Category / HEIF

New cross faculty HEIF project underway: exploring the narratives of childbirth

A social marketing perspective on current narratives of childbirth choices and their influence on women’s views and maternity service use.

 

This cross-faculty HEIF-funded project aims to explore the current narratives of home birth choices found in social media and provide understanding of how knowledge exchange could influence them.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines in the U.K recommend that pregnant women are offered choices regarding birth settings. This might be home, free-standing midwifery unit, alongside midwifery unit or an obstetric unit.  However, there is evidence that many women are only familiar with the obstetric unit as a birthing option. In the recent national survey only 47% of women had enough information to help them decide where to have their baby and 20% of women were not offered any choices. Although home birth has been described as positive and fulfilling, women are offered limited choices for a home birth.

Our study focuses on societal knowledge regarding place of birth. It is suggested that the negative portrayal and absence of other birth settings options apart from obstetric units in  the media and in society has framed childbirth as medical and has offered women limited choices Current research shows that pregnant women are increasingly relying on the media especially social media for pregnancy information needs and to find connections. Therefore, it is important to explore current social media content surrounding home birth narratives to understand what information is presented and to begin to explore the influence of these narratives on women’s decision making. The findings can subsequently be used to inform social marketing strategies to promote positive narratives surrounding homebirth.

This mixed method study will explore home birth narratives in social media and its influence on women’s decision-making using social media data scraping and qualitative interviews. The team will use PPI (patient and public involvement) to shape the development of the research tools and ensure stakeholders are actively involved throughout the project.

 

The research team:

Dr Julia Hibbert (BUBS), Assoc. Professor Chris Chapleo (BUBS), Aniebiet Ekong (HSS), Professor Vanora Hundley (HSS), Professor Edwin van Teijlingen (HSS), Assoc. Professor Ann Luce (FMC) and Anna Marsh (HSS) partnering with service users and women’s groups.

 

Some useful references:

Coxon, K., Chisholm, A., Malouf, R., Rowe, R. and Hollowell, J., 2017. What influences birth place preferences, choices and decision-making amongst healthy women with straightforward pregnancies in the UK? A qualitative evidence synthesis using a ‘best fit’framework approach. BMC pregnancy and childbirth, 17 (1), 1-15.

Coxon, K., Sandall, J. and Fulop, N. J., 2014. To what extent are women free to choose where to give birth? How discourses of risk, blame and responsibility influence birth place decisions. Health, risk & society, 16 (1), 51-67.

Fletcher, B. R., Rowe, R., Hollowell, J., Scanlon, M., Hinton, L. and Rivero-Arias, O., 2019. Exploring women’s preferences for birth settings in England: A discrete choice experiment. Plos one, 14 (4), e0215098.

Naylor Smith, J., Taylor, B., Shaw, K., Hewison, A. and Kenyon, S., 2018. ‘I didn’t think you were allowed that, they didn’t mention that.’A qualitative study exploring women’s perceptions of home birth. BMC pregnancy and childbirth, 18 (1), 1-11.

NICE, N. I. f. H. a. C. E., 2017. Intrapartum care United Kingdom

Sperlich, M. and Gabriel, C., 2022. “I got to catch my own baby”: a qualitative study of out of hospital birth. Reproductive Health, 19 (1), 1-13.

Vickery, M., van Teijlingen, E., Hundley, V., Smith, G. B., Way, S. and Westwood, G., 2020. Midwives’ views towards women using mHealth and eHealth to self-monitor their pregnancy: A systematic review of the literature. European journal of midwifery, 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FUN Project dissemination and networking event

FUN_logo
FUN (Feeling the UNfelt: Assistive Technology accessible digital environments with a haptic interface) is a 2-year HEIF funded research project designed to help address the current lack of (freely) available accessible software resources for children and young people (CYP) who have physical disabilities, specifically with a focus on learning about the physical world through gameplay and haptic feedback. The project is a partnership between Bournemouth University and Livability Victoria School in Poole (find more about the project here).

As the FUN project is coming to its end (finishing on 31st July 2022), we organised a dissemination and networking event on 5th May in the Executive Business Centre. The main aim of the event was to present and demonstrate our project outputs and discuss its future potential with relevant internal and external academics and professionals, thus setting the stage for building wider impact. There were four presentations, one guest talk, two demo sessions, and a discussion at the end. Besides BU academics working on this and other related Assistive Technology projects, there were external people with various backgrounds related to special education, including teachers, technicians, consultants, occupational therapists, and assistive technologists, coming from BU, Livability Victoria School, Langside School, Treloar School and College, and the ACE Centre.

After opening the event, Dr Vedad Hulusic, the PI on the project, invited Prof Christos Gatzidis, the convener of the Assistive Technology (AT) Strategic Investment Area (SIA) who gave a brief presentation on the AT SIA strategy and other related AT-related projects at BU. This was followed by the FUN project presentation by Dr Mark Moseley, a postdoctoral research assistant on the project. At the end of his presentation, Mark gave a short demo of the FUN educational games and invited everyone to try them themselves using either touchscreen or eye-gaze interaction.

FUN Accessible level builder FUN games demo

The guest speaker was Prof Pedro Encarnação from the Universidade Católica Portuguesa (UCP). In his talk titled “The use of physical and virtual robots to promote inclusive education” he covered his group’s work on physical and virtual robots and presented the results showing the success of virtual environments for children and young people in the educational setting. This was followed by a presentation by Dr Huseyin Dogan and Dr Paul Whittington who talked about the case studies of user ability detection, accessibility requirements capture, and provision of Assistive Technology recommendations – the work their group has been working on for the past few years. In the end, there was another demo session and a discussion on the past, present, and future of AT, instigating great participation by all participants.

FUN - Guest talk FUN - AT Projects

The FUN games are being finalised and will be freely available both as standalone (executable) as well as web-based (running in a web browser) software. The aim is to have these games available in as many special schools across the UK and beyond, and in homes of CYP who will be able to use them independently without required supervision and assistance. The users will be able to create personal profiles and configure all required accessibility and game features to make their experience as FUN as possible, as well as to create new in-game content for themselves and their peers. The event participants had very positive feedback on the FUN project and games and anticipated a significant impact through the improvement of the quality of life of CYP with physical disabilities, their parents, caregivers, and teachers. The FUN team plans to extend this project by strengthening existing and creating new collaborations. The extensions will be multidirectional involving co-design with practitioners, changing practices, policies, and curricula in special schools, and having such games being used in educational institutions allowing CYP with profound disabilities to have FUN while learning.

I really enjoyed the day – fascinating, inspiring & really positive. – Teacher, Livability Victoria School

“Haptic device easily put on/off, providing good feedback to a child. Worth considering use with adults with learning disabilities.” – Occupational therapist, Langside School

The students involved whom I work with enjoyed the sessions + it was something that enhanced their self-esteem. – Teacher, Livability Victoria School

It can be easily adapted to make it accessible to a wider range of individuals. – AAC consultant, ACE Centre

Very good, simple to setup and use. – Technician/Music teacher, Livability Victoria School

HEIF Funded Project: VR Igloo

Developing and evaluating a novel interactive virtual reality intervention for children with eczema

Team: Dr Heidi Singleton, Yaqing Cui, Dr Xiaosong Yang, Dr Emily Arden-Close, Professor Steven Ersser, Professor Debbie Holley, Dr Sarah Thomas, Richard Glithro, John Moran, Dr Andy Hodder and Amanda Roberts (Nottingham Support Group for Carers (NSG) of Children with Eczema).

Aim: To co-create a complex VR health intervention based on the guided imagery approach to treating eczema (Ersser et al., 2014); targeted at children (aged between 7 and 11 years of age) (complex intervention development). This intervention is not a medical device but addresses a clinical issue and can be used at hospital or in the home. Our processes and outputs will be congruent with some of the staging of complex intervention development advised by the Medical Research Council (2021).

Evidence from our small-scale PPI project (Singleton et al. 2022), points to the need for an interactive VR innovation that provides an immersive experience to distract from itchy eczema with minimal requirements for contact with the child’s face or hands. To tackle this problem, we will design and develop a prototype system of an interactive “mini-VR igloo headset”. We will work with the Department of Design and Engineering to design and develop the prototype.

The two initial ideas for the engineering of the igloo are presented below. In keeping with a person-based approach these ideas will be discussed with our PIER group and will form part of the developmental work with our Nottingham based charity stakeholder partner.

This HEIF funding will enable this cross faculty team to work together (with external partners and Voice), with some additional paid staff to accelerate and maximise the development of a complex intervention to enhance its potential for impact. It will also provide us with several prototypes to test at BU events.

 

 

 

Cross-faculty team receive CyberASAP 22-23 funding from Innovate UK to develop HEIF funded project!

We are very excited to announce that our cross-faculty team has been awarded a grant to develop our HEIF funded project, led by Dr Jane Henriksen-Bulmer, through the Cyber Security Academic Startup Accelerator Programme 2022-23: phase 1 (CyberASAP).

“CyberASAP provides academics with the expertise, knowledge and training needed to convert their research into technologies, products and services in this key sector of the global economy. The programme creates a pipeline to move great cyber security ideas out of the university lab and into the commercial market.” https://ktn-uk.org/programme/cyberasap/ 

CyberASAP is funded by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and delivered by Innovate UK KTN and Innovate UK. Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas.  

Our ideaCyGamBIT – Cyber Game-Based Interventions and Teaching in Cyber Awareness Digital Literacy. 

CyGamBIT is designed to fuse innovate learning approaches with the high demand for educational cyber awareness content. It applies the motivational and engagement invoking elements of gamification and the embedded deep learning facilitated by game-based learning (GBL) to the complex landscape of digital literacy and cyber security.  

Digital literacy and resilience are essential skills to ensure young people have positive educational experiences online. Fostering these skills will support young people to be fully equipped to navigate the online world to prepare them for ever-evolving risks that the online world presents, enabling them to be protected against crime, fraud and emerging cyber threats (National Cyber Strategy, 2022). 

Using an interactive board game format, CyGamBIT is designed to address cutting edge digital threats, facilitating both individual knowledge acquisition, and group learning experiences for young people. CyGamBIT will be supported by a suite of function and facilitation options, designed for use across the education sector and professionals working with young people, including the third sector and social work organisations. The versatility of the CyGamBIT framework ensures the learning remains current and can be tailored to the needs to the target market.   

Our Team: Supported by Lesley Hutchins, BU’s own Research Commercialisation Manager, the project brings together a diverse team across the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science and Technology.  

  • Emily Rosenorn-Lanng – PI – Emily is a Research Project Officer and Part-Time PhD candidate, based within the Department of Social Work and Social Sciences, HSS. 
  • Dr Jane Henriksen-Bulmer – Co-I – Jane is an experienced business analyst and Lecturer (Academic) in Computer Science based in the Department of Computing & Informatics, FST. 
  • Stevie Corbin-Clarke – Co-I – Stevie is a full-time Research Assistant based within the Department of Social Work and Social Sciences, HSS. 
  • Davide Melacca – Technical Research Assistant – Davide brings a unique combination of technical skills and game design experience to the team.
  • Samuel Ware – Technical Research Assistant – Samuel will support all areas of technical development of the tool. 

We are really excited about the opportunity to develop our idea and further our understanding of how we can realise the potential we believe the CyGamBIT has.  

For updates on the project, please follow the team on Twitter @ncpqsw and @emilypqsw. 

HEIF February 2022 Open Call – Closing Friday 11 Feb

HEIF funding now available for Innovative Knowledge Exchange (KE) projects  

Research England provide universities with funding for knowledge exchange (Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF)) to enable them to support and develop a broad range of knowledge-based interactions between themselves and the wider world, which result in economic and social benefit to the UK. 

A proportion of BU’s HEIF grant is allocated through an open call for projects lasting up to 24 months in duration. Progress is reviewed on a quality basis and assessed in terms of future viability on an annual basis.  

The primary purpose of the funding is to support a small number of projects: these can be, for example, significant projects that are underway and require a further injection of funds, or for projects with ambition that require a good kick-start or launchpad. 

Please be aware that a significant proportion of the funds awarded must be spent by 31 July 2022. 

Key details

Amount: We anticipate making funding awards of max. £40k per project.

Time frame: Projects should span a maximum of 24 months.

Application closing date: 5pm, Friday 11 February 2022.

Guidance 

Proposals are sought which make a substantive contribution to further Bournemouth University’s Knowledge Exchange strategy and as such, it is anticipated that only a small number of projects will be awarded.  Please be mindful of the specific nature of this call in meeting the following criteria:  

  • Projects should be linked to the BU HEIF strategy
  • Projects must demonstrate how research impact will be accelerated and maximised.
  • Enhance external collaborative engagements with industry partners to further the development of innovative projects
  • Encourage future funding bids (such as from Innovate UK) with external partners

Eligibility

The HEIF February 2022 Open Call particularly encourages Early to Mid-career researchers (ECRs/MCRs) across Bournemouth University, including those who are already working with industry partners and those who would like to build up new networks. 

Further, due to the nature of this fund, we particularly welcome applications: 

  • from ECRs/MCRs 
  • aligned to at least one BU SIA 
  • that demonstrate research interdisciplinarity 
  • that have industry relevance and or application  

Process

Applications will be reviewed by the HEIF Funding Panel with recommendations submitted to the Research Performance and Management Committee (RPMC). Once a decision has been made, this will be communicated to applicants.

Wen Tang, HEIF Panel Chair will be hosting a Q&A drop-in session from 1-2pm on Tuesday 8 February via the following MS Team meeting link 

To apply

Please read the guidance and complete the Application Form. Please read the IP checklist and provide a completed Workplan & Budget from with your application form.

Completed documents are to be submitted to heif@bournemouth.ac.uk by 5pm on Friday 11 February 2022.

BU’s Funding Panels and Research Principles

The following funding panels operate to prioritise applications for funding and make recommendations to the Research Performance and Management Committee (RPMC).

There are eight funding panels:

  1. HEIF Funding Panel
  2. GCRF Funding Panel
  3. Research Impact Funding Panel
  4. Doctoral Studentship Funding Panel
  5. ACORN Funding Panel
  6. Research Fellowships Funding Panel
  7. Charity Impact Funding Panel
  8. SIA Funding panel

These panels align with the BU2025 focus on research, including BU’s Research Principles

The following BU2025 Principles are most relevant to the HEIF Panel:

  • Principle 1 – which recognises the need to develop teams
  • Principle 5 – which sets of the context for such funding panels

If you have any questions please email heif@bournemouth.ac.uk

HEIF February 2022 Open Call  

Free photo from https://jooinn.com/

HEIF February 2022 Open Call 

HEIF funding now available for innovative Knowledge Exchange (KE) projects  

 Research England provide universities with funding for knowledge exchange (Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF)) to enable them to support and develop a broad range of knowledge-based interactions between themselves and the wider world, which result in economic and social benefit to the UK. 

A proportion of BU’s HEIF grant is allocated through an open call for projects lasting up to 24 months in duration. Progress is reviewed on a quality basis and assessed in terms of future viability on an annual basis.  

Bournemouth University currently has a modest amount of funding available to spend by 31 July 2022. The primary purpose of the funding is to support a small number of projects: these can be, for example, significant projects that are underway and require a further injection of funds, or for projects with ambition that require a good kick-start or launchpad. 

Please be aware that a significant proportion of the funds awarded must be spent by 31 July 2022. 

Key details 

Amount: We anticipate making funding awards of max. £40k per project 

Time frame: Projects should span a maximum of 24 months 

Closing date: Friday, 11 February 2022. 

Guidance  

Proposals are sought which make a substantive contribution to further Bournemouth University’s Knowledge Exchange strategy and as such, it is anticipated that only a small number of projects will be awarded. In completing this project form, please be mindful of the specific nature of this call in meeting the following criteria:  

  • Projects should be linked to the BU HEIF strategy  
  • Projects must demonstrate how research impact will be accelerated and maximised. 
  • Enhance external collaborative engagements with industry partners to further the development of innovative projects  
  • Encourage future funding bids (such as from Innovate UKwith external partners 

 Eligibility 

The HEIF FEBRUARY 2022 Open Call particularly encourages Early to Mid-career researchers (ECRs/MCRs) across Bournemouth University, including those who are already working with industry partners and those who would like to build up new networks. 

Further, due to the nature of this fund, we particularly welcome applications: 

  • from ECRs/MCRs 
  • aligned to at least one BU SIA 
  • that demonstrate research interdisciplinarity 
  • that have industry relevance and or application  

Process 

Applications will be reviewed by the HEIF Funding Panel with recommendations submitted to the Research Performance and Management Committee (RPMC) monthly. Once a decision has been made, this will be communicated to applicants. We aim to confirm the outcomes within two to three weeks of the closing date for that month. 

Drop-in/Information session 

There will be a Drop-in/Information session on Thursday 3rd, February from 11:00 to 12:00 via the following MS Team meeting link 

THESE SESSIONS ARE INFORMATIVE AND ARE MAINLY Q&A BASED. THESE ARE NOT MANDATORY.

How to apply

To apply, please read the guidance and download and complete the application form. Please read the IP checklist and provide a completed Workplan & Budget from with your application form.

The completed Application form and Workplan & Budget from must be submitted to heif@bournemouth.ac.uk at the latest by 5 pm on Friday, 11 February 2022.

 BU’s Funding Panels and Research Principles

The following funding panels operate to prioritise applications for funding and make recommendations to the Research Performance and Management Committee (RPMC).

There are eight funding panels:

  1. HEIF Funding Panel
  2. GCRF Funding Panel
  3. Research Impact Funding Panel
  4. Doctoral Studentship Funding Panel
  5. ACORN Funding Panel
  6. Research Fellowships Funding Panel
  7. Charity Impact Funding Panel
  8. SIA Funding panel

These panels align with the BU2025 focus on research, including BU’s Research Principles

The following BU2025 Principles are most relevant to the HEIF Panel:

  • Principle 1 – which recognises the need to develop teams
  • Principle 5 – which sets of the context for such funding panels

If you have any questions please email heif@bournemouth.ac.uk

HE policy update for the w/e 1st October 2021

It’s conference season, so official news is thin,  However we have a fascinating change in roles and responsibilities for HE, some updates from the Labour conference and some good news about research funding.

Ministerial sharing

Late on Friday Parliament confirmed that Michelle Donelan’s role will be renamed Minister of State for Higher Education and Further Education. As we explained in last week’s update she shares the skills remit with Alex Burghart MP who is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Skills). Here is how they share the remit – it is interesting to see the thinking here with WP and student experience in HE being split off (and given to Alex Burghart) and quality and funding staying with MD.

Donelan:

  • strategy for post-16 education
  • higher technical education (levels 4 and 5)
  • further education funding and accountability
  • lifelong learning entitlement
  • Institutes of Technology and National Colleges
  • universities and higher education reform
  • higher education quality
  • student finance (including the Student Loans Company)
  • coronavirus (COVID-19) response for universities, higher education institutions and further education services (jointly with Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Skills))

Burghart:

  • further education providers including provider finances and workforce
  • T Levels and qualifications reviews (levels 3 and below)
  • apprenticeships including pre-apprenticeships [and presumably degree apprenticeships]
  • adult education, including the National Skills Fund and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund
  • Skills Accelerators and Industry Training Boards
  • careers education, information and guidance including the Careers and Enterprise Company [this includes HE]
  • reducing the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training
  • student experience and widening participation in higher education
  • international education strategy including education exports and international students
  • coronavirus (COVID-19) response for universities, higher education institutions and further education services (jointly with Minister of State (Minister for Higher and Further Education))

Labour Party Conference

Shadow Universities Minister, Matt Western, critiques the Government’s education policies and states Labour’s approach in this Research Professional article. There is also this more in-depth article by Andy Westwood, Manchester’s Professor of Government Practice looking at where the priorities for policy should be for both major parties.

Here are the summaries (provided by Dods) from some of the most relevant Labour Party fringe events.

Wonkhe report on Kier Starmer’s leadership address: A commitment for research and development spending to rise to 3 per cent of GDP, familiar from both the 2017 and 2019 Labour manifestos, was the only offering in Keir Starmer’s 2021 conference speech for higher education. In a speech that drew heavily on his family background, the leader of the opposition noted in passing that he was the first member of his family to attend university, and spoke about the need to invest in the skills – including digital skills – of young people. You can watch the speech on YouTube or read it online.

Research

  • Recurrent research funding from Research England will remain at current levels during 2021-22, but additional one-off funding will be available to support providers in “building back better” after the pandemic. In total, an additional £132m will be distributed next academic year – and will support knowledge exchange including support for government priorities, research degree programme recovery, preparatory work in enhancing research culture, and the sustainability of specialist research providers. BEIS guidance to Research England emphasises the need to help the sector manage the impact of the pandemic, the need to work in partnership with the OfS on areas including support for postgraduate research students, and RE’s role as a major funder of Jisc in maintaining research infrastructure. The additional funding allocated today returns the balance of QR to project research funding to the government target of 64p in the pound. (Wonkhe summary)
  • The Government has published a study into the technical feasibility, cost and economics of space-based solar power (SBSP), as a novel generation technology to help the UK deliver net zero. The main attribute of SBSP is the ability to deliver clean, baseload energy at day and night throughout the year and in all weathers. SBSP is the concept of collecting solar power in a high earth orbit and beaming it securely to a fixed point on the earth. The Government says that recent technology and conceptual advances have made the concept worthy of consideration by the UK.
  • The Ministry of Defence has published a Data Strategy for Defence, outlining its vision for data and setting outcomes to be achieved by 2025. It aims to ensure data is treated as a strategic asset to support decision-making and make Defence more capable and efficient. The Strategy also gives a structure for data leadership that unites all Defence organisations. It will drive Defence to evolve how data is organised, shared and used to deliver better outcomes, giving battlespace advantage and business efficiency.
  • The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy has released guidance for bidding for Horizon Europe funding. The guidance covers funding eligibility, specific support for different sectors, and where potential bidders can obtain more detailed advice. (Wonkhe)
  • Chemistry: Unless people feel they belong, they are unlikely to thrive in our profession. The Royal Society of Chemistry published A sense of belonging in the chemical sciences. Researching what belonging means to chemists and what helps or hinders their sense of belonging in the chemical sciences. They state: Belonging matters. It affects chemists’ ability to share ideas, try new things, collaborate and ultimately to enjoy their work and stay in the profession.
  • THE: Ethical research – Stefano Caria argues that randomised control trials can be delivered more ethically without compromising quality

Parliamentary Questions:

Freedom of Speech (HE) Bill

Politics Home analyses the potential cost for the HE sector to implement the HE Free Speech Bill in  Freedom of Speech Bill Could Cost Universities And Student Unions £48m. Excerpts:

Universities and students’ unions could see collective costs of up to £48.1m from the likes of legal insurance premiums to protect from claims that would be allowed under the Bill, according to the Department for Education’s own impact assessment… concerns over the price tag have already been raised by some MPs at Committee Stage.

Familiarisation costs, costs of complying with regulation and enforcement, administrative paperwork costs, and the cost of updating and introducing new codes of practice for student unions could also contribute to the new financial burdens.

Lawyer Smita Jamdar continues to speak out about the Free Speech Bill in the Times’: It’s absurd to use legislation to enforce free speech on campus – A bill to prevent perceived threats to free speech at universities is not the answer.

Student Matters

Student Loan Repayments

The Financial Times (FT) announced the Government plans to reduce the salary threshold level at which graduates start repaying loans. They state it aims to save the Treasury money and push more young people towards cheaper vocational education. [Although when have technical or equipment heavy subjects ever been cheaper?]. …Chancellor Rishi Sunak wants to overhaul student financing in his spending review ahead of next month’s Budget, reflecting Treasury concerns that the taxpayer is footing too great a burden of funding university courses.

Graduates currently begin repaying their loans when they earn £27,295. The Augar Review (2019, still no full response from the Government, promised for the spending review…maybe) recommended the threshold be lowered to £23,000 which was the median non-graduate earnings at the time. While HEPI modelled a cut to less than £20,000.

The FT reports that no final decisions have been taken but one minister said a £20,000 threshold was considered to be “a bit low.”… A figure of £23,000 could save the Treasury just under £2bn a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a think-tank, while a graduate earning the current threshold would have their take-home pay cut by more than £800 annually, after deductions due to this month’s increase in National Insurance contributions are taken into account.

FT report the DfE as stating it was continuing to consider “the recommendations made by the Augar panel carefully”. Augar also recommended cutting the cap on annual tuition fees from £9,250 to £7,500 — such a cut would be welcomed by students.

There are the usual lines about rethinking HE as the default option and ensuring all those with the talent and desire to attend higher education are able to do so, whilst ensuring that the cost of higher education is fairly distributed between graduates and the taxpayer.

FT: Henry Parkes, a senior economist at the Institute for Public Policy Research, said lowering the threshold would be “virtually indistinguishable from a tax rise targeted at young workers alone”… HEPI director Nick Hillman said the option was better than alternatives, bringing “very significant” savings “without seriously harming on-the-ground services”.

Here is David Willetts’ paper published by HEPI:  How to boost higher education and cut public spending.

Willetts was the Universities and Science minister (2010-14) both he and Nick Hillman (HEPI Director) were instrumental in introducing HE tuition fees. Brief summary:

  • Higher education has fallen out of favour. But it boosts earnings, wellbeing and the prospects of people and areas left behind. Conservatives are increasingly worried that graduates are left wing but the Party’s problem is with young people more widely. The best way to tackle this problem is by helping them fulfil their aspirations – to own their home, get a decent job, and – yes – go to university.
  • It is in the interests of students that universities are well funded. But that should not come at the expense of taxpayers. It is wrong that forecast loan write-offs have risen from 28% under the Coalition to 53% today.…This is the result of the mistaken decision to raise the repayment threshold to £25,00 and index it thereafter…. Too many graduates have the depressing experience of their student debt rising each year when they could be paying it off. That’s why I believe the repayment threshold should be brought back down to £21,000 saving £3 billion of public spending a year.
  • Universities are crucial to levelling up and boosting earnings as well as delivering vocational training. That means breaking down old-fashioned assumptions about universities shaped by the long dominance of the Oxbridge model. Higher education comes in many forms. The so-called “bad” universities are very useful indeed in vocational training and applied research. They are anchor institutions boosting local economies across England…Universities are a great national asset. We should use them and build more of them.
  • More graduates in an area boosts the earnings of non-graduates. The levelling up agenda means we need more university students from low-participation areas. That is unlikely to be achieved if it is a zero-sum game dependent on lowering participation in high participation areas.
  • There should be a quinquennial review of the levels of fees and loans so they can be recalibrated as the labour market and the economy change.
  • …universities should have the opportunity of taking a stake in the debt of their own graduates so they gain if their graduates’ earnings rise.

An interesting point on apprenticeships: …higher level apprentices were more white, more male, less likely to be disabled and less likely to be from a deprived area. Social barriers to apprenticeships may be one reason why disadvantaged groups have rapidly increasing levels of participation in higher education which has more diverse and open recruitment.

Willetts is also opposed to the binary divide forcing 16-19 year olds to choose between T levels and A levels. He sees a clear role for universities in the delivery of higher technical provision. He is in favour of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement but caveats that mature students are more averse to loans than younger students, who can see the promise of the graduate route whereas it may be harder for older people to shift career. It is likely therefore that take up of the four-year loan entitlement will be greatest among younger students. This is an opportunity to move to four-year degrees, a historic opportunity to tackle England’s worst education problem – early specialisation.

Wonkhe highlight that Willetts’ paper calls for the repayment threshold of £21,000 would return it to the original recommended level set by the Browne Review. Wonkhe also highlight an aspect that the Government may find pleasing – that providers should be allowed to hold their own graduate debt, and should be supported by the Student Loans Company in contacting their own graduates.

Arguing against the lower repayment threshold Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert warns the Government against possible retrospective changes to the terms and conditions of existing student loan contracts.

  • If repayments continue to remain at 9% of earnings, that would mean students having to pay around £400/yr more; meaning the lowest earning graduates would end up paying more, and for longer.
  • My concern here is there is no note on whether this change may or may not be retrospective and whether this change would hit those who have already signed contracts – and remember, the student loan is a contract, to repay.
  • In my view, it would be an absolute breach of natural justice to retrospectively change the terms of a contract that people have signed and I would certainly raise my voice very loudly again. We cannot allow a reverse contractual change.
  • In 2015, Martin hired lawyers to investigate a judicial review looking at preventing the Government from freezing the student loans repayment threshold. The 2019 Augar report into student loans also agreed with Martin’s view not to make retrospective changes to the system.

MoneySavingExpert.com approached Government to comment on the legitimacy of the FT’s article. The Government spokesperson stated: We do not comment on speculation in the run up to fiscal events. We’ll see what happens on 27 October, although we expect more leaks and the arguments to flare in the run up.

NUS:

  • We would be totally opposed to any plans on reducing the salary repayment threshold for student loans. Like the Government’s decision to increase National Insurance contributions, this burden targets people earning lower incomes – after eighteen months of such hardship, and with the looming hike in energy prices set to hit millions of the most vulnerable this winter, the injustice is simply astounding.
  • They should get their priorities right, end the marketisation of the higher education sector and scrap tuition fees. The Government must re-envision education, and begin to view it as a right for all, not a product that can be bought and sold for individual gain. Only then can we begin to build the student movement’s vision of a fully- funded, accessible, lifelong, and democratised higher education system.

With both Martin Lewis and NUS lined up to oppose any retrospective changes to the student loan repayment thresholds for recent graduates the Government may well consider if retrospective changes are a battle they wish to begin. The FT article tested the opinions and reaction very well at a key point before the Treasury makes its move, a deliberate leak perhaps.

Covid Vaccinations

NUS research:

  • At least 83% of students are fully or partially vaccinated.
  • Three in five students moving into halls of residence are concerned about Covid-19 related risk of living with others.
  • Only 11% of those moving into halls disagreed that students should test for Coronavirus in advance.

NUS: Despite reports of low levels of vaccine uptake among young people and students a very high number are vaccinated against Covid-19. By August 2021 83% of students had received at least one vaccination and a further 9% either having it booked in or intending to book. Given our survey closed over one month ago, this figure is now likely to be considerably higher.

Parliamentary Question: Visas for students studying abroad (clarification on departmental responsibility)

Admissions

Lots of news this week on the 2022 exams. Here are the main links:

  • Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi  has made an announcement on  adaptations to the 2022 summer exams
  • Ofqual’s approach to grading exams and assessments in summer 2022 and autumn 2021
  • Wonkhe summarise: Ofqual and DfE have set out plans for level three qualifications taken in 2022 and 2023. With exams expected to return, there will be advance information provided on the focus of exams to focus students’ revision in subjects, and support materials like formulae sheets in maths. Grade boundaries next year will be set by exam boards to reflect a midway point between 2021 and 2019 – and are expected to return to the usual grade profile by 2023. Results for exams next year will return to their normal format, with AS and A levels being released on 18 August, and GCSEs on 25 August. There’s also a similar document on arrangements for vocational and technical qualifications. The BBC, the Times and i News cover the announcement.
  • Alongside this, Ofqual is consulting on contingency plans for 2022 – which would involve the use of teacher assessments to determine grades in the event of further Covid-19 (or other) disruption. The consultation ends on 13 October 2021.

Access & Participation

Wonkhe: The Disabled Students’ Commission has published guidance on disabled graduate employment. Designed to help disabled graduates transition into the labour market, the guidance recommends that universities tailor their employability, career and enterprise guidance to disabled students’ needs. Elsewhere, the guide calls on employers to ensure that work experience and internship programmes are inclusive of disabled graduates.

The Social Mobility Commission launched a sector specific toolkit to encourage socio-economic diversity and inclusion in the creative sector workforce. It aims to widen access to the creative industries for people from working class backgrounds to tackle the ‘class crisis’ in the sector (27% workers from working class background, 23% music and performing arts).

  • It offers practical support and guidance to creative employers on how to identify and remove invisible barriers that arise at every stage of the employee journey.
  • The unique structures of the creative industries workforce are cited as driving this imbalance, with factors including the high numbers of ‘professional’ jobs within the sector, an entrenched reliance on freelance workers as well as an abundance of unpaid internships creating additional barriers to entry for those from low socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Disproportionate numbers of those in senior roles who attended private school or Oxbridge may also have served to perpetuate understandings of cultural ‘fit’ and accepted behavioural codes within the creative industries, presenting an additional barrier to those from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Inquiries and Consultations

Click here to view the updated inquiries and consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

There are a wealth of specialist and research inquiries and consultations at present. See the policy influence digest for their listings. Contact us if you don’t already receive the digest.

Other news

Unistats dataset: Wonkhe –  The Higher Education Statistics Agency has published the first iteration of the Unistats dataset for the 2021-22 academic year. The release adds information on graduate experiences drawn from the Graduate Outcomes survey.

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JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

VC’s Policy Advisor                                                              Policy & Public Affairs Officer

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AT4SEND Training Package developed from HEIF Small Fund

The Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) Small Fund has resulted in the development of the Assistive Technology for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (AT4SEND) Training Package as an add-on to the existing AT4SEND Android Application developed by Dr Paul Whittington, Dr Huseyin Dogan (Department of Computing & Informatics) and Professor Keith Phalp through Quality Research Funding.

The HEIF project (Principal Investigator: Dr Paul Whittington and Co-Investigators: Dr Huseyin Dogan, Dr Nan Jiang and Professor Keith Phalp) commenced in May 2021 and completed on 31st July 2021. Vers Creative UK, a Bournemouth application development company, were sub-contracted to develop the AT4SEND Training Package as an Android Application. As Vers Creative UK previously developed the Assistive Technology Recommendation section of AT4SEND, they were able to integrate the new Training Package. The AT4SEND Training Package was designed by Dr Paul Whittington, based on semi-structured interviews held with the assistive technology domain, including the Department for Education, Dorset Council and London Grid for Learning. These formed the basis of a requirements specification provided to Vers Creative UK to guide the development.

The AT4SEND Training Package consists of 3 sections: Training, Learn and Videos. The Training section consists of information focusing on popular categories of assistive technology hardware and software. The information is based on literature obtained from online sources and separated into descriptions, benefits and limitations. Based on the discussions with the assistive technology domain, it became evident that these were the most important aspects to focus on for a training package. Each category has a 5 question multiple-choice Quiz, which tests the user’s understanding of the assistive technology information. The questions were devised by Dr Paul Whittington and there is a defined pass mark of 80% for each Quiz. There is also a general Quiz of 20 questions to test the user’s understanding of all the assistive technology categories. The training results will be stored in the user’s AT4SEND profile.

The Learn section consists of online assistive technology articles, so that users can find out more information about the general use of assistive technologies. This is supported by the Videos section where a selection of YouTube videos is provided to illustrate real world examples.

To assess the suitability of the AT4SEND Training Package, usability evaluations will be conducted during the autumn, involving mainstream and special educational needs schools, assistive technology industries, Department for Education and Policy Connect, who operate the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology. The HEIF funding has also been used for incentive Amazon vouchers that will be provided to the evaluation participants. The usability of the AT4SEND Training Package will be assessed by techniques, including the System Usability Scale and NASA Task Load Index. Dr Paul Whittington will be responsible for conducting these evaluations and analysing the results. We anticipate these being published in a future journal or conference publication, to be submitted later in the year.

We have received further funding towards the AT4SEND project from the Mazars Charitable Trust, which will be used to further develop the functionality of the Training Package based on the usability evaluation findings.  The Training Package does not currently have images of assistive technologies due to the copyright issues of using online sources. In the future we will approach assistive technology manufacturers to obtain approval to use images of their products in AT4SEND. We will post updates on the development of the Training Package on our HCI Research Group website: https://hci.bournemouth.ac.uk/project/at4send/. We plan to disseminate AT4SEND as an Android Application on the Google Play Store.

We are very grateful for the funding from HEIF that has enabled development of the Training Package, increasing the functionality of AT4SEND from a recommendation system to an application that also provides assistive technology training. It is anticipated that this will raise awareness of assistive technologies to teachers, teaching assistants and support staff, which has been highlighted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology as an important area of development.

Further information on AT4SEND Training Package