Category / Research assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management academics – would you like to get more involved in preparing our next REF submission?

We are currently recruiting for a Practice-Based Research Output Champion to help support preparation for our next REF Submission to Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management (UoA34).

The deadline for expressions of interest is 21st June 2024. 

This role is recruited through an open and transparent process, which gives all academic staff the opportunity to put themselves forward. Applications from underrepresented groups (e.g. minority ethnic, declared disability) are particularly welcome.

We are currently preparing submissions to thirteen units (otherwise known as UOAs). Each unit has a leadership team with at least one leader, an output and impact champion. The leadership team are supported by a panel of reviewers who assess the research from the unit. This includes research outputs (journal articles, book chapters, digital artefacts and conference proceedings) and impact case studies. We currently have vacancies in the following roles:

Practice-Based Research Output Champion – UOA34: Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management

All roles require a level of commitment which is recognised accordingly with time to review, attend meetings, and take responsibility for tasks.

Undertaking a UOA role can be enjoyable and rewarding as two of our current champions testify:

“As UOA Outputs Champion you develop a detailed knowledge of all the great work that colleagues are doing related to the subject, and the different outlets used for disseminating their work.  As an outputs committee member, you also get to know what research is going on across BU, and it’s interesting to see the differences between disciplines.  It’s a good way develop your knowledge of the bigger picture of BU’s research, and also to understand the importance of REF and how it works in practice.  You do spend quite a bit of time chasing colleagues to put their outputs on BRIAN for REF compliance but hopefully they forgive you!”

Professor Adele Ladkin – UOA 24 Output Champion

“As a UoA 17 impact champion, I work closely with the UoA 17 impact team to encourage the development of a culture of impact across BUBS. I try to pop into Department / research group meetings when I can to discuss impact, and I’ve enjoyed meeting people with a whole range of research interests. Sometimes it can be tough to engage people with impact – understandably; everyone is busy – so it’s important to be enthusiastic about the need for our BU research to reach the public. Overall, the role is about planting the seeds to get researchers thinking about the impact their work might have in the future (as well as the impact they have already had, sometimes without realising!)”

Dr Rafaelle Nicholson – UOA 17 Impact Champion

How to apply

All those interested should put forward a short case (suggested length of one page) as to why they are interested in the role and what they think they could bring to it. These should be clearly marked with the relevant role and unit and emailed to ref@bournemouth.ac.uk by 5pm on 21st June 2024.

Further detail on the role and the process of recruitment and selection criteria can be found here:

Role descriptor

Process and criteria for selection

For further information please contact ref@bournemouth.ac.uk, a member of the current UOA Team or your Deputy Dean Research and Professional Practice with queries.

Impact champion needed for engineering: one week to apply

We are looking to recruit an impact champion to help support our REF submission in UOA 12 (the Unit of Assessment for Engineering). The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 24th May 2024.

This is an exciting opportunity to play a key role in supporting colleagues to develop impact case studies for submission to REF 2029 in late 2028. The successful applicant will be allocated an agreed proportion of time to devote to the role as part of their workload planning.

Impact champions work closely with the UOA lead and their impact advisor in RDS to develop and support potential impact case studies. They also become a member of the REF Impact Subcommittee, where they are able to discuss impact strategies, planning and best practice with colleagues across all faculties and disciplines.

“The role is about planting the seeds to get researchers thinking about the impact their work might have in the future (as well as the impact they have already had, sometimes without realising!)” Dr Rafaelle Nicholson – UOA 24 Impact Champion

This role is recruited through an open and transparent process, which gives all academic staff the opportunity to put themselves forward. Applications from underrepresented groups (e.g. minority ethnic, declared disability) are particularly welcome.

How to apply

All those interested should put forward a short case (suggested length of one paragraph), explaining why they are interested in the role and what they believe they could bring to it. This should be emailed to ref@bournemouth.ac.uk by Friday 24th May 2024.

Further details on the impact champion role, the process of recruitment and selection criteria can be found here:

Role Descriptor

Process and criteria for selection

For more information, please contact ref@bournemouth.ac.uk, or UoA 12 Leader Professor Zulfiqar Khan.

 

 

REF role: opportunity to champion the impact of BU’s engineering research

We are looking to recruit an impact champion to help support our REF submission in UOA 12 (the Unit of Assessment for Engineering). The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 24th May 2024.

This role is recruited through an open and transparent process, which gives all academic staff the opportunity to put themselves forward. Applications from underrepresented groups (e.g. minority ethnic, declared disability) are particularly welcome.

We are currently preparing submissions to thirteen UOAs. Each UOA has a leadership team with at least one leader, one output champion and one impact champion. They are supported by a panel of reviewers who assess the unit’s research, including both outputs and impact case studies.

All roles require a level of commitment, which is recognised accordingly, with time to review, attend meetings, and take responsibility for tasks.

Undertaking a UOA role can be enjoyable and rewarding, as one of our current impact champions can testify:

“I work closely with the UoA 17 impact team to encourage the development of a culture of impact across BUBS… Sometimes it can be tough to engage people with impact – understandably; everyone is busy – so it’s important to be enthusiastic about the need for our BU research to reach the public. Overall, the role is about planting the seeds to get researchers thinking about the impact their work might have in the future (as well as the impact they have already had, sometimes without realising!)”

Dr Rafaelle Nicholson – UOA 17 Impact Champion

How to apply

All those interested should put forward a short case (suggested length of one paragraph), explaining why they are interested in the role and what they believe they could bring to it. This should be emailed to ref@bournemouth.ac.uk by Friday 24th May 2024.

Further details on the impact champion role, the process of recruitment and selection criteria can be found here:

Role Descriptor

Process and criteria for selection

For more information, please contact ref@bournemouth.ac.uk, or UoA 12 Leader Professor Zulfiqar Khan.

REF2029 Open Access Policy Consultation is now open

Last week, the four UK higher education funding bodies launched a consultation on the proposed Open Access Policy for REF2029.

Proposed changes from the REF2021 policy include an open access requirement for longform publications, the shortening of permittable embargo periods for journal articles and changes to article deposit and licensing requirements. More details on the proposed policy can be found here: https://www.ref.ac.uk/guidance/ref-2029-open-access-policy-consultation/

BU will be submitting an institutional response to the consultation, however anyone with an interest in open access publishing and what this might mean in relation to the REF is also invited to respond as an individual. You can respond to the consultation on the UKRI engagement hub.

The consultation closes on Monday 17 June 2024 and the REF team intends to publish the final REF2029 Open Access Policy in summer/autumn 2024.

HE policy update no 8 25th March 2024

Some more optimistic takes on what might be in the party manifestos for HE: the sort of commitments being asked for seem somewhat optimistic: later in this update I look at some detailed proposals on maintenance finance, a call to scrap the REF (which might have more take-up in the manifestos), the KEF via a HE- BCI survey (might someone suggest scrapping the KEP?), apprenticeship results are out and numbers on international education.  Amongst all that I also look at a speech from Susan Lapworth.

Manifesto for HE

You’ve seen the UUK one, here is the one from MillionPlus. (Policy update from February: The UUK manifesto sets out a wish list for the sector.  It all looks very expensive and so while ambitious, unlikely to be replicated in anyone’s actual manifesto.  We can expect to see more of these over the next few months. Research Professional have the story here.)

Scrap REF and save money

Iain Mansfield says that Labour should ‘scrap REF and save half a billion’, Research Professional reports.  Not because there is any problem with a metric for research: just a strong feeling that it shouldn’t include a metric for environment and culture. RP add: Speaking at Research Professional News live last week, Labour’s shadow science minister, Chi Onwurah, said she was “concerned about some of the bureaucracy associated with the REF” and stopped short of committing to retaining it in its current form. I don’t think that means stopping the culture and environment part, but it is hard to know.  These debates will run for a while.

HE-BCI review

The HE-BCI survey is used in the Knowledge Exchange Framework.  Just how much difference the KEF makes to anything and how interested anyone except the sector really is in it, is still, for me, an open question that I have asked since KEF was just a glint in Jo Johnson’s eye (the third leg of the HE stool etc…).  Of course if they started using KEF to allocate HEIF it would matter a lot more, but the KEF data doesn’t really lend itself to that.  As a reminder, it uses a different comparison group (clusters) to everything else, three of its “perspectives” are self-assessed and all it tells you is whether engagement with the perspective is deemed to be low, medium or high.  In a highly technical presentation format.

But as the (only real) metrics behind the (incomprehensible) KEF wheels (just take a look here and see what you learn), HE-BCI data does have some influence.  And HESA did a survey on some bits of it which closed in January.  There will be another consultation at some point.

The regulator speaks

It is always interesting to hear or read a speech by the head of the OfS, so here is one.

After a friendly introduction telling the Association of Colleges what good work their members do, it is straight in on quality:

  • Although, of course, not every college higher education student is in that position, the college sector should collectively be very proud that so many who are get the guidance and support they need in further education settings.
  • But, sadly, we know that in too many parts of the system, students’ interests are not always being well-served
  • …[Students] have serious questions about:
    • the amount of teaching they receive,
    • the frequency and usefulness of feedback provided to them, and
    • the level of support, both academic and pastoral, they can access.

Talking about the ongoing quality assessments, there are some changes coming:

  • Updating some of the language we use. So we might talk more about assessments or compliance assessments, rather than investigations.
  • We think there’s scope for additional training for assessment teams, for example, focusing on welfare to ensure staff are appropriately supported during visits and the wider process.
  • And we know the sector would like us to publish more information about how institutions are selected for assessment and how the process unfolds from there

A defensive approach to the big effort on freedom of speech?  You decide

  • Defining more clearly and coherently the student interest will also support another area where our regulation is developing: freedom of speech and academic freedom.
  • As that work has progressed, we have sometimes been told, including by some students, that students do not consider this a priority. But we know that the National Student Survey found that one in seven students in England felt unable to freely express their views.
  • … the collective act of debate and dissection of ideas, old and new, is what allows us to be confident that what and how students are learning represents the best knowledge we currently have. If students don’t recognise this, we need to understand why. Is it an artefact of who speaks loudest in our current systems? Or that cost-of-living worries and the associated challenges have reduced the scope for considering these broader issues? Or that students today have a fundamentally different conception of what freedom of speech and academic freedom ought to entail?

And some new areas of focus:

  • For example, although access to accommodation appears in our Equality of Opportunity Risk Register, we’ve been cautious about stepping into that arena in regulatory terms. But it is clear that students are increasingly concerned about the cost, quality and uneven availability of accommodation for their studies. It’s the most frequently mentioned issue in discussions with students in my visits to institutions.
  • Likewise, while we’ve taken steps to encourage stronger working links between those we regulate and the organisations that provide health services to students, particularly to support their mental health, we’re not the regulator of those services, and much of the most critical care can’t be provided by universities and colleges directly…. we are open to the view that, as a regulator framed and formed in relation to the interests of students, it may fall to us to take action, or to seek to better co-ordinate the activity of others, or to just talk about them because they matter to students.

And there is a new strategy consultation coming for the OfS.

Apprenticeships

Achievements rate update: a update published by the DfE. The Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education, Robert Halfon has written an open letter to the apprenticeship sector celebrating the latest achievement rates and setting out some developments.

While the government are very keen to encourage more apprenticeships, there is a stern approach to providers here: not dissimilar to the rhetoric on HE, there will be student number controls linked to quality as defined by outcomes.  While “training not being as good as hoped” is a factor in the list above, as is “poor organisation” of the programme, that is in the context of all the other reasons linked to employers and jobs.  However, the government can’t do much about those, and is not in the business of discouraging employers from participating.  But this will put more pressure on providers who are already finding apprenticeships bureaucratic and hard and expensive to deliver.

It’s not putting them off just yet, though.  This update from the OfS on the second wave of funding for apprenticeships highlights how many providers are really going for it.  Degree apprenticeships funding competition: Funding allocated to wave 2 projects (officeforstudents.org.uk)

Anyway, the ideas for future development in the Minister’s letter are:

  • Apprenticeship Standards. IfATE will be looking closely at apprenticeship standards that are not producing good outcomes for employers or the economy – especially where they are underused or too many learners are dropping out without completing – and speed up action to either improve them or remove them where it is clear the apprenticeship standard is not working.
  • Quality of Training. We know that the quality of training is a major factor in whether apprentices complete. Through the apprenticeship accountability framework, we have assessed provider performance against a range of measures to give an overall picture of their quality of delivery. ….. In future performance assessments, we will not hesitate to robustly challenge providers showing insufficient improvement. We will deploy appropriate support, where providers demonstrate a capacity to improve in a timely manner, and we will continue to consider factors outside of providers’ control, where these can be evidenced. However, we will also use contractual measures including potential limitations on growth, stopping delivery of standards with low apprenticeship achievement rates and removal from the market where this is necessary to protect apprentices and employers and ensure they have access to high quality training. Concurrently we will also seek to enrich the market by making it easier to enter for providers that can deliver to our priorities – for example to increase participation from SMEs and young people.
  • Employer improvement. We now want to give employers better access to information and data to help manage their own apprenticeship programme and benchmark against others to help drive up improvements across the programme. We will test options for the information we could use to support this and work with Top 100 employers to identify how to make the information available. This will be in addition to the support offered to employers through resources, best practice sharing, and events to support self-improvement.
  • End-Point Assessment. We continually review the assessment process for apprenticeships to make sure it is proportionate, supports achievement and is fit for the future. Working with IfATE, the providers engaged with the Expert Provider pilot and the FE Funding Simplification pilot, we will identify further options to improve the assessment model, making it more efficient for the whole sector…
  • Expert Provider Pilot and SME engagement. … As a result of the pilot we are developing a new, simple one step approval for SMEs engaging with apprenticeships for the first time. This new flexibility is being developed with colleges and training providers and will be available later this year. …

Student finance

Oh dear, another negative story about student debt that will discourage potential applicants (and as always, their parents).  This time it is the BBC who revealed that the UK’s highest student debt was £231k.  Quite how they managed to rack up that much is unclear: by doing lots of courses, it seems (although surely there are limits on that – apparently there are exceptions to those rules).  The highest level of interest accumulated was around £54,050.  The student interviewed is a doctor: the length of medical programmes means that, along with vets and dentists, doctors tend to accumulate the highest student loans.

The Sutton Trust have published a report on reforming student maintenance ahead of the general election.

There are suggestions about how to address the challenges.

  • The analysis covers three potential systems, all of which would increase the amount of maintenance students would have available to them day to day, rising from the current level of £9,978 to £11,400. This is the level that recent Sutton Trust research has found is the median spending on essentials for students living away from home outside of London for 9 months of the year,… This would also set maintenance support at a similar level to what they would receive if paid the National Living Wage while studying, a method the Diamond Review in Wales used to set maintenance levels.

Scenarios include

  • Scenario 1 – Increasing overall maintenance levels, with equal loans for all students and maintenance grants making up the difference.
  • Scenario 2 – Increasing overall maintenance levels, with variable loans and with maintenance grants focused on the poorest students.
  • Scenario 3 – Increasing overall maintenance levels by means-tested loans only.

The value of international education

The government has issued 2021 data on UK revenue from education related exports and transnational education activity.

David Kernohan from Wonkhe has some analysis, always worth checking out for the nuances, including:

  • 2021 was a long time ago
  • It’s also notable that all these figures are based on exports only – there is no adjustment at all for costs incurred in delivering a service overseas.
  • pathway provider income (programmes that help to prepare overseas students for study at a UK university) is estimated based on a survey of six large providers (CEG, INTO, Kaplan, Navitas, Oxford International, Study Group) conducted by one of the participants (Kaplan)

Research Professional also has an article.

 

Opportunity to get more involved in preparing our REF2029 submission

We are currently recruiting for Review Panel members to help support preparation for our next REF. The deadline for expressions of interest is 15 March 2024. 

This is for new members who wish to join Review Panels – existing Review Panel members do not need to re-apply.

The roles are recruited through an open and transparent process, which gives all academic staff the opportunity to put themselves forward. Applications from underrepresented groups (e.g. minority ethnic, declared disability) are particularly welcome.

 

We are currently preparing submissions to thirteen units (otherwise known as UOAs). Each unit has a leadership team with at least one leader, an output and impact champion. The leadership team are supported by a panel of reviewers who assess the research from the unit. This includes research outputs (journal articles, book chapters, digital artefacts and conference proceedings) and impact case studies.

We currently have Review Panel member vacancies in the following units:

3 – Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy

11 – Computer Science and Informatics

12 – Engineering

14 – Geography and Environmental Studies

15 – Archaeology

17 – Business and Management Studies

20 – Social Work and Social Policy

24 – Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

32 – Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

All roles require a level of commitment which is recognised accordingly with time to review, attend meetings, and take responsibility for tasks.

Undertaking a UOA role can be enjoyable and rewarding as two of our current champions testify:

“As UOA Outputs Champion you develop a detailed knowledge of all the great work that colleagues are doing related to the subject, and the different outlets used for disseminating their work.  As an outputs committee member, you also get to know what research is going on across BU, and it’s interesting to see the differences between disciplines.  It’s a good way develop your knowledge of the bigger picture of BU’s research, and also to understand the importance of REF and how it works in practice.  You do spend quite a bit of time chasing colleagues to put their outputs on BRIAN for REF compliance but hopefully they forgive you!”

Professor Adele Ladkin – UOA 24 Output Champion

“As a UoA 17 impact champion, I work closely with the UoA 17 impact team to encourage the development of a culture of impact across BUBS. I try to pop into Department / research group meetings when I can to discuss impact, and I’ve enjoyed meeting people with a whole range of research interests. Sometimes it can be tough to engage people with impact – understandably; everyone is busy – so it’s important to be enthusiastic about the need for our BU research to reach the public. Overall, the role is about planting the seeds to get researchers thinking about the impact their work might have in the future (as well as the impact they have already had, sometimes without realising!)”

Dr Rafaelle Nicholson – UOA 17 Impact Champion

How to apply

All those interested should put forward a short case (suggested length of one paragraph) as to why they are interested in the role and what they think they could bring to it. These should be clearly marked with the relevant role and unit and emailed to ref@bournemouth.ac.uk by 5pm on 15 March 2024

Further detail on the role and the process of recruitment and selection criteria can be found here:

UOA Panel Reviewer

UOA IRP Process and criteria for selection

For further information please contact ref@bournemouth.ac.uk, a member of the current UOA Team or your Deputy Dean Research and Professional Practice with queries.

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory academics – Would you like to get more involved in preparing our next REF submission?

We are currently recruiting for an Output Champion to help support preparation for our next REF Submission to Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory. The deadline for expressions of interest is 1 March 2024. 

This role is recruited through an open and transparent process, which gives all academic staff the opportunity to put themselves forward. Applications from underrepresented groups (e.g. minority ethnic, declared disability) are particularly welcome.

We are currently preparing submissions to thirteen units (otherwise known as UOAs). Each unit has a leadership team with at least one leader, an output and impact champion. The leadership team are supported by a panel of reviewers who assess the research from the unit. This includes research outputs (journal articles, book chapters, digital artefacts and conference proceedings) and impact case studies.

We currently have vacancies in the following roles:

Output Champion – 32 – Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

All roles require a level of commitment which is recognised accordingly with time to review, attend meetings, and take responsibility for tasks.

Undertaking a UOA role can be enjoyable and rewarding as two of our current champions testify:

“As UOA Outputs Champion you develop a detailed knowledge of all the great work that colleagues are doing related to the subject, and the different outlets used for disseminating their work.  As an outputs committee member, you also get to know what research is going on across BU, and it’s interesting to see the differences between disciplines.  It’s a good way develop your knowledge of the bigger picture of BU’s research, and also to understand the importance of REF and how it works in practice.  You do spend quite a bit of time chasing colleagues to put their outputs on BRIAN for REF compliance but hopefully they forgive you!”

Professor Adele Ladkin – UOA 24 Output Champion

“As a UoA 17 impact champion, I work closely with the UoA 17 impact team to encourage the development of a culture of impact across BUBS. I try to pop into Department / research group meetings when I can to discuss impact, and I’ve enjoyed meeting people with a whole range of research interests. Sometimes it can be tough to engage people with impact – understandably; everyone is busy – so it’s important to be enthusiastic about the need for our BU research to reach the public. Overall, the role is about planting the seeds to get researchers thinking about the impact their work might have in the future (as well as the impact they have already had, sometimes without realising!)”

Dr Rafaelle Nicholson – UOA 17 Impact Champion

How to apply

All those interested should put forward a short case (suggested length of one paragraph) as to why they are interested in the role and what they think they could bring to it. These should be clearly marked with the relevant role and unit and emailed to ref@bournemouth.ac.uk by 5pm on 1 March 2024

Further detail on the role and the process of recruitment and selection criteria can be found here:

Role descriptor

Process and criteria for selection

For further information please contact ref@bournemouth.ac.uk, a member of the current UOA Team or your Deputy Dean Research and Professional Practice with queries.

HE policy update: no 4, 5th February 2024

The update is a bit shorter this week, focussing on the bigger news on research and education.  The next update will be in a couple of weeks.

Research and knowledge exchange

Ref changes: the wheels on the bus go round and round

There’s nothing new in policy and politics.  As the debate rages about research culture and environment, how to measure it and whether we even should, there is a blog on Wonkhe reminiscing about the similar debate in 2009 around impact.

There’s an update from Research England here: Overall, the community has expressed clear support for the principle of an increased emphasis on PCE in the next REF, while outlining concern around the need for careful consideration of the reporting burden on the sector and the potential dangers of metricising culture or prescribing what good looks like.

Plans for taking this forward were confirmed in an update on people, culture and environment from UKRI which said that the extra time used by the postponement of the next REF from 2028 to 2029 would enable them to run a pilot exercise alongside  a project to develop a set of indicators.

  • The PCE indicators project will provide multiple opportunities for the sector to engage with the development of the PCE indicators. Desk-based research will draw on a variety of sources including Environment statements from REF 2021, feedback received through prior engagement and consultations with the sector, and other published reports. The initial consultation during spring 2024 will comprise in-person workshops in each of the four UK nations and a series of online thematic workshops. ….. Once the draft indicators have been developed, and in parallel with the PCE pilot exercise, a second round of consultation with the sector will be conducted gathering feedback through workshops and an open consultation (survey). ..
  • The pilot exercise will focus on a sample of UoAs (we anticipate in the region of 8 UoAs) selected to provide a general insight into the assessment of PCE for similar subject areas and to highlight particular issues or special considerations that may exist for the assessment of PCE. ….
  • Institutions will be invited in March 2024 to apply to participate in the pilot exercise, …. We anticipate selecting around 30 institutions to make submissions to the pilot exercise. …
  • Institutions that take part in the pilot will be expected to produce unit-level submissions for between 1 and 8 UoAs and also an institution-level submission. These submissions will be based on the indicators identified and developed templates emerging from the commissioned work on PCE indicators.
  • Pilot panels will be comprised of academics, research professionals and others with appropriate expertise. Recruitment of pilot panels is anticipated to be in April 2024 and will be through an open process, to a set of tightly defined criteria. …..

Doctoral funding and training

There’s a UKRI update out with a new statement of expectations for Doctoral Training.

Education research areas of interest

You can read about the DfE’s areas of research interest here.  What is this for?

  • In practical terms we hope this ARI document will steer and support researchers in developing relevant evidence and enable them to make stronger funding bids by linking their work to these priorities.

The areas of interest include:

  • Skills: Drive economic growth through improving the skills pipeline, levelling up productivity and supporting people to work. 1a. What are the country’s future skills needs to support growth and prosperity, particularly in STEM and green skills? 1b. What are the organisational challenges and opportunities facing higher education (HE) and further education (FE) institutions? 1c. What are the funding, system and market challenges and opportunities for increasing participation in technical education, apprenticeships and adult training? 1d. What are the drivers of UK and foreign students’ decisions about pathways into and out of FE and HE, including impact of funding, finance and experience
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Technology: Harness the use of AI, technology and data across our sectors to support safe and effective use within education 5a. What are the potential impacts of AI, and how can new technologies be used safely and effectively within education? 5b. How can the impact of digital technology be robustly measured, and implemented in a way that supports teachers and students? 5c. What approaches or innovation are needed to support the efficient handling of data within education settings?

Education

Complaints

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator published its annual report.

  • In 2023 we received 3,137 complaints, our highest ever number. This is 10% more than in 2022, and followed increases in each of the previous six years

They are also consulting on new scheme rules: this consultation closes on 8th March 2024.

The OIA handles individual complaints and deals with complainants and universities quietly, but also publishes anonymised case studies which make interesting reading and a useful reference point.

The latest from January is on complaints relating to accommodation:

  • The case summaries show that students are not always clear about what they have signed up to, or about how to formally raise issues when they have concerns. It is important that providers’ information for students is as clear and easily accessible as possible, keeping in mind that for some students it is the first time they have lived independently away from home, or lived in a different country.
  • Sometimes the issues raised in complaints are about the accommodation itself, and sometimes they involve the student’s behaviour or that of other students in the accommodation. It’s important that the provider investigates the issues, considers the impact on those involved and takes steps to minimise it, and keeps the student informed. ..
  • We encourage early resolution of complaints where possible. In some of the cases we have seen, the provider recognised issues either during its internal processes or in the early stages of the student’s complaint to us and made an offer to the student to put things right. Sometimes complaints to us are settled in this way. Where the student doesn’t accept what we consider to be a reasonable offer, the complaint to us will usually be Not Justified on the basis that a reasonable offer has been made, and the case summaries include some cases with this outcome.

The previous update relates to disciplinary matters.

You can search them all by theme here

Staff/student ratio and student experience

An interesting blog for Wonkhe in Feb 24 demonstrates that there is no correlation between lower SSRs and student experience however you cut the data:

  • Plotting student:staff ratio against NSS fails to show even a non-significant relationship between satisfaction and staff numbers. Looking primarily at NSS question 15 (which relates to the ease of contacting teaching staff and seems most likely to see an impact from staff student ratios) there are no clear relationships between our two variables in any subject area”.

A common narrative when this is discussed is that SSR data is distorted by research only staff, but the Wonkhe data excludes them.

Generative AI and assessments

There’s a new HEPI/Kortext policy note out: Provide or punish? Students’ views on generative AI in higher education.  There are some interesting findings including:

  • More than half of students (53%) have used generative AI to help them with assessments. The most common use is as an ‘AI private tutor’ (36%), helping to explain concepts.
  • More than one-in-eight students (13%) use generative AI to generate text for assessments, but they typically edit the content before submitting it. Only 5% of students put AI-generated text into assessments without editing it personally.
  • More than a third of students who have used generative AI (35%) do not know how often it produces made-up facts, statistics or citations (‘hallucinations’).
  • A ‘digital divide’ in AI use may be emerging. Nearly three-fifths of students from the most privileged backgrounds (58%) use generative AI for assessments, compared with just half (51%) from the least privileged backgrounds. Those with Asian ethnic backgrounds are also much more likely to have used generative AI than White or Black students and male students use it more than female students

Based on these findings, the authors recommend:

  • Institutions should develop clear policies on what AI use is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
  • Where AI has benefits, institutions should teach students how to use it effectively and how to check whether the content it produces is of high quality.
  • To prevent the ‘digital divide’ from growing, institutions should provide AI tools for those who cannot afford them when they have been identified as benefitting learning.
  • The Department for Education (DfE) and devolved administrations should urgently commission reviews to explore how academic assessment will be affected by AI

There’s a Wonkhe article by Jim Dickinson here.

Quality assessments

The Office for Students have published two more quality assessment reports: concerns were found in both of these, to add to the two previous ones where concerns were found.  Most of the reports published so far relate to business and management, the one published so far for computing  confirmed that there were no concerns.  There are a few more expected.

It is helpful to look at some of the themes picked out in the four reports so far that identified regulatory concerns:

Theme Finding
Teaching quality, delivery and learning resources ·       The teaching and learning resources used to teach disciplinary knowledge were not consistently up-to-date.

·       The manner of teaching delivery meant that courses were not consistently effectively delivered.

·       Delivered content was not consistently informed by up-to-date, discipline specific academic theory and research. This meant that courses did not consistently require students to develop relevant skills.

·       The cohort of students recruited by the university required high quality resources to support their independent learning. However, the quality of the virtual learning environment (VLE) was not consistent, with some modules having inadequate learning materials to facilitate the cohort of students’ learning

Course delivery: format and timetable Not enough flexibility in course delivery to support the cohort of students recruited, namely not providing sufficient flexibility when students had to work to finance their studies or have caring responsibilities, having recognised that this was a specific feature of their intake.
Academic support Student academic support needs were not consistently identified, limiting the opportunity for senior and academic staff to enhance the quality of poor-performing modules and improve the academic experience of students.
Monitoring and management of attendance and engagement Inadequate central monitoring and pro-active management of engagement and attendance and over-reliance on individual academic staff to follow up.  Recommendations included:

·       Clear lines of responsibility at faculty and university level regarding who the lead for continuation is, and further channelling of university-level resource, expertise and effort towards the continuation problem in the Business School.

·       Systematic analysis of student failures on modules and historical withdrawals, to provide a more detailed picture and understanding of why students do not continue their studies at the university.

·       Better real-time monitoring of engagement and a university-level set of criteria that can be used to identify a student who may be at risk of dropping out, combined with systematic analysis of student behaviour and non-attendance so that proactive additional support can be offered

Assessment and feedback ·       The format for providing formative feedback on assessments may not have been sufficient for some students across a number of modules reviewed. … the assessment team considered that ensuring consistent access to formative feedback is a step that could have been taken to ensure students have sufficient academic support to succeed

·       A review of examination board processes and module performance criteria to ensure that under-performing modules are being picked up and addressed through the quality assurance and enhancement system.

Allowing up to six attempts to pass an assessment (for those students that resit a module) without a clear underpinning pedagogic rationale, brought into question the rigour of the assessment and diluted the challenge provided that was relevant to the level of the course. The team considered that because those students were permitted to attempt an assessment that was lacking in rigour and challenge, it meant that those students were not assessed effectively
Academic misconduct Support for avoiding potential academic misconduct was not consistently provided in assessment feedback via the online assessment platform at Level 4
Foundation year students Insufficient academic support for foundation year students once they progressed onto the main programme – support should have continued at higher levels
Staffing Insufficient staff to provide adequate support, impacting personal tutoring, assessment and feedback and academic support
There was considerable variability between the pedagogical and teaching skills of different academic staff across business and management courses including an overreliance on PTHP which had an impact on learning and outcomes
Leadership and governance A lack of adequate educational leadership and academic governance was affecting the overall academic experience of students: this included gaps in key leadership roles and no plans or arrangements to cover, and inadequate noting and oversight of key data and action plans

There’s a Wonkhe blog on the latest two reports here.

Why do these matter?  Here is a reminder of the relevant licence conditions invoked by the OfS in relation to these issues

Apprenticeships

It’s National Apprenticeship Week and so a new standard has been announced: this time for teachers.  You can read the Secretary of State’s announcement here.

  • With a TDA, you’ll work in a school while you gain qualified teacher status (QTS), which you need in order to teach in most schools in England. At the same time, you’ll be studying for a degree.
  • It means trainees won’t take on student debt and will earn while they learn, supporting those who may not have the financial means to do a traditional university-based teacher training programme.
  • It will be available for people to train as both primary and secondary teachers.
  • Subject to final approval, schools will be able to start recruiting apprentices from autumn 2024, with the first trainees beginning the programme in 2025.

Student experience, wellbeing and finances

The Office for Students have announced that they will launch before the end of the academic year a competitive process to allocate £2m towards projects to “seed new practices and test new ideas” supporting equality of opportunity.

Mental health and duty of care

Wonkhe have the story about a recent coroner’s report.

There is a first report from the Department for Education’s HE Mental Health Implementation Taskforce.  Wonkhe are critical in a blog here.

As a reminder what this was for and a summary of the progress made so far:

Objective: adoption of common principles and baselines for approaches across providers, such as through sector led charters

  • The Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education wrote to all HEPs in June 2023 asking for ownership of mental health at an executive level to drive adoption of best practice. A target was also set for all universities to join the UMHC Programme by September 2024. In October 2023 Student Minds confirmed significant progress had been made, with 96 members now signed up across the UK, representing a greater than 50% increase in membership. Of those, 83 are English members, over two thirds of the cohort in scope of the UMHC Programme target.
  • Student Minds intends to undertake a light-touch review of the Charter and award process to begin early in 2024.
  • Next steps: Understand the means by which HEPs construct their mental health strategies and engage with the sector to understand where additional work may be impactful (particularly with regards to the formulation and oversight of HEP mental health strategies) by May 2024.

Objective: better identification of students in need of support and a clear user journey for accessing that support

Workshops have been held and three broad approaches considered:

  • Staff training and competence
  • Mental health analytics
  • Encouraging early disclosures

Next steps: It is proposed that the following work take place prior to the second stage Taskforce report:

  • Consider the evidence for the effectiveness of different training programmes to raise awareness for non-specialist staff, identify examples of good practice, and share these within HEPs as well as sector agencies which may design and deliver staff accreditation processes (e.g. Advance HE);
  • Work with the sector, and potentially Jisc and system suppliers, to develop and promote guidance for HEPs looking to implement student analytics or other related data systems, paying particular attention to supporting HEPs to improve their data governance; and
  • Work with UCAS to support their developing work around student surveys and references, facilitating discussions between UCAS, HEPs, FECs and schools to understand what additional information might be collected, the means to do so, and how this might be shared with HEPs. Feed into the work of the HE Student Support Champion on understanding and establishing methods of addressing barriers to schools and FECs sharing information with HEPs on students’ previous educational records, including their mental health needs.

Objective: development of more sensitive policies, procedures, and communications within a proposed HE Student Commitment

Sector engagement has uncovered challenges faced by HEPs when endeavouring to make improvements in this area:

  • the need for a broader range of good practice exemplars, in particular compassionate policies;
  • the requirement to adapt existing and emerging practice to the precise requirements of each individual provider;
  • the centrality of creating a consistent, whole institutional approach, where many sources of communications and interactions become mutually reinforcing;
  • the vital role of senior leaders in setting the tone for a compassionate culture;
  • the volume of material to be revised, in the context of resource constraints and competing priorities; and
  • the balance between compassion and the need to be clear about requirements and potential consequences of non-observance.

Next steps It is proposed that the following work take place prior to the publication of the second stage report:

  • Consult with the wider sector and students on the agreed principles;
  • Continue to engage with the sector to identify further examples of embedding compassionate principles into policies, procedures, and communications;
  • Develop material that can be utilised by the OIA;
  • Continue to promote the importance of this area with senior leaders with responsibility for overseeing policies, procedures, and communications, and more broadly with HEPs and their professional bodies; and
  • Deliver a national event to promote the Commitment

Objective: Effective local case reviews and engagement with the National Review of HE Suicides, including generation of insights into mental health services on offer by HEPs, and exploration of the methods for achieving greater timeliness and transparency on suicide data

  • In November 2023 DfE appointed the University of Manchester’s National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH) to conduct the National Review.
  • In scope of the National Review will be suspected suicides and attempted suicides with an initial focus on those that have occurred in the Academic Year 2023/24. HEPs will be encouraged to submit their reviews to NCISH. Guidance to support HEPs to engage with this activity will be shared with the sector in early 2024.
  • HEPs will be able to make use of the template for serious incident reviews set out in the UUK Postvention guidance, published in December 2022, though this template is not mandatory. The National Review’s final report will be published by spring 2025 and will outline lessons around good practice and areas for improvement, drawn out from submitted reviews.

International

International student admissions

Immigration, including the impact of international students, remains a hot political topic.

The big story in the Sunday times on 28th Jan was about international students taking the place of better qualified home students.  The paper is behind a paywall, but the Guardian report is here.  There has been a lot of pushback on the original story which seemed to compare admissions requirements for foundation courses with degree courses.

There’s a UUK update on the story here.

UUK also published on 2nd Feb a statement about what they are going to do in response:

  1. Review the Agent Quality Framework (AQF) and make recommendations to enhance the system. We will:
  • Work with our members and partners to ensure adoption of the AQF across the sector.
  • Make recommendations on how the AQF and wider UK data infrastructure can be enhanced to identify and address bad practice and improve resilience.
  1. Review of quality and comparability of International Foundation Programmes (IFPs) and Foundation Programmes for Home (UK) students. We will: commission the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to undertake a rapid review of IFPs. The review will compare requirements of International and Home Foundation Programmes, including entry requirements.
  2. Update the Admissions Code of Practice to clearly state its applicability to international recruitment. We will: review the Admissions Code of Practice to signpost where the Code is expected to apply to international recruitment and update the Code if appropriate.

The DfE are also looking recruitment practices: see this Research Professional article.

International student outcomes

This report in the FT talks about data from the Migration Observatory at Oxford University.

  • The number of overseas graduates staying on in the UK to work in care rose more than six-fold last year, according to research that puts a spotlight on unintended consequences of the government’s migration policy.
  • More than half of all foreign students who switched from graduate visas to skilled worker visas in the year ending June 2023 went into care work, the Migration Observatory think-tank at Oxford university found via freedom of information requests.
  • Some 26,200 overseas graduates were recruited into the care sector, from 3,900 in the year to June 2022, the data showed.
  • “Most international students graduate from masters programmes in subjects like business, engineering and computer science, so it is striking to see so many take roles in care, which requires few formal qualifications,” Ben Brindle, researcher at the Migration Observatory and co-author of the report, said.
  • Brindle noted that while some graduates taking care roles may want to work in the sector, others will have taken on the work, despite being heavily overqualified, “because it provides a route to stay in the UK”.

There’s a response here on Wonkhe from a former international student.

Of course similar stories appear frequently about the number of home graduates taking less highly skilled work, usually linked to the outcomes and quality discussion, such as this one from July when the government confirmed their approach to student number controls linked to the OfS quality assessments (see above under Education for some context for these).

REF Impact Subcommittee Chair: deadline extended to submit Expression of Interest

Would you like to play a key role in supporting preparations for the Engagement & Impact element of BU’s REF2029 submission?

The REF Impact Subcommittee (RISC) has a vacancy for a Chair, which is open to all members of the Professoriate. You are invited to submit an Expression of Interest by 5pm Monday 5th February.

RISC reports on progress in the development of impact case studies to the REF Committee, making recommendations on impact resourcing and ensuring evidence of impact is robustly recorded.

 Key responsibilities include:

  1. Chairing the quarterly RISC meetings.
  2. Ensuring discussion is fair, open and supportive.
  3. Providing guidance in determining where greatest resourcing and support may be required, according to progress updates from impact champions.
  4. Acting as champion for raising awareness across BU of the importance of REF impact case studies in relation to QR funding for the institution as a whole.

Application process:

Please submit a short case (one page max.) to impact@bournemouth.ac.uk, outlining why you are interested in this important role, and the knowledge, skills and experience you think you could bring to it. Applications from underrepresented groups (e.g. women, minority ethnic, declared disability) are particularly welcome. The deadline is: 5pm, Monday 5th February.

EoIs are reviewed against the selection criteria detailed below by a gender-balanced selection panel comprising:

  • Chair of the REF Steering Group
  • Chair of the REF Committee
  • RDS representative

In the event of there being just one EoI received for a particular panel member role, the panel will still review it using the selection criteria to ensure the applicant is suitable for the role.

Further details on the role and selection criteria are here:

Chair REF Impact Subcommittee role descriptor

Process and criteria for RISC Chair recruitment

Selection criteria

The panel will give each EoI a score out of 15, based on how well they score against the criteria outlined below. These are equally weighted, with each criterion carrying a total possible score of 5. The panel will offer the role to the applicants with the highest ranked EoIs. A member of the panel will provide feedback to all applicants.

  • Knowledge and experience of REF and research impact (scored out of 5): The Chair/Deputy Chair are expected to have a thorough knowledge of the REF process, preparations and timeline and the requirements relating to the impact submission for REF2029. Ideally, they will have been involved in preparations for previous REF exercises or submitted an impact case study. It is expected that they will be practising researchers and will have a breadth of understanding of research across BU.
  • Experience of chairing meetings and reaching consensus to ensure sound decision-making (scored out of 5): The Chair/Deputy Chair will need to be able to chair meetings effectively and ensure prioritisation decisions are made in alignment with the requirements of the impact element of BU’s REF submission.
  • Plans for leading the impact agenda across the University (scored out of 5): The Chair/Deputy Chair are responsible for motivating the impact champions of each Unit of Assessment, as well as the wider research community, to optimise BU’s performance in the Engagement and Impact element of REF2029. They should have ideas for how they will do this.

Questions

Any queries regarding the process should be directed to impact@bournemouth.ac.uk. Specific questions about the Chair role should be directed to REF Committee Chair Professor Einar Thorson

REF2029 update on People, Culture and Environment

The REF team have announced an update on the People, Culture and Environment (PCE) element of the REF2029 exercise.

A project has been commissioned to co-develop, with the research community, indicators to be used for the assessment of PCE. These indicators will be used to evidence and support institutions’ PCE submissions as part of a structured questionnaire for REF2029 submissions.

A pilot exercise to enable in-depth testing of the PCE indicators will run alongside the project. This will involve the drafting of example PCE submissions by a sample of HEIs for assessment by pilot panels, in a selected subset of Units of Assessment (UoA).

More details can be found on the REF2029 website, along with information on how HEIs can get involved in the pilot.

The team have also released an updated timetable for the REF2029 exercise.

New book about EDI in health and biomed research careers is out!

Dr Ola Thomson of BUBS, People and Organisations, is pleased to announce her new book: “Nurturing equality, diversity and inclusion: Support for research careers in health and biomedicine”. The book is available as open access which means you can read it free of charge via Bristol University Press (Policy Press) – link here: https://bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/nurturing-equality-diversity-and-inclusion.

You can also order a hard copy of the book with 50% off until 21 January using code JAN50 at the checkout.

The book is co-authored with Prof. Rachael Gooberman-Hill of the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research at the University of Bristol. The volume provides an overview of the state of EDI in research careers in health and biomedicine in the UK, and offers innovative organisational and individual strategies to nurture diversity in research institutions.

Today’s academic and research institutions recognise the importance of diverse research teams in health and biomedical science, in terms of the business case, social justice and the common good. This ‘go-to’ book familiarises readers with the key equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues in relation to research careers and researcher development. Bringing together the challenges and solutions to EDI matters with an evidence-based approach in one volume, the book offers practical strategies and interventions for academic and research settings. This is an essential guide for equality planning team members, researchers, HRM officers and managers across academia and research.

REF Impact Subcommittee Chair: call for EoIs

Help guide the university’s impact submission

The Chair of the REF Impact Subcommittee (RISC) has an important role to play in supporting preparations for the Engagement and Impact element of Bournemouth University’s (BU) REF2029 submission.

RISC reports on progress in the development of impact case studies and against impact strategies to the REF Committee, sharing intelligence from across BU and the wider HE sector, making recommendations on impact resourcing and ensuring evidence of impact is robustly recorded.

The Chair, who should be a member of the Professoriate, needs an institution-wide perspective on the development of impact case studies and the new impact narratives, and to ensure the subcommittee is effective in reviewing progress.

 Key responsibilities include:

  1. Chairing the quarterly RISC meetings.
  2. Ensuring discussion is fair, open and supportive.
  3. Providing guidance in determining where greatest resourcing and support may be required, according to progress updates from impact champions.
  4. Acting as champion for raising awareness across BU of the importance of REF impact case studies in relation to QR funding for the institution as a whole.

Application process:

Research Development and Support (RDS) runs an expression of interest (EoI) call, inviting all those who are interested to put forward a short case (one page maximum) outlining why they are interested and the knowledge, skills and experience they think they could bring to the role. Applications from underrepresented groups (e.g. women, minority ethnic, declared disability) are particularly welcome. The deadline is: 5pm, Monday 29th January.

EoIs are submitted to RDS (impact@bournemouth.ac.uk) and reviewed against the selection criteria detailed below by a gender-balanced selection panel comprising:

  • Chair of the REF Steering Group
  • Chair of the REF Committee
  • RDS representative

In the event of there being just one EoI received for a particular panel member role, the panel will still review it using the selection criteria to ensure the applicant is suitable for the role.

Further details on the role and selection criteria are here:

Chair REF Impact Subcommittee role descriptor

Process and criteria for RISC Chair recruitment

Selection criteria

The panel will give each EoI a score out of 15, based on how well they score against the criteria outlined below. These are equally weighted, with each criterion carrying a total possible score of 5. The panel will offer the role to the applicants with the highest ranked EoIs. A member of the panel will provide feedback to all applicants.

  • Knowledge and experience of REF and research impact (scored out of 5): The Chair/Deputy Chair are expected to have a thorough knowledge of the REF process, preparations and timeline and the requirements relating to the impact submission for REF2029. Ideally, they will have been involved in preparations for previous REF exercises or submitted an impact case study. It is expected that they will be practising researchers and will have a breadth of understanding of research across BU.
  • Experience of chairing meetings and reaching consensus to ensure sound decision-making (scored out of 5): The Chair/Deputy Chair will need to be able to chair meetings effectively and ensure prioritisation decisions are made in alignment with the requirements of the impact element of BU’s REF submission.
  • Plans for leading the impact agenda across the University (scored out of 5): The Chair/Deputy Chair are responsible for motivating the impact champions of each Unit of Assessment, as well as the wider research community, to optimise BU’s performance in the Engagement and Impact element of REF2029. They should have ideas for how they will do this.

Questions

Any queries regarding the process should be directed to impact@bournemouth.ac.uk. Specific questions about the Chair role should be directed to REF Committee Chair Professor Einar Thorson.

Call for EoIs: REF Institutional Statement Lead to drive REF 2029 preparations

Bournemouth University (BU) is preparing submissions for future REF exercises. An Institutional Level Statement was introduced as part of the submission for REF2021 and will form part of the formally assessed component for REF2029. BU has created an Institutional Statement Lead role. This will be recruited via an open and transparent process. All academic staff at Grade10+ have the opportunity to put themselves forward.

The Institutional Statement Lead is a significant commitment and will be recognised with a 0.2FT workload allocation (or job-share), and commensurate buyout return for the host department. The role is permanent, to be reviewed on an annual basis, and role holders can choose to step down at any time. Potential applicants should discuss their workload balance with their Head of Department before applying.

The Institutional Statement Lead undertakes a vital role in driving and delivering BU’s REF submission, influencing the University’s preparations, shaping an optimal submission, and ultimately having a significant effect on BU’s REF results.

Key responsibilities of the Institutional Statement Lead role include:

  1. Having an institutional outlook for the REF, i.e. aiming to optimise BU’s overall REF performance.
  2. Leading production of the Institutional Statement, bringing together content on People, Culture and Environment.
  3. Working with Academic and Professional Service Leads to optimise the Institutional Statement by working to mitigate weaknesses and to highlight strengths across all aspects of the submission.
  4. Working with UOA leaders to explore and understand the interrelationship of discipline-specific and Institutional level statements.
  5. Ensuring that the Institutional Statement undergoes rigorous review, in order to assess quality and areas of development prior to inclusion for REF.
  6. Working closely with RDS, who are managing the central REF preparation and submission process.
  7. Attend the REF Committee meetings.
  8. Working closely with RDS to respond audit queries.
  9. To undertake any other duties as requested by UET and RSG

Application process:

To apply, please submit a short statement (suggested length 300 words), explaining your interest in the role and what you could bring to it. Applications from underrepresented groups (e.g., minority ethnic, declared disability, women) are particularly welcome.

EoIs should be submitted to RDS (ref@bournemouth.ac.uk) by 5pm 26th January 2024.

EoIs will be reviewed against the selection criteria detailed in this document by a gender-balanced selection panel comprising the:

  • Associate Pro-VC Research and Knowledge Exchange
  • Chair of the REF Steering Group
  • RDS representative

The panel will invite those meeting the criteria to an interview. This process is applied consistently as per the process for UOA Leaders. In the event of there being just one EoI received for a role, the panel will still review it using the selection criteria to ensure the applicant is suitable for the role.

Selection criteria

The selection criteria are outlined below. The same criteria will be used at both EoI and interview stage. These are equally weighted, with each criterion carrying a total possible score of 10. The role will be offered to the highest scoring applicant. A member of the panel will provide feedback to all applicants.

  • Commitment, motivation and enthusiasm (scored out of 10): The REF Institutional Statement Lead is a significant commitment. The role holder needs to be willing and able to make this commitment. They need to be enthusiastic about the REF and boosting research performance.
  • Skills and knowledge (scored out of 10): The REF Institutional Statement Lead should bring with them skills and knowledge to optimise BU’s REF preparations and submission (e.g. knowledge of the REF process, expertise in research metrics, leadership experience, REF Panel membership experience, etc). It is expected that they will be practising researchers and will have a breadth of understanding of research across BU.
  • Plans for preparing the Institutional Statement and awareness of the potential challenges and opportunities (scored out of 10): The REF Institutional Statement Lead is responsible for driving and delivering the Institutional Statement, maintaining an institutional outlook to optimise BU’s overall REF performance. They should have ideas for how they will do this and the potential challenges and opportunities of this.

Further detail on the roles and selection criteria can be found here:

Role Descriptor

Process and criteria for selection

Questions

Questions regarding the process should be directed to RDS, ref@bournemouth.ac.uk. The REF Institutional Statement Lead specific questions should be directed to the Chair of RSG Professor Kate Welham.

HE policy update: outlook for 2024

New year, new start for the BU HE policy update.

It’s an election year, so I will be looking at the policies, predictions and plots as the year unfolds alongside the usual news and comment.  I’ll be trying some new approaches this year so let me know what you think.

Alongside all the policy and politics there are the big geopolitical issues that may escalate even more dangerously this year; with luck some of them may creep towards a resolution.  Just to list a few: Ukraine, Israel/Palestine, China/Taiwan, ongoing conflict or issues in Yemen, Afghanistan, North Korea, elections in the US, Mexico, Venezuela, India and Pakistan and a new leader in Peru, a third of African nations have elections this year) alongside climate change and equality issues across the world.  These issues have an impact on domestic politics including through the impact on cost of living and potentially as people seek clarity,  reassurance or perceived strong leadership in a time of fear or uncertainty.  There’s an interesting article here from CIDOB on the issues the world is facing this year.

If you are interested in predictions, IPSOS have a survey of what the public are expecting.

Politics and Parliament

Let’s start with the current government’s pledges and likely priorities: as the year unfolds I will look at some of these in more detail and review the alternatives.

YouGov have a take on the most important issues facing the country: the economy, health, immigration and asylum are at the top

Conservatives seeking re-election

A year ago the PM set out 5 pledges: we can expect to hear a lot more about them.  Reviews here from  the BBC and the New Statesman:

  • Halving inflation by the end of 2023: This has been met, but this will continue to be a focus along with the reason it matters: cost of living (see below).
  • Get the economy growing wages have improved somewhat in real terms but GDP is flat
  • And there is an issue with fiscal drag, as more people pay more tax (see the FT)
  • National debt falling: The pledge was that it would be forecast to fall in 2028/29 (i.e. not yet). The BBC points out:
    • In the Autumn Statement in November, the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt claimed to be on track to meet that pledge because the OBR predicted a fall in 2028-29. But it’s going to be tight and will involve challenging spending restraint for some government departments.
    • When will we know? The next debt forecasts will be published alongside the Spring Budget in 2024.
  • Cutting NHS waiting lists: This is not going very well.  The overall waiting list was expected to fall by March 2024: we will know in May 2024 when the figures come out.  The BMA have some data, and the BBC chart uses the same NHS data but helpfully splits it out by how long people have waited. Ongoing strikes will remain a challenge for the government this year.
  • Stopping the boats.  Controversial and difficult.  Chart from the BBC again. Here’s a link to the 2nd Jan update from the Home Office on this one.  Stopping the boats is just part of the larger policy agenda on cutting net migration to the UK (see below).

Things to watch this year: cost of living

The reason inflation mattered so much was the impact on cost of living.  The increases may have slowed but costs are still high:

… food bank charities like the Trussell Trust are helping record numbers of people, and some people are using debt to pay for essentials … The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) collects data on destitution in the UK. Someone is ‘destitute’ when they didn’t have two or more of six essentials in the past month because they couldn’t afford them, or their income is too low to purchase the items themselves. JRF found that 1.8 million households experienced destitution in 2022, a 64% increase since 2019. The rising prices of essentials has contributed to this increase. The essential that most destitute people went without most often was

  • food (61%), followed by
  • heating (59%)
  • clothes (57%),
  • toiletries (51%),
  • lighting (35%) and
  • shelter (which means they slept rough) (14%).

Things to watch this year: net migration:

Despite the focus on the small boats, the real policy issue is the net migration number, going back to the original pledge from more than a decade ago to reduce that number.

There is a useful annual report from the Migration Advisory Committee here (Oct 23).

This report also has a section on student migration which is discussed below in relation to international students.

Other things to watch in 2024 (as well as the general election)

Local elections and by-elections – always interesting in the run up to a general election: Local elections are in May (not in BCP), there is a by-election in February in Wellingborough: another test for the government as the former seat of Peter Bone MP is contested; and another possibly in Blackpool later in the year.

Spring budget: 6th March 2024: likely tax cuts, with a potential to reduce the fiscal drag point noted above, plus possible cut to inheritance tax. Other appeals to the Tory base are likely and there are rumours of “traps” to make life hard for Labour in the election campaign or if they win the election.

Political leadership: this is a mainly post-election consideration, but would Sunak step down if the Tories lose the election and who would replace him? What would happen to Starmer if Labour lose?  What about the SNP and what will happen in Northern Ireland?  Wales will have a new First Minister this year (in the Spring as they are holding leadership elections).

The political fallout from the Covid inquiry: which will continue through this year.

Some parliamentary bills of interest to HE were carried over to the new session, and new ones were announced in the King’s Speech such as:

Labour’s 5 missions

As well as these, Labour have also talked about the possibility of replacing the system of education regulators with one combined regulator, as they are doing in Wales,  Unlike the Conservatives, they do want to encourage more 18 year olds into HE.  See the bold highlights below.

These were set out a while ago:

  • Get Britain building again: not just about home building but this one is about growing the economy more generally: “Secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 – with good jobs and productivity growth in every part of the country making everyone, not just a few, better off.” This includes:
    • A new industrial strategy and a council to implement it
    • A Green Prosperity Plan: private sector investment
    • Changes to planning to help industry
    • Devolution
    • National Wealth Fund
    • Making it easier for universities to develop self-sustaining clusters of innovation, investment, and growth in their local areas
    • “reforming planning rules and arcane compulsory purchase rules, with new protections for renters”
    • “closing the holes in the government’s Brexit deal, cutting the red tape”
    • “Establishing a supply chain taskforce to review supply chain needs across critical sectors”
  • Switch on Great British Energy: this does include a plan for a new energy generation company but also a wider objective to “make the UK a clean energy superpower
    • Act fast to lead the world with clean and cheap power by 2030, backing the builders not the blockers so Britain gets the cheap, clean power we need;
    • Establish GB Energy – a new home-grown, publicly-owned champion in clean energy generation – to build jobs and supply chains here at home;
    • Set up the National Wealth Fund, which will create good, well-paying jobs by investing alongside the private sector in gigafactories, clean steel plants, renewable-ready ports, green hydrogen and energy storage; and
    • Upgrade nineteen million homes with our Warm Homes Plan, so that families have cheaper energy bills permanently, with warm, future-proofed homes.
  • Get the NHS back on its feet: lots in here. for HE the most relevant are:
    • Labour will create 7,500 more medical school places and 10,000 more nursing and midwifery clinical placements per year. We will allocate a proportion of the new medical school places in under-doctored areas, to address inequalities in access to healthcare – because one of the strongest indicators of where doctors practice is where they train. We’ll also train 700 more district nurses each year, 5,000 more health visitors and recruit thousands more mental health staff.
    • Give everyone the opportunity to participate in research if they want to, so we can speed up recruitment and give patients access to treatments faster
  • Take back our streets: “Halve serious violent crime and raise confidence in the police and criminal justice system to its highest levels, within a decade”
  • Break down barriers to opportunity: lots in here, including:
    • urgently commission a full, expert-led review of curriculum and assessment that will seek to deliver a curriculum which is rich and broad, inclusive and innovative, and which develops knowledge and skills
    • Recruit over 6500 new teachers to fill vacancies and skills gaps across the profession.
    • Replace headline Ofsted grades with a new system of school report cards, that tell parents clearly how well their children’s school is performing.
    • Labour wants all young people to complete compulsory education with a firm foundation and will ensure that 80% of young people are qualified to Level 3 (A-Level equivalent) by 2035, with an interim target of 75% by 2030. Labour will reverse the decline in the number of young people moving into sustained education, employment or training after completing their 16 – 18 education. We will aim for over 85% of young people to be in a sustained destination by 2030, including more young people who have completed a level 3 qualification moving onto higher level education and training, with over 70% moving onto higher level opportunities by 2030
    • Labour will establish Skills England, bringing together central and local government, businesses, training providers and unions to meet the skills needs of the next decade across all regions.
    • “Improving the flexibility of the apprenticeship levy, turning it into a ‘Growth and Skills Levy”
    • we will work with universities to ensure there are a range of options on founder-track agreements helping to boost spin-outs and economic growth.
    • Labour will reform this [tuition fee] system to make it fairer and ensure we support the aspiration to go to university. Many proposals have been put forward for how the government could make the system fairer and more progressive, including modelling showing that the government could reduce the monthly repayments for every single new graduate without adding a penny to government borrowing or general taxation. Reworking the present system gives scope for a month-on-month tax cut for graduates, putting money back in people’s pockets when they most need it. For young graduates this is a fairer system, which will improve their security at the start of their working lives and as they bring up families. We will build on the legacy of the last Labour government’s target for 50% of young people to go to university to reverse the trend of declining numbers of adults participating in education and training. We’ll press on and ensure that the ambition for any young person to pursue higher education, regardless of background or geography, is realised.

And that election

Lots of MPS are stepping down: update here from the Institute for Government and a nice interactive map from Cambridgeshire Live here:  makes Scotland look very interesting as they lose standing MPs just as they are in trouble politically on lots of fronts.

Research and knowledge exchange

This will be an interesting year as plans for REF 2029 (as we must now call it) are developed further.  We will be watching for R&D announcements in the Spring budget.

If you missed our coverage of the King’s Speech and the Autumn Statement then you can catch it via the link and here are some highlights relating to RKE:

REF 2029

Announcements made in December including:

  • The next REF will be REF 2029, with results published in December 2029
  • Moves to break the link between individual staff members and unit submissions were welcomed by the community and this principle will be maintained
  • Outputs sole-authored by PGR students, including PhD theses, will not be eligible for submission, nor will those produced by individuals employed on contracts with no research-related expectations
  • The overall Unit of Assessment structure will remain unchanged from REF2021
  • The minimum number of Impact Case Studies that an institution can submit per disciplinary submission will be reduced to one, and the removal of the 2* quality threshold is confirmed

BU’s approach to the REF: the REF Steering Group, led by Professor Kate Welham, is working with the Interim Associate PVC for RKE, Professor Sarah Bate, and with colleagues from across BU on our approach to the REF and Kate is attending UET regularly to discuss developments.  The REF Committee is chaired by Professor Einar Thorsen.

BU has responded to the consultations so far on the REF and will continue to do so: we broadly welcome the changes although we have flagged some concerns about inclusivity and the administrative burden.

Strategic themes and research priorities

The government have a database of their areas of research interest.  These tell us “what policymakers are thinking, what their priorities are and where they need help

UKRI are working through a 5 year strategy and it is helpful to recall their strategic themes:

Education

There is always a lot to talk about on education in the policy updates, but for the first one of the year I wanted to go back to basics and look at the priorities for the OfS and the government and set them in context.  For example, did you know:

  • That the OfS monitors continuation, completion and graduate outcomes against an absolute baseline for ALL students at all levels (including PGRs and apprentices) at an institutional level, by student characteristics and at a subject level? This is licence condition B3 and if you didn’t know, you can look at the OfS dashboard here for sector data and find data relating to our own provision on the Prime SharePoint site.
  • That the OfS have recently published the outcomes of 6 quality assessments for business and management and computing, with more to come in those subjects and other areas, with some important areas highlighted for other providers: see below for more on this.
  • That we have to inform the OfS within 5 days if certain things happen under what they call the “reportable events” regime, and this can include a wide range of academic or other things: please email reportableevents@bournemouth.ac.uk if you become aware of something that might be reportable (even if it might turn out not to be).
  • That the OfS provides funding for educational development and other work in universities including the development of apprenticeships and other programmes: worth checking their website from time to time.

Government education policy

Government policy as it relates to HE does not address the big elephant in the room: in other words they are NOT proposing any changes to fees and funding or maintenance arrangements.   A series of changes to student loan arrangements came into effect in the autumn, including extending the repayment period.

If you missed our coverage of the King’s Speech and the Autumn Statement then you can catch it via the link and here are some highlights relating to education:

  • In October 2023, the Prime Minister announced a strong action plan to ensure every student has the literacy and numeracy skills they need to thrive through the introduction of the Advanced British Standard. This new Baccalaureate-style qualification will bring the best of A-Levels and T-Levels together, creating a unified structure that puts technical and academic education on equal footing. This reform will ensure every student in England studies some form of maths and English to age 18, boosting basic skills and bringing the UK in line with international peers. It will increase the number of taught hours by 15% for most students aged 16 to 19 and will broaden the number of subjects students take. [this means abolishing T levels, which are supposed to be replacing BTECs, as well as A levels]
  • Proposals will be implemented to decrease the number of people studying poor-quality degrees, and to increase take-up of apprenticeships [as far as we can tell, this does not mean new measures but continuing to instruct the OfS to use its existing powers of regulation plus a continued focus on funding and promoting apprenticeships]

Funding priorities:

  • On 14th December the government asked the OfS to run a competitive scheme to allocate funding for 350 new medical student places for 2025: this follows an expansion by 205 for 2024 and supports the NHS long term plan (although they will need to do more).
  • In their latest strategic priorities letter to the OfS (March 23) the focus was on:
    • Choice and flexibility or provision: the changes to enable lifelong learning (i.e. changes to the structure of loan payments etc), technical education, apprenticeships
    • Strategically important subjects: subjects that support the NHS and wider healthcare policy; science, engineering and technology subjects; and specific labour market needs
    • Degree apprenticeships especially at level 6 (i.e. not level 7)
    • L4 and L5 provision: higher technical qualifications
    • Specialist providers
    • Mental health and wellbeing

Read about OfS funding for 2023-24

OfS strategy

The objectives are:

  • Participation: All students, from all backgrounds, with the ability and desire to undertake higher education, are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from higher education.
  • Experience: All students, from all backgrounds, receive a high quality academic experience, and their interests are protected while they study or in the event of provider, campus or course closure.
  • Outcomes: All students, from all backgrounds, can progress into employment, further study, and lead fulfilling lives, in which their qualifications hold their value over time.
  • Value for money: All students, from all backgrounds, receive value for money.

The two areas of focus are quality and standards and equality of opportunity. That results in 11 goals:

  1. Students receive a high quality academic experience that improves their knowledge and skills, with increasing numbers receiving excellent provision [see the section on quality below]
  2. Students are rigorously assessed, and the qualifications they are awarded are credible and comparable to those granted previously. [see the July 23 analysis of degree classifications]
  3. Providers secure free speech within the law for students, staff and visiting speakers [read the latest consultation on the new complaints scheme and their consultation on regulating students’ unions].
  4. Graduates contribute to local and national prosperity, and the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda [measured by progression to highly skilled employment: see below for the outcomes data]
  5. Students’ access, success and progression are not limited by their background, location or characteristics [see the new guidance on access and participation plans].
  6. Prospective students can choose from a diverse range of courses and providers at any stage of their life, with a wide range of flexible and innovative opportunities [linked to the government agenda on higher technical qualifications, apprenticeships, lifelong modular learning etc]
  7. Providers act to prevent harassment and sexual misconduct and respond effectively if incidents do occur [ we are expecting the outcomes of a consultation on this fairly soon, it closed in May].
  8. Providers encourage and support an environment conducive to the good mental health and wellbeing that students need to succeed in their higher education [read their insight brief]
  9. Providers are financially viable and sustainable and have effective governance arrangements [see the section on sustainability below]
  10. Students receive the academic experience they were promised by their provider and their interests as consumers are protected before, during and after their studies.
  11. The OfS minimises the regulatory burden it places on providers, while ensuring action is effective in meeting its goals and regulatory objectives.

Outcomes

The OfS annual review provides some data to set the scene.

The report highlights that continuation is lower for:

  • students from more deprived areas or who were eligible for free school meals,
  • students from most (although not all) black and minority ethnic groups
  • mature students
  • students with reported disabilities, other than those with reported cognitive or learning difficulties (who make up 5.1% of students); and
  • care experienced students.

The report highlights that completion is lower for:

  • students from more deprived areas or who were eligible for free school meals,
  • students from most (although not all) black and minority ethnic groups
  • mature students
  • students with reported disabilities; and
  • care experienced students.

The report highlights that attainment rates are lower for:

  • students from more deprived areas or who were eligible for free school meals,
  • students from most (although not all) black and minority ethnic groups
  • mature students
  • students with reported disabilities with the exception of students with a reported mental health condition (4.5% of students); and
  • care experienced students.

The report highlights that progression rates are lower for:

  • students from more deprived areas or who were eligible for free school meals,
  • students from most (although not all) black and minority ethnic groups
  • students with reported disabilities other than those with reported cognitive or learning difficulties (who make up 5.1% of students); and
  • care experienced students.

In relation to mature students, those aged 31-40 have the highest progression rates while those aged 50 and over have the lowest.

Quality and standards in HE: OfS quality assessments

If you don’t follow the announcements from the OfS closely, you may have missed the trickle of OfS quality reports, so far in two subject areas, business and management and computing.  There are context papers which provide an interesting read and then the investigation reports themselves (so far 5 published for business and management and one for computing).  Concerns were found in 2 of the 5 business and management reports: no sanctions have been confirmed yet.

More detail is given below, but just to flag the priorities for 2024 quality assessments.  With the government already having announced that fee caps will be reduced for some foundation year courses, note the link to foundation year courses below: there will be quality reviews in this area especially as outcomes are lower, as noted in the linked Wonkhe article from October.

OfS sector context papers:

  • Business and Management
    • Growth in numbers (pp5 and 6) which highlights some potential issues which probably triggered these investigations and explain why they picked it as a subject priority
    • The percentage of full-time undergraduate entrants taught through sub contractual arrangements has more than doubled since 2018-19, from 10 per cent to 27 per cent (pp9 and 10)
    • The proportions of full-time undergraduate students that are from deprivation quintiles 1 or 2 are consistently higher in business and management than for all other subject areas (p18)
    • The proportions of full-time undergraduate students who are on courses that include an integrated foundation year are consistently higher in business and management than for all other subject areas (p20)
    • Low continuation for UG (p23), low completion for UG (p25), low progression at UG and PG (pp27 -28)
    • Low NSS for teaching (p30) and some other areas (not learning resources)
  • Computing
    • Low continuation and completion compared to other subjects (pages 23 to 26) at UG and PG
    • Balanced by good progression – but a provider that didn’t have good progression would stand out (pp 27 and 28)
    • Low NSS scores (pp29-34)
    • High proportions of non-permanent staff (p41)

Quality assessments: Business and management

Themes: concerns were found in relation to two of the five published so far and findings included:

  • Insufficient staff to provide adequate support, impacting personal tutoring, assessment and feedback and academic support
  • Not enough flexibility in course delivery to support the cohort of students recruited, namely not providing sufficient flexibility when students had to work to finance their studies or have caring responsibilities, having recognised that this was a specific feature of their intake: licence condition to deliver course effectively was brought into play
  • Inadequate central monitoring and pro-active management of engagement and attendance and over-reliance on individual academic staff to follow up  – licence condition to take all reasonable steps to ensure students receive sufficient academic resources and support.  Recommendations included:
    • Clear lines of responsibility at faculty and university level regarding who the lead for continuation is, and further channelling of university-level resource, expertise and effort towards the continuation problem in the Business School.
    • Systematic analysis of student failures on modules and historical withdrawals, to provide a more detailed picture and understanding of why students do not continue their studies at the university.
    • Better real-time monitoring of engagement and a university-level set of criteria that can be used to identify a student who may be at risk of dropping out, combined with systematic analysis of student behaviour and non-attendance so that proactive additional support can be offered.
    • A review of examination board processes and module performance criteria to ensure that under-performing modules are being picked up and addressed through the quality assurance and enhancement system. While the assessment team acknowledged the new course and unit enhancement planning process, this did not appear to be embedded and should be monitored closely.
  • Support for avoiding potential academic misconduct was not consistently provided in assessment feedback via the online assessment platform at Level 4
  • The format for providing formative feedback on assessments may not have been sufficient for some students across a number of modules reviewed. This concern also relates to condition of registration B2 because the assessment team considered that ensuring consistent access to formative feedback is a step that could have been taken to ensure students have sufficient academic support to succeed
  • Insufficient academic support for foundation year students once they progressed onto the main programme – support should have continued at higher levels

Quality assessment: Computing: no concerns were found in relation to the one report published so far.

Apprenticeships

As noted above these remain a priority for the government (and would likely be for a Labour government too).  In that context a report from the summer by UCAS with the Sutton Trust is interesting:

  • Today, 40% of students (430,000) interested in undergraduate options are also interested in apprenticeships. Despite this growth in demand, the number of starts for young learners remains low – with the number of Level 4 and above starts for under-19 year olds less than 5,000
  • Disadvantaged students are more likely to be interested in apprenticeship options, with 46% from the most disadvantaged areas interested in this route, compared to 41% from the most advantaged areas. Furthermore, those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (63%) are more likely to have considered apprenticeships
  • A quarter (24%) of former applicants said that one of the top three reasons why they did not pursue an apprenticeship was because they felt they could not afford to do so.

Student experience, wellbeing and finances

Student finance

The cost of living update from the House of Commons Library Nov 23 has a section on student loan repayments and maintenance support (page 64) which links to this report from September 2023 on the value of student maintenance support.

International

Despite all the negativity about international students in the context of the migration policy (see above) and the OfS’ regulatory concern about the risk of large numbers of international students, there is a positive policy in relation to international students: the government have an International Education Strategy that has two ambitions by 2030:

  • increase education exports to £35 billion per year
  • increase the numbers of international higher education (HE) students studying in the UK to 600,000 per year

According to the annual report from the Migration Advisory Committee here (Oct 23) referred to below, this second target was achieved in 2020/21:

  • according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), this target was met in early 2020/21, with 605,000 non-UK students at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). This has increased further since then, with growth driven by a small cohort of countries, notably India and Nigeria.
  • Non-UK students accounted for almost 30% of first-year enrolments in tertiary education last year, up from 25% before the policy announcement in 2018/19.
  • In a global context the UK is a major market for international students. HEIs in the UK accounted for 9% of all international students in 2020, behind only the US for market share. The UK’s market share had been steadily declining since 2006 having been briefly overtaken by Australia as the second most popular destination for international students in 2019

Student visas

The annual report from the Migration Advisory Committee here (Oct 23) referred to above also has a section on international students.  It includes the policies on stopping dependants which have now been implemented.

There is some interesting data on student numbers: it shows the large number of international student in London and also Scotland (not surprisingly given their student number cap for home students).  Perhaps surprisingly, there are more international than UK students in the East of England and the North East and numbers are more or less equal in Yorkshire and the Humber, although this data includes students on the London campus of universities based outside London.

HE sector sustainability and change

Student numbers and admissions

UCAS projects that there could be up to a million higher education applicants in a single year in 2030, up from almost three quarters of a million today.

But will there be?  Applications and admissions fell last year, but that was after a bumper post-covid year in 2022 and UCAS described it as a return to normality.  Or is it the rhetoric from the government on mickey mouse degrees etc and changes to loan repayments making it more expensive for students in the long run having an impact?  Time will tell: eyes will be on this year’s applications.

Financial sustainability

The OfS annual review provides some context for this. The OfS issued their annual report on financial sustainability in May 2023 and identified the following key risks which are still relevant:

  • The impact of inflation on costs and challenges in growing income to meet increasing costs. In particular, the ‘per student’ income from tuition fees from UK undergraduates is capped and not increasing, while other costs rise.
  • Increasing reliance on fees from overseas students, particularly postgraduates, in some higher education providers’ business plans. (In May 2023, the OfS wrote to 23 higher education providers with high levels of recruitment of students from China. We reminded them of the importance of contingency plans in case there is a sudden drop in income from international students. We asked a subset of those higher education providers most exposed to a short-term risk to provide information about their financial mitigation plans)
  • Challenges in meeting investment needs for facilities and environmental policies

The OfS identifies a number of strategies that they may see to address financial sustainability concerns.

JANE FORSTER, VC’s Policy Advisor

Follow: @PolicyBU on X