Category / Research news

New Intention to Bid (ItB) Form

Since the introduction of workstreams in October 2022, the Transformation team and the Research Development and Support (RDS) team have been working collaboratively on three workstreams to improve BU’s Research & Knowledge Exchange (RKE) service provision. Feedback from the academic community at BU suggested there is a need to reduce bureaucracy and to streamline processes. As part of these efforts, and with the support of IT Services, we have reviewed  and improved the Intention to Bid (ItB) form. The form has been developed and tested with input from the academic community and the Business and Knowledge Exchange Managers.  

The new Intention to Bid (ItB) form launched on 8 April and is available to access

on our RED Public site.  

 Key improvements include: 

  • More user-friendly and easy to navigate form 
  • Ability to save progress on the form and return to it later 
  • Shorter form 
  • Costing information is no longer required as part of the ItB form submission process 
  • Form allows for collaboration – a member of the research team can create the form on the behalf of the PI 
  • Form now incorporates Knowledge Exchange aspects 

 

There are only 6 very simple questions needed to notify RDS of the intention to bid. This will trigger notifications to RDS and to the Faculty (DDRPP, HoDs, DHoDs or Exec Deans). Following this early notification process, further information can be continually developed on the form in stages. This includes information about the research team, project requirements, project goals and aims, as well as confirmation on how the mandatory Faculty Quality Approval requirements will be fulfilled. Once RDS are notified through the early notification, a member from the Funding Development Team will be in touch to work collaboratively with the PI on developing the project for submission.  

 

Short notice application route  We recognise that some projects and calls are open for short periods of time, and that other circumstances may dictate when the intention to bid form is completed. If the submission deadline is in less than 4 weeks, the form will first seek approval from RDS (in collaboration with the DDRPP) through the short notice application route. As part of the process, you will be required to submit a draft application or a 2-page concept note (excluding tenders). 

All submissions with a deadline over 4 weeks will automatically be processed.  

 We have developed some user guides on the RKE SharePoint site and will also offer drop-in sessions on MS teams.

The next scheduled session is Wednesday 24th April 12:30pm 

Click here to join the meeting

Congratulation on new interdisciplinary publication

Congratulation to Dr. Orlanda Harvey (Social Work), Dr. Terri Cole (Psychology) and Dr. Jane Healy (Criminology) who in collaboration with Jade Levell, a colleague at the University of Bristol, had their article ‘Explorations of attitudes towards accessibility and accessing domestic violence and abuse (DVA) perpetrator support programmes by victim-survivors and perpetrators across five European countries’ accepted by the journal Abuse: An International Impact Journal [1].  This paper reports on an international mixed-methods study exploring victim-survivors and perpetrators’ attitudes towards perpetrator support programmes. The study includes a questionnaire survey of victim-survivors and interviews with male perpetrators conducted in five European countries.

Results showed that of the 93 victim-survivors of domestic violence and abuse, half stated they would have stayed in their relationship with perpetrators if the abuse had stopped, and a similar number reported that they believed their relationships would have been different had there been help for the perpetrator. Analysis of perpetrator interviews showed that they faced barriers to obtaining support, such as being labelled a ‘perpetrator’ which, had they been addressed, may have enhanced their engagement with services. Whilst acknowledging the need for safeguarding and justice, this paper demonstrates the importance of reflecting both victim-survivor and perpetrator needs in order for perpetrators to fully engage with support services. Moreover, it highlighted the need to address the underlying societal issues related to hegemonic masculinity, which can lead to the abuse of women being normalised and the vulnerability of men being stigmatised, through education for young people around healthy relationships.

 

Congratulations

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

Centre for Midwifery & Women’s Health

Reference:

Harvey H.,  Cole T., Levell, J., Healy J. (2024) ‘Explorations of attitudes towards accessibility and accessing domestic violence and abuse (DVA) perpetrator support programmes by victim-survivors and perpetrators across five European countries’Abuse: An International Impact Journal 5(1): 26-45    https://doi.org/10.37576/abuse.2024.055

Interdisciplinary Computational and Clinical Approaches at the Edge of Brain Research

We cordially invite you to the 3rd Symposium of the BU Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Research Centre on Wednesday, the 12th of June 2024, from 9:30-13:00 at the Inspire Lecture Theatre, Fusion Building (1st floor).

The symposium is entitled: “Interdisciplinary Computational and Clinical Approaches at the Edge of Brain Research”.

This third symposium revolves around contrasting computational and translational methodologies from a cross-disciplinary standpoint, leveraging synergies between BU and our collaborators in other universities and at the NHS. It is an opportunity for informal discussions on grant proposals and to explore shared interests with our external guests. The general schedule is as follows:

9:15. Welcome and coffee.

9:30. Keynote talk: Prof. Miguel Maravall, Sussex University.

10.20-10:40. Coffee and grants discussion.

10:40-11:40. Session I. Integrating Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience.

11.40 -12.00. Coffee and grants discussion.

12.00-13:00. Session II. Interdisciplinary Clinical Approaches & Concluding Remarks.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Ellen Seiss, eseiss@bournemouth.ac.uk or Emili Balaguer-Ballester, eb-ballester@bournemouth.ac.uk.

Thank you very much, and we are looking forward to seeing you there.

Kind regards,

Ellen and Emili, on behalf of all of us.

 

 

 

 

The Month in Research: March 2024

A cartoon image of black and white hands clapping on a yellow background

The Month in Research

The Month in Research is our monthly round-up sharing research and knowledge exchange successes from across the previous month, showcasing the amazing work taking place across BU.

Your achievements

Thank you to everyone who has put forward their achievements, or those of colleagues, this month.

Funding

 Congratulations to all those who have had funding for research and knowledge exchange projects and activities awarded in January. Highlights include:

  • Dr Catherine Talbot (Faculty of Science and Technology) has been awarded c.£25,000 from the ESRC for their project EquaDem Network Plus: A national network on addressing inequalities in dementia diagnosis and care and building capacity, in partnership with Liverpool University (lead institution).
  • Dr Suelen Carls (Faculty of Media and Communication) has been awarded c.£25,000 by the Leverhulme Trust for their project International Business and Intellectual Property Rights in the Latin American Institutional Perspective
  • Professor Carol Clark (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences) has been awarded c.£2.6 million by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for their project INSIGHT-BU, in partnership with University of the West of England (lead institution).
  • Several BU researchers have received c.£10,000 from the BA/Leverhulme Trust Small Grants scheme:

Dr Anna Metzger (Faculty of Science and Technology) for their project Haptic Virtual Materials

–  Dr Hyun-Joo Lim (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences) for their project How effective are menopause policies at universities in England

–  Dr Andrew M’Manga (Faculty of Science and Technology) for their project Investigating Security and Privacy Awareness Requirements for UK International Students New to Contactless Payments

–  Dr Matteo Toscani (Faculty of Science and Technology) for their project Modelling peripheral vision in natural scenes

–  Dr Alejandro Estudillo for their project Maximising the impact of “Achieving Best Evidence” interviews on face composite construction.

Publications

Congratulations to all those who have had work published across the last month. Below is a selection of publications from throughout March:

Content for The Month in Research has been collected using the research and knowledge exchange database (RED), the Bournemouth University Research Online (BURO) repository and submissions via The Month in Research online form. It is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list. All information is correct as of 28.3.24.

Please use The Month in Research online form to share your highlights and achievements, or those of colleagues, for the next monthly round-up.

Editorial accepted by Frontiers in Public Health

As part of the special issue in Frontiers in Public Health on ‘Evidence-based approaches in Aging and Public Health’ the guest editors included 15 academic papers.  These 15 contributions to the Special Issue were introduced in placed in perspective in our editorial ‘Editorial: Evidence-based approaches in Aging and Public Health[1] which was accepted for publication two days ago.   The guest editors included two Visiting Faculty to FHSS: Prof. Padam Simkhada and Dr. Brijesh Sathian.

 

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

Centre for Midwifery & Women’s Health (CMWH)

Reference:

  1. Sathian, B., van Teijlingen, E., Simkhada, P., Kabir, R., Al Hamad, H. (2024) Editorial: Evidence-based approaches in Aging and Public Health, Frontier in Public Health 12 2024 https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2024.1391432

Dementia Care and the dog cafe

Caroline and Catherine from the Ageing & Dementia Research Centre attended the March dog café at the Potteries Care Home in Poole, Caroline took along her Double Doodle dog called Bailey. It happened to be the same week that Crufts had been on the TV, so it was a special Crufts themed dog cafe. It proved to be the most popular turn out so far with about 15 dogs of all shapes and sizes in attendance – even a human dressed up as a dog! It was lovely to see the ladies from Waggy Tails dog rescue charity and three of their dogs.

The Crufts special dog show included a dog agility course and 3 prize categories
which were:

  1. Best waggy tail
  2. Best in show
  3. Fastest time for the agility course

It proved to be popular with both care home residents and the community alike. Both Caroline and Catherine highly enjoyed the event and formed good contacts to explore further opportunities to develop research around the benefits of animals in dementia care.

Here are a few photos from the event.

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.

 

It’s only a name…

Yesterday my co-author Dr. Orlanda Harvey received an email from a sociology journal informing her that “The below co-author name is not matching with the separate title page provided and in the submission. If Van is the middle name please update the name in the author’s account.  Name in separate title page appears as Prof Edwin van Teijlingen….Name in site appears as vanTeijlingen, EdwinPlease address the above issue before resubmitting the manuscript.”

If you have an odd name in English you will have to get used to this kind of misunderstanding.  This is the second time this is happening when submitting a paper this month!   Interestingly with a different variant of my name.  A migration and health journal  argued to me co-author that my name on ORCID was ‘Edwin van Teijlingen’ but on Scopus ‘van Teijlingen, Edwin Roland’.  the journal then asked that we change it.

To add more example on the inflexibility of online systems, my greatest surprise a few years ago was that I could not add my Dutch family name ‘van Teijlingen’ with a small ‘v’ on the online booking web pages of the Dutch airline KLM.

What’s In A Name? A name is but a name, and to quote Shakespeare: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

 

Dr Theo Akudjedu awarded the European Federation of Radiographer Societies (EFRS) Research Award

Dr Theo Akudjedu

Dr Theo Akudjedu

Dr Theo Akudjedu has been awarded the European Federation of Radiographer Societies (EFRS) Research Award in recognition of his work.

Dr Akudjedu, Associate Professor in Clinical Imaging at Bournemouth University, was named the first winner of the EFRS Research Awards, which aim to recognise research achievements in the field of radiography.

His work explores radiography and healthcare research, neuroimaging and clinical neuroscience, and general clinical imaging research.

The EFRS aims to represent, promote and develop the profession of radiography in Europe, representing more than 100,000 radiographers and 8,000 radiography students across the continent.

Dr Akudjedu said: “It is really exciting and yet humbling that my research programme and activities in radiography practice and education from Bournemouth University’s Institute of Medical Imaging and Visualisation has been recognised by our European-wide professional organisation.

“This is a culmination of years of research together with numerous collaborators and students.”

New CEMP report on TV production finds ‘corrosive cultural divide’

New research into production management in the UK’s TV industry has found that there is a corrosive cultural divide between ‘production’ and ‘editorial’. This distinction between those involved in the ‘creative’ aspects of making tv and those who manage its more logistical aspects is what lies at the heart of much of the discontent experienced by today’s production managers, the research has found.

‘We have known for a long time that production managers lack visibility and feel undervalued’, explains Dr Christa van Raalte, who led the project. ‘When three-quarters of respondents told us last year that they were seriously considering leaving we knew the problem was deeply rooted. The aim of this latest research has been to gain a much clearer understanding of what it is that attracts people into production management roles in the first place and what we could do better to keep them. What’s the point of investing in the recruitment of new production talent if we can’t hang on to the ones we’ve got?’

The new report launched this week, Where have all the PMs gone? Addressing the production management skills gap in UK TV, builds on an earlier survey with in-depth interviews. The result is a detailed and nuanced account of the experience of working in production management. The report makes eleven recommendations for change, from clearer job definitions and more equitable pay rates, to improved training and development.

The report concludes that there is much to be done to ensure that production management is properly recognised and understood both in and beyond the industry, that PMs are treated equitably and respectfully, and that employers are able to recruit and retain the workforce they need. This cannot be achieved without addressing ingrained working culture and practices. The challenge this represents for the wider industry, claims the report, should not be underestimated.

The project’s research team is based at the University’s Centre for Excellence in Media Practice (CEMP) and funded by the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust.


The full report and a shorter summary are available at https://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/39530/

HE policy update No 7: 18th March 2024

This week’s update looks at some ministerial statements, what the OfS has learned from its funded project son mental health and wellbeing, employability and what works, a look at foundation years, who does them, and the outcomes, more on international students and the review of the post-graduate work visa, and the OfS are taking a fresh look at grant funding for universities.

The outlook for research at UK universities

Research Professional held an event recently and had some interesting speakers.  They report on a speech by Jessica Corner, the executive chair of Research England:

  • “It may be that our research and innovation system is beginning to contract a little bit,” Corner told delegates, having spoken about expectations that the sector is likely to be “entering into a more financially constrained few years”.
  • She said that analysis by UK Research and Innovation, the parent agency of Research England, had shown that the higher education sector is contributing around £5 billion a year to UK research, “which makes universities actually one of the biggest funders of research overall”.
  • With data suggesting falling numbers of international students, whose fees provide crucial financial support for universities, “there will be less to cover research”, Corner suggested….
  • Corner suggested that if the UK’s research sector does contract in scale, “that doesn’t mean to say it’s necessarily contracting in what it delivers”. She said that the opportunity offered by artificial intelligence to boost productivity is “huge”. “We need to carry on with the investment that we’ve got, but we’re going to have to be very smart with it,” she said.

At the same event the Science Minister, Andrew Griffith, spoke and amongst other things he addressed the funding point and also suggested that the new UKRI head, when Ottoline Leyser stands down in June 2025, may be from industry rather than the sector

  • Griffith said he wanted “true diversity, meaning the widest range of backgrounds and experiences”. He said new leadership “could well be from inside the sector, but also they could be from the top of the business world, or someone who has come from a professional services organisation”.
  • Griffith’s predecessor as science minister, George Freeman, has also recently told Research Professional News that new UKRI leadership “cannot just be traditional academic administration” and that there should be “a more business-like, more focused, accountable, output-orientated delivery culture in UKRI”…
  • The science minister was also asked about comments made by Donelan at the Lords committee that ministers do not think there is a crisis in university funding. Griffith said “we overuse the word crisis” and that universities are not alone in facing a period of “really intense macro change” affecting many countries. “We should expect that we are going to have some challenges to work through some of that,” he said.
  • Griffith was vocal about the importance of the UK higher education sector and that the “recipe for success must begin with our universities”, which are an “absolute magnet for the very best in global talent”. “We are, as far as I can possibly tell, the most open and diverse country on the planet in that respect,” he said.
  • Asked about how the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology is engaging with the Home Office about widespread sector concerns about changes to the UK immigration system, Griffith said this was being done “diligently”. He also said the UK must not “talk ourselves down” in terms of attractiveness to international talent, in order to prevent a “self-fulfilling prophecy, which would help nobody”.

Employability

Wonkhe has a blog on work-related experiences that is worth a read with some ideas that can sit alongside placements as a way of building work-relevant experience into courses, especially given the practical difficulties with placements that arise for some students and some sectors.  Ideas include:

  • More integration between employers and universities throughout the curriculum
  • Using university technical services to develop hands on learning on campus
  • Ensuring “work-like experience” in the curriculum and finding a different way of talking about what we already do in terms of employment and employer based learning so that students realise what they are getting and its value
  • Recognising the wider benefits beyond employability through projects in partnership with employers
  • Acknowledging the practical issues and supporting access to opportunities
  • Leaning into virtual experiences
  • Putting the resources in to support delivery

And while we are on the theme of placements, the OIA has published some notes on cases they have heard.  There are a lot of good points in here, some are summarised here.

  • Whatever the context of the placement, it’s important that students are given clear and accurate information about it. Students need to know what’s expected of them and where and how to access support while they’re on placement. It’s also important that providers have processes in place to respond when things go wrong.
  • Providers will sometimes need to work with placement organisations outside of the local area.
    • It’s important to manage students’ expectations about the possible location of their placement, for example by explaining what the provider considers to be a reasonable time and/or distance to travel.
    • For some students there will be considerations to take into account when deciding where to place them, for example accessibility needs, caring responsibilities or transport considerations that might make commuting to a placement more difficult.
    • Providers can usefully signpost students to any sources of financial support, either at the provider or elsewhere, that may be available to help with any costs associated with the placement. Where it’s not possible to offer a placement within the expected area, the provider may want to consider whether it would be reasonable to support the student with any additional expenses they may incur as a result of being offered an out of area placement.
    • It’s also important to tell students in good time what placement they have been allocated so that they have time to make any arrangements they may need to.
  • It’s important that students know in advance where they can go for advice and support whilst on placement.
    • It is good practice for providers to ensure that students have a named staff member at the provider that they can liaise with, as well as a named mentor at the placement organisation.
    • Some students may need additional support during the placement, for example because they are disabled or have caring responsibilities. The provider should explore in advance how those support needs might be met, and whether the provider or the placement organisation will be responsible for meeting them. …

And much more…

Mental health and wellbeing

The OfS funded a set of projects and they have now been evaluated.  There’s a report and all sorts of analysis, but the one page summary sets out a set of effective practice for addressing barriers to support for a set of target groups and also some conclusions:

  • Co-creation with students is critical for support to strongly align to need.
  • Tailored outreach was the most effective method to reach targeted groups supplemented through ‘snowball’ techniques with students.
  • Describing services with positive framing and avoiding over medicalised descriptions in language tailored to targeted audiences was vital.
  • Developing strategic, multi-agency partnerships internal and external to lead institutions is a key enabler of delivery success.
  • Evaluation of delivery should be embedded across all project activities using clear logic model and mixed method approaches to ensure data collected accounted for failure. A designated evaluation lead is key.

Foundation years

The government and the OfS have some concerns about foundation years.  One of the recently published quality assessments by the OfS referred to a provider not ensuring insufficient academic support for foundation year students once they progressed onto the main programme – support should have continued for these students at higher levels.  This article from Wonkhe in October noted that:

  • To be fair, you would imagine that students that struggled at level 3 for reasons other than ability (and thus would be likely FY candidates) would continue to struggle when in higher education for the same reasons – poverty, lack of social capital, other responsibilities – that they had faced previously.

foundation year is not the same as a foundation degree. A foundation year is integrated with an undergraduate course, whereas a foundation degree is a standalone qualification.   We all get a bit confused about how the regulatory conditions apply: continuation is defined as year 1 to year 2: in this case that means foundation year to year 1 undergraduate.  Completion means completion of the undergraduate programme (for foundation year students that means 4 years, without a placement year, 5 with a placement).

You will recall that the government is worried about the cost and value add of foundation years.  The House of Commons library research briefing on student number controls from August 2023 describes the upcoming cap on fees for some foundation years from the 2025/26 academic year: we are awaiting a consultation on the detail of this.

International

After the fuss earlier this year about international students allegedly accessing foundation year courses with lower grades than UK students and in the context of the government priorities on reducing migration, the Home Secretary has asked the Migration Advisory Committee to review the post-study work visa.

Although the report is not due until May, and recommendations may not be implemented for the start of the 24/25 academic year, this is likely to have a further chilling effect on international recruitment in September.  It is possible though that the government want steps to be taken before the election, the timetable means there will be no time for a call for evidence.

  • Initial data from the MAC annual report shows that the proportion of international students studying at lower tariff institutions has risen to 32% in 2021/22, while the number of [international] postgraduate students attending institutions with the lowest UCAS tariff quartiles has increased by over 250% between 2018 and 2022.
  • We are keen to understand the drivers behind this, including whether it is because people are using these courses as a long-term route to work in the UK. An international student can spend relatively little on fees for a one-year course and gain access to two years with no job requirement on the Graduate route, followed by four years access to a discounted salary threshold on the Skilled Worker route. This means international graduates are able to access the UK labour market with salaries significantly below the requirement imposed on the majority of migrant skilled workers. The Government is already taking steps to change the general salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa from £26,200 to £38,700, which will increase the requisite salary in order to switch routes, including with the applied discount.
  • Early data suggests that only 23% of students switching from the Graduate route to the Skilled Worker route in 2023 went into graduate level jobs. In 2023, 32% of international graduates switching into work routes earned a salary above the general threshold at the time (£26,200), with just 16% earning over £30,000 – meaning that the vast majority of those completing the Graduate route go into work earning less than the median wage of other graduates. Initial data shows that the majority of international students switching from the Graduate route into the Skilled Worker route go into care work. This is clearly not what the Government intended in the 2019 Manifesto when it pledged to establish the Graduate route to attract the best and brightest students to study in the UK.

Wonkhe has a piece.

In this context, the QAA has also announced a review of pre-entry courses for international students.

  • This review will compare the admissions requirements between foundation programmes for domestic students and international students, assess the standards of the courses being offered to international students as both foundation programmes and international year one programmes, and assess whether these standards are being achieved and maintained in practice.
  • QAA will publish the findings of this review by the end of Spring 2024.

And if you are not sure what these pathways for international students are or how much they are used, the Nous Group have a report out.

  • In-person delivery at a relevant university campus: this is the most common mode in the UK where many UK universities host a pathway provider building on one of their campuses.
  • In-person delivery at a pathway provider campus in the destination country: some pathway providers have study centres in the country in which students wish to study that are independent of a university campus.
  • In-person delivery at a partner university in the source country: foundation programmes offered by destination universities are often delivered via a partnership with an in-market university.
  • In-person delivery at a study centre partner of a pathway provider in the source country: not all pathway providers deliver education directly. Some partner with study centres across source countries to deliver pathway programmes designed and assessed by the provider.
  • Online delivery via the pathway provider learning platform: the expansion of providers into online delivery was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now multiple providers offer fully online foundation courses with guaranteed progression to a partner university on successful completion.

OfS funding review

The OfS has announced a consultation on how they fund the sector – not tuition fee funding but grant funding.  It closes on 23rd June and we will be considering a BU response.

Our current model of recurrent funding for higher education providers is based on assumptions that some activities cost more to deliver than others. This could relate to particular subjects; to supporting particular groups of students to achieve success; or to reflect the operating models of some types of providers. The two primary types of funding the OfS distributes are:

  • Course-based: This is a high-cost subject funding allocation – for example, for courses in medicine, or physics – and includes targeted allocations to address specific priority areas – for example degree apprenticeships, and skills at Levels 4 and 5. We do not provide funding for courses in subject areas, such as law and humanities, that are classroom-based and that do not need the same level of specialist facilities to teach.
  • Student-based: This is a funding allocation to recognise additional support needs of students from disadvantaged groups or groups historically less likely to participate in higher education. Student-based funding also includes funding for Uni Connect.

We want to hear views on the effectiveness of the two primary types of funding the OfS distributes: course-based funding and student-based funding.

First three questions by way of illustration

Question 1: What are your views on OfS course-based funding? We are interested in any views, and below are some prompts for respondents to consider:

•         Should the distribution of funding continue to primarily reflect the courses and subjects students are studying? Should we also consider additional factors and/or approaches for course-based funding?

•         What should we seek to achieve with course-based funding?

•         What activity is currently supported in providers by this funding?

•         Are there any areas of important provision that are currently not supported by our funding allocations?

•         How should our approach adapt in the future?

•         What assessment is currently made by providers of the impact of this funding

 

Question 2: What are your views on OfS student-based funding? We are interested in any views, and below are some prompts for respondents to consider:

•         Should the distribution of funding continue to reflect the characteristics of the student population at individual providers? Should we also consider alternative factors and/or characteristics and/or approaches for student-based funding?

•         What should we seek to achieve with student-based funding?

•         What activity is currently supported in providers by this funding?

•         How best can the OfS use this funding to support access, success and progress for students?

•         How should it be targeted?

•         What assessment is currently made by providers of the impact of this funding

 

Question 3: What are your views on OfS capital funding? We are interested in any views, and below are some prompts for respondents to consider:

•         What assessment is currently made by providers of the impact of this funding?

•         How should we strike an appropriate balance between formula funding and competitive bidding to allocate capital funding?

Is this good, normal practice to review this as it was last reviewed in 2012, or deeply worrying?  The suggestion that they might use quality data to determine funding is interesting. And there is no new money, it is just the way it is distributed that it is up for discussion.

Wonkhe have a view:

  • This is a very broad call for evidence – in section A for each of the streams detailed above OfS wants to hear what activity is currently supported, what value is added, and whether what OfS tries to achieve with these allocations is the right thing to be aiming at.
  • .. And then you get to section B, in which OfS suggests that we scrap HESES…. The new proposal (actually an old idea familiar to anyone who has been involved in this debate historically) is to scrap the December allocation entirely and use two year-old data (so the 2021-22 year end data informs the 2023-24 allocation), thus reducing burden for providers in submission and reconciliation…. My suspicion is that rapid changes in student numbers year-on-year (and, increasingly, in year) will make this idea quite a hard sell strategically. But in terms of practicalities, the crashing failure of Data Futures – it genuinely blows my mind that we still (in March 2024) don’t have official 2022-23 student number data – might mean that people are reluctant to let go of the various checks and balances in the current system.
  • …OfS has been clear that there are no “proposals” in this document, just a starting point for conversation. It’s just an odd time to start the conversation.
  • The other (tuition fee) end of the funding system is set up to use information on teaching quality and equality of opportunity – your TEF grade is meant to determine the extent of an annual inflationary uplift in the higher level fee cap, and access to this higher level is still predicated on the existence of a credible plan on access and participation. Building these factors into the old (largely atrophied) teaching grant end too feels like double counting – though there could be a case to link access to grant funding to a minimum level of teaching quality there would need to be a far more robust and widely supported method of determining this to keep OfS out of court.

Wonkhe have a graph of what everyone gets (BU gets nearly £7m). Nottingham University is the top with £49million.  There are all sorts of pots in here though, including capital, special projects, student premium, high cost courses, etc.  Nottingham’s was nearly all high cost subject funding, as was ours, although we had a relatively large chunk of student premium money too.

You’ll recall that capital allocations recently switched to competitive bidding from an allocation mechanism.

Apprenticeships

The PM is set to announce new funding for apprenticeships.

  • Rishi Sunak is promising to create up to 20,000 more apprenticeships with a series of reforms including fully funding training for young people and cutting red tape for small businesses.
  • The government will pay the full cost of apprenticeships for people aged 21 or under at small firms from 1 April. To enable this, it is pledging £60m of new investment for next year.
  • …In a speech to a conference for small businesses in Warwickshire, the prime minister will set out a package of reforms he says will “unlock a tidal wave of opportunity”. As well as funding the cost of apprenticeships, ministers will also raise the amount of funding companies who are paying the apprenticeship levy can pass on to other businesses.

The press release gives a bit more detail.

Lifelong learning entitlement

You will recall a deep dive into this in a recent policy update using the DFE’s concept paper.  The house of commons library has now issued a briefing paper.  It’s a good read, especially if you click through to the full paper, going back over all the history and context.  The LLE stuff starts on page 20.

There is a lot more consultation to come

  • In spring 2024, the Department for Education will launch a technical consultation on the wider expansion of modular funding and lay secondary legislation covering the fee limits for the LLE in Parliament.
  • In autumn 2024, it will lay the secondary legislation that will set out the rest of the LLE funding system in Parliament.
  • In spring 2025, the LLE personal account will be launched for learners.
  • In autumn 2025, the Department for Education will launch the qualification gateway.
  • The Office for Students (OfS) will consult “in due course” on the development and introduction of a new third registration category for providers offering LLE-funded course and modules.

Free speech

The OfS consultation on free speech complaints panels has  now closed and we look forward to the outcomes.

As previously announced, the OfS has confirmed that there will be another consultation before the end of March, on the guidance for the sector and changes to the regulatory guidance.

  • We expect the proposed guidance to cover two broad areas: 
    • Examples where a provider, constituent institution or students’ union may not have taken steps to secure free speech; and
    • A non-exhaustive list of steps that it may be reasonably practicable for providers, constituent institutions and students’ unions to take to secure free speech within the law. This includes steps relating to the free speech code of practice.

This is a complex area and an 8 week consultation period is fairly tight.