding Development Team at your faculty to individually discuss your ideas and the ways we could support you.
As announced earlier, RKEO will host annual UK Research Office visit to BU on 10th October 2018. The event will take place in FG06 seminar room (Fusion Building). Session will be delivered by Dr Andreas Kontogeorgos, European Advisor of the UK Research Office.
Bookings for this event are now open to BU Staff and, so that catering will be arranged, confirm attendance by Wednesday, 3rd October – please book your place following a link on event’s intranet page.
The sessions for BU academics will commence at 11:30 with an update on Brexit, followed by a networking lunch. In the afternoon session there will be a review of future ICT-related calls and more detailed overview of the COST Actions funding scheme – please see full agenda below.
|11:30 – 12:00||Brexit News, Q&A (to be continued during lunch if necessary)
(All invited/registered from 11:30 to 15:15)
|12:00 – 13:00||Networking lunch|
|13:00 – 14:15||Cross-disciplinary nature of ICT – forthcoming Horizon 2020 calls and topics under pillars of Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges|
|14:15 – 14:30||Comfort break / over-run time / time for people to come and in and out|
|14:30 – 15:15||COST Actions – bottom-up driven networks for expanding European Cooperation in Science and Technology|
|15:15 – 16:30||15 minute 1-2-1s|
A number of 15 minute 1-2-1 sessions available with Andreas (UKRO) and Ainar (BU International Research Facilitator) – here, you can discuss your European funding plans and ambitions with either of them. To book your 1-2-1 meeting, please make a note about this when booking for the main event or email directly to RKEDevFramework@bournemouth.ac.uk with “UKRO 1-2-1” in subject field.
If you have an interest in applying to Horizon 2020 and other European funding, please make full use of BU’s subscription by registering to receive updates from UKRO. On their website, you can access subscriber-exclusive support materials including call fact-sheets and details of future UKRO events.
Parliament rose for the party conference recess on Thursday so we can look forward to some inter-party challenging debate over the next few weeks. On Tuesday the Migration Advisory Committee delivered their verdict on international students – to the chagrin of many within the HE sector; and Wonkhe speculate about Generation Z as universities prepare to greet their new and returning students.
Review of post-18 funding delayed
There has been further speculation this week that the interim Augar report for the review of post-18 funding will be delayed until January 2019. This has financial implications as the delay takes it past the Nov 2018 budget.
Research Professional say:
Speaking at the UUK conference last week, review chairman Philip Augar suggested that the panel’s work would have to consider any recommendation from the Office for National Statistics on the presentation of student loans in the public accounts. This is bound to affect the recommendations of the panel, which—if we take the heavy hints—is looking to rebalance the inequality of resource between further and higher education.
The Public Accounts Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the Sale of Student Loans following the National Audit Office (NAO) report which noted the Government had sold loans with a face value of £3.5 billion for £1.7 billion (roughly 48p for every £1 in value).
The NAO noted concerns that the Treasury’s key incentive for selling loans was to reduce Public Sector Net Debt—a metric that has been queried by the International Monetary Fund, the Office for Budget Responsibility, and Committees in Parliament. They also highlighted that the DfE (which owns student loans policy) had a different way of estimating value than HM Treasury.
The inquiry will explore the reasons for the sale, how Government can be sure selling the loans is good value for money, remaining risks, and lessons learned for the sale of more loans in the future.
This week the Chancellor was grilled during his annual session with the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. He was questioned on the calculation methods for representing the student loan debt, Lord Sharkey (Lib Dem) asked if he accepted that the student loans system constituted a ‘fiscal illusion’ in making the deficit appear lower. He responded that at present the UK was accounting for student loans in accordance with Office for National Statistics (ONS) guidance, however, if the ONS changes the guidance then the government would treat the loans differently. He also noted the on-going Review of Post-18 Education would feed into considerations on the matter. [With the Review reputedly delayed because it is awaiting the outcome of the ONS considerations about whether to change the loan calculation methods, a potential spiral of delay here!] Hammond also said he remained confident that the student loans system was significantly redistributive.
When pressed on a potential re-think in relation to maintenance grants the Chancellor responded – yes you guessed it – that due to the on-going Review of Post-18 Education it would not be sensible for him to comment ahead of the review outcomes. When a Committee member pointed out that the constraints around the Review of Post-16 Education had been designed so that the investigators could not make recommendation which would increase the deficit Hammond expressed his scepticism.
On apprenticeships Hammond noted a levelling up shift with less people choosing a Level 2 apprenticeship and more plumping for a Level 3 apprenticeship. Hammond felt this was because businesses were investing their own funds in higher-level apprenticeships.
On the use of the retail price index (RPI) to calculate student loan interest rates. Lord Turnbull (Crossbench) noted the chairman of the Statistics Commission had told the committee that the use of RPI to calculate inflation was inadequate and did not have the potential to become adequate. He questioned Hammond asking if the continued use of RPI was tenable. In response, Hammond said he was expecting the Committee’s report on this issue. He acknowledge that the shortcomings of RPI were well-known, but noted that the ONS had decided in 2012 not to change the RPI formula, and it was not for him to question this decision.
Q – Lord Roberts Of Llandudno: What plans they have, if any, to provide assistance to students paying over six per cent in interest on their tuition fees and maintenance loans.
A – Viscount Younger Of Leckie: The system of variable interest rates based on income is progressive, and ensures that higher earners make a fair contribution to the sustainability of the higher education system. Student loan interest rates vary with income. Only borrowers earning over £45,000 and those in study pay the maximum interest rate of 6.3% and many will be charged less than this. The system of variable interest rates help ensure that the highest earners make a higher total contribution than those on lower incomes. Reducing interest rates would benefit high earners only. That is why the government has increased the repayment threshold from tax year 2018-19 and will increase the repayment threshold again in April 2019, reducing monthly repayments for all borrowers earning above £25,000. We believe that it is right that students should contribute to the cost of their higher education and that this contribution should be linked to their income. This means that those who have benefited the most from their education repay their fair share.
The Commons Science and Technology select committee investigated research integrity earlier in the year to examine the reproducibility crisis and trends and developments in fraud, misconduct and mistakes in research and the publication of research results. They concluded that “error, questionable practices, and outright fraud are possible in any human endeavour, and research integrity must be taken seriously and tackled head-on.”
Their report also called for a new national committee on research integrity to be established. We have been waiting for the Government to respond to the Committee’s report and now the Government’s response, along with an accompanying letter from Sam Gyimah can be viewed here. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) also responded here.
The Government supported the call for a new national committee on research integrity confirming that UKRI will explore the set-up of a new committee in detail and report back to the Committee by early 2019. On this Committee Chair, Norman Lamb MP, said:
- “I warmly welcome the Government’s commitment to explore the central recommendation of our Report. …There is currently a gap in the system that needs to be filled. Universities can be seen to be ‘policing themselves’ when it comes to investigating research misconduct, and a new national committee would provide a counterbalance to that inherent conflict of interest.”
The Government response also welcomed the Committee’s recommendations on strengthening the Concordat. UKRI responded
- “As a signatory, we will work to make the concordat’s requirements and expectations clearer. Over the next twelve months, the signatories will agree the revised version of the concordat and provide the committee with a route map and timetable for reaching 100% compliance”. On this Chair Norman Lamb said: “My Committee will keep a close eye on developments to ensure that actions are followed up, but it appears that the Government and UKRI have listened and are taking our concerns seriously.”
On the other calls to action (Committee in blue, Government response in purple):
The Committee also wanted the Government to back the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) and called on them and UUK to recommend all universities subscribe to UKRIO. The Government response was watered down support – stating they would explore with Universities UK (UUK) and UKRIO how we can promote the work of UKRIO as an organisation that furthers good practice in academic, scientific and medical research.
The Committee had concerns were researchers were able to commit misconduct at several institutions because of some universities may be using non-disclosure agreements to keep misconduct quiet or do not rigorously check references. The Committee wanted UKRI to consider how this practice can be effectively banned by institutions receiving public funds. Again the Government tasks UKRI to think it through: …the Government agrees that deliberate research misconduct should be taken extremely seriously. As a first step, we will ask UKRI to explore the scale of the problem and to provide advice on what specific action or actions may be needed, in addition to a strengthening of the Concordat.
Sam Gyimah said: The Government fully recognises the importance of excellent research and we will continue to work closely with UKRI to ensure that researchers are able to work in a culture which is conducive to the highest standards, and that those who use research, and the public at large, can have absolute faith in the quality and reliability of the UK’s world-leading base, now and into the future.
Find out more about the inquiry at the Science and Technology Committee Research Integrity inquiry page.
Brexit – no deal impact on research and mobility
The Government has published two more papers in its technical series setting out what will happen in the event of a Brexit ‘no deal’. They explain how they will support researchers and universities for Horizon 2020 funding and the Erasmus+ scheme.
On Erasmus+ the Government says:
- We’re underwriting Erasmus+ funding for all successful bids submitted while we are still in the EU. This arrangement is dependent on reaching agreement with the EU that UK organisations can continue to be eligible to participate in Erasmus+ projects and;
- Funding for successful bids will continue for the lifetime of those particular projects
- You will still be able to bid for new funding until 2020, if we reach an agreement with the EU that UK organisations can participate in Erasmus+ projects post-exit after the UK has left the EU
Read the full Government statement here
On Horizon 2020 the Government says:
- The UK is providing funding through the underwrite guarantee and extension to support UK participants to continue to take part in Horizon 2020 projects, subject to eligibility for participation in the project. The government is seeking discussions with the European Commission to agree the precise details of eligibility. The government is also considering what other measures may be necessary to support UK research and innovation in a ‘no deal’ scenario.
- UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) will be developing systems to ensure payments to beneficiaries of Horizon 2020 funding can continue. Current UK recipients of Horizon 2020 funding will soon be invited to provide initial data about project(s) on a portal hosted on GOV.UK. The portal is designed to ensure that UKRI has information about projects and participants in order to deliver the underwrite guarantee if required. UKRI will use the contact details provided by current recipients to inform them of the next steps in the process.
Fulbright Scholarships: On Wednesday Sam Gyimah spoke at the US-UK Fulbright Commission reception to announce increased investment for the scholarship programme. He hailed the UK and US as the heavyweights of higher education and spoke of the special relationship the UK and US in pledging to forge further transnational education partnerships. Sam said:
- “The UK and the US are both powerhouses on the international stage, attracting talented students and teachers from across the globe to broaden both of our horizons…. This is a bilateral partnership that celebrates the exchange of innovative ideas and best practice, cementing lasting collaborations and a deeper understanding of each other’s country. We are enormously grateful for the continuing support of both governments, that will enable us to invest in future generations of Fulbright scholars…The UK and US have long been seen as the powerhouses for higher education, with the two countries making up 9 out of ten of the world’s best universities. The funding builds on a strong history of the UK-US bilateral education relationship, and will introduce a programme enabling teachers from the UK to develop and share their professional skills and academic knowledge in the US.”
The Telegraph writes on the Fulbright scholarships quoting Sam Gyimah saying more must be done to attract students from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minorities and that the additional £400,000 should be used to enable students from deprived backgrounds to “benefit from what is historically been perceived as an elite programme”.
Higher Education Commission
The Higher Education Commission launched their international students report on Thursday: Staying Ahead – Are International Students Going Down Under? The report begins:
- While the UK has for many decades ranked in clear second place next to the USA for popularity of international HE provision, other countries are putting policies into practice that are attracting a much larger share of mobile students.
- In order to build a resilient economy and to develop our soft power and diplomacy the Government needs urgently to develop joined-up policies to actively promote the HE sector. The time feels right politically and in terms of the mood of the nation to remove students from migration numbers and simplify the visa process. [So rather unfortunate publication timing given Tuesday’s verdict by the MAC committee (follows below) that students should remain within the migration numbers.]
The HE Commission’s press release frames the need for international friendliness within the Government’s ambition to grow HE to deliver the 2020 target. It says:
- The Higher Education Commission is passionate about the health of the higher education sector and developing the financial value and soft power benefits of its international work at home and abroad. We want the Government to achieve its ambition of boosting the value of international higher education to £30billion by 2020, but this will not be easy given the continued ambiguity around the welcome given to international students and migration targets. This report therefore seeks to assess the best routes to achieve growth including what the Government needs to do to support the HE sector.
Migration Advisory Committee
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was tasked to assess the impact of international students in the UK and make recommendations to the Government. The HE sector lobbied for a more positive approach to international students, particularly for their removal from the net migration targets throughout. An influential publication was released early on by HEPI quantifying the financial benefits to local areas brought in by international students (£22.6 billion gross nationally). The lobbying continued right up to the last minute with Universities UK proposing a new post-study work visa system to reward and capitalise on international graduate talent.
The MAC published its report on Tuesday dashing the hopes of many within the HE sector.
The Mail Online said the MAC report was “a vindication” for Theresa May, who has often been portrayed as the lone Cabinet voice refusing to back down on the migration targets.
Wonkhe write to acknowledge the disappointment, and also explain the devil may be in the details for the Government:
- Yesterday’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report was long awaited by the sector as a hopeful rebuff to Theresa May’s seemingly-isolated position of including international students in the infamous “tens of thousands” migration target. But it didn’t and voices around sector have expressed frustration….But MAC did come as close as such a body can to criticising the politicised use of migration statistics, a practice unique to the UK and a presentational – rather than a statistical – decision that demonstrably harms international student recruitment. This carefully-worded call is likely to give the government a much bigger headache than simply revamping the figures
Wonkhe summarise the MAC report in their blog post highlighting that 7 of the 8 recommendations actually benefit the sector.
- There should continue to be no cap on the number of international students, which sat at 438,000 in 2015/16, a rise of almost 30% over the last decade.
- The sector and the government should “work more closely together” to grow recruitment, with the committee chair Alan Manning – in a masterpiece of understatement – saying the two sides were not always “on the same page” at present. This feels like a missed opportunity given the report also confirms that the UK has become less competitive, with a “slightly” falling market share (rather than the big dip shown in other, apparently “selective” uses of data), the risk that Australia will overtake us for the second-place spot soon. The UK has no national strategy or recruitment target, and “less generous” post-study work options.
- The rules for working while studying, and the rights of dependents, should stay the same as now – with both similar to comparative nations.
- The window for switching from Tier 4 (studying) to Tier 2 (working) should be “widened”. Beneath the original fence-sitting language this appears to be a positive suggestion, but is a pretty minor tweak, and hardly a change that will persuade many students to choose the UK over the alternatives.
- The post-study leave period for masters students should be extended from four to six months, but with a “more thorough” review. Again potentially positive, but minor.
- Similarly, the 12-month post-PhD “leave to remain” period should be automatically incorporated into the original visa, subject to the student meeting progress requirements and/or course completion, replacing the existing Doctoral Extension scheme which needs to be applied to and paid for.
- Former Tier 4 students who’ve passed Level 6+ qualifications should be entitled to a two-year grace period in which they can apply out-of-country for a Tier 2 visa, under the same rules as current in-country Tier 4 to Tier 2 switches. This is some way short of the automatic switch (from study to work visa) proposed by Universities UK. Though better than the existing arrangements, it feels insufficient, given that the report says that visa extension numbers dropped from 45,000 to 6,000 after the 2012 clampdown.
- However, when it comes to recommendation eight, the question that’s dominated this debate – whether international students should be removed from the net migration statistics used as a target by the government – the committee said no. The stated reasons are that other countries include them, there’s no workable method to take them out, and it wouldn’t make much difference anyway.
HEPI described the MAC report as ‘woefully disappointing’ (see HEPI’s widely read full response here). The report must have come as a blow to Nick Hillman who earlier in the year called on the MAC Commission to conclude and publish early following their key research which quantified the substantial financial gains hosting international students brought to each parliamentary constituency. Nick says:
- Many of us have had misplaced faith in the MAC as a body. Throughout their work, I have repeatedly said the MAC are likely to follow the evidence, which is unusually one-sided and positive on the issue of international students. They bring money, diversity and soft power to the UK. But it seems if you are a Committee that is appointed by the Home Office, answerable to the Home Office and designed primarily to look at labour market economics rather than education, you start and finish in a particular place. If you doubt this, take a look at the recruitment processes for the MAC: when they recently added to their membership, the appointment panel was chaired by the Director of Immigration and Border Policy!
Responding to the report, Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, said:
- “While the UK continues to count international students as long-term migrants in its net migration target, there is a continued pressure to reduce their numbers. This adds to the perception that they are not welcome here. In countries such as the US, Canada and Australia, international students are classified as temporary migrants, alongside tourists and visitors. A change of policy from government in this area would have public backing. Polling suggests that the British public does not see international students as long-term migrants, but as valuable, temporary visitors.
- This is an area in which the UK can say it is truly world-leading. While the UK remains one of the most popular locations in the world for talented international students and staff, we have seen a slowdown in recent years compared to other countries. The UK could be doing much better than this, with the potential to be one of the world’s fastest growing destinations for international students and staff.”
Independent Schools Council Chairman, Barnaby Lenon, said:
“In a post-Brexit world not only should we adopt a much warmer attitude towards these students, who have a positive influence on our economy, our intellectual base and our ability to understand other cultures, we also need to make it easier for them to navigate the excessively complicated mechanics of applying for a student visa.”
Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment and Skills at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“Business communities around the UK will be bitterly disappointed not to see support for the removal of overseas students from the immigration statistics. We have been calling for the removal of these students from the immigration figures for a long time as the vast majority go home after completing their courses.
- The committee is right to recommend that it should be easier for overseas students to work here at the end of their studies. International students benefit local economies up and down the country, not only through their direct spending power, but also through their skills, languages and cultural awareness. At a time when three quarters of firms are struggling to fill job vacancies, it makes sense to attract and harness the talent of international students.
- It’s time to scrap the caps and arbitrary numerical targets. It’s one thing to control migration, but quite another to use arbitrary mechanisms that deny businesses, universities and public sector employers the people they need to address immediate skills gaps.
- The government should also restore a post-a study work visa that allows British universities and companies to benefit from the energy of some of the people they have trained. Now more than ever, the UK should be striving to attract the brightest talent from around the world, and our future immigration policy should reflect that instead of a fixation with targets.”
Dr Greg Walker, MillionPlus: “The Committee appears to set aside – without a clear rationale – the compelling evidence submitted to change the UK’s self-defeating policy of restricting the numbers of international students. I would challenge the MAC’s view that including international students in the overall migration target has little or no impact on recruitment – there is plenty of evidence to the contrary”.
James Pitman of Destination for Education said: “This report is a huge missed opportunity to strengthen international education in the UK. The Committee acknowledges the sector will be disappointed. We are.”
Matthew Percival, CBI Head of Employment: “Making it easier to switch to work visas after their studies will help the UK to increase its market share of international students amid fierce competition.”
Meanwhile Migration Watch UK Chairman Lord Green of Deddington had a different view point and congratulated the MAC on their recommendations:
- “An excellent report. Full marks to the Professor who found in our favour on two key issues. The MAC endorsement of the inclusion of students in the migration statistics should put this issue to bed. It is also right that the post-study work regime should remain carefully policed. We have long pointed to its risks and welcome the inquiry he has proposed.”
There was substantial media coverage:
- The Mail Online – “Official review attacks May’s ‘tens of thousands’ immigration target and says it should be made EASIER for foreign students to stay on in the UK“
- BBC – “Overseas students should ‘stay in migration target’“
- The Guardian – “Relax rules on foreign students staying to find work in UK, report says“
- The Times – “Give overseas students more time to find work, May is urged“
- The Mirror – “Official review says it should be easier for foreign students to build their lives in Britain“
- Holyrood – “Post-study work visa needed for international students“
Value for money
The OECD have issued their report on education in 2018.
It is always interesting to see what commentators and the media select to report
- The UK pays the highest level of tuition fees in the industrialised world apart from the United States – driven by the cost of fees in England rather than other parts of the UK .But, the OECD annual report says, much of this will not be repaid and that a “well-developed system of financial support” has allowed rising numbers of students to go to university.
- By international standards, the UK has a high proportion of young people going to university, the OECD says.
- The UK has seen a sharp fall in mature student numbers – and the average age for a graduate in the UK is now 23, the youngest in the OECD countries.
- The proportion of students taking maths and science is high by international standards, but for engineering it is among the lowest.
The Department for Education response:
- Almost 1 in 5 of all students in tertiary education in the UK are international, with the UK having one of the highest proportions of international students ….demonstrating the quality and reputation of our universities and their success as a global export.
- Higher education – The OECD found that the United Kingdom offers some of the most generous financial support for students. The Government has also taken steps to make the system better for graduates, including by increasing the repayment threshold, saving them up to £360 a year, and a record proportion of disadvantaged 18-year-olds accepted a place at university on A Level results day earlier this year.
A Guardian article by Sally Hunt of UCU: UK spending on tertiary education staff as a proportion of current expenditure stands at just 63% – lower than both the OECD average (68%) and the EU average (70%). Many of our nearest competitor countries invest a significantly higher proportion in their tertiary workforce, with France spending 80%, Belgium 76% and Germany 67% of their current expenditure on staff.
The Telegraph: The value of a university education has been called into question by a new international study which found that almost one in three graduates are overqualified for their jobs. In England, 28 per cent of graduates have jobs which do not require a degree, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is double the average proportion for OECD countries (14 per cent), and second only to Japan (29 per cent).
And the Minister: UK needs graduates but some courses are not delivering. Our Universities need to call time on low quality threadbare degrees that are not delivering real opportunity for students.
Valuable Universities: Advance HE have published Let’s talk Value – How Universities create Value for Students, Staff and Society aiming to stimulate debate and encourage more universities to demonstrate the value they create and how they describe and report their value.
Part time study: It’s £ worth it: The Open University (OU) reveal details of a London Economics study into the benefits of mature, part-time study. The study suggests that a student completing a part-time degree in their late-thirties can benefit from a graduate premium of £238,000 for men and £147,000 for women in real terms – and contribute £123,000 more in tax paid to the Treasury over the course of their working life. The study goes on to suggest that the annual rate of return on investment for the Treasury investing in this provision is up to 25% – higher than the cost of borrowing facing the government, currently 2%.
This has led to recommendations from the OU on tuition fees and maintenance grants for part-time students, incentives to deliver more flexible shorter courses, better IAG for adults, and support for progression at Levels 4 and 5. Mary Kellett, acting VC at the OU, introduces the research through her blog: Why part-time study is so valuable.
Freedom of Speech
During the Education Questions on Monday Sam Gyimah said that free speech guidance will be published during autumn 2018. Sam said:
- “We want our universities to be bastions of free speech where a free and robust exchange of ideas thrives. I am very encouraged that the Office for Students has made it very clear that, as a regulator, it will be encouraging free speech in our universities and that, if it intervenes, it will never be to restrict it…. We want free speech, diversity of opinion, diversity of thought and civility in debate, where people do not easily take offence or give offence too easily. That is why I am working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and key stakeholders to come up with new guidance on free speech to deal with the dizzying array of regulations that wreckers on campus can exploit to frustrate free speech….We must always stand up for free speech. We must not allow bureaucracy on campus to stifle free speech, and it is our duty to make sure that it is promoted, because if universities are not about free speech, what are they for?.. New guidance on clarifying all the rules around free speech will be published this autumn.”
OfS – performance measures
Nicola Dandridge blogged for Wonkhe on Friday to explain the key performance measures of how the OfS will measure the sector and its own performance. She describes the focus of the measures is on making a difference to students’ lives and ‘where we don’t already have established metrics that measure the relevant outcomes, we are going to create new ones’ whilst recognising that data is only a proxy starting point to understand whether OfS and the sector are improving outcomes for students.
She describes the primary function of the performance measures as a guiding light to focus the OfS’ efforts, to shape how they priorities activities and deploy resources. Nicola continued:
- We expect, and hope, to be subjected to scrutiny. It is right that students, providers, and indeed everyone with an interest in HE can see how we are performing, both where we are succeeding and where we need to redouble our efforts.
- We will be setting a high bar for ourselves. There is no guarantee that our targets will be achieved – but that’s the point. Unexpected external factors will always influence these measures, and may prevent progress. But in an uncertain world, we still believe in the importance of measuring our performance against our goals. On their own, they cannot tell the whole story of our performance, but they can highlight possible issues, prompt reflection, and focus attention where it may be needed most.
Sense of Belonging: Advance HE blog about the University of Huddersfield’s Flying Start programme, one of the OfS’ Intervention for Success projects, which is reported to increase students’ sense of belonging. The blog says:
- We evaluated the impact of Flying Start using an adapted version of the Yorke (2016) ‘belongingness’ survey with 1,017 respondents, revealing that Flying Start students, particularly males, scored significantly higher than others for relationship formation, confidence and a sense of belonging. In addition, a focus group of tutors revealed stronger rapport at an earlier stage and earlier identification of risk factors such as attendance, commitment and study skills. Tutors also noted a dramatic difference in students’ levels of confidence compared with previous years, and that students were much more likely than previous cohorts to ask for help, to contribute in group sessions and to engage in critically reflective activities.
Readers of Wonkhe (subscribe free to a weekly roundup email) will have seen their scoop on Generation Z:
As week zero commences at many universities across the country, we’re taking stock of who the new generation of students are, and what their political and social profile might tell us about their new experience at university.
- Just 25% of Generation Z students say they believe they can have a rewarding career without going to university.
- They rank YouTube second only to academics as a learning tool – ahead of lectures, collaboration with classmates, learning apps, and “books”.
- In personal relationships, they are nearly twice as trusting of other people than Millennials were.
- And they’re savvier [than Millennials](or arguably more cynical) when it comes to news – far fewer than ever believe most or all of what they see on news websites and apps.
And there are implications for graduate outcomes data. Wonkhe say:
- The three classic “markers” of adulthood tend to be marriage, parenthood, and (at least in the UK) property ownership. When today’s HE leaders entered HE they might reasonably have been expecting to achieve all three soon after graduation. But not only are the ages of achieving all three markers generally higher for graduates (whose cohort is growing), all three have been on an inexorable rise since the seventies. The average marriage age is now over 35, and first-time buyers are almost all over 30 – as are new parents.
- Academics argue that we’re seeing the creation of a new “middle stage” which begins with the end of secondary school and ends with the attainment of “full adult status”. In this period, young people decide who they are and what they want out of life; they repeatedly change residence and careers, they experiment before choices get limited by marriage, children, career, or property ownership, and they believe in a good chance of living “better than their parents did”.
- Whatever the political implications, the extension of “delayed adulthood” also raises questions about what the sector is preparing students for. Pushing them into defined careers when they’re unlikely to settle on one for some time looks out of date. And from what we know about them, we probably shouldn’t expect these students to be tolerant of or willing to enter into debate with those who espouse intolerant views. And, we need to accept deeper involvement from parents that will likely be bankrolling them for the rest of their twenties.
The Office for National Statistics share Being 18 in 2018 which portray our new starters as Generation Sensible in comparison to the Millennial ‘peak drinkers’, it also explains the 18 year old population decline.
A number of guest bloggers have also written for Wonkhe on new starters:
- Student Minds: Healthier and safer students know before they go
- A blog on WP and pre-entry programmes: Capital gains: How school pupils become university students
- And Understanding new students’ expectations, experiences and anxieties – messages from a learning gain perspective.
A volley of questions around mental health services (particularly younger children) were asked in the House of Commons this week. Two that relate to universities follow:
Q – Chris Ruane: What estimate he has made of the number and proportion of University students who have accessed mental health services through (a) their university and (b) the NHS in each of the last seven years.
A – Sam Gyimah:
- Higher education providers (HEPs) are not required to submit information on students accessing their mental health services. Students have no obligation to disclose to their institution or any other party if they access NHS mental health services. Research conducted last year by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says: 81% of HEPs report an increase in overall demand for student support services, while 41% of HEPs report an increase of over 25%.
- 94% of HEPs report an increase in demand for counselling services, while 61% of HEPs report an increase of over 25%. The University Mental Health Charter, announced in June, is backed by the government and led by the sector, and will drive up standards in promoting student and staff mental health and wellbeing.
Q – Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many and what proportion of university students have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
A – Sam Gyimah:
- Any disclosure of diagnosed mental health conditions by higher education students to their institution is voluntary. The actual number of university students with diagnosed mental health conditions is therefore unknown.
- Latest data available from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) for the academic year 2016/17 shows that 57,300 students enrolled at UK Higher Education Institutions had declared that they suffer from a mental health condition, which is 2.5% of all enrolments.
The OfS has released several case studies on the Prevent duty and published the 2018-19 monitoring framework. On the framework Wonkhe note that the light touch approach is tempered with a more authoritarian tone. They write:
- Although the expected language of “reduced burden” and “risk-based monitoring” is present and correct, in reality, the new system feels quicker to punish. For example – review meetings, previously very much a last resort, will now take place at a random sample of the 97% of institutions that fulfil the duty and where no concerns have been raised, and are also much more likely to be triggered by a reported serious incident – in both cases with limited notice.
- Material changes in circumstance are also still notifiable, with these now including a new campus, a change in teaching methods, and a new partnership that could impact upon Prevent-related considerations. Higher-risk providers and new entrants are singled out for extra attention. Support for the development of staff training has been lost and providers must now submit new information in their annual returns.
Widening Participation & Achievement – Care Leavers
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi, spoke on care leavers to confirm the launch of a care leaver covenant on 26 October:
- “Care leavers are an important part of the overall strategy for support for children in need, which we have reviewed. Very importantly, we are also launching the care leaver covenant on 26 October, with which we will continue to maintain further support for care leavers; obviously, we have already extended the system of personal advisers to the age of 25.”
Sam Gyimah responded to a parliamentary question on Care Leaver students:
Q – Vicky Foxcroft: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the (a) financial circumstances and (b) emotional well-being of (i) care leavers and (ii) estranged students at university.
A – Sam Gyimah:
- As autonomous and independent organisations, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) determine what welfare services they need to provide to their students. Each institution will be best placed to identify the needs of their particular student body.
- The government is concerned to ensure that the particular needs of care leavers and estranged students are addressed by HEIs. Guidance to the Office for Students (OfS), on completing 2019/20 access and participation plans, specifically identifies care leavers as a key target group whose needs HEIs should address. This is reflected in the OfS’ own guidance to the sector. The OfS is also encouraging HEIs to formalise and publicise the support they provide care leavers by becoming signatories of the Care Leavers’ Covenant, and backing that up with the practical help care leavers need to succeed in their studies.
- Many HEI student services teams are experienced in responding to the emotional and financial needs of care leavers and estranged students, and have a named staff member (such as Care Leaver Coordinator) whose role has been specifically created to support such students.
- Student Support Regulations provide that care leavers and estranged students are treated as independent students in the household income assessment for undergraduate living costs support. Many HEIs also offer additional advice to care leavers and estranged students on financing options, scholarships and bursaries, and, in some cases, a guarantee of 52 weeks a year accommodation for the duration of their course.
There aren’t any new consultations or inquiries this week, although some outcomes and responses to previous consultations have been released. Click here to view the updated consultation tracker.
Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to contribute to any of the ongoing consultations.
Digital skills: Jisc surveyed 37,000 tertiary students. 70% believe digital skills will be important for the future career, 88% of HE students were satisfied with the digital offer at their institution. However, only 41% of tertiary students believe the course they are studying will adequately prepare them for the digital world of work. Sam Gyimah writes in the foreword of the report:
- “This issue must be addressed as a matter of urgency if universities and colleges are to deliver for students, employers and the country as a whole.
- “I want all educational leaders to look closely at this report and consider how they can improve their own provision through the effective use of technology.
- “I also urge them to take full advantage of the expert advice and “on the ground’ support provided by Jisc to take a fully digital approach to issues such as curriculum design and the learning environment.”
Learning Technology: Maren Deepwell, Chief Exec of Association for Learning Technology blogs her thoughts in The state of education technology in higher education.
Health Care Professions: Minister of State for Health and Social Care, Stephen Barclay, responded to a parliamentary question to provide details on how many students entered nursing, midwifery and GP training in the last five years.
Student Accommodation: The Telegraph reports that Unite, who manage private student residential accommodation, have sold 14 properties valued at £180 million as part of its strategy of selling off properties with low growth potential in order to boost investment in those with brighter prospects, i.e. refocusing their portfolio away from lower ranked universities. Richard Smith, Unite chief executive, is reported to have said: “The UK’s high and mid-ranked universities are some of the most attractive for both home and international students, ensuring demand for our beds remains high.”
BU’s Sustainability: BU receives a mention this week for its positive results following engagement in the Green Rewards scheme. Read more in Gamification delivers more than 200,000 sustainable actions for UK universities.
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