Category / Knowledge Exchange
Do you want to have a say in deciding priorities for health research?
Have your say and rank priorities for research to help make care safer for adults with complex health needs. The list of priority areas in this survey was identified by patients, carers, the public and healthcare staff who filled out the first survey earlier this year. The survey is open to those not currently doing healthcare research.
The survey can be accessed here. Deadline: 12 November 2018
The NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, who are running this survey with the James Lind Alliance, will host a workshop on 17th December (London) with the results of this survey to come to a consensus for the top 10 areas for research. The results will be widely publicised to encourage research funding bodies and research teams to address these questions. It will also do research in some of these areas itself.
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.
Think about your future ageing or old age.
What thoughts and feelings come to mind?
As a trained medical doctor and educator of health professional students, Curie became aware of the impact of ageing populations. In 2017, global population trends reversed: there are now more people over 65 years old than under five years old (United Nations, 2013). Nearly one in five people currently alive in the UK will get to their hundredth birthday (Department for Work and Pensions, 2011).
We are ageing. But we remain uncomfortable about talking about it.
Using drawing to discuss ageing
For her research, she was interested in whether drawing might help us talk about our future. She invited health professional students and people over 60 to a specially designed Drawing Programme to think about their future ageing. This was a four week expressive mark-making workshop-based programme. Examples of drawings were on display at the cafe. Of the five drawings linked to ageing, the masks (below) were the final drawing as it was the most personal.
Challenging the accepted Cultural ‘truths’ about ageing
It is clear that ‘older people’ are an ‘othered’ group. That is, we want to separate ourselves from being labelled ‘old’. The Drawing Programme facilitated openness and a willingness to consider the myriad ‘what-ifs’ of ageing. Participants noted ‘truths’ or ‘assumptions’ of ageing which they had absorbed from their surrounding Culture ageing. These were predominantly negative:
- Ageing is relative, dependent on one’s age
- Ageing is about decline with core and peripheral losses
- With ageing, one is concealed and outcast from society
- With increasing age, one is less valued
- Ageing as a discussion topic is taboo
- Ageing is ugly and is especially harsh to women
These myths echoed responses by those at Café Scientifique. Comments about the future included concerns about ill health, dependency, and loneliness. Positive aspects were about greater confidence, time to enjoy leisurely pursuits and have more time with family and friends.
Returning to the research, over the three month study period, participants interrogated their assumptions. They disentangled from dominant negative threads and chose new ways of being. They described some powerful shifts in thinking and behaviour. They shared a stronger internal sense of agency and choice – not that ageing would just ‘happen’ but that we all have choices we can make for and about our future ageing.
At the deepest level of consideration, participants could visualise themselves, and indeed accept, that they were likely to become old. They took control of the time they had left. At 73 years old, Veronica (not her real name) declared that the study propelled her into fulfilling her lifelong dream of playing the saxophone. With a strong family history of deaths in their sixties, Eva (not her real name) responded by changing her health behaviour and asking for health screening tests.
Drawing helped adults to think, explore, and articulate on the emotive topic of their future ageing. Curie ended with a line from the poem ‘Snow’ by poet laureate Carol Ann Dufffy which is carved on a stone in Durlston Country Park.
If you are interested in knowing more about the drawing workshops or perceptions of ageing, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The next Cafe Scientifique by Xun He is on next week, Tues 6th Nov, on “Working together: When your mind is in my mind”
Department for Work and Pensions, 2011. Number of Future Centenarians by Age Group [online] Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/223173/centenarians_by_age_groups.pdf
United Nations, 2013. World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision. United Nations Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Available at: https://population.un.org/wpp/Publications/Files/WPP2012_HIGHLIGHTS.pdf
To read the policy update in full with the infographics click here or continue to read below without the infographics for widening participation.
It’s been a busy week for activity in Parliament along with several new reports published, including the subject level TEF details and a focus on part time and flexible provision. Meanwhile the sector continues to lobbying efforts in hope of influencing the forthcoming outcomes of the Review of post-18 Education and Funding. It’s a bumper update this week so do scan through to read the sections of most interest to your role.
TEF and Grade Inflation
Sam Gyimah spoke on Monday to outline a new measure to discourage grade inflation within HE institutions which will be piloted through the second year of TEF subject level pilots. The DfE news story states:
Announcing a second year of pilots to move subject-level TEF a step closer, Sam Gyimah confirmed today that these will also look at grade inflation, with TEF panellists reviewing evidence to see whether universities are taking a responsible approach to degree grading and not awarding excessive numbers of firsts and 2:1s. It means a university’s provider-level rating of gold, silver or bronze will take their approach to tackling grade inflation into account.
Grade inflation will be an important feature of the criteria considered alongside how a university is stretching its students through course design and assessment, and through their ability to develop independence, knowledge and skills that reflect their full potential. It forms a key part of the government’s commitment to delivering real choice for prospective students.
This is one of the first measures taken by the government to tackle grade inflation, with the plans confirmed in the government’s response to the subject-level TEF consultation.
In the last five years alone, figures from the Higher Education Stats Authority show the proportion of graduates who gained a first class degree has increased from 18% in 2012/13 to 26% in 2016/17, which means over a quarter of graduates are now securing the top grade.
Despite Gyimah’s speech the grade inflation presence within the subject level TEF pilot will be light touch this year because of the level of opposition to the metric during the consultation process:
Grade inflation is an important issue and the Government is committed to ensuring it is addressed so that students and employers can have confidence in the value of higher education qualifications. It was one of the more contentious topics in the consultation. In response to the question posed, the consultation demonstrated support for our proposal to apply the grade inflation metric only at provider-level and we will therefore maintain this approach. We acknowledge however that challenges to the grade inflation metric were raised in both the consultation and pilot findings. While almost half of respondents agreed to our proposal, many respondents also stated that they did not support the continued use of this metric in the TEF at any level and the pilot found the metric was limited in its current form. To address these concerns, the OfS will use the second year of the subject-level pilots to test some refinements to the grade inflation metric, exploring how it can be improved. This includes presenting additional data such as trends in prior attainment alongside the grade inflation data to help panels better account for other factors that might influence grades. (Pages 6-7 of Government’s response link.)
Research Professional write about the removal of the ‘contentious’ teaching intensity measure.
Subject level TEF
The Government issued its analysis and response to the subject-level TEF consultation. The first year of subject level TEF pilots have concluded (read the findings here). The second year pilots are underway; their design is based on the outcomes from the first pilots and the subject level TEF consultation.
While the second year of subject-level TEF pilots runs the Independent TEF Review (required by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017) will also take place. The Government expects this timing will allow full implementation of subject-level TEF for 2019/20. The subject-level pilots will trial the introduction of LEO (Longitudinal Educational Outcomes data) within the core metrics. And Wonkhe report that the teaching intensity metric has been removed and all the TEF awards currently conferred on Universities will cease by 2021 to dovetail the roll out of subject-level TEF.
There are a plethora of new TEF blogs and opinion on the Wonkhe website.
Yvonne Hawkins, Director of Teaching Excellence and Student Experience at the Office for Students, said:
“The TEF assesses the things that students care about: teaching quality, the learning environment that supports them; and employment and further study outcomes. The development of a robust model for subject-level TEF is progressing well…last year we tested and evaluated two different assessment models for generating subject-level ratings. This year we will consolidate this work, piloting a single approach that draws on feedback about the best elements from the previous models. The TEF’s strength relies not on any single source of evidence, but in drawing together multiple sources and making holistic judgements. This ensures no one issue is over-weighted. The changes we will be piloting are designed to strengthen this approach, so that ratings are informed by comprehensive contextual information. The input of students to last year’s pilot was invaluable, so this year we are also introducing ways to further strengthen their involvement.”
The House of Commons debated the regulations surrounding the Transparency Condition (the requirement for HE institutions to publish data on access and success for disadvantaged and under-represented students). An Opposition spokesperson argued for the inclusion of data on students with disabilities, the age profile of students, and care leavers to be included:
We also believe that, if the transparency duty is to have any impact, it needs to include as many different dimensions of participation as possible by social background. That view was echoed strongly by the Sutton Trust, which did not believe that the Bill and the regulations went far enough in that area. It said, “evidence suggests many universities are favouring more privileged candidates even when levels of attainment are taken into account”…The Bill should be amended to require universities to publish their contextual admission policies clearly on their websites”.
The Opposition spokesperson also raised the key workforce data that has the potential to impact on the quality of students’ education, such as the use of insecure contracts and student-staff ratios as a potential measure to be included within the Transparency Duty. Finally he argued for the OfS to use broader measures and rely less on POLAR data to examine socio-economic disadvantage. The new MEM measure was highlighted (a multiple equality measure which combines various data sources including free school meals) for inclusion to prevent overreliance on just one data source.
Sam Gyimah responded: Quite rightly, the hon. Gentleman brought up the subject of care leavers. Our guidance to the OfS asks it to monitor care leavers as a key target group, which it has done. We expect to see providers focusing on that in their access and participation plans. Whether to add age and disability is a decision for the OfS, but I am pleased that it has included that in its consultation, as we asked.
Further to Gyimah’s show of support for care leavers mentioned above the DfE have launched the Care Leavers Covenant aiming to provide more opportunities and support for Care Leavers through work placements, internships and training sessions (supported by bursaries and accommodation provided by the local universities). Chris Millward, OfS Director for Fair Access and Participation stated: “Disadvantage goes on to follow care leavers through their adult lives. We need a collective effort to ensure that care leavers are not denied opportunity simply because they’ve had a challenging start in life”. Read the Government’s news story on this new post-care scheme here.
Graduate Premium – female living standards
The Institute of Fiscal Studies have released a new paper analysing the female graduate premium: The impact of higher education on the living standards of female graduates. As the title suggests it looks wider than just wages on the benefits that achieving a degree brings. It uses data from two longitudinal surveys providing a sample of 1,000 women born in 1970 (so all attended university before tuition fees were introduced) and quantifies the role of working hours, life partners, and tax liability. It finds a graduate premium (compared to female non-graduates) and demonstrates how the above mechanisms vary in importance over women’s life cycles and have changed over time to impact on female graduates’ living standards.
- HE significantly increases the probability a women is in work and the number of hours they work, boosting labour market returns.
- HE increased the likelihood women worked in their early thirties, but there was no impact on the likelihood of working in their early forties. This reflects the fact that higher education causes women to delay childrearing until later in their careers.
- HE also increases the probability of a woman having a partner who also has a HE qualification, the degree qualified partner is typically more likely to work and earn more.
- However, focusing on gross earnings returns overstates the private benefits of HE, as higher-earning graduates pay more in tax and receive fewer (family based) benefits. This reduces the net financial returns from a graduate wage.
- The benefits of HE can also vary over the life cycle. While HE increases net family income by around 20% (£9,500 per year) for women in their early 30s and early 40s, the mechanisms change over time:
- For women in their early 30s, the impact of HE on income primarily comes through their own labour market earnings;
- By age 40 the importance of the impact on partners’ earnings has increased, likely because at this age women have an increased propensity to work part-time.
It appears that, through the higher education level of partners, HE provides some insurance for women taking time out of the labour market after having children. The role of partners’ earnings remains an important channel of returns, particularly at older ages.
- You can read the research assumption caveats surrounding the impact of children (page 13/14), particularly their effect on the choice to work and the wage rate.
- In summary, as a result of a degree, it is higher wages, more working hours and assortative mating (degree qualified life partner) that explain the graduate females higher living standards
Both the Times and Mail Online articles pick up on the report but mainly emphasise the aspect that female graduates are more likely to marry graduate men – boosting their joint earning potential. The Times go on to consider the male/female gender gap and report that after graduation, women are more likely to have a job or go on to further study than men, but they earn less from the very start of their careers. These figures, taken from The Times, show how the gender earnings gap expands:
|At graduation||(-£1,600 less than men)|
|3 years post-graduation||£24,200||£21,800 (-£2,400 less)|
|5 year post-graduation||£27,800||£24,500 (-£3,300 less)|
|10 years post-graduation||£35,100||£27,100 (-£8,000 less)|
Technological Innovation and Regulation
The Council for Science and Technology have written to the Prime Minister to make four recommendations on how to ensure Britain’s regulatory landscape creates an attractive and welcoming environment for technological innovation. Greg Clark’s (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) response is warm and picks up on several of the recommendations. Furthermore, on Tuesday Greg chaired the new Ministerial Working Group on Future Regulation. One of the aims of the working group is to transform regulation to support innovators to bring new ideas to market. Greg stated:
“We have a world-beating regulatory environment in the UK which has set standards that have been exported around the world. But we can’t move forward by standing still and we must prepare for the technologies and industries of the future.
I am grateful to the work done by the Council and for their recommendations on how we can put the UK at the forefront of these industries. Through the Working Group on Future Regulation we are going to build on our exceptional foundations, ensuring our regulations keep pace with the technological advances that will reshape our economy.”
Those with an interest in this area can read more on the new working group here.
Civic Universities – Mature Education
UPP Foundation has released a progress report from their Civic University Commission which aims to explore and understand what a modern civic university does and how it benefits local people. This additional report was released to inform the Government’s review of post-18 tertiary education as the research uncovered a link between the decline in adult learning and universities’ civic mission.
They found that adult education used to be an integral part of universities’ civic activities but is now in major decline (non-degree courses for over 30’s have declined by 42% since 2012). The Commission states the decline will become more acute as more professional jobs become automated forcing changes in the labour market structure and increasing the need for retraining. The conditions on part time loans for retaining are noted as a barrier:
Those restrictions mean, for example, that a mother returning to work after a prolonged absence from the labour market — but who might have a degree from 15 years earlier — cannot retrain unless she can just pay the fees upfront, and support herself, from her own resources.
The Commission argues for a better adult university education system:
This is precisely the wrong moment to have closed off adult education. Graduate jobs will change, and as we leave the European Union the need for a good domestic skills base will be greater. We have already lost long-term capacity in universities — courses have closed and they are difficult to re-open. Rebuilding this capacity will take effort and time. In our view, that work needs to begin now.
It is also too limiting to see this education in terms of immediate fulfilling of skills gaps. It is extremely hard to predict exactly what the future skills needs of areas are likely to be — many would not have predicted, for example, the size and growth of creative industries and their importance to the economic wellbeing of places.
And even outside pure economic benefit — short and long-term — the benefits of education for adults are huge. It passes down into how children are educated at home — which has a much greater impact on their future success than the school environment. It improves peoples’ health and makes them more engaged in the labour market. It makes people more fulfilled and engaged in civic life. There is clear latent demand. A recent survey by Universities UK (UUK) found that as much as 24% of adults had seriously considered doing higher education, of which around half did not already have a post-A level qualification. …we believe it [is] important to offer education to existing professionals, women returning to the labour market and struggling to attend courses in intensity, and people who want to learn particular things rather than necessarily qualifications.
The report calls for the Government to:
- Relax the ELQ rule so that graduates are able to do further learning;
- Remove the 25% intensity rule so that both short courses, and longer-term learning, are eligible for loans and funding (they consider this particularly important for women with children);
- Allow education that is not deliberately directed towards a qualification (such as a degree).
It also seems clear that the lack of direct public funding, and the funding of adult education mostly through traditional loans with RAB charges, is off-putting to many adults. Postgraduate provision and re-graduate provision, as well as first time undergraduate provision, needs to have some public subsidy. So the government should consider whether the apprenticeship levy has some part to play. Two options could be:
- Hypothecating some proportion of the apprenticeship levy for courses that are shorter and more modular;
- Having an additional, smaller levy for this particular purpose.
The Commission also favours greater pressure on universities to focus on widening participation initiatives that target adults, to be specifically monitored by OfS.
On Knowledge Exchange the Commission stated:
The new KEF metrics should have a strong weighting on knowledge transmission and knowledge exchange between universities and their local population. In our view it is as important that university staff spend time conveying ideas to the local population, and involving them in their activity, as it is to interact with traditional economic stakeholders.
Part time learning and Flexibility
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) are calling for more flexible routes to higher skills noting that the decline in part time students is of crucial importance to the UK’s future economic prosperity. UUK and CBI have published a joint statement drawing on a previous report on the generation of ‘lost learners’. The lost learners are those who are:
- mainly 25-44 years old,
- 48% only have a level 2 or 3 qualification,
- 54% are in full time work
- they are motivated to upskill and train to develop their careers.
However, the study found many of the learners didn’t enrol or were unable to complete their studies. Familiar barriers are cited: unaffordability of tuition fees (44%) and managing cost of living whilst studying (42%), and an inflexible course that couldn’t be managed against other life commitments (26%). Other difficulties were employer inflexibility and lack of employer financial support plus benefits challenges created by studying. Of those that did enrol but subsequently dropped out 33% stated lack of flexibility (even with part time study) was the cause.
CBI emphasise the need for flexible and part time provision is greater now than it ever has been because technological advances are creating different and higher level jobs for which re-training is essential. CBI states: “Meeting the needs of the economy, therefore, rests on widening access to higher-level education and promoting routes that appeal to people for whom a traditional, three-year university degree may not be the best option.
For a whole range of reasons – from family to work commitments, caring responsibilities and many more – if flexible study isn’t accessible then many people don’t study at all.”
CBI and UUK’s calls are very similar to that of the Civic University Commission (described above).
They urge the Post-16 Review of tertiary funding to:
- Reform the apprenticeship levy into a more flexible skills levy so that it can cover a wider range of training (more detail on page 5 here).
- Develop shorter and more flexible provision – enabling students to move between work and study across their lifetimes. Government and higher education providers should work together to consider how a modular or credits-based system for undergraduate study could increase flexibility in the long term.
- Support collaboration between employers, HE and FE – helping learners progress into provision which falls between A levels and a university degree (level 4 and 5 provision). Government should support… through changes in the regulatory environment, funding new partnerships and collaborations and/or facilitating sharing of information on the need for level 4 and 5 skills.
CBI acknowledge that many universities already have extensive collaboration with employers but state this, alongside flexible provision, needs to shift up a gear.
While in the longer-term, the post-18 education system should move to a modular or credits-based system, we must also ensure higher education institutions can deliver more flexible options as soon as possible. Evidence from our project suggests that while institutions are developing innovative and more flexible methods of course delivery there is a limit on the extent they can test the market and/or roll these out due to financial constraints.
Therefore, Universities UK recommends greater government support being given to higher education institutions wishing to innovate, scale up activity or further develop systems for flexible learning in order to overcome financial barriers and future uncertainties relating to these activities. This could be through targeted funding by government. Targeted funding could help institutions achieve greater clarity on the extent of market demand and how best to tailor their courses to meet the needs of students, so that over time more flexible courses become a central part of the institution’s offer.
Matthew Fell, CBI’s UK Policy Director, stated:
“Investing in our skills base is the best strategy for growth a nation can have…The findings of this project are clear. We need to raise overall levels of education and skills in the workforce. Universities need to play a critical role in responding to the changing world of work by offering education and training for learners for whom a three-year bachelor’s degree doesn’t quite fit their circumstances”.
Professor Julie Lydon, VC University of South Wales and Chair of the group that produced the study, stated: “For many years, discussion about higher education has focused only on the traditional route of school leavers heading away to study full-time at university for three or four years.
The evidence from this project shows there is significant demand from learners and employers for more flexible learning, where learners combine study with work, and other life commitments. Learning and improved life chances should not stop when you reach your 20s. It must continue over a lifetime.”
Read UUK’s news blog here, the joint statement here, and their previous publications: the economic case for flexible learning; the employer perspective of Skills Needs In England; report on ‘lost learners’; and the report on flexible learning.
Finally, Research Professional provide their take on the statement here.
Recruitment – record applicants
UCAS report a record number of applicants at the early deadline for the 2019 undergraduate cycle. This deadline mainly covers medicine, dentistry, veterinary and Oxbridge applications, however of interest are the higher than usual rates of applications (+9% from 2018 cycle rates). There are also increases in English applicant rates (+9%) and an 11% rise in 18 year old applicants – despite the further 1.8% 18 year old population decrease. EU applications remained at 2018 levels. The Guardian covers the story and places the high rates within the context of the additional 500 places available through the newly approved medical schools. UCAS are careful to manage expectations in their press release and remind the sector that the recruitment boost seen by these programmes may not mean a corresponding rise in applications for the January 2019 deadline.
Widening participation – evaluating student outcomes
The Sutton Trust has published Student Destinations which looks at the successful impact of their outreach and participation programmes delivered over the 10 year period 2006-2016. They offer three programmes – UK summer schools, a US programme to visit and support applications to study in the US, and pathways to law. Drawing on destinations data from multiple sources and benchmarking progression against controls they have been able to boast excellent outcomes resulting from participation in the programmes.
See this link to view the infographics detailing the impact of the programmes.
Despite their success the Sutton Trust are keen to point out the difficulties in evaluating such programmes brought about by a lack of access to the needed data sources which are owned by multiple other organisations.
By no means is our work on evaluation complete. It will be years of ongoing work looking to refine our methods and working in collaboration with our partners to constantly improve the evaluation we undertake. It will be challenging.
Access to the data needed to evaluate interventions is inconsistent, disjointed and often expensive. Working with NPD, UCAS, HESA, HEAT and co. to negotiate and navigate data requests can be a full time job and typically there is a delay in receiving the data.
We are calling for access to data to become more coordinated and for outreach activity to have a broader definition of success than simply progression to a particular institution. Source.
The Sutton Trust believe their evaluation success lies partly within their unique position whereby they collaborate with groups of universities to deliver their programmes “…this has enabled us to act as a facilitator to outreach collaboration. This allows for larger data sets to analyse, and data sharing across institutions, which we believe ultimately leads to stronger evaluation.”
A gaggle of parliamentary questions related to HE were answered this week.
On Brexit this answer covers the negotiation of science and innovation – excerpt: The White Paper set out that the UK is committed to establishing a far-reaching science and innovation accord with the EU as part of our future relationship. As part of this accord, the UK would like to explore association to EU research funding programmes, including Horizon Europe and the Euratom R&T Programme.
And another on participation in the Ninth EU Framework Programme.
A variation on a questioning theme that regularly surfaces with the House – how a Brexit no deal will affect universities
Q – Jared O’Mara: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to replace potential lost funding for universities as a result of the UK leaving the EU without a deal (link).
A- Sam Gyimah: We remain confident that we will agree a mutually advantageous deal with the EU – we do not want or expect a no deal scenario. It is, however, the duty of a responsible government to continue to prepare for a range of potential outcomes, including the unlikely event of no deal. Extensive work to prepare for this scenario has been under way for almost two years and we are taking the necessary steps to ensure the country continues to operate smoothly from the day we leave. We have now published 106 specific technical notices – including on Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ – to help businesses, universities, citizens and consumers prepare for a no deal scenario.
In the event of a no deal scenario the government’s underwrite guarantee will cover funding for successful competitive bids to Horizon 2020 submitted before exit day. In July 2018, we extended this guarantee to cover all successful competitive bids by UK entities to Horizon 2020 calls open to third country participation submitted between exit day and the end of 2020. The guarantee will apply for the lifetime of qualifying projects, even where this extends beyond 2020.
The government will cover funding for successful Erasmus+ bids from UK organisations that are submitted while the UK is still a Member State, even if they are not approved until after we leave. The government will need to reach agreement with the EU for UK organisations to continue participating in Erasmus+ projects and is seeking to hold these discussions with the EU. The government has also extended the underwrite guarantee to cover the payment of awards under successful Erasmus+ bids submitted post-March 2019 until the end of 2020. The eligibility of UK organisations to participate in calls for bids once the UK is no longer a Member State is subject to agreement between the EU and the UK.
Student Loan Sale
Several questions from Angela Rayner delving into the cost effectiveness of both the prior and intended new student loan book sales – with little in the way of a clear answer given.
First a question requesting the estimated proceeds of the (new) student loan sale and for information shared to be accessed centrally.
Sam Gyimah’s response: The government and its advisers are continuing to refine the range of estimates for the expected proceeds of the sale. A report on the sale arrangements, and the extent to which they gave good value, will be placed in the House Libraries within three months of the date of the transfer arrangements.
Followed by another on the book value of the new student loans sale.
Gyimah responded: The department calculates the book value for the pool of loans for any given sale after the sale has completed, and the fully audited number for the second sale will be available in the 2018-2019 annual accounts.
On the previous student loan book sales Rayner questioned:
Gyimah responded that the report is available within the Parliamentary libraries and disclosing the minimum price was counterproductive as it is commercially sensitive.
On the TEF it is promised there will soon be news on who will conduct the independent review:
Q – Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what progress he has made on appointing the Chair of the Independent Review into the Teaching Excellence Framework (link).
A – Sam Gyimah: We have made excellent progress in appointing an independent reviewer of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework and I hope to make an announcement shortly.
Q- Royston Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what plans his Department has to replicate the provisions of Tier 2 visa requirements for EU students studying in the UK after the UK has left the EU (link).
A – Caroline Nokes: The Government is considering a range of options for the future immigration system and we will publish a White Paper later in the autumn.
The independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its report on the impact of international students in the UK in September 2018. The Government welcomes this report and thanks the MAC for their work. The report makes it clear that international students offer a positive economic benefit to the UK and offers a number of policy recommendations. We will be considering this report carefully and engaging widely as we develop proposals for the future system which will be implemented from 2021.
Q – Paul Blomfield: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he has made an assessment of the potential implications for the Government’s ambition to increase the number of BAME students going to university by 20 per cent by 2020 of implementing the recommendations in the University and College Union report entitled Investigating higher education institutions and their views on the Race Equality Charter; and if he will make a statement.
A – Sam Gyimah: I welcome the report from the University and College Union. Widening access to Higher Education is a priority for this government. We want everyone with the capability to succeed in Higher Education to have the opportunity to benefit from a university education, regardless of background, ethnicity, or where they grew up.
In 2017, 18 year olds from ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely to enter full-time undergraduate higher education than ever before. However, we still have more to do. That is why we asked the Office for Students to continue to ensure ethnic minority groups are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from higher education.
A new transparency condition will also require HE providers to publish application, offer, acceptance, non-continuation and attainment rates by socio-economic background, gender and ethnicity, which will provide greater transparency and help to shine a light on those providers who need to do more.
Finally, a question on artificial Intelligence (autonomous weapons).
Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. There aren’t any new consultations and inquiries this week, however, there have been several outcome reports and Government responses to the consultations and inquiries we are tracking. Look out for the yellow highlighting to find the new information.
Free Speech: i news has an article reporting on the BBC’s research stating universities are not restricting free speech. Here is the description of the BBC’s research findings. The findings suggest there are only a small number of isolated cases where free speech is restricted. However, the article continues: A Department for Education spokesperson said while there was no evidence of widespread censorship, there were some “genuine problems”, including the effect of the “complex web of rules and guidance”, as well as the behaviour of protestors and student groups. The OfS Free Speech guidance is expected to be published before Christmas.
Science after Brexit: Fans of Radio 4’s Today programme will have heard Sam Gyimah grasping for answers during a Brexit discussion with Nobel Prize winning geneticist Sir Paul Nurse. Total Politics and The National both reported following the discussion.
Sexual Harassment: The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published the outcome of their inquiry into sexual harassment of women and girls in public spaces. The report has a whole section devoted to women’s safety at university. BU readers can access a summary of the report provided by Dods Political Monitoring Consultants here.
Cost of Post Study Work Visas: Wonkhe report on UUK analysis which estimates that the UK economy could have lost out on £8bn in export earnings from international students due to changes to student migration policy in 2012, which include the closure of the Tier 1 Post Study Work Route.
Simon Marginson, writing for Research Professional, also had much to say on the post study work visa this week:
“The notion that we beckon [international students] in through the narrow Home Office doorway, extract as much money as possible from them while they are here, and push them out the moment they graduate, is uncivilised, exploitative and counterproductive.
A mature country will recognise the connections between international education and skilled migration, and understand that while the primary purposes of international education are economic and educational, an important secondary purpose is attracting outstanding future citizens.
Post-study work visas are not only a cornerstone of education exports policy, they are a cornerstone of economic policy on skilled labour.”
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of UUK, stated:
“To keep up with competitors, the UK government needs to promptly develop a reshaped immigration system that recognises the value of international students as temporary visitors and tells the world that they are welcome here. This should include improved post-study work opportunities”
Students Union officers: Students Union officers are in the news this week with an article on the York University Students Union Working Class Officer and UWE’s short lived men’s officer, which was scrapped after the candidate withdrew citing harassment.
The Budget: The 2018 Autumn budget will be delivered on Monday 29 October. The House of Commons Library has produced a brief on the background to the budget. Political consultants have also been producing speculation documents detailing what has been leaked or is expected within the budget – so far there has been little content directly on Higher Education within the speculations.
Social economic comparators: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released Equity in Education which tracks the impact of socio-economic background on the academic performance and outcomes of young people. It notes that high performance and more positive attitudes towards schooling among disadvantaged 15-year-old students are strong predictors of success in higher education and work later on. Furthermore, adults in England with tertiary-educated parents were 9 times more likely to complete tertiary education than adults with less-educated parents. However, this is still below the OECD average of 11 times more likely.
The Independent covers the report stating only 1 in 6 of the disadvantaged UK pupils surveyed report they are satisfied with their lives, socially integrated at school and do not experience test anxiety. The UK also trails behind in that only 15% of disadvantaged students are socially and emotionally resilient (compared to 26% average across all countries surveyed). Although the report does state: Disadvantaged students who are socially and emotionally resilient tend to do better academically which suggests that helping disadvantaged students develop positive attitudes and behaviours towards themselves and their education would boost their academic development. It also notes that greater school choice doesn’t necessarily have a positive impact on disadvantaged pupils and that there can be a lack of sense of belonging amongst pupils. The Equity in Education report utilises PISA data (Programme for International Student Assessment). Click here for an interesting short set of infographics.
FE and Sixth Form Funding Crisis: Twelve associations that represent school and college leaders, governors, students, teachers and support staff in England have written to Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond urging him to increase funding for sixth form education in next week’s Budget. The letter launched the Raise the Rate campaign which hopes to increase the funding rate for sixth form students that has been frozen at £4,000 per student, per year since 2013. In the letter, the associations claim that a combination of funding cuts and cost increases “has left much less money for schools and colleges to spend on the front line education of students at a time when the needs of young people have become increasingly complex (for example the sharp rise in students experiencing mental health problems).” The associations use recent research from London Economics to call for a “minimum” £760 per student funding increase. Without this the campaign states that minority subjects such as languages are at risk of being dropped and there will be decreased extra-curricular activities, work experience opportunities and university visits. As major funding decisions are not likely to be taken until next year’s spending review, and would not take effect until 2020/21, the associations urge the Chancellor to introduce a “modest increase” to the funding rate of at least £200 per student in next week’s Budget “to provide some much needed financial stability and ensure that schools and colleges can continue to deliver the high class education our young people deserve.”
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders stated:
“It makes no sense whatsoever that the basic funding rate in sixth forms and colleges is a miserly £4,000 per student, while universities are charging tuition fees of up to £9,250, often for fewer teaching hours. Government cuts to 16-18 education have severely damaged a sector which is pivotal to the life chances of young people, and an immediate funding uplift is essential.”
Emily Chapman, Vice President (Further Education) of the National Union of Students said:
“Successive budget cuts have left many colleges in a state of financial instability. The result has been course closures, cuts to student support, and reductions in teaching provision.”
Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association said:
“Sixth form education is not just about exam results, it includes a host of essential wrap-around experiences. If we don’t fund it properly, something must give and young people won’t get the high-quality education they deserve. Every year, colleges are being asked to do more with less, and we must not sit idly by while young people are short-changed.”
Student Opinion: Read this blog on the latest research from an amalgamation of students’ unions: Asking the right questions on student lifestyle which covers wellbeing, living, eating and community identification. There are also previous research summaries giving the student perspective on Value for Money and Teaching Excellence.
Allied Health Professions: The OfS have published the blog Let’s shine a light on the opportunities in allied health professions educating about the wider NHS careers opportunities and how the OfS is supporting growth in recruitment to these programmes.
Immigration salary threshold: Research Professional discuss how the proposed retention of the £30,000 salary threshold for skilled migrant visa will dissuade talented social science researchers from considering a career in the UK.
Unconditional offers: Unconditional offers continue to make headlines as UCAS confirm they will publish data highlighting which HE providers make significant levels of unconditional offers. The data will be shared when UCAS release the annual end-of-cycle data in January 2019. A spokesperson for UCAS stated: “Unconditional offers can be made for a variety of reasons… Universities may also need to provide necessary context of their figures when they are published for the first time.” Research Professional state that UCAS will publish an analysis of unconditional offers during November to explore the different types of offers and how they are made.
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In April 2017 Dr John Oliver co-hosted a business engagement event on Digital Strategy and Business Transformation with The Hackett Group (London). The Hackett Group are leading management consultants providing expert advice on digital transformation and benchmarking to major corporations and government agencies, including 97% of the Dow Jones Industrials, 89% of the Fortune 100 and 59% of the FTSE 100.
The event formed part of a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust funded research project and was attended by senior business executives from the likes of Ofcom, the Financial Times, Astrazeneca and Bell Pottinger. At the time, the delegates commented that it was an “excellent event” that provided different perspectives on digital transformation and new ideas on how to manage strategic digital transformation within their firms.
After 18 months, a clearer picture has emerged of the impact that the presentation of findings and subsequent discussion has had on business practice. Chris Davenport, a Senior Director at The Hackett Group, recently commented that “the event influenced our strategic approach to the development of a new Digital Strategy and Analytics service for our clients. This new consultancy service has been now been launched and several of our FTSE100 clients (among others Tesco, John Lewis and Unilever) have gained insight from this. Some of these clients have already decided to invest millions of pounds into resources creating many new jobs in Digital services and Analytics departments in their firms and we expect many more to follow”.
The research findings have been published in several practice management journals, whilst the academic papers are in the final stages of peer review.
The Postgraduate Research Live Exhibition is your opportunity to showcase your research this academic year.
Calling all PGRs (MRes, PhD, Professional Doctorates alike)! Exhibit your research or research journey at this PGR Live Exhibition on Wednesday 5 December, followed by a free festive social for PGRs and Supervisors.
This is your opportunity to display your research to all of BU in creative and innovative ways during this open live exhibition.
Only 1 week left to apply.
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 .