Tagged / General Election

HE policy update for the w/e 12th July 2019

We focus on the interesting set of reports released as people clear their desks before their summer holidays.

Learning gain

The OfS have published evaluations of the various learning gain projects that have been running for some time.  The OfS website is very clear “The report below is independent research which we have commissioned. As such, it does not necessarily reflect the views or official position of the OfS.”  You will recall that one reason for HEFCE setting up these projects was to see if a learning gain measure could be created for the TEF.  The answer would seem to be “no” although given the disclaimer, that might not stop them having a go.

On the final evaluation of 13 projects, the conclusions are:

  • Learning gain can be defined as the change in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development, as well as enhancement of specific practices and outcomes in defined disciplinary and institutional contexts.
  • embedding measures in curriculum design is the most effective approach for collecting data for measuring learning gain
  • Pilots of standardised tests carried out during the projects have not proven to be robust and effective measures of learning gain due to challenges of student engagement, differential scores across socio-demographic characteristics, subject differences and use of data.
  • Contextual factors such as subject-level differences, institution type and student characteristics differences impact the transferability of measures of learning gain. These differences should be considered when designing and selecting learning gain measures; when analysing and presenting findings. Mediating effects need to be considered.

The report on the National Mixed Methods project  has the following recommendations:

For policy-makers and providers      

  • A one-size-fits-all measure of learning gain (modelled on the NMMLGP questionnaire) should be abandoned as it holds minimal value for the majority of students and is not an influential construct in their present decision-making concerning either choice of institution or impact on the curriculum.
  • Students’ perceptions of learning gain need further exploration in order to move beyond what are acknowledged as impressionistic findings reported here, which are bound by proportionality constraints.
  • The sector needs to consider whose interests are best served by the measurement of learning gain. The evidence gathered here from participating providers and their students indicates that there is a dichotomous view of learning gain: either as a marker of institution positioning within a market-oriented system; or as a process of progression throughout the student journey. The two things are not necessarily synonymous.

For higher education providers

  • All learning gain work needs to be related to students’ own context and clearly embedded at local level within the subject or disciplinary area. Engagement is also highly dependent on whether any initiatives are promoted by trusted sources such as course tutors, rather than unfamiliar contacts.
  • Providers should consider developing a repertoire of approaches, as part of a learning gain toolkit, which can be accessed by students as part of a flexible and adaptable process underpinned by student choice rather than normative comparison. Providers are encouraged to also review the findings of the overall evaluation of the learning gain Pilot Projects for approaches which are most suited to their local contexts.

And finally the report on Higher Education Learning Gain Analysis (HELGA): says:

  • “HELGA set out to explore whether administrative data could be used to create a proxy measure for learning gain. The project has experimented with different techniques, considered different outcomes that could be a proxy for learning gain and different source of data that could be used. Ultimately, the project has developed two methods for measuring value-added in higher education for a subset of the undergraduate population.
  • The two measures have produced different results in their measure of value-added and there is no straightforward way of evaluating which is the most accurate.
  • It should be noted that the ‘value-added’ measured is the difference between the ‘expected’ degree outcomes for students at an institution based on prior attainment (and other student and course characteristics in the case of the multilevel model) and the actual degree outcomes. The measure does not explain what this difference might be caused by. As mentioned in Section 2.3, there is concern about the comparability of degree classifications across institutions. This raises a question of the suitability of this value-added measure for comparing institutions.
  • Neither methodology should be used further without additional sensitivity analyses and serious thought as to what is really being measured and whether it is fair to measure institutional performance in terms of value-added based on the restricted population used.
  • At the outset of HELGA, it was known that it would never be possible to create a single measure of learning gain, encompassing all of the different elements that are understood to make up learning gain. It has necessarily focused on cognitive gain only, although some thought was given to using NSS metadata to measure non-cognitive learning gain, but this was unsuccessful. However, this does not mean that this could not be useful for measuring value-added, but it should be made clear that it should not be adopted to produce a single measure of learning gain”

Grade Inflation

And that brings us nicely to the next item…the OfS have published their latest review of degree classifications:

  • The proportion of first-class honours degrees awarded has increased from 16 per cent to 29 per cent between 2010-11 and 2017-18.
  • The OfS has used statistical modelling to account for factors including entrance qualifications and student characteristics which may influence attainment. When accounting for these factors, they find that 13.9 percentage points’ worth of first class degree attainment remains “unexplained”.
  • In total, 94 per cent of the 148 universities and other higher education providers included in the analysis demonstrated a statistically significant unexplained increase in the proportion of first-class degrees awarded in 2017-18 compared to 2010-11.
  • The report updates data from a report issued in December 2018. Since that report, universities have collectively announced plans to act together to curb grade inflation via the work of the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment.
  • Commenting on the report, Susan Lapworth, director of competition and registration at the Office for Students, said:
    • ‘Worries about grade inflation threaten to devalue a university education in the eyes of employers and potential students. So it is essential we regain and maintain public confidence in the reliability of degree classifications.
    • ‘This data shows a further increase in both the rate of first-class degrees awarded, and the proportion of those awards. These increases cannot be fully explained by the factors we have taken into account in our analysis.
    • ‘The performance shown in the new data pre-dates our call for the sector to take action on grade inflation, so we would not expect to see the impact of such actions in today’s report.
    • ‘There are, though, positive signs that the higher education sector has begun to tackle this issue. We welcome the steps taken by the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment and the positive response from universities to a recent consultation on the steps universities should take to demonstrate that standards are secure. We recognise that change will take time, but it remains absolutely crucial that students, graduates and the general public can be assured that the value of a degree is maintained. That is why concerted, focused, and sector-wide action is so important.
    • ‘Following today’s publication, the OfS will be contacting those universities and providers with the most significant unexplained increases in degree classifications. We will ask them to provide further information to help us understand how they account for these increases. In seeking this additional information we recognise that there are factors that could explain the increases – for example improvements in learning and teaching – that we have not been able to measure in our analysis.
    • ‘Given the significant public scrutiny of degree standards we want to understand how universities have assured themselves that they have, and continue to, apply consistent standards. Doing so will help ensure that the degrees that students work so hard for continue to enjoy public confidence.’

The report and Excel versions of the data tables have been published.

The use of the word “unexplained” (again) is shocking given that it means “unexplained by prior attainment and social advantage”.  Inevitably this has been picked up in the media and by the Education Secretary.

BBC story here with a Damien Hinds comment:

  •  “Education Secretary Damian Hinds warned against “unfair practices”.  Mr Hinds said that if universities were giving many more top degrees without a legitimate reason, it was unfair on those who had studied to the same standard in previous years.  “We owe it to the hard-working students and institutions who play by the rules to stamp out this unfair practice,” said the education secretary. “Today’s figures are disappointing and risk compromising the public trust in the high standards of our universities,” he said.”

Wonkhe point out the escalation of threat level here: “Back in December, he said “I am urging universities to tackle this serious issue and have asked the Office for Students to deal firmly with any institution found to be unreasonably inflating grades” – so this feels like threat inflation to us.”

The OfS seem to be totally unaware of the damage that their choice of language may be doing.  In a blog, Susan Lapworth, the Director of competition and registration at the OFS, says about the plan to follow up with universities (emphasis added);

“To ensure that all universities, colleges and other registered providers are playing their part in maintaining the standard of degrees, we are likely to write to those providers that held degree awarding powers in 2010-11 and where the data show the most significant increases in the percentage of first class degrees awarded between 2010-11 and 2017-18. We’re focusing on providers with:

  • a statistically significant increase in the unexplained percentage of first class degrees awarded in a single year, or
  • a statistically significant overall increase in the unexplained percentage of first class degrees awarded between 2010-11 and 2017-18.

We will ask them to provide further information to help us understand how they account for these increases. We want to understand, for example, whether a provider has made recent changes to the way it calculates degree classifications, or whether it can point to other evidence – such as investment in staffing, teaching, services or facilities – that would credibly account for the ‘unexplained’ increase. We are also interested in the steps governing bodies have taken to ensure that academic governance arrangements are adequate and effective.

In seeking this additional information, we are not implying that the trends we can see in the published data indicate any form of wrongdoing from these providers – we are trying to understand better the reasons for performance that will be subject to public scrutiny and so are focusing our attention on those providers with the biggest unexplained increases. Given the significant public scrutiny of degree standards we want to understand how providers have assured themselves that they continue to apply consistent standards.

Doing so is essential to maintaining public confidence in degrees.”

General Election?

There has been little to say on Brexit recently because of the speculation and posturing of the Conservative leadership race. The news is all about what the two candidates might actually do (rather than what they say they will do as some promises may turn out to be completely unachievable if the EU or Parliament don’t play ball). The Conservatives, despite bitter Brexit infighting, are keen to retain power and remain in Government, avoiding an election at all costs. However, there has been increasing talk of how a general election may now be inevitable. There is a good article in Politics Home House magazine which explains the election scenarios.

Admissions

UCAS released their analysis of all full time undergraduate applications (made by end June 2019) noting a new record as almost 4 in 10 young people apply to university. Overall the number of young applications has increased by 1%, an additional 2,600 people, (despite the 1.9% fall in the young UK population). Across the UK figures are:

  • 39.5% of all 18 year olds in England submitted a UCAS application, up from 38.1% at the same point last year;
  • in Northern Ireland, 46.9% of 18 year olds applied (down 0.7 percentage points)
  • in Scotland, the 18 year old application rate is 32.7% (down 0.1 percentage point)
  • in Wales, the application rate was 32.9% (up 0.2 percentage points) – a joint record result equalling the peak in 2016

International

  • The volume of EU applicants rose by 1%, to 50,650.
  • There were a record number of applicants from outside the EU – 81,340 students applied to study in the UK, an increase of 8%.
  • China continued its rapid growth, with applicant numbers up 30% to 19,760 – this means that, for the first time, there are more applicants from China than Northern Ireland (18,520).

Disadvantage

For the first time, UCAS utilised the index of multiple deprivation measures to consider applications from disadvantaged communities.

  • In England, the number of young people applying from the most deprived areas has increased 6% to 38,770, while applications from the least deprived areas have fallen.
  • In Northern Ireland, all areas have seen a fall in applications, of between 2% and 7%.
  • In Scotland, young applicants from the most deprived areas have grown by 3%, while all other areas have seen falls.
  • In Wales, applicants from the most deprived areas remained at 1,390, with a mixed picture across different areas.

UCAS have also release a new interactive dashboard should you wish to interrogate the data further.

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said:

The global appeal of UK higher education has never been clearer, with record, demographic beating application rates in England and Wales, and the steep rise in international applications, especially from China.

Today’s analysis shows how attractive undergraduate study continues to be for young people, although university isn’t the only route on offer. Our survey insight shows that around a quarter of students are interested in apprenticeships as an alternative option.

Higher Technical Reform

The DfE has launched a consultation on Higher Technical qualifications and published a Written Ministerial Statement to accompany it. Key points within the statement:

  1. A vision for Higher Technical Education to be a prestigious choice that delivers the skills employers need, encourages more students to continue studying after A levels or T levels and attracts workers of all ages looking to upskill and retrain.
  2. The starting point for reform is to raise the prestige of Higher Technical Education and strengthen its value to employers by putting their needs and quality first. Improving quality now – to demonstrate the value of higher technical qualifications – will lead to increased uptake of Higher Technical Education in the future.
  3. To do this we a new system is proposed to make clear which higher technical qualifications provide the skills that employers want. This will be delivered through the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education signalling which qualifications deliver the knowledge, skills, and behaviours set out in employer-led national standards. This will help qualifications at this level command the confidence of students and employers alike.
  4. Alongside this the Government intent to work with the Office for Students to demonstrate the quality of providers, so there is more high-quality provision delivered across higher and further education, including through our flagship employer-led National Colleges and Institutes of Technology.
  5. The Government aims to make Higher Technical Education a positive and more popular choice by raising awareness and understanding of the new suite of Institute-approved qualifications in colleges and universities, and among potential students and employers.

This is very interesting in its own right, but also because of the direction of travel.

  • 29 We will create a clear set of signals that will enable employers and learners to easily identify the best qualifications with national labour market relevance. We want to incentivise providers to gravitate towards approved qualifications rather than those that have not met the Institute’s quality requirements. This will tilt the playing field towards qualifications which have been identified by panels of employers as delivering the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for an occupation.
  • 30 Qualifications approved by the Institute would be clearly identified through a single name or kitemark. ….
  • 31 Approved qualifications will therefore clearly stand out as being high-quality, labour market relevant, and having national currency. These benefits will enhance the offer and credibility of even those existing qualifications that have a relatively good level of employer awareness.
  • In addition, we know it will be very important to ensure that HTE is properly funded. Funding will also form an important incentive for Awarding Bodies to submit their qualifications for approval and discourage provision of rival qualifications that have not been approved by the Institute. The Post-18 Review panel has recommended that only approved HTQs should be entitled to the same tuition fee support and teaching grant, and equivalent maintenance support, as level 6 qualifications. We want to ensure there are clear incentives to deliver reformed qualifications in the future, and we will consider this as part of the ongoing Spending Review and the government’s response to the Post-18 Review.
  • We want to ensure that the very best providers are delivering our approved high-quality HTQs, whilst also considering how providers could specialise, or adjust their offer to address local skills needs. The Post-18 Review has recommended additional capital funding, for FE colleges, with a particular focus on growing specialist HTE provision in specific colleges. We will consider these recommendations, and develop our plans in more detail, as part of the Spending Review.
  • We want the reformed higher technical offer to be the best it can be. We therefore propose taking the requirement to register with the OfS a step further, and to develop with the OfS an additional set of ongoing registration conditions specifically for higher technical provision (technical conditions). Providers would be required to meet these technical conditions, in addition to the general ongoing registration conditions that are applicable to all providers, to be able to deliver the approved HTQs with access to relevant student finance for courses leading to those HTQs, and to be eligible for any additional public funding.
  • We expect this to be a rigorous process that would specifically assess and signal the quality of a provider’s higher technical education provision. Criteria for this would:
  • Specifically indicate high-quality higher technical provision by expanding on the key elements already assessed by OfS as part of the registration process, such as:
    • Suitably qualified and experienced teachers with current, relevant occupational and industry experience and expertise, as well as high quality pedagogical skills. Leaders have the capacity and ability to ensure provision is sustainable and retains a clear focus on quality
    • Strong links with employer networks, thus ensuring the knowledge, skills and behaviours being delivered are valued by, and relevant to, employers who are engaged and investing in training; and
    • Learning environments that provide access to facilities and equipment that are reflective of the workplace, including industry-relevant, up-to-date equipment.
  • Draw from the IoT assessment process, which uses a range of criteria including evidence of support for regional and national economic growth; employer engagement; relevance to occupational skills needs; and quality industry relevant teaching.
  • 67 The panel has also recommended that additional support and capital funding should be provided to grow capacity for, and ensure, high-quality technical provision, and that quality indicators could identify how best to allocate that funding. This could mean that only providers meeting the technical conditions would be eligible for any higher technical capital or grant funding for their HTE provision. For example, this could be to support providers to expand their provision, specialise or tailor their offer to meet local skills needs, or enhance teaching facilities and equipment. As stated above, we will be considering these funding proposals and wider reforms as part of the Spending Review.

International staff

This came up in Parliamentary questions this week.

Q – Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if he will make it his Department’s policy to exclude scientific research occupations from proposals in the immigration White Paper for a minimum salary threshold.

A – Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North):

  • On 24 June 2019, the Government asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to consider the operation of salary thresholds in the future immigration system, including the impact of exemptions from minimum salary thresholds. The MAC is due to report by January 2020.
  • We recognise the vital contribution that scientists make to the UK. In his spring statement, my Rt Hon Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, confirmed that PhD level occupations would be exempt from the Tier 2 cap. Additionally, researchers applying for settlement are exempt from the rule which states that, there should be no absence from the UK for 180 days if the absence from the UK is for the purpose carrying out research. A number of research roles also appear on the Shortage Occupation List which also exempts them from the settlement salary threshold
  • The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route is also available for internationally recognised leaders and promising future leaders, including in the science and research sector.

The Minister speaks (part 4) – on R&D investment

Universities Minister, Chris Skidmore, made his fourth (and final) speech in his series on R&D investment focusing on how to bring about major increases in private R&D investment.

The previous speeches covered:

  • Investing in people – ensuring that the best and brightest minds are working on the problems
  • Working collaboratives – across international borders to tackle the greatest challenges facing society
  • Enduring the funding and regulatory systems nurture new technologies and support risk taking

On private R&D investment he said:

  • If we are to deliver on our 2.4% commitment, we must be prepared to go much further and much faster. Overall investment in R&D will need to more than double in nominal terms, from current level of £35 billion per year to around £75 billion per year by 2027.
  • And at least two thirds of this investment will need to come from business. For many industries the need to invest in R&D is a pressing one – vital to competitive advantage. Businesses that thrive on the cutting edge are adept at making the most of basic research. They track down the brightest minds to seek answers to their most pressing problems. And they take the lead on experimental development and innovation, lifting new discoveries out of the lab and into people’s lives, driving economic and social prosperity.
  • That isn’t to say that the government won’t play its part. In fact, we are doing more than ever.

The Minister goes on to set out the additional funding, including a real terms QR funding uplift, and collaborative assistance that has led to successful business gains, such as Jaguar Land Rover committing to produce it’s electric cars in the UK (previously the company had been shedding staff and moving assets due to Brexit complexities).

  • Bold government policy has led to bold business decisions.
  • But to get to 2.4% we need to see significantly more than this. To ramp up from today’s levels to 2027, it is projected we’ll need to see an additional £12 billion each year from business.

To respond to this challenge the minister announced 7 focal areas:

  • Creating opportunity for the spark of creativity to arise through encouraging a vibrant and diverse research system with support for world-class, blue-skies research in universities and institutesintellectual capital ultimately comes from people. So we need to invest confidently into postgraduate study, looking at all levels of our education system to getting more people into exciting R&D careers. This also means working tirelessly to put innovation and creativity at the centre of our education and training system.
  • Turning new ideas into new businesses, products and processes – developing a culture of startups.
  • Creating a scale-up culture with early-stage ventures able to access the funding needed to scale up
  • Driving up demand as well as supply – incentivising business investment into R&D for established businesses. The  Minister states:

I see universities as ‘protagonists’, working with businesses to address problems where others cannot or dare not, and stimulating private investment.

Whether they are spinning out a company, licensing their IP, or undertaking contract or collaborative research with business, universities are remarkably skilled at identifying where they can have the greatest impact – locally, regionally, nationally and globally – and just getting on and doing it.

  • Supporting innovation across the whole UK – playing to local and regional strengths.
  • Focussing on the industrial strategies Grand Challenges
  • Ensuring research and innovation is right at the heart of Global Britain – the UK to be a magnet for foreign direct investment and as attractive a destination as possible for major businesses looking to relocate or scale up their R&D operations. Government policies and funding streams should ruthlessly drive up our global attractiveness.
    • But it is also incumbent on us to be better at marketing ourselves overseas. An important part of this is being open to talent. It is something businesses tell me constantly: the UK urgently needs an immigration system that encourages those with the best ideas and the most innovative minds to come and work here.
  • The evidence is unarguable: skilled immigration drives innovation. We mustn’t lose sight of this as we exit the EU. If we are to thrive, we need a genuinely international approach, a ‘freedom of talent’ approach that allows highly skilled people the flexibility to move and collaborate across borders.
  • That is the purpose of our international education strategy, providing focus and clarity to our ongoing educational exports
  • We cannot duck this challenge. Other nations are adopting aggressive approaches to R&D investment, driving significant increases in both public and private R&D performance. I’m not just talking about Israel and China – 2 obvious outliers. I’m also looking at Germany, who are ramping up public spending on R&D, committing to 3% annual increases every year for the next decade.
  • The technological revolution will stretch horizontally across our economy – every company will become a tech company of sorts. 
  • So to conclude, delivering on 2.4% requires focusing on all parts of the innovation lifecycle, and looking at our policies and investments through multiple lenses. And we must keep a ruthless focus on evidence, to inform the choices we make as a nation.
  • This means we need to access the latest thinking on what works, and ensure we have the best and latest metrics so we know when we have succeeded. And it means listening to what businesses and academics are telling us, and acting accordingly.

Other points made:

  • The UK has the second highest number of doctoral graduate in the EU (Germany has the highest).
  • UK researchers are unusually collaborative in comparison with EU and G20 nations
  • The UK has above-average level of people working in the fastest-growing sectors
  • The UK’s field-weighted citations has beaten all other G7 countries since 2007 with 50% greater citation impact than the world average and 30% higher impact than the EU27. No other comparator nation has a larger proportion of its research among the most widely cited in the world.

Consultations

There are NINE new consultations and inquiries this week!  Click here to view the updated tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

Other news

Assistive Technology: The Student Loans Company plan to put out a tender for Assistive Technology Equipment and Training, results will be published during autumn 2019.

Industry partnership: Universities Minister, Chris Skidmore, announced UK pioneering technologies under development as part of 4 new partnerships between businesses and universities. The projects aim to help UK industry and academia lead the way in bringing new products to market that contribute to tackling the big generational challenges such as climate change and the needs of an ageing society. Skidmore stressed the importance of both government and industry contributing to the Industrial Strategy ambition of raising public and private investment in research and development to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. Projects include:

  • Developing new materials that do not make noise underwater, led by BAE Systems with the University of Southampton, the University of Nottingham and Lloyd’s Register.
  • Using AI and machine learning to speed up production of new medicines from vaccines to tablets in order to get them from the lab to the clinic faster, led by GlaxoSmithKline with the University of Strathclyde with University of Nottingham.
  • Developing a new range of fully recyclable ultra-high strength aluminium alloys for the automotive industry, led by Constellium and Brunel University.
  • Creating the next generation of household products using AI to pave the way for robots to complete advanced household tasks, led by Dyson and Imperial.

Student transitions:  Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced ‘Leapskills Workshops’, developed by student accommodation provider Unite Students which offer schools and colleges resources to teach Year 12 and 13 pupils about independent living, managing money and dealing with conflict. The sessions aim to act as a digital interactive masterclass to enhance how schools and colleges teach young people about what to expect and how to prepare for the leap of living away from home for the first time.

  • Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:  For young people leaving school, starting the next chapter of their life should be a positive life-changing experience – but we know that many people struggle with the pressures of moving away from home and living independently for the first time. A huge part of education is preparing young people for adult life and it is right that we teach them what to expect for life after school, whether that’s at university, work or an apprenticeship.
  • Unite Students CEO Richard Smith said: We believe that resilience is vital in young people and that given the right opportunities and experiences, young people can build resilience. The better prepared young people are for the transition to university, the easier they will find managing the highs and the lows often involved in this leap.

Apprenticeships: The DfE have published a summary document giving Apprenticeships and Traineeships figures. The data shows how higher level apprenticeships have boomed (68% growth since last year) with the main decline at the intermediate apprenticeship level. Apprenticeship starts from mature (19+) learners has increased by 13.8%.

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HE policy update w/e 16th June 2017

New Parliament – On Monday we sent out a special edition policy update to keep you current on the political arrangements as the new government is formed. If you missed it you can read it here. Locally, all the incumbents were re-elected, meaning the whole of Dorset continues to be represented by Conservatives. A breakdown of the local MPs, the profile of their vote share, and current political interest areas is available here. It has now been confirmed that the Queen’s Speech and state opening of Parliament will take place on Wednesday 21 June. Since Monday’s update it has been confirmed that Jo Johnson remains in post as Universities Science Research and Innovation Minister. Anne Milton is the new Apprenticeships and Skills Minister. Locally Tobias Ellwood will move to the Ministry for Defence.

  • Student voting preferences: YouGov’s post-election poll states that 64% of full time students voted Labour, 19% for Conservatives, 10% Lib Dems. For graduates Labour got 49% and Conservatives 32%.
  • Effect of age: The survey states that young turnout was not as high as the media initially reported – 59% of 20-24 year olds voted. The survey highlights that age is a new dividing line in British politics. For every 10 years older a voter is, the likelihood they will vote Conservative increases.
  • Effect of education: The survey reports that education is also an electoral demographic divide with support. In the recent election support for the Conservatives decreased the more educated a voter was, with the reverse for Labour and the Lib Dems. Age is a factor, the young have more qualifications than the old, however YouGov report even accounting for this the Conservatives still have a graduate problem.

Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data – The full longitudinal education outcomes (LEO) data was released this week. It shows graduate earnings and employment outcomes from 2014/15 taking data from the students graduating 1, 3 and 5 years before 2014/15. The methodological of how the data measured prior attainment has changed and ethnicity identifiers have been removed from the dataset for this release. LEO will be published alongside the Key Information Set on Unistats. Wonkhe ran a live LEO blog on release day (BU got a mention) and have an assortment of articles discussing the LEO findings as well as university rankings for each subject area. Polar data is available so comparison of the class effect on graduate earnings is possible even at a subject level. BU is generally positioned well within the LEO data, which is consistent with our DLHE outcomes data.

Gender pay gaps: Wonkhe reported on the first trial release of LEO data highlighting that the pay gap between women and men is visible from graduation. Wonkhe have explored this gender pay gap through the full LEO dataset released this week. Their new article identifies that, while the gender gap remains, subject area has an affect and where there are lower numbers of men than women on a subject, e.g. nursing, the men outperform the women’s pay by an even greater margin. The article questions whether universities are failing to prepare women to enter the most well-paying graduate jobs, and failing to encourage women’s aspirations on the same par as men. The article also anticipates that when the pay data can be cut by ethnicity that further gender racial divides will been seen. The Guardian also report on the gender pay gap.

Brexit – residency rights for EU citizens wishing to remain in the UK post Brexit are not as black and white as it seems. This report from Migration Watch UK on the EC’s negotiating position explores the shades of grey. There are ongoing rumours of pressure to soften the approach to Brexit but no indication of it – the formal negotiations with the EU start on Monday.

Higher Education and Research Act (HERA) – With Jo Johnson, Justine Greening and Greg Clark’s continuation of their cabinet roles the sector anticipates that both TEF and the HE and Research Act will move forward with more certainty now. UUK have published a briefing on the implementation of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. UUK remain positive in their approach to the act whilst acknowledging the potential risk to institutional autonomy. The act replaces HEFCE with the OfS, establishes the combined UKRI, and begins to establish the new regulatory system for the sector. UUK call for universities to engage and influence how OfS and UKRI approach their remit and to consider the implications of these split bodies with reference to the relationship between teaching and research within universities.

Regulation: The sector will be regulated through the register of HE providers. The OfS can vary the conditions applied to providers (as the pool of providers will be wider) and requirements relating to access and participation. A technical consultation on registration fees is expected during autumn 2017. Student protection plans will be a requirement of registration, including transparency in enabling provision for student transfers. The OfS will consult on whether there are appropriate bodies that could perform quality assessment and data collection in advance of April 2018 and that would command the confidence of the sector.

Teaching quality: During amendment through parliament conditions of registration relating to quality and standards of teaching meant conditions should relate to sector recognised standards. The detail and ownership the sector will have over the definition of standards is unclear. However, amendments within the Lords ensured that ‘quality’ and ‘standards’ should be properly defined and separate and the independent ability of institutions to set their own standards was protected. The UK-wide standing committee on quality assessment is working to coordinate a shared regulatory baseline and is also reviewing how the quality code, including standards, may need to evolve in the context of the new regulations. HEFCE is also expected to conduct a review of the Annual Provider Review in the autumn.

Degree awarding powers: will be subject to independent quality advice from either the designated quality body or an independent committee, and replicates much of the role of the QAA’s Advisory Committee on degree awarding powers (Section 46). A consultation on how the OfS should exercise its new powers, including ‘probationary’ degree awarding powers, and the removal of degree awarding powers is expected. There are additional conditions to be met before OfS can vary or revoke degree awarding powers or university title, royal charters cannot be revoked in full. There is to be additional ministerial oversight of new providers without a validation track record. Amendment discussions secured tightened regulation around degree awarding powers and university title to protect both students and the sector reputation on sector entry for new providers.

Financial powers: OfS will have the ability to make grants or loans to a HE provider, replicating HEFCE’s powers to provider funding for high cost or strategic/vulnerable subjects. It’s likely any support for providers in financial difficulty would require DfE and Treasury input.

Fee limits & TEF: Fee limit changes require (active) approval by both Commons and Lords, even if the increase is below inflation. An approved access and participation plan is required. There are three levels of fee limits:

  • the higher amount which will ordinarily increase by inflation (LINKED TO TEF)
  • an intermediate cap LINKED TO TEF (but won’t be implemented before 2020)
  • a basic cap (currently set at £9,000)

Until the academic year 2020/21 all providers participating in TEF with approved access plans will be permitted to charge the full inflationary increase up to the higher amount. Before differential fees determined by TEF rating can be implemented an independent review of TEF must take place. The review would need to take place in winter 2018/19 for differential fees to be implemented in 2020/21. The review will cover:

  • the process by which ratings are determined under the scheme and the sources of statistical information used in that process
  • whether process and statistical information are fit for purpose in determining ratings under the scheme
  • the names of the ratings under the scheme and whether those names are appropriate
  • the impact of the scheme on the ability of higher education providers to which the scheme applies to carry out their functions (including in particular their functions relating to teaching and research)
  • an assessment of whether the scheme is in the public interest
  • any other matters that the appointed person considers relevant

Subject level TEF have been delayed by an additional year but will be piloted in 17/18 and 18/19.

UKRI: will operate from April 2018 and is expected to commence by drafting its research and innovation strategy in collaboration with the sector. Research England will have to consult on the terms and conditions attached to the quality-related funding it provides. The government must publish details of the funding provided to UKRI, the terms and conditions attached, and the amount granted to each of the seven councils. This is designed to give public oversight of the process, and to encourage responsible allocation of funding to the different councils. The dual support system will not be undermined. The Act enshrines the Haldane principle within the legislation ‘decisions on individual research proposals are best taken following an evaluation of the quality and likely impact of the proposals (such as a peer review process)’. UKRI should give equal regard to all nations of the UK.

Widening Participation – The Social Mobility Commission have published the Social Mobility Barometer surveying the public’s attitude towards UK social mobility. The Barometer is new and there will be follow up polls each year until 2021. It was run by YouGov. Press coverage: BBC; TES focus on the belief education will be better in the future.

  • 48% of the public believe that where you end up in society today is mainly determined by your background and who your parents are; 32% believe everyone has a fair chance to get on regardless of their background.
  • 79% believe that there is a large gap between the social classes in Britain today.
  • A large majority of people believe that poorer people are held back at nearly every stage of their lives – from childhood, through education and into their careers.
  • 71% believe opportunity is dependent on where a person lives (something the government’s intended Industrial Strategy aims to tackle)
  • Young people increasingly feel they are on the wrong side of a profound unfairness in British society. The report links this dissatisfaction with the recent election where record numbers of young people voted.
  • Personal finances, job security and housing are key issues.
  • 76% of the public say poorer people are less likely to attend a top university and 66% say poorer people have less opportunity for a professional career.

Fees and Funding

The House of Commons Library have published a clear briefing paper on HE funding in England. It covers the 2012/13 higher fee increase, removal of maintenance grants and student loan repayment threshold decisions. It also summarises the public spend on HE (within England) and the impact of student loans on the national debt.

Jane Forster                                   Sarah Carter

VC’s Policy Adviser                                    Policy & Public Affairs Officer

RCUK Pre-election rules – what they mean for researchers

The RCUK has issued a statement setting out the pre-election rules and what this means for research council funded researchers.  This includes press releases about your research, expert commentary on the election, presenting at conferences concerning the election, research council funded data about voting patterns and behaviour, and election related content on websites and social media.

Please read the statement for exact details, but basically, you can’t mention your research council source of funding (unless directly asked) if talking about anything connected with the election.

Policy update for w/e Friday 21 April

General Election: The general election (#GE2017) has been announced for Thursday 8 June meaning Parliament will dissolve on 3 May. In local news Oliver Letwin (West Dorset) was reported as announcing he will stand down and not contest the next election; however this related to 2020 and he has confirmed he will contest 2017.

Current bills must receive Royal Assent before Parliament dissolves or fail; therefore a ‘wash-up’ period will likely take place to hurry key bills through. The ‘wash-up’ business must be agreed between the Government and the Opposition. Its a time when deals can be made, although its likely the Government may tighten ranks to push through a bill with the main thrust of its intent intact.

Select committees are wrapping up their business with several inquiries prematurely closing their requests for evidence. The chairmanship of several select committees will also change as Members can only chair a committee for the maximum of two parliaments or 8 years (Standing Order 122A).

Purdah, commencing at midnight tonight, will impact and delay the TEF year 2 results, the release of the full LEO (Longitudinal Education Outcomes) data, the Schools that Work for Everyone white paper, and other announcements including the appointment of the Chief Executive for the Office for Students.

 

HERB: The next stage for the Higher Education and Research Bill is ping pong, where the Commons respond to the Lords Third Reading amendments. Currently, no date is scheduled for ping pong and the bill is absent from next week’s published parliamentary business. With Parliament’s dissolution looming speculation abounds on the bill’s fate, its likely it will be considered on Thursday where the parliamentary business has been left unspecified. Opinion divides on whether the Government will concede or hard line to push the bill through. The House of Commons Library has published a useful briefing paper summarising the Lords Amendments. Furthermore, Research Professional reportthe amendment to widen the grounds for appeal of Office for Students decisions is understood to have been accepted by government”, no authoritative source is provided to confirm this, although as one of least controversial Lords amendments it seems plausible.

 

Student migration: Frequent in the press this week (Times, Huff Post, Wonkhe, Reuters) was Theresa May’s rumoured U-turn on counting overseas students within the net migration figures However, there are no firm commitments and the position is neatly summarised by THE: May is “offering to change the way that student numbers are calculated, with the promise of further concessions”; the government is likely to offer a “regulatory compromise” in how overseas student numbers in Britain are calculated. On Thursday Theresa May told the BBC: “We want to see sustainable net migration in this country, I believe that sustainable net migration is in the tens of thousands.” A recent UUK ComRes poll highlights that only a quarter of the public consider students to be immigrants. We wait to see how migratory targets are tackled in the Conservatives election manifesto.

 

2018/19 EU Students: The government has confirmed that 2018/19 EU students will remain eligible for undergraduate and masters student loans and retain their home fees status even if the course concludes after Brexit. EU students can also apply for Research Council PhD studentships for the duration of their study.

 

Industrial Strategy – HE research commercialisation: HEFCE have launching the Connecting Capability Fund (£100 million) as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy to support university collaborations and research commercialisation. It is intended to help universities to deliver the industrial priorities, forge external technological, industrial and regional partnerships, and share good practice and capacity internally across the higher education sector. It is expected to be channelled through the Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) programme with the first round deadline set as 10 July.

 

Other news:

The Common’s Science and Technology select committee have published: Industrial Strategy; Science and STEM skills. It urges government to increase the R&D investment and make up net shortfall for international collaborative research lost through Brexit, alongside stepping-up measures to increase children and students STEM skills.

Research Councils UK have launched the £700k Strategic Support to Expedite Embedding Public Engagement with Research (SEE-PER) call aiming to better embed support for public engagement with research in higher education institutions The call will be open for a limited time, assessed by panel over summer 2017, with activity commencing no later than 1 October 2017.

British businesses winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise (2017) have been announced, the winning product/service for each business is listed in the Gazette. Among the winners is Poole based BOFA International Ltd (fume extraction).

Rachel Hewitt, HESA, writes for Wonkhe to provide feedback on the new DLHE consultation. HESA report 80% support for the proposed survey design and a mixed response to the financial model mainly due to lack of information. A final version of the model is earmarked for publication later in June. Hewitt states: “We now want to ensure that HE providers have certainty over the implications of the review outcomes, and to enable them to start reviewing their systems and processes”, and commits to sharing information through the rolling FAQs.

HEA and Action on Access have published: What works? Supporting student success: strategies for institutional change.