Tagged / blended learning

HE Policy Update w/e 8th November 2022

Parliamentary News

It’s a little unsettling that informing you of the cabinet and leadership changes is becoming a regular feature. After our last update there were more changes.  So here we go again…!

Our new education ministerial team, supporting PM Rishi Sunak, are:

  • Gillian Keegan – SoS for Education
  • Nick Gibb – Minister of State for Schools (DfE)
  • Robert Halfon – Minister of State Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education – (DfE)
  • Claire Coutinho – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State – Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing (DfE)
  • And Baroness Barran survives yet another reshuffle and has an interesting role – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System and Student Finance. The Student Finance part is an addition, and it is interesting that this is not in the Halfon role.
  • Baroness Barran will also continue as the Lords spokesperson for Education.

So we knew Kit Malthouse was out but also goodbye to Kelly Tolhurst, Andrea Jenkyns and Jonathan Gullis.

Robert Halfon’s brief: Minister of State (Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education)

  • overall strategy for post-16 technical education
  • T Levels and transition programme
  • qualifications reviews (levels 3 and below)
  • higher technical education (levels 4 and 5)
  • apprenticeships and traineeships
  • further education workforce and funding
  • Institutes of Technology
  • local skills improvement plans and Local Skills Improvement Fund
  • adult education, including basic skills, the National Skills Fund and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund
  • careers education, information and guidance including the Careers and Enterprise Company
  • technical education in specialist schools
  • relationship with the Office for Students
  • higher education quality and reform
  • Lifelong Loan Entitlement
  • student experience and widening participation in higher education
  • funding for education and training, provision and outcomes for 16- to 19-year-olds
  • college governance and accountability
  • intervention and financial oversight of further education colleges
  • reducing the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training
  • international education strategy and the Turing Scheme

Halfon is well known for his leadership of the Education select committee and was previously the skills minister (2016/17) until he stepped down. He is also scheduled to provide evidence to the Lords Science and Technology Committee next Tuesday for the People and skills in UK STEM inquiry.  Halfon’s promotion also means the Education select committee chair is now vacant. We’ll keep an eye out for news on who will fill this powerful and high profile committee position. Nominations close on 15th November.

Their SpAds (special advisers):

  • Lawrence Abel has been appointed as Special Adviser to the DfE team. He previously served as senior policy and communications adviser to Gillian Keegan whilst she was at the FCDO and as DfE Minister. Previous to this Abel was Keegan’s Parliamentary Assistant.
  • Currently ex-No 10 policy adviser Rory Gribbell remains in post as a DfE SpAd (appointed two months ago under Kit Malthouse).
  • It’s speculated that Abel will hold the media and comms SpAD brief while Gribbell will focus on policy.

Science Minister: George Freeman is back as Minister of State for Science, Technology and Innovation (he held this role under Boris Johnson). Currently Nusrat Ghani also remains as Minister of State for Science and Investment Security. However, Politico suggest only Freeman will retain the science brief once the dust settles:

Both George Freeman and Ghani tweeted that they had been appointed science minister last week — but after some confusion, the PM and the BEIS boss Grant Shapps confirmed the job was Freeman’s. The two issues are said to have left Ghani, who had been appointed science minister under Truss, feeling bruised. Since she had moved in some weeks ago during the previous administration, a compromise was to let her keep the science minister office rather than move all her things. The knock on effect … is that a load of civil servants have to swap offices instead. 

What does it all mean for Education?

There’s an interesting article in The Times about the Education team: Education could be Rishi Sunak’s big revolution, snippets below. Education is a crucial topic at every election so Rishi would be wise to use education to settle the recent turbulent political waters and demonstrate both progress and gain voter’s hearts. Snippets:

  • Gillian Keegan, the new secretary of state — ridiculously, the fifth this year — is a rarity in the Sunak cabinet: she hasn’t sat around that table before. Her appointment suggests a desire to do something different with the department. She left school at 16, became an apprentice at a car plant and went on to have an extremely successful business career in the technology sector. She is the first degree-level apprentice to enter parliament. In the struggle for parity of esteem between academic and technical education, having a secretary of state who went down this route is significant
  • Alongside her are Nick Gibb, returning as schools minister for a third time, and Robert Halfon, the former chairman of the education select committee and a champion of technical education. The other junior minister is Claire Coutinho, who was Sunak’s adviser before becoming an MP. She shares his view that all children should do maths until the age of 18 and is a champion of the £500 million numeracy programme he introduced as chancellor to address the fact that one in five adults lack the numeracy skills expected of a nine-year-old.
  • It is a rare team in that every minister has deeply held views on their assigned subject. The mix of characters — Gibb an advocate of a traditional academic education and Halfon of vocational education — has led some to wonder if the focus will be on skills or knowledge. But this may miss the point. Sunak’s view is that education goes way beyond your school years and that the country must do more to adjust to that new reality.
  • Sunak… regarded UK universities as world class, producing a sizeable number of graduates. The great British problem, he thought, was believing education is something that ends when you enter the workforce.
  • The closest Sunak has come to a personal manifesto is his Mais Lecture back in February, when he focused on adult skills… To improve the skills of the 2030 workforce means training today’s workers now… Any attempt to boost skills by focusing solely on trainees, Sunak argued, will have a limited impact.  He has long bemoaned the fact that British employers spend barely half the European average on training their workers. Only one in five British workers aged 25 to 64 has a technical qualification, a third lower than the OECD average. As chancellor, Sunak used to talk about using the tax system to turn this around. The lecture was overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which occurred on the same day, but this may well prove a significant focus of his premiership.
  • As well as a renewed push on apprenticeships, Sunak wants his education ministers to extend their reach into the workforce. The need for more highly skilled workers is all the greater given that technology is expected to play a far greater role in the economy.
  • The need for in-work training doesn’t carry the same resonance as the familiar arguments over academic selection, the school curriculum and the balance between knowledge and skills. But getting skills right could have a more immediate impact on growth and productivity…

ICYMI: other key ministers:

  • Grant Shapps – Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (was
    Jacob Rees-Mogg)
  • Steve Barclay – Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (was Therese Coffey)
  • Michael Gove – Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations) (was Simon Clarke)
  • Kemi Badenoch – Secretary of State for International Trade; President of the Board of Trade; Minister for Women and Equalities (retained post during leadership change)
  • Therese Coffey – Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (was Ranil Jayawardena)
  • Michelle Donelan – Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (retained post during leadership change)
  • And he’s back as a Minster of State (Minister without Portfolio) including attending Cabinet: Gavin Williamson (although at the time of writing there are questions about how long he will stay in post).

How many did you get on your Cabinet bingo card this time?

Cabinet Committees: National Science and Technology Council

The latest list of Cabinet Committees is here. Notable is that it now includes the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), again. Slightly confusing – this is not the same body as the existing Council for Science and Technology. The cabinet committee NSTC was one of Boris’ innovations (or perhaps that of his adviser of the time Dominic Cummings) to achieve their Britain as a ‘science superpower’ ambition alongside the new Office for Science and Technology Strategy which was headed up by Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. The NSTC was disbanded by Truss during the reduction in the volume of cabinet-level bodies. You’ll recall us highlighting the backlash at this decision from the science sector in a recent policy update. With the Lords Science and Technology Committee requesting the committee be reconvened and a science minister (attending Cabinet) to be appointed. The Truss administration acquiesced  announcing the establishment of a “new” National Science and Technology Council – the “new” part being that it would be chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not the PM as previously, with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster serving as deputy.

However, the reconvened NSTC will return to previous arrangements with the following attendees:

  • Prime Minister (Chair): Rishi Sunak
  • Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor, and Secretary of State for Justice: Dominic Raab
  • Chancellor of the Exchequer: Jeremy Hunt
  • Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs: James Cleverley
  • Secretary of State for the Home Department: Suella Braverman
  • Secretary of State for Defence: Ben Wallace
  • Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Deputy Chair): Oliver Dowden
  • Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Grant Shapps
  • Secretary of State for International Trade, and President of the Board of Trade, and Minister for Women and Equalities: Kemi Badenoch
  • Secretary of State for Education: Gillian Keegan
  • Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Michelle Donelan
  • Minister for Science, Research and Innovation: George Freeman

International Students

International students haven’t been far from the news since then Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, made unwelcoming comments about international students at the Conservative Party conference. She suggested that some students were bringing large numbers of dependents with them insinuating this was a backdoor route to increased immigration. Of course, only doctoral students are permitted to bring family members with them. However, the media has been abuzz and the HE policy organisations have regularly espoused the benefits of international students for education and economy alike.

Since Rishi announced his new ministerial education line up there has been a calmer Government rhetoric in relation to international students. Most notably Robert Halfon has been responding to parliamentary questions making it clear that international students are valued. This doesn’t mean the tough immigration stance has disappeared, particularly among some sections of the party. However, for now, Government spin has been gentler.

Meanwhile Chris Skidmore (former Universities minister and co-chair of the University APPG) will launch a new International HE Commission next Monday (14 November). The full details are available through the tabs on the link however the Commission intend to seek to develop a new ‘International Education Strategy 2.0’ to be submitted to the Department of Education as a sector-wide plan for the future. You may recall that Chris launched the first UK International Education Strategy when he was the Minister in 2019.

We have a lot of information but not the full detail. For example the commissioners are expected to be announced late November. We have a timeline for development of the new strategy but, of course, we don’t know what the strategy will say. The Commission will begin running evidence sessions in mid-December and intend to publish their full report in late Spring 2023. This would coincide with the annual update for the Government’s strategy.

Below follow the Commission’s focus questions. There’s certainly some key content the sector will want to follow (and perhaps influence) during the course of the Commission’s work.

The Commission will seek to address multiple opportunities and challenges that international education and future student pathways including:

  • What should a future student number target be set at, given the broader policy and economic objectives of the UK?
  • What are the future target countries that the U.K. should be working with in order to establish or expand future international student pathways? How do these link to international research collaboration and knowledge transfer?
  • How can we ensure that universities do not become over dependent on specific countries for recruitment? What does a sustainable recruitment strategy look like?
  • How should local regions develop tailored local international education strategies and plans to reflect local strengths and priorities?
  • What should a future visa offering for international students look like?
  • How can the U.K. continue to be competitive in its international offer to students, recognising that other countries such as Canada, Australia and the US will also seek to attract students?
  • How can we ensure international students are fully integrated on campus by taking an inclusive approach to international education? How do we ensure that the benefits for domestic students are realised?
  • How can we prioritise student welfare and success so that international students have the best possible experience of life in the U.K.?
  • How can we ensure student numbers are matched with the necessary accommodation and support services?

THE have coverage of the Commission: Keeping up – The UK needs a new international education strategy to provide a “clear vision” for the sector, according to former universities minister Chris Skidmore.

Parliamentary Questions on international students: Discussions with the Home Secretary on the number of international students at UK universities.

Answered (excerpt) By Robert Halfon: The department remains committed to and continues to work towards the ambition in the International Education Strategy, published in 2019 and updated in 2021 and 2022, to host at least 600,000 international students in the UK per year, by 2030… Attracting the brightest students from around the world is good for our universities, delivering growth at home as well as supporting the creation of more university places for UK students. This remains a priority for the department.

Research

Select Committee session: Doctoral students and graduates – opportunities and challenges: The Lords Science and Technology Committee ran sessions focusing on people and skills in UK science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This included a focus on PhD students and graduates, particularly their main opportunities and challenges.

Main challenges: Professor Julia Buckingham CBE: the biggest problem was the insecurity posed by fixed term contracts, she stated she believed that all other problems stemmed from that. That fixed term contracts were not good for individuals or for their research, which required longer periods of time.

Claudia Sarrico answered that the number of doctoral students had been increasing a lot and in many countries they simply cannot stay in academia. Still, there was evidence in many countries that PhD were not as attractive as they used to be for the most talented students.

Precariousness: Viscount Hanworth (Lab) asked what were the main factors that led to a precariousness of PhD in the UK.

Sarrico: The danger was that, the more PhD’s were becoming popular and common, the less they were attractive to the most talented students. There was evidence in France and Japan that the best students were completing Masters but not proceeding to PhDs. Finally, Sarrico said that the quality was also decreasing in PhD’s which was a natural consequence of the fact that it was not the best students that were studying for this degree.

Government’s strategy: Baroness Manningham-Buller (CB) asked if the witnesses were familiar with the Government’s R&D talent strategy.

Buckingham confirmed familiar and replied that in the sector there was a strong feeling that research culture had to be improved. She thought there was a ministerial group looking at the recommendations regarding how the strategy could be implemented.

Sarrico added that it was not about offering long-term contracts to everybody but rather about improving working conditions for everybody and about offering more transparent and clear career prospects.

Making research attractive: Lord Holmes (Con) asked what the Government should do to ensure that the widest group was attracted to undertake and engage in research.

Buckingham replied that there was need for more cross-fertilisation between industry and the private sector and academia. There were already examples of how things had improved in recent years but it was critical to work more on this.

Sarrico agreed and added that socio-economic background also influenced this issue. She also mentioned that there were challenges regarding transparency in recruitment when it came to parts of the private sector

Careers outside academia: Lord Winston (Lab) asked if current graduates were ready for highly skilled careers outside academia. Buckingham: No, she did not think that enough was being done to try prepare students for a career outside academia.

Sarrico said that many countries were doing industrial PhD’s or internships in the public sector in order to encourage PhD students to join careers outside academia. The key was to try to provide a wide range of experiences doctoral and post-doctoral training so that people experience different possibilities.

New research commercialisation unit

The Government launched the “first of its kind” government unit for commercialising research –  the Government Office for Technology Transfer (GOTT). The intention is for the new unit to support the way the government manages and commercialises the (estimated) £106 billion of ‘knowledge assets’ including intellectual property, software and data. GOTT will be led by Dr Alison Campbell (BEIS) who has a cross-government mandate to supercharge the identification, development and exploitation of public sector knowledge assets and to encourage the public sector to be more innovative and entrepreneurial in how it manages its own assets.

Knowledge assets include know-how, data, brands, business processes, expert resources and technology. Technology transfer is about sharing these assets with other organisations to stimulate innovation and the development of new products, processes and services and the creation of new commercial ventures. You can read more here.

Quick News

  • Free-conomicsConservative former science minister George Freeman has warned that cuts to UK research spending, including for association to the EU’s Horizon Europe, will remain a risk if the government “ploughs on with unfunded tax cuts”, despite securing Treasury commitment not to cut the science budget. (THE)
  • The Russell Group calls on Government to prioritise science and innovation-led growth ahead of medium-term fiscal plan.
  • The Higher Education Policy Institute has published a report on research leadership

Parliamentary Questions:

NSS

The OfS have announced the results of the latest consultation on the NSS including plans for changes to the questionnaire for 2023.  The analysis of responses to the consultation is here.. The guidance and the final questionnaire are here.

To reduce the work expected of providers, it has been agreed to continue with the principle that providers in England are not required to promote the 2023 survey to their students

The timetable for NSS 2023 is:

  • All participating providers are asked to review, and where necessary update, their relevant NSS provider contact details by 28 November 2022
  • All participating providers should also submit their completed ‘My survey options’ form by 28 November 2022 through the NSS extranet. This form asks for providers’ preferences for their survey start week and optional questions, and details of any prize draws
  • All providers should populate their NSS 2023 sample templates with the requested contact details for all students on their target list; this is a list of all students eligible for NSS 2023, based on the 2021-22 student data. Details should be supplied by 28 November 2022 via the ‘Upload sample data’ section of the NSS extranet. Any proposed additions to or removals from the target list should follow the process set out by Ipsos, starting in mid-December
  • The NSS will launch on 11 January 2023
  • Fieldwork will take place between 11 January and 30 April 2023 and will be run by Ipsos
  • OfS and UK funding bodies will issue a publication in spring 2023 detailing the plans for NSS 2023 results publication
  • Results will be published on the OfS website in summer 2023
  • Detailed results will be supplied to individual providers through the NSS results portal provided by Texuna Technologies.
  • NSS results at course level will be published on the Discover Uni website

There is a Wonkhe article here which expresses some frustration about the power of the consultation.  We share this view except we cannot understand why 90% of respondents wanted to keep question 27.  Not having it means everyone will have to focus on the detail, which is where the NSS adds value.

  • For example – around ninety per cent of respondents were against the removal of the summative question (current Q27) in England. The justification for removing it is simply that OfS do not use the question within current regulatory approaches. And that’s it. If you want to compare across nations, you’ll need to use some kind of agglomeration of the other questions.
  • A majority of respondents did not see the value in the freedom of expression question – we get an “issue raised by stakeholders” justification without any indication of who those stakeholders might be, or whether this question actually addressed the issues that stakeholders raised.
  • On this, one curiosity is that apparently some students saw freedom of expression as “essential to a sense of inclusion and belonging”. This issue didn’t come up in our recent research, but never mind. You’d think a specific question on inclusion and belonging may be of more use – but the current question 21 (“I feel part of a community of staff and students”) is being removed, with the justification that apparently some students didn’t understand it well enough and it wasn’t really about belonging and inclusion anyway.

Blended learning

Following the publication of revised conditions of relating to the quality of courses which came into force on 1 May 2022, the OfS announced a review of blended learning in higher education which was published in October.

It is worth a read, for the examples included:

Complying with condition B1: Condition B1 states that a high quality academic experience includes ensuring that B1.3.a each higher education course is up-to-date… B1.3.c each higher education course is coherent B1.3.d each higher education course is effectively delivered B1.3.e each higher education course, as appropriate to the subject matter of the course, requires students to develop relevant skills.

We would be likely to have compliance concerns in relation to condition B1, if a provider’s blended learning approach:

  • Uses lecture recordings that are no longer up-to-date when re-used, or are not appropriately informed by subject matter developments, research, industrial and professional developments, or developments in teaching and learning.
  • Does not facilitate feedback for students that is appropriate to the content of their course, such as where dialogue and immediate feedback is required for course content to be effectively delivered.
  • Does not foster collaborative learning among students registered on a course, which may indicate the course is not being effectively delivered.
  • Does not consider changing expectations for students’ digital skills in related disciplines or industries, if this means that a course is no longer up-to-date, or that a course does not require students to develop relevant skills, in a manner appropriate to the subject matter and level of the course.
  • Does not require students to develop practical skills in a manner appropriate to the subject matter and level of the course.
  • Is driven by an arbitrary fixed blend ratio for a course, rather than using the most appropriate delivery method for the subject material. If decisions about the delivery method (for example: online or in-person) are not being made for sound pedagogical reasons, this may indicate that the course is not being effectively delivered.
  • Is driven by limitations in the supply of physical learning resources, including physical locations, which may indicate that a course is not coherent or effectively delivered, as decisions are not being made for sound pedagogical reasons.
  • Is delivered in a way that results in low attendance and engagement that may mean there is an inappropriate balance between delivery methods or between directed and independent work that indicate that the course is not effectively delivered.
  • Is confusing or difficult to manage for students due to insufficient coordination across modules on a course, meaning there is not an appropriate balance between delivery methods, leading to a course not being effectively delivered. j. Contains a volume of recorded online lectures and other digital learning resources that is too high for students to engage with effectively and adversely affects their ability to participate fully in their course. This may indicate that a course is not being effectively delivered.
  • Is not communicated effectively to current or prospective students in terms of the pattern of blended delivery, which may suggest that a course is not coherent or being effectively delivered.

Complying with condition B2: Condition B2 states that providers must take all reasonable steps to ensure: each cohort of students registered on each higher education course receives resources and support which are sufficient for the purpose of ensuring: i. a high quality academic experience for those students; and ii. those students succeed in and beyond higher education;

We would be likely to have compliance concerns relating to a provider’s blended learning approach in relation to condition B2, if a cohort of students:

  • Does not receive adequate access to appropriate physical spaces for students that allow them to access and engage with digital learning. This would be particularly likely if there is evidence that students are not receiving access to physical resources because of pressures on the supply of those resources which the provider could have mitigated.
  • Does not receive adequate access to sufficient hardware, specialist software and IT infrastructure, as appropriate, to access digital content.
  • Does not receive sufficient support to develop the skills students need for effective digital learning and a high quality academic experience.
  • Does not receive, where relevant, well-produced online lectures, instead, for example receiving poorly recorded audio or video which leads to students missing course content or administrative information relating to their course.
  • Receives re-used lecture recordings that contain incorrect and confusing administrative information.
  • Is not provided with appropriately qualified teaching staff, with sufficient digital skills to effectively deliver their course.
  • Does not receive timely and high quality feedback that supports students to engage with their course and understand subject content, as appropriate to the course.
  • Does not receive appropriate support to develop skills to engage with in-person teaching and learning, informed by consideration of the cohort’s academic needs.
  • Does not receive appropriate support to manage their timetables and overcome the challenges of combining online and in-person delivery and the need to balance on-campus and independent work. This may include a failure to support students to develop skills in knowing how long to spend on tasks or how to prioritise work.
  • Does not receive sufficient resources and support that are appropriate to students’ academic needs, (including those which may be linked to students’ protected characteristics), in order to ensure a high quality academic experience.

Students

Growing problemMore than four-fifths of UK students have been affected by mental health difficulties, a survey suggests. (THE)

Student Loans

The DfE confirmed that the current interest rate for pre-2012 income contingent (ICR) student loans will increase to 3.25% (due to changes in the Bank Base Rate). The increase took place at the end of October.

Welsh graduates will remain on their current scheme for a further year. Welsh Education Minister Jeremy Miles said: “It is hugely frustrating that we were given little warning of these significant changes before they were announced”, and that the Treasury “took an extremely long time to communicate the budgetary position.” New borrowers will be subject to the existing terms and conditions. This means Wales will continue to use the £27,295 repayment threshold, not the £25,000 Plan 5 threshold.  Graduates in Wales will repay loans under the 30-year repayment period, not Plan 5’s 40 year repayment period.

Cost of Living Crisis

The Campaign for Learning published a new policy paper examining the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on all aspects of post-16 education. It makes 30 recommendations. Here are the points most relevant to the HE sector:

Maintenance Loans for Full-Time Level 4-6 Students Increased by at Least Earnings Growth in September from 1st January 2023

  • The increase in maintenance loan rates for AY2022/23 by 2% is in effect a real terms cut when inflation is running at 10%. Whilst it is true that maintenance support is not a form of benefit and, as consequence, not linked to the September inflation rate as measured by the CPI, there is a case for uprating maintenance loans above 2% bearing in mind the cost-of-living crisis faced by full-time students.
  • In this context, the Government should increase payments of maintenance loans from 1st January 2023 in line with earnings growth as of September 2022. If earnings growth is 5.5% in September 2022, an extra 3% should be added to maintenance loans given the existing 2% uplift.

Close the Maintenance Gap between Full-Time Higher Education Living at Home and Living Away from Home

  • There is a significant gap in the value of maintenance loans if a full-time student lives with their parents, compared to one who lives away from home.
  • Assuming parental income of £25,000 and study is outside of London, the amount received living at home could be £1,600 less than living away from home. Parents facing a cost-of-living crisis could find supporting a full-time student living at home difficult. Hence, DfE should consider increasing maintenance loan rates to students living at home.

Uprate Part-Time Maintenance Loans for Level 6 Degrees by at Least Earnings Growth in September from 1st January 2023

  • Maintenance loans are currently available to support achievement of a first Level 6 through part-time study. The value of maintenance loans should increase by the growth in earnings recorded in September, with higher payments introduced from 1st January 2022.

Uprate Part-Time Maintenance Loans for Part-Time Level 4-5 Higher Technical Qualifications from 1st January 2023: Maintenance loans are not currently available to support achievement of a first Level 4 and Level 5 through part-time Higher Technical Qualifications. They are not due to be introduced until AY2023/24. DfE should make available part-time maintenance loans to achieve a first Level 4 and 5 through part-time HTQs from 1st January 2023.

Bursaries for Level 4-6 Short Courses from 1st January 2023: DfE is currently piloting short courses in higher education, lasting between four weeks and twelve months. Course costs are funded through fee-loans. To boost take-up and assist students with the cost-of-living crisis, DfE should make available means-tested living cost bursaries from 1st January 2023

DfE Should Introduce Part-Time Maintenance Loans for Adults Seeking a First Full Level 3 Through Access to HE courses

  • Access to HE courses (Level 3) in the FE system and Foundation Years (Level 4) in the HE system are two different non-traditional routes into higher education.
  • 19-23 year-olds seeking a first full Level 3 via an Access to HE courses pay no fees, whilst those seeking a second Level 3 via Access to HE courses have the option to take out a fee-loan. Adults aged 24 and over have the option to take out a fee-loan for their Access to HE course, if it is their first or subsequent Level 4. Meanwhile, Foundation Year students have access to fee-loans to cover course costs. The cost of an Access to HE course is c£3,250 compared to £9,250 for most Foundation Year courses. Despite no fees or lower fee-loans, demand for Foundation Year courses has risen whilst Access to HE courses has fallen.
  • Part of the explanation is due to the accessibility and level of maintenance support. Students on Access to HE courses can apply for means-tested bursary grants, but there is no entitlement to full-time or part-time maintenance loans. By contrast, Foundation Year students are entitled to maintenance loans and since most study full-time, have access to full-time maintenance loans.
  • The cost-of-living crisis could see further falls in the demand for Access to HE courses as uncertain and insufficient levels of maintenance support are currently available.
  • Where adults are seeking a first full Level 3 through an Access to HE course and are studying part-time, DfE should make available access to part-time maintenance loans on the same basis as part-time maintenance loans for Level 6 first degrees and part-time Level 4-5 Higher Technical Qualifications from AY2023/24.

Abolish Employee National Insurance Contributions for Apprentices Under 25: Employers do not pay national insurance contributions on the earnings of apprentices aged under 25 up to £50,270. The Treasury should boost the real earnings of apprentices by abolishing employee national insurance contributions of 12% between £12,570 and £50,270. This would mean under 25 year-olds on a Level 2 apprenticeship earning an average of £8.23 per hour and working an average of 37 hours per week, and earning £15,834,52 per year would save £392 per year in NI contributions.

Provide Publicly Funded Post-16 Providers with Greater Certainty over Energy Bills Until the End of AY2022/23: The EBSS is scheduled to last until March 2022 although the 2022/23 academic year lasts until August 2023. The Government should signal as soon as possible when energy support will be available to publicly funded post-16 education and training providers for both the spring and summer terms. An extension will enable post-16 providers to open longer and become warm spaces for students and trainees.

Post-16 Providers Should Assess Their Financial Stability in a New Era of Higher Interest Rates: Higher interest rates are here to stay. Post-16 education and skills providers should assess the impact of higher interest rates on interest-bearing assets and interest-bearing liabilities on their short and medium financial positions.

DfE Should Set Realistic Post-16 Participation and Outcomes Measures

  • DfE should be realistic about participation in all forms of post-16 education and training and associated outcomes measures in the context of the cost-of-living crisis.
  • Lower participation by young people and adults, lower demand by employers and higher drop-out and non-completion rates are likely as individuals, households and employer put earnings and income before learning.

The Treasury Should Not Clawback Underspends in Post-16 Provision Budgets

  • Even where the cost-of-learning is to individuals and employers or fee-loans for adults prevent the need for up-front cash contributions, demand for education and training might fall leading to underspends on post-16 budgets.
  • The Treasury should recognise the role of the cost-of-living crisis on causing underspends and should not claw these back as part of efficiency savings – but instead, carry them over to support demand later on.

Progression to HE: official statistics

The DfE published the latest progression to higher education or training figures covering key stage 4 (KS4) and 16 to 18 (KS5) students going into apprenticeship, education and employment destinations.

  • The proportion of students that progressed to a sustained level 4 or higher destination was 66.0%, very similar to the previous year (66.2%).
  • Of the 66% their destinations were as follows:
    • 5% were studying for a degree (a level 6 qualification)
    • 7% were participating in an apprenticeship at level 4 or higher
    • 8% were studying qualifications at level 4 or 5

Some other interesting stats:

  • Students from state-funded mainstream (SFM) schools are much more likely to progress to level 4 or higher education and training (74.6%) than students from SFM colleges (54.9%). Of course, this could be due in part to the different remit and intentions between school and college students as well as the
  • Students from selective schools continued to progress at a very high rate (88.5%).
  • The gap in progression between London and the South West widened slightly – London 77% progression, South West 59.5% (prior attainment and qualification type was controlled for in these statistics). Proximity to HEIs was suggested as an explanation. Also urban local authorities show higher rates of progression than those in rural and coastal areas.
  • Disadvantaged students (those eligible for pupil premium in year 11) were less likely to sustain a level 4 or higher destination (61.8%) than other students (67.0%).
  • Female students were more likely to progress to a level 4 or higher destination (69.0%) than male students (62.6%)
  • Male students were more than twice as likely to sustain an apprenticeship.

There is large variability in the rate of progression by ethnicity group:

  • Students from the Chinese major ethnicity group were the most likely to sustain a level 4 or higher destination (88.7%), more than 27 percentage points ahead of students from the White major ethnicity group, who had the lowest progression rate. Once prior attainment and qualification type were accounted for, students from the Black or Black British major ethnicity group achieved the highest progression scores (+19.1), followed by students from the “Any other ethnic group” (+14.7) and the Asian or Asian British major ethnicity group (+14.4).
  • Students from the White major ethnicity group were the only ones to average a negative progression score, however while they were more than 30 percentage points less likely than students from the Chinese group to sustain a degree destination, students from the White major ethnicity group were more likely than students from other groups (besides the very small Unclassified group) to have an apprenticeship or level 4/5 destination.

Parliamentary Questions

Other News

The Institute of Economic Affairs published a report on university funding.

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JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

VC’s Policy Advisor                                                              Policy & Public Affairs Officer

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

 

 

HE policy update for the w/e 18th March 2022

A wide ranging update for you this week!

Parliamentary News

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to deliver his spring statement. Wonkhe predict: tough times are coming for a sector that almost certainly won’t feature in any list of political priorities. For students, thanks to the way these things have been historically calculated, inflation-linked rises to student maintenance will literally come too little, too late – eating into the buffer that funds participation in student life beyond the bare minimum…For universities in England, the announced fee cap freeze, coupled with rising inflation and energy costs, is a serious problem – and there’s little prospect of funding rising in line with inflation in the devolved nations. As providers grow student numbers just to stand still, students and staff will find worsening pay and conditions, and that resources are spread more thinly.

Of course, Wonkhe also have a blog: If the numbers don’t add up, something has to give. With inflation rocketing, cuts are coming. Jim Dickinson reviews the protection for students when the money isn’t there for promises to be met.

Ukraine: HE & FE Minister Michelle Donelan has called upon the HE taskforce to address the issues arising from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill: The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill has entered ‘ping pong’ meaning it is at the final stages of its legislative journey. The Lords and Commons bat the Bill back and forth between the two houses as they thrash out the final amendments of details within the Bill. The next sessions will take place on 24 and 28 March so we will see the final form of the Bill shortly.

Research

R&D Allocations: The Government has confirmed the allocations of the 2022-25 £39.8bn research and development budget. Stated aims are to deliver the Innovation Strategy and increase total R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. Key points taken from the Government’s news story:

  • R&D spending set to increase by £5bn to £20bn per annum by 2024-2025 – a 33% increase in spending over the current parliament by 2024-2025.
  • A significant proportion of the budget has been allocated to UKRI (£25bn across the next 3 years, reaching over £8.8bn in 2024-2025). This includes an increase in funding for core Innovate UK programmes by 66% to £1.1bn in 2024-2025.
  • Full funding for EU programmes is included. £6.8bn allocated to support the UK’s association with Horizon Europe, Euratom Research & Training, and Fusion for Energy (if the UK is unable to associate to Horizon Europe, the funding allocated to Horizon association will go to UK government R&D programmes, including those to support new international partnerships).
  • BEIS programmes will receive over £11.5bn over the next 3 years, of which £475m is earmarked for the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), £49m is allocated to the Government Office for Science (GOS), and £628m will go toward the Nuclear Decommission Authority (NDA).

In the Levelling Up White Paper, the Government committed to increasing public R&D investment outside the greater South East by at least a third over the Spending Review period, and for these regions to receive at least 55% of BEIS domestic R&D budget by 2024-2025. Also the £100 investment in three new Innovation Accelerators (as we mentioned last week) through the pilots in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, and the Glasgow City-Region.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng stated: For too long, R&D spending in the UK has trailed behind our neighbours – and in this country, science and business have existed in separate spheres. I am adamant that this must change. Now is the moment to unleash British science, technology and innovation to rise to the challenges of the 21st century…My department’s £39.8 billion R&D budget – the largest ever R&D budget committed so far – will be deployed and specifically targeted to strengthen Britain’s comparative advantages, supporting the best ideas to become the best commercial innovations, and securing the UK’s position as a science superpower.

On Horizon Europe the Russell Group commented: We are…reassured by the confirmation that any funding required for association to Horizon Europe or an alternative will come from a separate ringfenced budget rather than the central allocation to UKRI and the national academies, which will help protect critical funding for the UK’s research base and provide researchers and academics with the long term stability they need.

UKRI Strategy: UKRI published their first five-year strategy. It outlines how UKRI will support the UK’s world class research and innovation system, fuel an innovation-led economy and society, and drive up prosperity across the UK. The strategy sets out how UKRI will invest in people, places and ideas and break down barriers between disciplines and sectors to tackle current and future challenges – all supporting the Government’s ambitions for the UK as a global leader in research and innovation. UKRI has proposed four principles for change:

  • Diversity– we will support the diverse people, places and ideas needed for a creative and dynamic system
  • Connectivity –we will build connectivity and break down silos across the system, nationally and globally
  • Resilience –we will increase the agility and responsiveness of the system
  • Engagement –we will help to embed research and innovation in our society and economy.

Aspiring to:

  • People and careers –making the UK the top destination for talented people and teams
  • Places –securing the UK’s position as a globally leading research and innovation nation with outstanding institutions, infrastructures, sectors, and clusters across the breadth of the UK
  • Ideas –advancing the frontiers of human knowledge and innovation by enabling the UK to seize opportunities from emerging research trends, multidisciplinary approaches and new concepts and markets
  • Innovation –delivering the government’s vision for the UK as an innovation nation, through concerted action of Innovate UK and wider UKRI
  • Impacts –focusing the UK’s world class science and innovation to target global and national challenges, create and exploit tomorrow’s technologies, and build the high-growth business sectors of the future
  • Underpinned by a strong organisation – making UKRI the most efficient, effective, and agile organisation it can be.

Delivery will be outlined through strategic delivery plans for each of UKRI’s constituent councils and published later this year.

UKRI Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said: Throughout the pandemic, we have seen the transformative power of the UK’s exceptional research and innovation system to navigate an uncertain and fast-changing world. As we emerge from the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to empower our economy and our society, putting research and innovation at their heart. UKRI’s strategy sets out our five-year vision for how we will catalyse this transformation, investing in people, places, and ideas and connecting them up to turn the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities for all.

Quick News:

  • Science and Technology Strategy: The Lords Science and Technology Committee ran a session on delivering a UK science and technology strategy. It focused on the role of the new Cabinet Office group, its purpose and its long-term goals, as well as science diplomacy, engagement and national strategies going forwards. The committee also heard of approaches to international science diplomacy. A summary of the main content in the session is available here. And Wonkhe provide an even shorter synopsis: The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee heard evidence on the introduction of a UK science and technology strategy, including from Andrew McCosh, director of the Office for Science and Technology Strategy. McCosh said that funding routes will not be changed for research academics where they are working well, but that the new office will support improvements. In response, Lord Krebs wondered why the government is creating further bureaucratic structures. McCosh also noted that the new National Science and Technology Council will provide a governmental steer in direction to UKRI, but it will remain UKRI’s responsibility to allocate research funding. You can watchthe full session on Parliament TV.
  • Diversity in STEM: The Commons Science and Technology Select Committee heard evidence for its inquiry into Diversity and Inclusion in STEM. Summary here. The session covered: funding and representation, Resume for Research, UKRI and representation, UKRI improvements, short term contracts, diversification, and the idea of a Universal Basic Research Income.
  • Horizon Europe funding guarantee – extended: The Government and UKRI also announced an extension to the financial safety net support provided to Horizon Europe applicants(originally launched in November 2021). It ensures that eligible successful UK applicants for grant awards will continue to be guaranteed funding for awards expected to be signed by the end of December 2022, while efforts continue to associate to Horizon Europe. The funding will be delivered by UKRI and details of the scope and terms of the extension to the guarantee will be made available on their website. You can read the Minister’s announcement letter here.  The Minister, George Freeman, commented: Since becoming Science Minister last year, my priority has been supporting the UK’s world-class researchers, which is why we have been so determined in our efforts to associate to Horizon Europe. Whilst it is disappointing that our association is still held up by the EU, our plans to develop ambitious alternative measures are well underway and I’m pleased Horizon Europe applicants in the UK will still be able to access funding through our guarantee, meaning that researchers will be well-supported whatever the outcome.

Blogs:

Parliamentary Questions:

Student experience and outcomes

The OfS have launched a review of blended learning in universities.  It doesn’t say how they will conduct the review – or which universities they will be reviewing.

  • While most students have now returned to in-person teaching, many universities continue to deliver some elements of their courses (for example, lectures for large groups of students) online. There are no guidelines in place which prevent or restrict any kind of in-person teaching.
  • The review will consider how some universities are delivering blended learning. A report in summer 2022 will set out where approaches represent high quality teaching and learning, as well as approaches that are likely to fall short of the OfS’s requirements.
  • Professor Susan Orr has been appointed lead reviewer. Professor Orr is currently Pro Vice Chancellor: Learning and Teaching at York St John University and is the incoming Pro Vice Chancellor: Education at De Montfort University. A panel of expert academic reviewers will be appointed to work with Professor Orr to examine the way different universities and colleges are delivering blended learning.
  • Commenting, Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said:
    • ‘With the end of government coronavirus restrictions, students are back on campus and able to enjoy in-person teaching. There are clear benefits to in-person learning and where students have been promised face-to-face teaching it should be provided. This return to relative normality is important, and comes after an enormously challenging two years for students and staff. It remains very important that universities and colleges are clear with their students and their applicants about how courses will be delivered. If universities decide that certain elements are to remain online, this should be made explicit. Whether online or face to face, the quality must be good, and feedback from students taken into account.
    • ‘Our review of blended learning will examine the approaches universities and colleges are taking. There are many ways for blended courses to be successfully delivered and it will be important to harness the lessons learned by the shift to online learning during the pandemic. We are, however, concerned to ensure that quality is maintained, and through this review we want to gain a deeper understanding of whether – and why – universities and colleges propose to keep certain elements online.
    • ‘A report following the review will describe the approaches being taken by universities and colleges and give examples where blended approaches are high quality, as well as those that may not meet our regulatory requirements, providing additional information for universities and colleges, as well as students and applicants.’

On Wonkhe, David Kernohan has a take:

Running it through – in order of unlikeliness – there are three things that Orr could conclude:

  • Blended learning is great, and the complaints are largely without foundation
  • Blended learning is in routine use at a marked detriment to the student experience in order to save universities money.
  • There is a mixed picture on blended learning – there is a lot of great practice but some provision lags behind, and a mixture of enhancement and enforcement needs to be deployed to drive up quality.

None of these endpoints benefit either the Office for Students or the government.

In that context, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has published the latest provider-level statistics of higher education students not continuing into the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

  • For full-time first degree entrants, we see higher rates among mature students than young students.
  • Non-continuation rates among young, and mature, full-time first degree students have observed a further decrease in the percentage of 2019/20 entrants not continuing in HE following the small decrease observed for 2018/19 entrants.
  • With regards to other undergraduate entrants, the non-continuation rate for young, full-time students in the UK has seen a general decrease over the last few years, while for mature entrants there have been fluctuations in the rate.
  • Non-continuation rates two years after entry for part-time first degree entrants are slightly higher among those aged 30 and under than for those aged over 30.
  • Between 2012/13 and 2018/19 the proportion of full-time first degree students expected to qualify with a degree from the HE provider at which they started in the UK was showing a slight decline. In 2019/20 the proportion expected to qualify has increased again.

The Student Loans Company (SLC) has published the latest statistics on early-in-year student withdrawal notifications provided by HE providers for the purpose of student finance from 2018/19 to 2021/22 (Feb 2022).

Research Professional cover the stories.

OfS consultations on regulatory graduate outcomes and the TEF

We wrote about these three very significant consultations in our update on 21st January, and they closed this week.  As you will recall, this includes the consultation about calculating metrics, which is linked to the consultation on new licence condition B3 (the one with the minimum levels of outcomes).

The UUK responses talk about proportionality.  On B3, they raise concerns about outcomes being seen as the only measure of quality, and about how the new rules will be applied, in selecting universities to look at more closely, and specifically by looking at context.  They ask in particular that universities should not face an intervention where they are within their benchmark and that value add, student voice and geographical context should be considered alongside the actual metrics.

Jim Dickinson points out, though:

  • It’s one of the many moments where you can’t quite work out whether UUK knows that the key decision has already been taken here or if it genuinely thinks it will change OfS’ mind – it certainly paints a picture of the sector being stuck on the left-hand side of the Kubler-Ross grief curve.
  • Either way, we can pretty much guarantee that in a couple of months an OfS response will tell the sector that it’s wrong in principle, and anyway hasn’t read the proposals – which to be fair when taken in their totality along with the rest of the B conditions, do measure quality both quantitatively (via outcomes) and qualitatively (through proposals the sector isn’t too keen on ether, with a kind of be careful what you wish for vibe).
  • … It’s the threat of monitoring – with the odd provider made an example of – that should be causing people to both work on improving outcomes where the red lights are, and having “contextual” action plans ready that show that work off if OfS phones you up in September.

There was a separate consultation on the TEF (and the metrics one is related to this too).

On the TEF, UUK disagree with the name of the fourth category “requires improvement”.  As we have said in many TEF consultation responses, they disagree with “gold, silver and bronze” too and would like to redefine them.  They don’t think subcontracted provision should be included and they strongly disagree with the proposed timeline, asking for a Spring submission.

International student experience

The OfS has published an insight brief on international students.  It acknowledges that information about international students is incomplete and announces a call for evidence to “identify effective practice in ensuring that international students can integrate and receive a fulfilling experience in the UK”.  Using the data that they do have, the brief talks about numbers and fees as a proportion of total income.

The brief talks about NSS feedback (international students are generally more positive than home students) and the issues faced by international students, particularly when travel was restricted in the pandemic.

The OfS are concerned, however, that they don’t have enough data about international students, and for that reason they have launched a call for evidence on international student experience.  They are looking for responses on initiatives linked to three themes.  They will filter the submissions to identify case studies to feature in a report.

The themes they have identified are:

  • work to prevent and address harassment and sexual misconduct
  • how responding to the coronavirus pandemic has shaped practice in supporting international students to adapt to and integrate with UK higher education
  • work to ensure the accessibility and effectiveness of wellbeing and support services (such as student services, mental health provision, etc.).

While responding on those themes, institutions can also consider the relationship of their evidence to the following:

  • advancing equality of opportunity for students with one or more protected characteristic
  • partnership with international students
  • intervention that may also benefit home (UK-domiciled) students.

Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities

In April last year Dr Tony Sewell published the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. The Commission’s findings were criticised and equalities campaigners accused the group of cherry-picking data and pushing propaganda, while the United Nations described it as attempt to normalise white supremacy. Dr Sewell, who lead the inquiry in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations, has recently had his honorary degree from the University of Nottingham withdrawn amidst the controversy. This week the Government published its response to the report and findings of the Commission through the policy paper: Inclusive Britain: government response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.

The Guardian report under the header: Denial of structural racism – Ministers will drop the term black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), more closely scrutinise police stop and search, and draft a model history curriculum to teach Britain’s “complex” past in response to the Sewell report on racial disparities. Launched as a response to the Black Lives Matter protests, the report caused controversy when it was published last year for broadly rejecting the idea of institutional racism in the UK. In the government’s response, called Inclusive Britain, ministers acknowledge racism exists but stress the importance of other factors. Taiwo Owatemi, Labour’s shadow equalities minister, said the report still “agrees with the original report’s denial of structural racism. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have once again failed to deliver meaningful action.” The report sets out a long list of policies, some new and others already in place.

Relevant key action points follow below. There is nothing new in the HE elements.

Educational success for all communities

  • Action 29: To drive up levels of attainment for under-performing ethnic groups, the Department for Education (DfE) will carry out a programme of analysis in early 2022 to understand pupil attainment and investigate whether there are any specific findings and implications for different ethnic groups to tackle disparities.
  • Action 30: The DfE and the Race Disparity Unit (RDU) will investigate the strategies used by the multi-academy trusts who are most successful at bridging achievement gaps for different ethnic groups and raising overall life chances. The lessons learnt will be published in 2022 and will help drive up standards for all pupils.
  • Action 31: The DfE will investigate the publication of additional data on the academic performance of ethnic groups alongside other critical factors relating to social mobility and progress at school level, in post-18 education and employment after education by the end of 2022.
  • Action 32: The schools white paper in spring 2022 will look at ways we can target interventions in areas and schools of entrenched underperformance.

Targeted funding: Action 34: To maximise the benefits of the pupil premium for disadvantaged pupils, DfE amended the pupil premium conditions of grant for the 2021-2022 academic year to require all schools to use their funding on evidence-based approaches. To the extent possible, DfE will investigate the scale of these benefits.

Higher education

  • Action 43: To empower pupils to make more informed choices about their studies, the DfE will ensure that Higher Education Institutions support disadvantaged students before they apply for university places.
  • Action 44: The DfE will work with UCAS and other sector groups to make available both advertised and actual entry requirements for courses, including historic entry grades so that disadvantaged students have the information they need to apply to university on a fair playing field.
  • Action 45: Higher education providers will help schools drive up standards so that disadvantaged students obtain better qualifications, have more options, and can choose an ambitious path that is right for them.
  • Action 46: Higher education providers will revise and resubmit their Access and Participation plans with a new focus on delivering real social mobility, ensuring students are able to make the right choices, accessing and succeeding on high quality courses, which are valued by employers and lead to good graduate employment.
  • Action 47: To improve careers guidance for all pupils in state-funded secondary education, the DfE will extend the current statutory duty on schools to secure independent careers guidance to pupils throughout their secondary education.
  • Action 52: The government is consulting on means to incentivise high quality provision and ensure all students enter pathways on which they can excel and achieve the best possible outcomes, including exploring the case for low-level minimum eligibility requirements to access higher education student finance and the possible case for proportionate student number controls.
  • Action 53: To help disadvantaged students to choose the right courses for them and to boost their employment prospects, the Social Mobility Commission will seek to improve the information available to students about the labour market value of qualifications and, where possible, the impact of those qualifications on social mobility.

Innovation: Action 56: To equip entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds with the skills they need to build successful businesses, BEIS is supporting HSBC to develop and launch its pilot for a competition-based, entrepreneur support programme in spring 2022. The programme, which will be run in partnership with UK universities, will equip entrepreneurs with the skills they need for years to come.

Apprenticeships: Action 48: To increase the numbers of young ethnic minorities in apprenticeships, the DfE is, since November 2021, working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and partner bodies and employers to engage directly with young people across the country to promote apprenticeships. This will use a range of mechanisms to attract more ethnic minority starts identified in the Commission’s report, such as events in schools with strong minority representation, relatable role models, employer testimonies, data on potential earnings and career progression. It will also explore the impact of factors that influence a young persons’ career choices.

Alternative provision (AP)

  • Action 37: The DfE will launch a £30 million, 3-year programme to set up new SAFE (Support, Attend, Fulfil and Exceed) taskforces led by mainstream schools to deliver evidence-based interventions for those most at risk of becoming involved in serious violent crime. These will run in 10 serious violence hotspots from early 2022 targeted at young people at risk of dropping out of school: reducing truancy, improving behaviour and reducing the risk of NEET (those not in education, employment or training).
  • Action 38: DfE will invest £15 million in a 2 year-programme to pilot the impact of co-locating full-time specialists in Alternative Provision in the top 22 serious violence hotspots.

Teaching an inclusive curriculum

  • Action 57: To help pupils understand the intertwined nature of British and global history, and their own place within it, the DfE will work with history curriculum experts, historians and school leaders to develop a Model History curriculum by 2024 that will stand as an exemplar for a knowledge-rich, coherent approach to the teaching of history. The Model History Curriculumwill support high-quality teaching and help teachers and schools to develop their own school curriculum fully using the flexibility and freedom of the history national curriculum and the breadth and depth of content it includes. The development of model, knowledge-rich curriculums continues the path of reform the government started in 2010.
  • Action 58: The DfE will actively seek out and signpost to schools suggested high-quality resources to support teaching all-year round on black history in readiness for Black History Month October 2022. This will help support schools to share the multiple, nuanced stories of the contributions made by different groups that have made this country the one it is today.

Further Education: Action 63: The DfE will encourage governing bodies to be more reflective of the school communities they serve and will recommend that schools collect and publish board diversity data at a local level. The DfE will also update the Further Education Governance Guide in spring 2022 to include how to remove barriers to representation, widen the pool of potential volunteers and promote inclusivity.

The Government did not accept the Commission’s Recommendation 18 to develop a digital solution to signpost and refer children and young people at risk of, or already experiencing criminal exploitation, to local organisations who can provide support.

Access & Participation

Wonkhe report on new research from Disabled Students UK: 41 per cent of disabled students believe that their course accessibility improved through the pandemic. However, 50 per cent of respondents report that their course both improved and worsened in different ways. The report recommendations include taking an anticipatory approach to issues, better equipping staff, reducing administration for disabled students, and cultivating compassionate approaches. The Independent has the story.

Academic quality

HEPI published a new policy note, written by the Chief Executive of the Quality Assurance Agency for HE exploring what quality means in UK HE today.

There’s a nice explanation of the quality continuum:

  • In many sectors, the notion of quality control is straightforward. Quality control tests a sample of the output against a specification. The required standard is set by identifying measures for outputs, and then testing everything else against those measures. In this way, it is easy to demonstrate how quality requirements are being fulfilled (typically within an acceptable tolerance).
  • No matter the sector, quality control is only part of the picture. To be really efficient, one needs to provide confidence in the cycle of production; to reassure that there are systems and processes in place to ensure that the output consistently meets, if not exceeds, the quality benchmarks that have been set. This is where quality assurance comes in. Quality assurance acts prospectively to provide confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled. Assurance relates to how a process is performed or a product is made. Control is the retrospective, post-production inspection aspect of quality – it focuses on the product or output itself. Arguably, without the underpinning processes, outcomes cannot be guaranteed – they are achieved (or not) by luck. In our sector, assurance gives us the confidence that a provider understands (and self-reviews) how it is producing its outcomes.
  • But in higher education, we are not simply producing identical products for customers. QAA’s definition of academic quality refers to both how and how well higher education providers support students to succeed through learning, teaching and assessment. This is because higher education is not a product, as classically defined. It is an intrinsically co-creative, experiential process. Students and teachers collaborate to progress and reach their potential and, ideally, the learning from that collaboration is mutual as we constantly rethink what we thought we knew. That is why there is an additional dimension to higher education quality. It is not just about checking we are still doing the same thing effectively, it is also about quality enhancement – that drive continuously to improve the processes, both incrementally and transformationally. 

PQs

  • Student Loans: the modelled overall reduction in future costs to taxpayers from student loans…are wholly attributable to the two-year tuition fee freeze and changes to student loan repayment terms, as set out on page 13 of the higher education policy statement & reform consultation, and do not incorporate other elements of the reform package. The savings do include the changes to the Plan 2 repayment threshold for 2022/23 financial year, announced on 28 January 2022, prior to the announcement of the whole reform package.
  • Levelling Up White Paper: which NHS-university partnerships will receive the £30 million in additional funding; and what the criteria is for the allocation of that funding.

Other news

Young Welsh Priorities: The Welsh Youth Parliament chose its areas of focus for the Sixth Senedd.: mental health and wellbeing, climate and the environment, and education and the school curriculum.

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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