Category / Research news

Reminder: The Funding Development Briefing will be on Wednesday at 12 noon – Spotlight: NIHR Fellowship

Reminder: The Funding Development Briefing will be on Wednesday at 12 noon. The spotlight will be on the NIHR Fellowships.

We will cover:

  • Overview of the process, explain acronyms, highlight resources available etc.
  • Q & A

For those unable to attend, the session will be recorded and shared on Brightspace here.

Invites for these sessions have been disseminated via your Heads of Department.

Postgraduate Researchers and Supervisors | Monthly Update for Researcher Development

Postgraduate researchers and supervisors, hopefully you have seen your monthly update for researcher development e-newsletter sent earlier this week. If you have missed it, please check your junk email or you can view it within the Researcher Development Programme on Brightspace.

The start of the month is a great time to reflect on your upcoming postgraduate researcher development needs and explore what is being delivered this month as part of the Doctoral College Researcher Development Programme and what is available via your Faculty or Department. Remember some sessions only run once per year, so don’t miss out.

Please also subscribe to your Brightspace announcement notifications for updates when they are posted.

If you have any questions about the Researcher Development Programme, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Natalie (Research Skills & Development Officer)
pgrskillsdevelopment@bournemouth.ac.uk 

IMIV MRI Pump Priming Research Scheme – Round 2

Following on from last year’s successful IMIV MRI Pump-Priming Research Scheme, we are pleased to launch a second round of the scheme to support innovative MRI research projects.

 

The aim of the scheme is to support projects that will lead to competitive external funding applications for MR imaging studies.  Applications will therefore be required to demonstrate a clear plan for progressing preliminary studies to grant applications and larger studies.

 

  • All projects must have a Bournemouth University researcher as lead or co-lead applicant (see application form).

 

  • In Round 2, there will be several application windows rather than a single deadline. Up to 200 hours of scanning time will be awarded in total.

 

  • There is no limit on the number of scanning hours that can be applied for, but projects applying for an award of more than 20 hours may be subject to external peer review. Awards will not cover any additional expenses related to scanning, or other aspects of the project.

 

  • Projects must be deliverable within 12 months, including ethical approvals. Projects with ethical approvals already in place will be prioritised.

 

The first window for applications is now open, and closes on Friday 7th January 2022.  There will be further application windows during the year.

To receive the application form, please email imiv@bournemouth.ac.uk.

Our strategic research clusters: introducing Fish Ecology and Conservation at Bournemouth University (FishE@BU)

Professor Robert Britton - Bournemouth University Staff Profile PagesThe Research Cluster for Fish Ecology and Conservation at Bournemouth University (FishE@BU) is being established to address a significant current global challenge: how can we manage and respond to rapid environmental change to prevent the collapse of aquatic ecosystems that is being driven by the dramatic declines in fish biodiversity? These biodiversity declines are global, from sharks in the open ocean to migratory fishes that use both marine and freshwater habitats – and even include endemic fishes in the monsoonal rivers of Southern Asia. These declines threaten ecosystem functioning, food security and income streams globally.  They are driven by the interactions of anthropogenic pressures that include exploitation, invasive species, climate change and habitat fragmentation. Decoupling how these pressures interact to drive these declines is complex, which then inhibits the generation of the information required to formulate sustainable solutions.

Correspondingly, FishE@BU is being established to help resolve this global crisis through the application of state-of-the-art spatial, behavioural, trophic and molecular ecology approaches to create significant new knowledge to increase contemporary understandings of, and help manage, the underlying causes of the on-going global loss of fish biodiversity. Previously endorsed as an Institute of Aquatic Sciences by the University Board in February 2020, it was delayed in its launch by the Covid-19 Pandemic, with subsequent revision of the Institute to a strategic research cluster focused on fish ecology and conservation. The work of FishE@BU is intended to strongly inform policies and practices at regional, national and global scales in order to secure the sustainable utilisation of fish, fishery and aquatic resources that no longer imperil their biodiversity.

FishE@BU will be hosted by the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences (LES) of the Faculty of Science and Technology. It will be directed by Professor Robert Britton, in collaboration with Dr Demetra Andreou (LES) and Dr Adrian Pinder (BUG Enterprise Unit). Their roles will include driving the RKE activities of the Cluster so that bidding for substantial funding opportunities can be increased, which in turn will generate increased income and permit the undertaking of cutting-edge research and the production of high-quality RKE outputs and associated impact generation. This will increase the international profile of BU, directly contribute to the BU2025 Strategic Vision, provide new ways for BU staff and students to engage with Fusion, and help improve BU’s ranking in various frameworks and league tables. Opportunities to develop new income education schemes will be investigated, such as through developing a new Level 7 programme on aquatic ecology and conservation, and developing a CPD programme with the potential for including accredited options.

FishE@BU will use the existing RKE activities within LES and BUG as its platform for launching its activities, where RKE on the impact of global environmental changes on fish biodiversity has been established during the last decade, where considerable work has been completed on critically endangered species that are of imminent risk of extinction (e.g. European eel, hump-backed mahseer). This investment in new technology, including state-of-the-art biotelemetry equipment, and in new opportunities for postgraduate research students, will not only ensure that FishE@BU is equipped with the tools needed to deliver its vision, but will provide it with the technologies needed to make substantial progress in halting this biodiversity decline.

IMSET Seminar: How archaeologists can contribute to a Green New Revolution

BU are delighted to welcome Erika Guttman-Bond tomorrow,  Thursday October 28th, at 4.30pm for a hybrid seminar, held in F306 and on line.

There has been a lot of interest in the failures of the past and the environmental disasters that have ensued because of poor land management practices. Erika will be arguing that the successes of the past are of equal importance. Her research focuses on pre-industrial techniques that have been rediscovered, either through archaeology or anthropology, and put back to work. Such systems often prove to be not only more sustainable than modern approaches, but more resilient in the face of environmental extremes.

Tickets are available from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/imset-seminar-how-archaeologists-can-contribute-to-a-new-green-revolution-tickets-186916160267?fbclid=IwAR14hzCKSgvIz0k8G6lRU1NcezC4mewjCzJV1M4fSQfclXhq-BXiW5BixFM

Our strategic research clusters: introducing ADDISONIC

Summary

The Faculty of Science and Technology has successfully led a joint submission with the Faculty of Media and Communication and the Business School that is being supported by the March 2021 call for ‘game-changing’ research concepts to enable growth of BU2025 Strategic Investment Areas (SIAs).

We are very excited that, through our existing state-of-the-art advanced materials and manufacturing facilities at the Design and Engineering Innovation Centre, BU now reunites all the conditions required to becoming World-leader in ultrasonic fatigue testing of advanced materials. Our wish is that this will ultimately impact in the World’s eco-economy and sustainable development.

Our Mission

Having as primary SIA Sustainability, Low Carbon Technology & Materials Science, the ADDISONIC (Advanced Manufacturing Ultrasonic Fatigue Prediction and Life Extension) mission is to contribute to reducing global waste by extending the life and enhancing the optimisation of any engineered systems through incorporating novel advanced materials tested under ultrasonic fatigue for quick and reliable predictability of properties to extend their lives. Therefore, the project addresses the UN sustainability goals of Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; Responsible Production and Consumption; and, Climate Action.

The project also aims at contributing to fostering networking between BU and local or national businesses and industries, whether in this research area or in any other field where BU academics have strengths.

What industries partnering up with us will find

Making use of the Design and Engineering Innovation Centre at Bournemouth University, our partners will find cutting-edge laboratories and workshops featuring industry-standard facilities and the latest rapid 3D printing, prototyping, and manufacturing equipment. We also have long-lasting collaborations with other UK-based and international Universities to access additional expertise, such as the University of Hertfordshire or the University of Lisbon.

Why is this research a priority?

With up to 4x lower scrap material generated in parts manufactured, metal additive manufacturing is more eco-friendly. The market is estimated to grow by £4.42bn between 2016 and 2024 with an annual growth rate of 14%. However, little is known about the lifetime properties of novel advanced materials, such as metal additive manufactured ones. Knowing that approximately 90% of all metallic failures are due to cyclic loadings, we will lead global research into the application of ultrasonics for fatigue testing of advanced materials as it is the only method to quickly determine the predictability of material properties that will be subjected to cyclic loading. Ultrasonic fatigue testing machines enable tests to be extended to 1 billion cycles in just a few days compared to months or years (figure 1), which has as growth driver the adoption of “just-in-time” processes.

Figure 1. Comparison between the duration different fatigue testing methods need to be completed, assuming tests can run uninterruptedly.

Furthermore, recent developments show it is possible to carry multiaxial testing too, including with different biaxiality ratios. The PI, Dr Diogo Montalvão, was the first researcher in the World to adapt specimens being loaded in two directions (known as ‘cruciform biaxial specimens’) to ultrasonics. This is important because most fatigue testing still uses ‘uniaxial loads’ (loading in one direction), although real components are exposed to ‘multiaxial loads’ (loading in multiple directions), which means new products will see enhanced optimised designs that will contribute to less waste. In terms of future developments, the project will also allow tackling the ‘enigma’ of experimentally reproducing, in a lab, 3D cyclic stresses that more accurately replicate what happens in real engineered components (figure 2). With new materials being developed every year, we believe ultrasonic fatigue testing will be the standard testing procedure in the future as it is estimated that it can lead to savings of between £13k and £71k per ASTM E379/ISO12107 material test programme.

Figure 2. Multiaxial ultrasonic fatigue testing: (a) System; (b) equibiaxial specimen; (c) pure shear specimen; (d) thermographic image; (e) fatigue crack; (f) Idealised (future) triaxial specimens – equibiaxial (top) and shear (bottom).

 

 

Academic publishing and numbers

Yesterday our team published new paper on academic writing, this time the focus was on the various indices in the field.  Academics from three different departments in the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences collaborated on the paper ‘Publishing, identifiers & metrics: Playing the numbers game‘ [1].  The three BU scholars, Dr Shovita Dhakal Adhikari, in the Social Sciences and Social Work Department, Dr. Pramod Regmi in the Department of Nursing Sciences, and Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen in the Department of Midwifery and Health Sciences co-authored the paper with former BU staff Dr. Nirmal Aryal, now researcher at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Alexander van Teijlingen, PhD student at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow), and Dr. Sarita Panday, Lecturer in Public Health in the University of Essex.

This a the latest paper in a long line of publications on aspects of academic writing and publishing [2-16].

References:

  1. van Teijlingen, E.R., Dhakal Adhikari, S., Regmi, P.R., van Teijlingen, A., Aryal, N., Panday, S. (2021). Publishing, identifiers & metrics: Playing the numbers game. Health Prospect20(1). https://doi.org/10.3126/hprospect.v20i1.37391
  2. Simkhada, P., van Teijlingen E., Hundley, V., Simkhada, BD. (2013) Writing an Abstract for a Scientific Conference, Kathmandu Univ Med J 11(3): 262-65. http://www.kumj.com.np/issue/43/262-265.pdf
  3. van Teijlingen, E, Hundley, V. (2002) Getting your paper to the right journal: a case study of an academic paper, J Advanced Nurs 37(6): 506-11.
  4. Pitchforth, E, Porter M, Teijlingen van E, Keenan Forrest, K. (2005) Writing up & presenting qualitative research in family planning & reproductive health care, Fam Plann Reprod Health Care 31(2): 132-135.
  5. van Teijlingen, E, Simkhada, PP, Rizyal A (2012) Submitting a paper to an academic peer-reviewed journal, where to start? (Guest Editorial) Health Renaissance 10(1): 1-4.
  6. van Teijlingen, E, Simkhada. PP, Simkhada, B, Ireland J. (2012) The long & winding road to publication, Nepal Epidemiol 2(4): 213-215 http://nepjol.info/index.php/NJE/article/view/7093/6388
  7. Hundley, V, van Teijlingen, E, SimkhadP (2013) Academic authorship: who, why and in what order? Health Renaissance 11(2):98-101 www.healthrenaissance.org.np/uploads/Download/vol-11-2/Page_99_101_Editorial.pdf
  8. Simkhada P, van Teijlingen E, Hundley V. (2013) Writing an academic paper for publication, Health Renaissance 11(1):1-5. www.healthrenaissance.org.np/uploads/Pp_1_5_Guest_Editorial.pdf
  9. van Teijlingen, E., Ireland, J., Hundley, V., Simkhada, P., Sathian, B. (2014) Finding the right title for your article: Advice for academic authors, Nepal Epidemiol 4(1): 344-347.
  10. van Teijlingen E., Hundley, V., Bick, D. (2014) Who should be an author on your academic paper? Midwifery 30: 385-386.
  11. Hall, J., Hundley, V., van Teijlingen, E. (2015) The journal editor: friend or foe? Women & Birth 28(2): e26-e29.
  12. Sathian, B., Simkhada, P., van Teijlingen, E., Roy, B, Banerjee, I. (2016) Grant writing for innovative medical research: Time to rethink. Med Sci 4(3):332-33.
  13. Adhikari, S. D., van Teijlingen, E. R., Regmi, P. R., Mahato, P., Simkhada, B., & Simkhada, P. P. (2020). The Presentation of Academic Self in The Digital Age: The Role of Electronic Databases. International J Soc Sci Management7(1), 38-41. https://doi.org/10.3126/ijssm.v7i1.27405
  14. Pradhan, AK, van Teijlingen, ER. (2017) Predatory publishing: a great concern for authors, Med Sci 5(4): 43.
  15. van Teijlingen, E (2004), Why I can’t get any academic writing done, Medical Sociol News 30(3): 62-63. britsoc.co.uk/media/26334/MSN_Nov_2004.pd
  16. Wasti, S.P., van Teijlingen, E., Simkhada, P., Hundley, V. with Shreesh, K. Writing and Publishing Academic Work, Kathmandu, Nepal: Himal Books

Our strategic research clusters: introducing Virtual Production

Today’s blog post, written by Dr Richard Southern, introduces one of our new strategic research growth clusters, which is building on BU’s existing excellence in computer animation to forward research in the pioneering field of virtual production: 

Project Summary

This 3-year project establishes a Multi-Disciplinary Cluster of Excellence for Research in Virtual Production to develop the game-changing idea of Remote Production through strategic investment, enabling research to widen access, enhance sustainability, and explore applications, reducing barriers to entry and putting visual content creation in the hands of a wider range of storytellers and innovators.

Figure 1: Pre-Visualisation Demonstration. Image credit: Paolo Mercogliano, Diana Pelino, Anna Semple, Miguel Pozas, Joseph Adams and Nathalie Puetzer

Figure 2: LED Wall Demonstration. Image credit: Richard Southern.

Introduction

Virtual Production (VP) defines a set of new production practices where practitioners work in and interact directly with a virtual set. VP reduces the need to move crews and equipment to location and enables remote working in VR, reducing CVD-19 risks, the environmental footprint, slashes production costs and upends the traditional production process by blurring the lines between production departments.

Evidence of sustainability of VP practices is already emerging studios and technology providers:

The logical next step in is to transition production in film, TV and broadcast media practices from those that are mainly facilities-bound to working environments that are remotely collaborative and thereby making the practices more sustainable. Examples of new technologies in this are virtual cinematography and VR puppeteering.

Previous Work

Virtual Production reframes games, virtual reality, and computer graphics technology in the context of production practice, allowing us to leverage our existing excellence and industry expertise in a booming sector. A myriad of applications stem from this including sustainable production, immersive storytelling, networking, ethics, digital heritage, collaborative visualisation and military, which broadens opportunities for collaboration across the wider the University. This project applies and develops research into areas for which BU is recognised internationally:

This project focuses BU’s existing research portfolio, supports ECRs and develops new research aligned with the identified themes to establish BU as a key partner in future industry and academic collaboration. Existing institutional resources include:

  • Thousands of students in complementary discipline areas who will collaborate and co-create content and undertake research with this technology, while entering the sector with a deep understanding of the sustainability implications of their practice.
  • Multi-disciplinary and industry-relevant skills and knowledge base in film, VFX and games production directly relevant to Virtual Production.
  • Current multi-million pound externally funded research projects aligned with applications in the Creative Industries (Centre for Digital Entertainment (EPSRC), Centre for Applied Creative Technologies (Horizon 2020), AniAge (Horizon 2020), VistaAR (Interreg)).
  • Industry standard facilities, including film studios, VR labs, motion capture technology, strengthening our research capacity in enabling experimentation and validation of production ready research projects to delivery high impact research.
  • Strong regional and national partnerships and alumni network in the Creative Industries.
  • Members are represented on BFI Albert, the National Standards Working Group in Virtual Production, and the StudioUK Skills Group. The NCCA is an Unreal Academic Partner.

 

Project Goals

After 3 years we envisage a Centre of Excellence in Virtual Production to deliver:

  • Impactful research outputs in virtual and remote production for enhancing productivity and sustainable working practices,
  • Grant capture with industry collaborators to tackle industry-relevant challenges,
  • A consortium of industry partners to advise activity in research, teaching and enterprise,
  • World-class research-informed teaching in this highly sought-after discipline area,
  • A demonstration facility showcasing our research and new technologies.

 

Background

The Creative Industries contributes 6% of UK GVA, with estimated year on year growth estimated at 7.1%, and constituting 7% of global output in this sector. Global Virtual Production Market size is expected to reach £2.2b by 2026, rising at a rate of 14.3%. UK studios and core technology providers are global leaders in this space, leading to the Digital Catapult and Screenskills to identify this as a critical growth area. As of November 2020, there were 150 Virtual Production studios in the world, and 70 new sound stages have been designated for construction across the UK until 2023. This demonstrates strong commercial and UK government interest in leading advances in TV and film production, and has already attracted significant productions to move to the UK.

The Creative Industries have rapidly embraced this technology, and vendors and studios are moving swiftly to meet this new demand. Commercial R&D ranges from the cameras, tracking and LED walls to the software needed to drive the displays. Production companies are actively investing in R&D to gain competitive advantages, such as Mo-Sys Star Tracker, ILM’s Stagecraft and Bournemouth-based Tree House Digital’s custom drive train for filming vehicles.

Bournemouth has been classified as a high growth area in the Creative Industries, fuelled by access to talent from local Universities and geographic advantages. BU has ranked in the bottom 30% in terms of local growth and regeneration, and bottom 50% of working with business in the recent KEF exercise, presenting an opportunity for significant impact through regional growth.

This proposal seeks to address internal and external priorities: sustainability in the creative industries is an identified priority of BU, BFI and the Creative Industry Pact; production costs and finance are identified as one of the four key challenges facing the sector; innovative immersive applications are a UKRI priority; and post-pandemic business and production models are critical research questions currently facing the immersive technologies, particularly virtual production.

BU’s Strategic Investment Areas and our new research clusters

As articulated within BU2025, our Strategic Investment Areas (SIAs) build on our existing academic strengths and future opportunities aligned to external priorities, including policy direction and funding. BU Research Blog | How do I get involved with the Strategic Investment Areas at BU? Insight for academics and professional service staff | Bournemouth University

The four Strategic Investment Areas are:

  • Assistive Technology
  • Animation, Simulation & Visualisation
  • Medical Science
  • Sustainability, Low Carbon Technology & Materials Science.

These areas were developed in consultation with BU staff through the BU2025 planning process.

Since the launch of BU2025, we have developed the scope for each SIA and reviewed the relevant policy, legislation, networks/specialist interest groups as well as related growth/acceleration of areas of research for the UK, EU and globally. To date, two major new initiatives have been supported and enabled strategic University support, the Institute of Medical Imaging & Visualisation and the Institute of Modelling Socio-Environmental Transitions.

But what comes next? As we have explored before on the Research Blog, the creation of new knowledge is a fundamental part of what we do as a University. This is especially pertinent for BU given our commitment to fusion, meaning that everyone has responsibilities for research (alongside education and professional practice). Over the spring and summer of 2021, as we began to emerge from the initial COVID-19 related crisis, you may remember that we put out a call forward for Expressions of Interest for game-changing research concepts. Many brilliant ideas were forthcoming with a number of concepts identified as priority areas for support further to a competitive process. A series of blog posts will take you through them this week in more detail, but can be summarised in brief as follows:

  • Towards Remote Production: Multi-Disciplinary Innovation in Virtual Production to widen access, enhance sustainability and enable new applications; led by Dr Richard Southern
    • Virtual Production (VP) defines a set of new production practices where practitioners work in and interact directly with a virtual set. VP reduces the need to move crews and equipment to the location and enables remote working in VR, reducing CVD-19 risks, the environmental footprint, slashes production costs and upends the traditional production process by blurring the lines between production departments. The logical next step in the evolution of the discipline is to transition production in film, TV and broadcast media practices from those that are mainly facilities-bound to working environments that are remotely collaborative.
  • Advanced Manufacturing Ultrasonic Fatigue Prediction and Life Extension (ADDISONIC); led by Dr Diogo Montalvao:
    • Our mission is to reduce global waste by extending the life and enhancing the optimisation of engineered systems utilised in the medical, assistive technology, sustainability and low carbon sectors through incorporating novel advanced materials tested under ultrasonic fatigue for quick and reliable predictability of properties to extend their life”.
  • Multimodal Immersive NEuro-sensing  (MINE), led by Dr Xun He.
    • “The concept is to develop a pioneering Multimodal Immersive NEuro-sensing (MINE) system for the measurement of human behaviour and neural activities in realistic and controlled environments. Our concept will enable strategic research growth in multiple disciplines, with human signal measurement at the core of Assistive Technology (AT).”
  • Fish Ecology and Conservation at Bournemouth University (FishE@BU), led by Prof Rob Britton:
    • The Research Cluster for Fish Ecology and Conservation at Bournemouth University (FishE@BU) is being established to address a significant current global challenge: how can we manage and respond to rapid environmental change to prevent the collapse of aquatic ecosystems that is being driven by the dramatic declines in fish biodiversity? Correspondingly, FishE@BU is being established to help resolve this global crisis through the application of state-of-the-art spatial, behavioural, trophic and molecular ecology approaches to create significant new knowledge to increase contemporary understandings of, and help manage, the underlying causes of the on-going global loss of fish biodiversity. 

How can I learn more? 

Look out for the forthcoming blog posts that introduce these concepts and feel free to get in-touch with colleagues directly to explore the potential for collaboration. Furthermore, if you would like to receive details of forthcoming launch and networking events, please email: sia@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

Funding Development Briefing. Spotlight “Getting Started at BU”.

Reminder: The RDS will be Funding Development Briefing  Wednesday at 12 noon. The spotlight will be on the “Getting started at BU”.

We will cover:

  • Overview of the process, explain acronyms, highlight resources available etc.
  • Q & A

For those unable to attend, the session will be recorded and shared on Brightspace here.

Invites for these sessions have been disseminated via your Heads of Department.

RDS Funding Development Briefing this Wednesday – NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB).

Reminder: The RDS Funding Development Briefing will be Wednesday at 12 noon. The spotlight will be on the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB).

We will cover:

  • Overview of the new schemes
  • How to apply
  • Q & A

For those unable to attend, the session will be recorded and shared on Brightspace here.

Invites for these sessions have been disseminated via your Heads of Department.

HE policy update for the w/e 8th October 2021

Parliament was still in recess whilst the Conservative Party Conference takes place. We have the news from the Conference, some movement on Essay Mills and several new reports.  And we have a big primer on student finance, ahead of the budget.

Conservative Party Conference

After the first day of the Conservative Party conference Wonkhe speculate what the personalities and lack of fiscal room for manoeuvre mean for HE in the forthcoming spending review (looming on the later October horizon):

  • At last night’s Policy Exchange fringe meeting, new Secretary of State Nadhim Zahawi represented a breath of fresh air insofar as he was keen to stress that decisions would be “evidence-led”, that he understood that universities delivered vocational skills and that a consultation is still coming over aspects of Augar. But the spending envelope isn’t his call – and the big question for this spending review remains “What does Rishi Sunak want?” If he wants to balance the books and demonstrate fiscal prudence – and all the signs point to a reining in after the immense scale of public spending during Covid-19 – then universities could be in for a rough ride when stacked up against other pressing priorities. The potential for a fee cut, in particular, will be keeping university finance directors up at night. Without a complete rethink of the funding system, there are few good available options to reduce the overall cost of the system. Thanks to inflation, even maintaining the status quo of the frozen fee level means diminishing funding to higher education over time.
  • It now seems likely that a new financial settlement, aimed at reducing the Treasury’s exposure to higher education, will see changes to graduate repayment terms, perhaps even retrospectively for existing students. Last week, former universities minister David Willetts, in a pamphlet for the Higher Education Policy Institute, suggested that this option is more politically defensible at a time of constrained public spending than reducing funding to universities via tuition fee cuts. Minimum entry standards could also do its bit to cap the supply of students over time, thus saving Her Majesty’s Government a little more money, though with few outside the fringes of the Conservative Party genuinely believing that fewer people benefiting from a higher education is a desirable outcome, and ever-growing numbers of school and college leavers hoping to go – it’s a policy that if implemented could end up coming back to bite the Conservatives in the future.
  • So with so many moving fiscal and political parts around the spending review and Budget, there’s every chance that late deals could lead to unexpected outcomes and changes to what was previously thought to be a direction of travel. As ever in politics, decisions are not made until they are announced in public, and with this prime minister in particular, huge changes of direction can be made on a whim

New Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi gave a keynote address at the Conservative Party Conference. It focussed heavily on schools (including emphasis on English and maths). Nadhim also gave HE a nod in crediting Oxford University for the vaccine development. The Government’s intention towards T levels remains.

  • DfE is investing in maths hubs, while at post-16 there is funding for a further 2m courses. One day soon I want T levels to be as famous as A levels.
  • Zahawi promised a schools White Paper in the new year to focus on illiteracy and innumeracy. I will work tirelessly…to unleash the brilliance of young people in this country.
  • Nadhim added that as Vaccine minister he used evidence to deliver a world-leading vaccines programme and that DfE will deliver the same for education.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised new scholarships in artificial intelligence:

2,000 elite AI scholarships for disadvantaged young people within the Government’s focus on innovative technology which he stated was a sign of the party’s ambition for the future.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a particularly colourful rambling speech to entertain the Conference attendees. It was light on HE content. Within the context of levelling up he questioned why York (2 universities) had so many graduates yet Doncaster (a FE/HE college) didn’t. Perhaps not the best example his aides could have chosen.

  • There was also familiar messaging about the alternative routes than university: our universities are world beating, I owe everything to my tutors and they are one of the great glories of our economy but we all know that some of the most brilliant and imaginative and creative people in Britain and some of the best paid people in Britain did not go to university and to level up you need to give people the options the skills that are right for them and to make the most of those skills and knowledge and to level up you need urgently to plug all the other the gaps in our infrastructure that are still holding people and communities back
  • On foreign investment: It was not the government that made the wonder drug it wasn’t brewed in the alembics of the department of health. It was, of course it was Oxford University, but it was the private sector that made it possible behind those vaccines are companies and shareholders and, yes, bankers.

Lots of focussed discussion took place during the Conservative Party Conference fringe events. Here are some summaries of the content prepared by Dods with bold emphasis added so you can pick out the most relevant HE points.

Contract Cheating

On Tuesday the DfE stated it will introduce a ban on ‘essay mills’ via the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill which is currently making its way through Parliament. The Government intends to make it a criminal offence to provide, arrange or advertise cheating services for financial gain to students taking a qualification at any institution in England providing post-16 education including universities.

You’ll recall from our regular coverage on contract cheating that Lord Storey has campaigned to this end for a long period, including introducing two Private Member’s Bills (PMB) which the Government was not opposed to but neither succeeded. In contrast to Lord Storey’s PMB the DfE’s intention is to apply the legislation to all post-16 providers including colleges and sixth forms.

Previously the Government urged the QAA (Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education), UUK and the NUS to collaborate and produce institutional guidance on combatting the threat from essay mills and compiled guidance for students to make them better aware of the consequences to send the clear message that these services are not legitimate.

Minister for Skills Alex Burghart said: Essay mills are completely unethical and profit by undermining the hard work most students do. We are taking steps to ban these cheating services. We have also announced a new measure to make sure all young people receive broader careers guidance so everyone can get the advice that’s right for them. [Perhaps meaning to pursue T levels and an alternative route than university.]

Gender Differences in subject choice

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) paper Gender differences in subject choice leads to gender pay gap immediately after graduation highlights how course choice exacerbates the gender pay gap.  IFS notes:

  • In 2019 – before the pandemic disrupted data collection – women were paid 16% less per hour than men on average. The gap in average annual earnings was even larger, at 37%, since women are much more likely to work part-time.
  • The financial return to getting a degree – how much more a graduate earns compared to an otherwise similar non-graduate – varies enormously across subjects. Previous IFS research estimates that studying economics at university boosts women’s pay by 75% by age 30; this is more than ten times the return to studying creative arts (7.2%). However, women make up nearly two-thirds of creative arts graduates but less than a third of economics graduates.
  • In general, women are overrepresented in degree subjects with low financial returns. There are some exceptions – for example, medicine and law both have average or slightly above average shares of female students and very high returns.
  • Differences in degree subject choices explain most of the gender pay gap soon after graduation.
  • Of the 5% gap in annual earnings at age 25, 2.9 percentage points (55%) can be accounted for by university subjects, with A-Level subject choices making up a further 0.2 percentage points (5%).
  • Subject choice continues to contribute between 3 and 5 percentage points to the gender pay gap over graduates’ early careers.
  • But over this period, other factors lead to a widening of the gender pay gap, so that by age 30, subject choice explains only a fifth of the total gender pay gap.
  • Other factors that come into play could include motherhood, gender differences in attitudes towards risk, recognition for group work, hours worked, the propensity to bargain over wages and ask for promotions, and discrimination.
  • We should be concerned if information on the returns to different subjects isn’t easily available to young people, and if the large differences in subject choice (arts for girls, economics for boys) are driven as much by gender stereotypes as by true preferences.
  • When it comes to a subject like economics, which delivers the very highest financial return for female (and male) graduates, there is an additional concern that many students cannot access the subject at all because it is not offered in their school.
  • More needs to be done to educate and inform young people about subject choices at A level and university, particularly in a system like the UK where subject choices narrow at an early stage and where decisions taken early can have long-lasting effects.

Research

Research and innovation review: BEIS published the terms of reference for the Review of the Research, Development and Innovation Organisational Landscape. The independent review (announced on 22 July) will be led by Sir Paul Nurse with the final report expected during Spring 2022.  The goals of the Review are to:

  • explore the features and characteristics in the existing ecosystem of RDI-performing organisations across the UK, learning from the best in the world and drawing on transformative examples
  • identify whether improvements to the organisational research landscape are required to deliver the government’s objective for the UK to be a science superpower at the forefront of critical and emerging fields of science and technology, and drive economic growth and societal benefit
  • futureproof the UK landscape of organisations undertaking all forms of RDI, from pioneering, visionary blue-skies research to practical support for innovators to commercialise or implement their ideas, and ensure an agile and sustainable system that can respond to future priorities and developments

The Review will consider the full and varied policy and funding context within which RDI-performing organisations are set up and operate. The Review is focused on the landscape of organisations that deliver research rather than on mechanisms for funding research and will:

  • analyse how the various organisations that contribute to the ecosystem of RDI-performing organisations across different parts of the UK – including universities, institutes and laboratories, across UK government and the devolved administrations, public, private and non-profit sectors – compare to each other and that of other countries with strengths in RDI
  • learning from international examples, consider the role that different mixes of organisations can play in delivering economic and societal impact from RDI, and the mechanisms and business models that will best enable the UK to capitalise on emerging and new fields of science and invention
  • consider how best to secure an organisational landscape now and in the future that delivers high-quality RDI outputs, and which is sustainable and cost-effective
  • consider options to support the UK’s strengths and what targeted interventions in the public sector might enhance the quality and diverse mix of RDI-performing organisations through our policy framework and the policies of the devolved administrations

Research Budget distribution: MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, published a policy briefing calling for the pledged increase of the R&D budget to £22bn to be shared more equitably around the country in the name of the Government’s levelling up goal.  The briefing emphasises the importance of re-balancing the way research in the UK is funded so that modern universities, many of which sit in marginalised areas of the country, and those hit hardest by the pandemic, can do more to support a world-class system of research and innovation, for the benefit of their regions and the country. Recommendations:

  1. Scale up the Higher Education Innovation Fund, so that knowledge exchange makes up a greater proportion of overall grant funding from Research England.
  2. Increase the number of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships funded across the UK.
  3. Expand the Strength in Places Fund.
  4. Ensure that the Shared Prosperity Fund is devolved, based on long-term funding cycles, and accessible to universities and local businesses.

MillionPlus also published Innovate and generate: modern universities supporting local businesses aiming to highlight the partnerships that modern universities with local roots and an industry-facing outlook  have with businesses in their regions. The document emphasises their calls for Government to prioritise and dedicate specific R&D funding streams for such relationships and the positive impact it can have on levelling up the UK.

Quick news

  • Incentivising business innovation through taxation – CBI Economics consider the arguments for R&D tax credits
  • Imperial College London announced their new Institute for Infection. The aim of the Institute is to address some of the biggest unanswered questions in the field of infectious disease, such as how is climate change impacting the spread of diseases transmitted by flies and mosquitoes, how can gene-editing technologies help to reduce the spread of disease (such as Dengue and Zika), and how can animal vaccination programmes help to curb diseases which also affect humans.

Access & Participation

Student Hardship funding: Hitting the news last week (from the July OfS Board papers) was that £1.66 million of the additional £70 million hardship funding provided by the Government was unspent and recovered by the OfS.

Wonkhe say: Despite overwhelming evidence that the hardships caused by Covid-19 were near universal, the government was wedded to the idea of individual student problems rather than the systemic issues felt across the whole cohort. There were conditions attached to allocation: providers had to distribute funds to students that expressed a specific need, and all of the money needed to be handed out by 31 July…The complexity of existing hardship fund arrangements at providers (many had to recruit extra staff to administer the process) and the tight deadline (three months for the final tranche) made it difficult to get the money to where it was needed.

Mental Health

The Mental Health Foundation released new research combining evidence with expert opinion and public views. You can read about it here but in short it recommends (in order of popularity):

  1. Be aware of using drugs to cope with difficult feelings
  2. Build money skills and seek financial support if you need it
  3. Get more from your sleep
  4. Develop awareness of your feelings and emotions
  5. Have something to look forward to
  6. Get closer to nature
  7. Speak to someone you trust for support
  8. Stay curious and open to new experiences

Almost as popular (chosen by at least 45% of the public panel) were:

  • Have a healthy diet
  • Help others, contribute to something bigger
  • Engage in physical activity
  • Practice gratitude and cultivate hope
  • Strengthen social connections

Our research shows that it’s the fundamentals of life that protect our mental health: our finances, our relationships and our experiences

Student Finance

The DfE updated the information on who is eligible for undergraduate, postgraduate and further education financial support from Student Finance England. The update includes new policy notes on the rights to home fee status and student support for people covered by the Withdrawal Agreements who make a valid late application to the EU Settlement Scheme, and rights for joining family members under the EU Settlement Scheme:

Possible changes to fees and funding have been in the news a lot over the autumn in the build up to the Comprehensive Spending Review on 27th October when, yet again, we are promised the final response from the government to the Augar report and an outcome for the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding, which Augar was meant to inform.

Some changes have already happened:

  • Some OfS funding for “non-strategic” subjects was cut this year – but it was a small cut to a tiny amount of funding. Anxiety was heightened because the former Education Secretary kept saying in the HoC and to newspapers that he was “slashing” funding, but he was exaggerating.  A lot.  The OfS got very defensive about it.  You can read what they did here.  Anyway, it set the tone for what may be more to come.  The OfS were told to stop calling the main funding a “teaching” grant and call it a “strategic priorities” grant.  You get the point.  Let’s hope the updated Ministerial team choose their language more carefully, to avoid future misunderstanding.    Words matter.
  • The OfS decided to distribute a chunk of their capital funding via a competitive bidding arrangement, in a big departure from previous allocation methods. You can read what they did here.  This may well also set the tone for the future, and is consistent with what is expected to happen with some streams of research funding going forwards.

The main pre-announcement that we are expecting to see followed through with a consultation at the end of the month is on minimum entry requirements.  This is a technique to reduce or at least limit the growing cost of the student loan portfolio by applying a floor to the academic entry requirements that applicants must meet in order to qualify for a student loan.  Students could still go to university, if they pay their own way, of course, or are able to borrow the funding another way.  Widely criticised as a cap on aspiration and a retrograde step for social mobility, because of the risk that many of the potential students who will be excluded from university will be those whose prior attainment does not reflect their true potential, and because many of those will be in that position as a result of some form of disadvantage.   We have commented on this extensively before and note that Augar suggested that it be deployed as a last resort if universities did not clean up their act on quality.  We note that we are not convinced that there is necessarily a direct link between “quality” and low entry tariffs and that it feels a bit early in the cycle for last resorts.  But there you are.  The definition of quality debate is a much bigger one that is ongoing now as the OfS looks at its licence conditions.

And there could be many other things announced.  Most of the press coverage recently has been about a potential cut to the repayment threshold (increased by Theresa May in a shock move after the 2017 election that cost the government a lot of money).  This idea has not been well received by students or recent graduates.  We note that retrospective changes to the terms of loans (other than interest rates) are not usually allowed (for banks, for example), and that there is a general feeling that students and recent graduates, who have not had a great couple of years, will be asked to fill a government financial hole “because they don’t vote conservative anyway”.  Given that Theresa May put the floor up precisely because she was worried about the so-called youthquake in the 2017 election, the link seems to be a fair one.  The Tories in 2017 didn’t have the majority that they have now.  And the financial hole is very big.

BU staff can read our May 2021 summary of what else we might have to look forward to here.

Given that there is likely to be a flurry of press stories, better or less-well informed opinion, social media excitement etc, around any changes, we wanted to give you a bit of context.  Apologies to regular readers or those with students in the family who know all this, all too well, but here we go.  And apologies to readers in the devolved nations, we are focussing on England here.  Also we are focussing on undergraduates.

Undergraduate tuition fees

These are capped.  The cap hasn’t moved for a long time.  There is very little prospect of it moving for a long time to come.

They are not tuition fees.  The OfS in their most recent publication on the subject (well worth a read) calls them “course fees”.  They aren’t really that either.

When they were introduced they replaced a big chunk of government funding for universities and, apart from those universities with huge numbers of international or post-graduate students, or huge proportions of research or donor income, these fees are the main source of income for most universities.  They therefore pay for staff, services, loan interest, depreciation, building maintenance, IT, OfS registration fees, and so on – the lot.  They famously cross subsidise research which is generally funded at less than cost.

If a student has a tuition fee loan (most do as otherwise they need to pay up front), the fee is paid by the Student Loan Company directly to the university in three chunks across the year.  The biggest chunk (50%) is paid in the summer AFTER the student has completed most of the year.  This helps avoid a situation where the university gets money for students who don’t stick around.  But it also explains why cash flow across the year is a talking point in universities, and why a temporary change took place last year when the second instalment was paid early because of concerns about financial sustainability of universities in the pandemic.

Maintenance loans

These loans are made available to UK students to help with their living and other costs while at university.  They replaced the grant system.  Before loans were introduced, if students didn’t qualify for a grant they needed parental support or another source of income.  That is still the case.  There is a minimum amount for a maintenance loan, but above that loan eligibility is means tested according to the income of the student’s family.  So the vast majority of students in the UK still need parental support for their maintenance costs, and if that isn’t available, they will need to work or borrow money instead.

You can see more in the SLC document for 2021/22 students.

Maintenance costs are a huge issue for many students.  Unlike the tuition fee, which is paid by the SLC to the university, this is cash the students need to find and spend.  There has been a lot of coverage of the high cost of accommodation in many places (often more than the maximum loan) and of the particular unfairness of the situation over the last two years when students were told by the government not to return to accommodation they had paid for, with money neither they nor their families could afford.  That’s a long and separate story.

Student loans

Although they are called loans, student finance arrangements are very different from the usual loan arrangements we are all used to, and this is where it gets complicated and political.  So apologies again.  This very useful paper from the House of Commons library (September 2021) has lots of context on this.

As noted above, student loans are made up of two items, tuition fees and maintenance loans (you can also use a student loan for postgraduate support but that’s a different story).

Interest starts to accrue on the loan balance straight away, while the student is at university.  Interest rates are very high – compared to some other rates available in the market.  But the interest rate charged varies over time and according to the income of the graduate (not their family, this time).

From an SLC document describing 2021/11 arrangements:

  • While studying and until 6th April after you finish: RPI pls 3%
  • After that:
    • Income £27,295 or less – RPI only
    • Income above £27,295 to £49,130 – Interest applied on a scale from RPI to RPI + 3%
    • Income above £49,130 – RPI + 3%

Martin Lewis explained the latest rate for Money Saving Expert in October 2021:

  • On 1 October 2021, for students from England and Wales who started university in or after 2012, the headline student loan interest rate decreased from 5.6% to 4.1% in line with the current RPI, and the temporary ‘Prevailing Market Rate’
  • Despite the decrease, this rate is still higher than most mortgages, and far higher than for students from prior cohorts. And, the headline rate is expected to increase again, to 4.5%, on the 1 January 2022. 

Repayment arrangements

This is where student loans really start to look different from “normal” loans. The student finance arrangements we have are not really loans at all.  Really what we have here is a graduate tax.  But shhh – it isn’t called that.  Because people don’t like taxes, so it could never be called a tax.

The notional amount of the student finance grows throughout out the time that a student is studying, and interest is added during that time and afterwards.  So far so like a loan.

But – graduates only start to repay it from the April after their course ends, and only when their income reaches a threshold.  Most students are on what is called “plan 2” and we are going to use their data:

  • You’ll only repay when your income is over £524 a week, £2,274 a month or £27,295 a year (before tax and other deductions).
  • G. Your annual income is £28,800 and you are paid a regular monthly wage. This means that each month your income is £2,400 (£28,800 divided by 12). This is over the Plan 2 monthly threshold of £2,274. Your income is £126 over the threshold (£2,400 minus £2,274). You will pay back £11 (9% of £126) each month.

In other words, repayments are means tested, and only the income over the threshold is used to calculate the repayments.  Clearly in a lot of cases that means that the amount you are repaying is not enough to cover the interest that is also still accruing.  So the overall amount just keeps on going up, just as it would with a “normal” loan if you didn’t pay enough off each month.

The other big difference with a “normal” loan, though, is what happens at the end.  The whole thing, interest and all, is written off after 30 years from the April after your course finished.  That is a big and growing cost to the government.  This very useful paper from the House of Commons library (September 2021) gives some context on what this means.

  • The RAB charge is the difference between the amount lent to a cohort of students, and the value of their repayments as graduates. For 2020/21 it is predicted by the Government to be 53%.
  • … repayments for the 2020/21 cohort will range from just over £1,000 on average in decile 1 to almost £63,000 for decile 10. The average lifetime repayment across all borrowers is just over £19,000.
  • “Overall, 22% of borrowers are forecast to repay their loans in full, this rate varies from 0‑2% in the bottom four deciles to 87% in decile 10”

So when students say that they are “paying” tuition fees – they aren’t paying it yet, and in fact most will never pay it all back.  Only the highest earners, mostly men, will pay it all back.  The paper has charts showing the difference for women and men.

We should also note that the loan is not treated like a normal loan when you are taking out a normal loan, either.  Your potential repayments are taken into account when considering your ability to pay, but it is not treated the same way for your credit score as a typical loan would be.  So it is treated more like a mobile phone contract than a car loan.

So it’s really a graduate tax which stops after 30 years.  Or an income dependent contingent loan (which is written off after 30 years).

Potential changes

The government would clearly like to recover more of this money.  It must be noted that it was never intended that it would all be repaid, however.  When the system was set up it was deliberately intended that only the students with higher income would pay it all back.  This was meant to be progressive.

That’s why there has been little sympathy for arguments to reduce the interest rate.  On the face of it, students seem to be “paying” a high interest rate.  But they aren’t in fact paying it at all, and most of them will never pay it.  It accrues at a high rate, and then most of it is written off.  So increasing the interest rate may be an option instead:

  • The impact of a 1 ppt increase in the interest rate would mean that the average repayment per borrower would increase by £1,500 or 5.2%.
  • However, this increase is not spread evenly across borrowers. Only those with higher earnings pay back more. The number of borrowers who repay their loan in full would drop from 22% under the current system to 18%.

For a long time the government was able to keep this cost “off the balance sheet” until the auditing rules were changed and the whole cost was added to the national debt.  That started to change perceptions about it.

And of course, since the scheme was introduced, the number of students going to university has increased, we are just emerging from a demographic dip.  So the potential cost just keeps on going up.

We have already mentioned changes to the repayment threshold may be under discussion.  That has all sorts of consequences – but they are not very progressive (another HoC library paper):

  • Middle earners would see the largest absolute increase of around £4,000 on average, while the highest earners would see their repayments fall slightly.
  • While the increase for lower earners is below average in absolute terms, it represents the largest percentage increase at around 30%. The number of borrowers who repay their loan in full would increase from 22% under the current system to 25%.

There has also been talk of extending the payment term from 30 to 35 years (Augar said 40) and increasing the rate of repayment (different from the interest rate).  Another helpful briefing paper here.

  • both measures result in increased lifetime repayments especially from middle to higher earners.

What next

We’ll see.  But we think there will be some tinkering with repayment arrangements – despite the fact that these would be retrospective changes to the agreed terms.  And there may be other changes that will reduce the number of people eligible to take these loans out in the future – as well as the minimum qualifications requirement.

Or there may a cut in the tuition fee.  The latter would reduce the loan book and the notional interest  – and give the government more direct control of university funding though the use of “strategic priorities” to top up (some of) the difference  – consistent with the current direction as noted at the start of this section.

There could be caps on the numbers of students studying particular subjects, or at particular institutions (if they don’t meet quality thresholds, for example). Note in this context that the government is increasingly linking definitions of quality to “outcomes”, by which they mean highly skilled employment and relative earnings.  And that is a whole different subject which we have discussed before, and will again.

Mature students

The Lifelong Education Commission, supported by ResPublica and chaired by former universities minister Chris Skidmore MP, published The Pathway to Lifelong Education: Reforming the UK’s Skills System. It is the first of 8 reports the Commission has planned on on lifelong learning and the UK’s skills system. The Commission recommends how the barriers to adult learning can be removed; what future investment is needed to support this; and what change is needed to ensure the maximum flexibility that will benefit learners and deliver on the promise of a whole system change for lifelong education.

Recommendations:

  1. All citizens will be able to access the loan entitlement regardless of prior qualifications, or how they choose to study, including: modular or full qualifications; part-time or full-time; via face-to-face or distance learning.
  2. The Lifetime Loan Entitlement should allow funding to be applied to different modules of learning to enable (i) existing qualifications to be unbundled into smaller units (e.g. 30 to 60 credits) and (ii) microcredentials to be stacked as part of larger units.
  3. A more ambitious reform would be to create a unified credit-based funding system that does not distinguish between different modes of study and provides equal access and support for learners regardless of how they learn or where learning takes place.
  4. Alongside the loan entitlement, Government should consider means-tested maintenance grants to provide support with living costs and encourage adult learners to access higher technical qualifications, particularly those for whom debt will be viewed as a disincentive and a barrier to reskill.
  5. Government should: (i) Build on the existing credit framework and regional consortia approach to design a networked system that can guarantee the autonomy of higher education providers while enabling the transfer and accumulation of credit. (ii) Consider reform of the wider regulatory framework to simplify the jurisdiction between various bodies (HEIs, the Institute, QAA, Ofsted, OfS, etc.) regarding higher technical qualifications, which has the scope for duplication and inconsistency. (iii) Consider Scotland’s ‘articulation agreements’, which provide a good model for clearer routes between FE and HE.
  6. There is, especially in England, a need to bring together and better integrate the various parts of the careers system: (i) A single integrated careers service is required for all citizens at all stages of their working life. This will need to provide high level, specialist advice, available in every locality. (ii) A system should be established to regulate and support the continued professional development of careers advisers. As a minimum, all careers advisers should be registered with the Careers Development Institute and have relevant qualifications at Level 4 or above.
  7. Retain part-time student premium funding and make part-time learning an explicit priority for the teaching grant to incentivise lifelong education and training.
  8. Remove the remaining restrictions on ELQs so that available funding (including loans for fees and maintenance) can support those who want to study for a second higher education qualification in a different discipline.
  9. Government should explore options, including a ‘Flexible Skills Levy’ and ‘Tax Credits’ to incentivise employer investment in skills training.
  10. In addition to employers and educational institutions, Mayoral Combined Authorities in England with devolved responsibilities for adult skills should play a central role in the coproduction of local skills plan. Moreover, MCAs should be given genuine power over issues of essentially regional concern. Almost all of the functions currently exercised by the Department for Education could be devolved.

Former universities minister Chris Skidmore said: If there is one policy to deliver ‘levelling up’, it is adult learning and skills. Acquiring new skills is something we all do throughout our lives. Yet the formal process for acquiring them is incredibly constrained. There are too few opportunities to return to learning for those who have left it. And those willing to retrain or re-skill can barely see the wood for the trees; the pathways are so complex.

The government is embracing adult learning at just the right time. The Lifelong Learning Entitlement, combined with the prospect of modular and course-based learning and the expansion of Level 4 and 5 provision, has the potential to create new journeys into learning for those for whom a graduate route was not the way. But if these reforms are to succeed, it is essential that new partnerships are forged between HE and FE providers.

Grammar and spelling – the next stage of the culture war?

The OfS have published an ominous paper on this.

  • This review examines the policies on spelling, punctuation and grammar in written assessment at a small number of higher education providers. It features anonymised examples of approaches that maintain rigour in student assessment, and examples of approaches that do not.
  • The purpose of the review is to highlight to higher education providers which assessment policies are likely to be a cause for regulatory concern, and encourages providers to adjust their policies accordingly.

This supports the position in the recently closed consultation on quality conditions.

New condition B4.2: 

…the provider must ensure that:  …c. academic regulations are designed to ensure that relevant awards are credible;   ….

“credible” means that, in the reasonable opinion of the OfS, relevant awards reflect students’ knowledge and skills, and for this purpose the OfS may take into account factors which include, but are not limited to:  …ii. whether students are assessed effectively and whether assessments are valid and reliable;  ….

Guidance re “Credible”: …identifying circumstances in which it is likely to be concerned about the credibility of a provider’s qualifications:…c. Students are not penalised for poor technical proficiency in written English. For example, for assessments that would reasonably be expected to take the form of written work in English and for which the OfS, employers and taxpayers, would reasonably expect such proficiency, the provider’s assessment policy and practices do not penalise poor spelling, punctuation or grammar, such that students are awarded marks that do not reflect a reasonable view of their performance of these skills. ….

Key bits from the report itself:

  • Because of the importance of these issues, we undertook a short review during summer 2021 to gather evidence and examples of practice from a small number of providers about the extent to which technical proficiency in written English is being assessed. This report summarises our findings and sets out their implications for our ongoing regulation of higher education providers.
  • We sought voluntary cooperation from a small number of providers, selected to allow us to explore a range of assessment practices. The inclusion of a particular provider in the review was not driven by whether or not it had featured in press reporting about its assessment practices, and this report does not identify the providers that were involved in the review
  • The common features we have seen in the small number of cases we have considered in this review suggest that the practices and approaches we have set out in the case studies may be widespread across the sector. We are therefore drawing the attention of all registered providers to our findings, because they highlight matters that are likely to raise compliance concerns, now and in the future.
  • The findings in this report are shared as case studies; we have not conducted a formal regulatory investigation. Any regulatory judgements we make in future would depend on the circumstances of an individual case, and would involve detailed consideration of the impact of a provider’s policies on the marks awarded to students.

If we were to consider compliance with our current regulatory requirements for the practices described in the case studies, we would be likely to have regulatory concerns about the following: 

  • Case studies 1 and 2: In these examples, it seems plausible if not likely that some students are not being assessed on their proficiency in written English. This is because learning outcomes do not include this requirement. In these circumstances we would have concerns about whether the provider’s courses are well designed and provide a high-quality academic experience. We would also have concerns about whether the qualifications awarded to students are valued by employers or enable further study. We would consider whether such qualifications represent value for money for students and taxpayers. 
  • For Case study 2, we would take a particular interest in the effect of the policies on groups of students whose first language is not English
  • Case study 3: In this example, we would have similar concerns as for case studies 1 and 2. We would also consider the adequacy and effectiveness of the provider’s academic governance arrangements, which have the potential to create inconsistencies in the requirements for students in different subject areas.

We are currently consulting on proposals to clarify and strengthen our regulatory requirements for quality and standards. We will consider all consultation responses carefully before reaching a decision about whether or not we should take forward our proposals, in full or in part. For illustrative purposes, if we were to implement the proposals as set out in the consultation document, the practices we have seen would be likely to raise concerns in relation to proposed conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5

If the policies and approaches identified in this report are leading to students getting higher marks than they otherwise would, for instance because poor proficiency in written English is not being routinely assessed, then this not only undermines the rigour of assessment processes, but also contributes to unexplained grade inflation. 55. We will test this hypothesis for individual providers through our investigatory work.

Local Digital Skills Partnerships

DCMS published the findings of an independent Evaluation of the Local Digital Skills Partnerships  which assessed the impact made by six regions operating Local Digital Skills Partnerships (LDSP). LDSPs are designed to build regional capacity to improve digital skills capability at all levels. They bring together and connect partners from the public, private and third sectors to upskill the current workforce, advance digital inclusion, and raise awareness of the importance of digital skills regionally. The evaluation found the LSDP model to be agile and worked effectively. Therefore, DCMS have confirmed they’ll consider the key findings, and look to build on this early success and expand the model to other parts of the country.

Other news

Academic lockdown time recovery: A Wonkhe blog on the impact of lockdown on academic parents with suggestions on how to help them catch up on missed research and professional time:

  • Potential solutions here are: using a different form of annual evaluation, reducing the teaching load in future semesters on academic parents who’ve seen their research completely stalled, providing more teaching assistants or other types of support to reduce the teaching load, temporarily reduce service and administrative burdens, and/or have better parental leave arrangements. One respondent indicated that their university developed a working parent task force, to get input from the working parents and think about solutions together.
  • Taking a step back, we recommend developing a culture of care, and making our universities places where compassion and solidarity are important values.

Subscribe!

To subscribe to the weekly policy update simply email policy@bournemouth.ac.uk. A BU email address is required to subscribe.

External readers: Thank you to our external readers who enjoy our policy updates. Not all our content is accessible to external readers, but you can continue to read our updates which omit the restricted content on the policy pages of the BU Research Blog – here’s the link.

Did you know? You can catch up on previous versions of the policy update on BU’s intranet pages here. Some links require access to a BU account- BU staff not able to click through to an external link should contact eresourceshelp@bournemouth.ac.uk for further assistance.

JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

VC’s Policy Advisor                                                              Policy & Public Affairs Officer

Follow: @PolicyBU on Twitter                    |                       policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

Postgraduate Researchers and Supervisors | Monthly Update for Researcher Development

Postgraduate researchers and supervisors, hopefully you have seen your monthly update for researcher development e-newsletter sent earlier this week. If you have missed it, please check your junk email or you can view it within the Researcher Development Programme on Brightspace.

The start of the month is a great time to reflect on your upcoming postgraduate researcher development needs and explore what is being delivered this month as part of the Doctoral College Researcher Development Programme and what is available via your Faculty or Department. Remember some sessions only run once per year, so don’t miss out.

Please also subscribe to your Brightspace announcement notifications for updates when they are posted.

If you have any questions about the Researcher Development Programme, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Natalie (Research Skills & Development Officer)
pgrskillsdevelopment@bournemouth.ac.uk 

A small or a large national survey?

Congratulations to Dr. Pramod Regmi and Dr. Nirmal Aryal on the acceptance of their paper ‘Risk of kidney health among returnee Nepali migrant workers: A survey of nephrologists’ [1].  This paper has been accepted by the Asian Journal of Medical Sciences, after having been rejected previous by another scientific journal . The reason for rejection was the small sample size of 38 nephrologists (=medical specialists in kidney disease).  We think one of the reasons for acceptance of this research by the Asian Journal of Medical Sciences is the high proportion (74.5%) of all Nepal’s nephrologists who participated in this national study.  Although the absolute number of participants is low there are only 51 kidney experts in the whole country and three-quarters took part in this study!

Dr. Nirmal Aryal was until recently based in the Department of Midwifery and Health Sciences and he will be starting later this month as a Research Associate at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Trust.  Dr. Pramod Regmi is Senior Lecturer in International Health in the Department of Nursing Sciences.  This paper was also co-authored with a nephrologist Dr. Arun Sedhai based in Chitwan (Nepal) and a public health expert based at the UN organisation, International Organization for Migration (IOM).

This paper which will be Open Access and hence freely available for any reader across the globe adds to the growing research evidence published by Bournemouth University’s researchers on migration and health, especially of migrants from Nepal [2-21].

 

 

Well done!

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health (CMMPH)

 

References:

  1. Aryal, N., Sedhain, A., Regmi, P.R., KC, R.K., van Teijlingen, E. (2021) ‘Risk of kidney health among returnee Nepali migrant workers: A survey of nephrologists’, Asian Journal of Medical Sciences (accepted).
  2. Simkhada, B., Vahdaninia, M., van Teijlingen, E., Blunt, H. (2021) Cultural issues on accessing mental health services in Nepali and Iranian migrants communities in the UK, International Journal of Mental Health Nursing (accepted).  https://doi.org/10.1111/inm.12913
  3. Adhikary, P., Aryal, N., Dhungana, R.R., KC, R.K., Regmi, P.R., Wickramage, K.P., Duigan, P., Inkochasan, M., Sharma, G.N., Devkota, B., van Teijlingen, E., Simkhada, P. (2020) Accessing health services in India: experiences of seasonal migrants returning to Nepal. BMC Health Services Research 20, 992. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-020-05846-7
  4. IOM [International Organization for Migration]. (2019) Health vulnerabilities of cross-border migrants from Nepal. Kathmandu: International Organization for Migration.
  5. Aryal, N., Regmi, P.R., van Teijlingen, E., Trenoweth, S., Adhikary, P., Simkhada, P. (2020) The Impact of Spousal Migration on the Mental Health of Nepali Women: A Cross-Sectional Study, International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health 17(4), 1292; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph1704129
  6. Regmi, P., Aryal, N., van Teijlingen, E., Adhikary, P. (2020) Nepali migrant workers and the need for pre-departure training on mental health: a qualitative study, Journal of Immigrant & Minority Health 22, 973–981.
  7. Adhikary, P. van Teijlingen, E. (2020) Support networks in the Middle East & Malaysia: A qualitative study of Nepali returnee migrants’ experiences, International Journal of Occupational Safety & Health (IJOSH), 9(2): 31-35.
  8. Simkhada, B., Sah, R.K., Mercel-Sanca, A., van Teijlingen, E., Bhurtyal, Y.M., Regmi, P. (2020) Health and Wellbeing of the Nepali population in the UK: Perceptions and experiences of health and social care utilisation, Journal of Immigrant & Minority Health (accepted).
  9. Regmi, P., van Teijlingen, E., Mahato, P., Aryal, N., Jadhav, N., Simkhada, P., Syed Zahiruddin, Q., Gaidhane, A., (2019) The health of Nepali migrants in India: A qualitative study of lifestyles and risks, Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health 16(19), 3655; doi:10.3390/ijerph16193655.
  10. Dhungana, R.R., Aryal, N, Adhikary, P., KC, R., Regmi, P.R., Devkota, B., Sharma, G.N., Wickramage, K., van Teijlingen, E., Simkhada, P. (2019) Psychological morbidity in Nepali cross-border migrants in India: A community-based cross-sectional, BMC Public Health 19:1534 https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-7881-z
  11. Aryal, N., Regmi, P.R., van Teijlingen, E., Simkhada, P., Mahato, P. (2019) Adolescents left behind by migrant workers: a call for community-based mental health interventions in Nepal. WHO South East Asia Journal of Public Health 8(1): 38-41.
  12. Aryal, N., Regmi, P.R., Faller, E.M,, van Teijlingen, E., Khoon, C.C., Pereira, A., Simkhada, P. (2019) ‘Sudden cardiac death and kidney health related problems among Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia’ Nepal Journal of Epidemiology 9(3): 755-758. https://www.nepjol.info/index.php/NJE/article/view/25805
  13. Adhikary P, van Teijlingen E., Keen S. (2019) Workplace accidents among Nepali male workers in the Middle East and Malaysia: A qualitative study, Journal of Immigrant & Minority Health 21(5): 1115–1122. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10903-018-0801-y
  14. Simkhada, P.P., van Teijlingen, E.R., Gurung, M., Wasti, S. (2018) A survey of health problems of Nepalese female migrants workers in the Middle-East & Malaysia, BMC International Health & Human Rights 18(4): 1-7. http://rdcu.be/E3Ro
  15. Adhikary P, Sheppard, Z., Keen S., van Teijlingen E. (2018) Health and well-being of Nepalese migrant workers abroad, International Journal of Migration, Health & Social Care 14(1): 96-105. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMHSC-12-2015-0052
  16. Adhikary, P, Sheppard, Z., Keen, S., van Teijlingen, E. (2017) Risky work: accidents among Nepalese migrant workers in Malaysia, Qatar & Saudi Arabia, Health Prospect 16(2): 3-10.
  17. Simkhada, P.P., Regmi, P.R., van Teijlingen, E., Aryal, N. (2017) Identifying the gaps in Nepalese migrant workers’ health and well-being: A review of the literature, Journal of Travel Medicine 24 (4): 1-9.
  18. Aryal, N., Regmi, P.R., van Teijlingen, E.Simkhada, P., Adhikary, P., Bhatta, Y.K.D., Mann, S. (2016) Injury and Mortality in Young Nepalese Migrant Workers: A Call for Public Health Action. Asian-Pacific Journal of Public Health 28(8): 703-705.
  19. Sapkota, T., Simkhada, P., van Teijlingen, E. (2014) Nepalese health workers’ migration to United Kingdom: A qualitative study. Health Science Journal 8(1):57-74.
  20. Adhikary P, Keen S and van Teijlingen E (2011). Health Issues among Nepalese migrant workers in the Middle East. Health Science Journal.5 (3):169-i75 DOI: 2-s2.0-79960420128.
  21. Adhikary, P., Simkhada, P.P., van Teijlingen E., Raja, AE. (2008) Health & Lifestyle of Nepalese Migrants in the UK, BMC International Health & Human Rights 8(6). Web address: www.biomedcentral.com/1472-698X/8/6

Join us at our first Lunchtime Seminar this October.

 

Join us at our first Lunchtime Seminar this October. Email jonesc@bournemouth.ac.uk for the online link.

Octobers Seminar – 12:00-13:00 on 27th October

Mark Berry will be presenting our first lunchtime seminar on ‘The ethics and challenges of semi-covert research with active drug dealers’

Ethnographic research with offenders has become increasingly difficult to carry out in the UK and internationally. Requirements of institutional review boards (IRB) are stringent. Research that involves fieldwork in high-risk settings is often turned down, which in effect silences the voices of vulnerable and marginalised populations within them. Furthermore, witnessing and recording crimes that are not known to the police is risky and could put the researcher in a position where they are legally obligated to give up the information. Ethnography with criminals may also require elements of covert observation in order to be successful and protect the safety of both the researcher and the researched. Covert research is especially difficult to get approved and is frowned upon for being deceptive. It can, however, benefit participants by illuminating hidden injustices, whilst leading to proposals for progressive policy change. This talk draws upon data from a 5-year semi-covert ethnography of the illicit drug trade in a city in England. It outlines the ethical and methodological challenges of conducting ethnographic research on hard-to-reach criminal groups.