Tagged / Horizon Europe

MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships 2024

The 2024 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Postdoctoral Fellowships (PF) Call is expected to open on the Funding & Tender Opportunities Portal on 23 April 2024, with a deadline of 11 September 2024. The appropriate information including guidance documents and Standard application form are available on the MSCA PF call page.

This will be the first MSCA call after the UK has joined the Horizon Europe programme, so the competition may even increase. From the last call BU got two fellowships awarded and we are looking forward to having other success stories.

As usual, the internal deadline for ItB submission is expected to be no later than mid-July. We would appreciate if potential BU supervisors inform their Funding Development Officers or Research Facilitator International about their intention to submit an application as soon as possible. As usual, we will have very busy period in August-September supporting your applications, so we need to plan resources to provide appropriate support.

Where necessary, we will provide individual support to BU academics starting from mid-June. In the meantime, please consider joining training sessions organised by our UK Research Office (UKRO) based in Brussels. UKRO, in its capacity as UK National Contact Point for the MSCA, will hold information webinars for prospective applicants. There have been two online webinars already announced:

The agenda for each webinar is to be confirmed shortly, however UKRO strongly advise participants to register for and attend both sessions. To access the above links, UKRO portal login details may be needed (if you do not have access to the portal, more details on how to register are provided here).

The webinars will be delivered using the ‘Zoom’ online conference facility, prior registration is mandatory. Upon registering, a confirmation email will be sent with joining instructions.

Please note that UKRO sessions usually cover all aspects of application, so specific BU-hosted training sessions will not be organised and we expect that BU applicants have basic understanding about the funding scheme.

With queries related to MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships 2024 Call please contact Research Facilitator International.

HE policy update 22nd January 2024

This seemed like a good moment to explain what the Lifelong Learning Entitlement is really about and what it means for universities (spoiler: a lot of administrative work and not much else, in the short term), and this update also includes some horizon scanning by UKRI, some data on staff numbers and applications and a bit more on financial sustainability, as hard to get away from in stories about the sector this month.  And there is more besides.

Politics and Parliament

Lots of time spent this week on the Rwanda bill, with work for local MP Michael Tomlinson in his new role as Illegal Immigration Minister. The two deputy chairs of the Conservative Party resigned their roles yesterday along with a PPS but the Rwanda bill was passed unamended and has gone to the Lords where there will be more challenges.

Meanwhile it isn’t a manifesto but there is a campaign brochure from the Labour Party.   It says “we will be able to seize the opportunities of advances in AI, digital, life sciences and technology as drivers of economic growth”.  It presents again the 5 missions we discussed in issue 1 of this update. On education: this is the closest to a reference to HE: there simply aren’t enough high-quality pathways onto apprenticeships, and technical education. So we will have to keep waiting for the detail.

And if you missed it, constituency boundaries change for this election.  There were originally going to be major changes locally but those were dropped in the last round of reviews, so not much is changing here.  However, there might be implications elsewhere: there is a BBC article here.  One point to note is that Chris Skidmore stood down on environmental issues and there is a by-election planned in February: but his constituency is one of those disappearing.

Ongoing legislation

Research and knowledge exchange

Business and innovation

UKRI have published a position statement on their “commitment to improve the research and innovation environment for businesses seeking to scale up, through enhancing the support that we offer alongside private capital to help them invest, innovate and grow”.

As well as confirming some of the things they already do they will be:

  • launching a new digital guide to help businesses, along with investors and researchers, to make the most of UKRI products and services to commercialise research
  • launching new £20 million proof-of-concept funding in 2024 to support researchers to spin out scientific discoveries into exciting new products and services
  • ensuring that UKRI’s core offer of training to new doctoral research students improves awareness and experience of commercialisation and entrepreneurship, building on existing opportunities that allow students to work with businesses
  • creating a joined-up funding pathway over 2024, working with the British Business Bank and UK Export Finance, to enhance access to finance for scaling businesses

The Science Minister, Michelle Donelan, gave a speech about “scaleups” on 16th January.  It has unicorns, silver bullets, powder kegs and goldmines.  There is a lot in in it apart from those theme park elements, but this bit caught my eye:

  • Regulate to innovate is not just some slogan that I happen to use – I think it is a commitment I make to businesses across the country. 
  • And that is why I am backing the Regulatory Horizons Council report, published today, and committing to reviewing the recommendations to become unapologetically ambitious in our regulatory approach. 
  • And that is also why this year, I will develop a regulatory support service specifically designed to help science and tech companies to navigate rules and regulations.  Because we know that regulation isn’t just about dry ink on the statute books. I believe the behaviour of our regulators and regulatory simplicity is absolutely key.  

What is the Regulatory Horizons Council?  The Regulatory Horizons Council (RHC) is an independent expert committee that identifies the implications of technological innovation, and provides government with impartial, expert advice on the regulatory reform required to support its rapid and safe introduction. Find the membership etc at the link.

Here is the report and its recommendations:

  • Recommendation 1: DSIT, working with the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) .. should ensure that regulators are empowered with the tools and resources to better support innovative startups and scaleups.
  • Recommendation 2: DSIT should work with relevant partners to embed a greater understanding of regulation, and earlier engagement with regulatory issues, within the early-stage business community.
  • Recommendation 3: Government and regulators should continue to build the knowledge base on pro-innovation regulation, and particularly the impacts on start-ups and scaleups.

Emerging technologies horizon scan

In December, UKRI published an insights report on Innovate UK’s 50 emerging technologies that could be part of our everyday lives in 2040 and beyond.

Although there are 50, the report is only 39 pages: the list is in the contents page (and it does briefly explain what they all are).  The world has been very focussed on the risks of new technology, AI in particular, in recent months, but this is a very hopeful list, focusing on the problems that can be solved rather than disruption and destruction.  The report does note the ethical challenges (in the context of AI in particular) and sets our five questions to consider:

  • As technology is more embedded in our bodies, will humans turn into something new and different? What makes us human will be increasingly questioned.
  • Should AI be allowed to make decisions on our behalf? All aspects of business and society will be transformed through AI and computing.
  • If humans can expect a century of good health, what does this mean for employment, pensions or housing? The quality and length of our lives will be greater than ever before.
  • Will a shift towards cleaner, affordable energy change the way we live and work? A transformed energy system could help new industries to thrive.
  • What will a vast expansion of our understanding of the world mean for the UK economy? The UK’s ability to draw on its research and business strengths will help us solve big problems and seize opportunities.

Quantum missions

In the context of the above, the government announced 5 “quantum missions” in November: there are likely to be more funding rounds for research and projects in these areas.

  • By 2035, there will be accessible, UK-based quantum computers capable of running 1 trillion operations and supporting applications that provide benefits well in excess of classical supercomputers across key sectors of the economy. 
  • By 2035, the UK will have deployed the world’s most advanced quantum network at scale, pioneering the future quantum internet. 
  • By 2030, every NHS Trust will benefit from quantum sensing-enabled solutions, helping those with chronic illness live healthier, longer lives through early diagnosis and treatment. 
  • By 2030, quantum navigation systems, including clocks, will be deployed on aircraft, providing next-generation accuracy for resilience that is independent of satellite signals. 
  • By 2030, mobile, networked quantum sensors will have unlocked new situational awareness capabilities, exploited across critical infrastructure in the transport, telecoms, energy, and defence sectors. 

And the other Horizon (Europe)

You can’t have missed it, but the UK is now an associate member of Horizon Europe from the start of 2024.  You can read more on the UKRI website here.  The Horizon Europe work programmes are listed here.

Small but beautiful

Research England have also announced the results of the second round of the “expanding excellence in England” fund. Research England is investing £156 million to support 18 universities across England to expand their small, but outstanding research units. The list of projects funded in round two (and round one from 2019) is here.

Regulation

These policy updates so far this year have included a lot of regulatory content, focussing on the OfS, but did you know that many other regulators may have an interest in aspects of education at universities, and this makes for a challenging and potentially burdensome situation.

Research Professional reports on an event sponsored by the Higher Education Policy Institute and AdvanceHE, which Keith attended this week, at which the VC of London South Bank University raised this issue:

  • Phoenix pointed out that if a level 4 or 5 course is taught as part of a degree, then it is regulated by the Office for Students, but if it is a standalone qualification such as a higher national certificate and taught in a college, it is overseen by Ofsted.
  • Similarly, if higher technical qualifications are taught in higher education, they are quality-assured by the OfS in universities but by Ofsted or Ofqual in further education, while level 4 apprenticeships are overseen by Ofsted regardless of where they are offered.

Of course it is even more complicated than that, as apprenticeship funding is overseen by the ESFA (the Education and Skills Funding Agency, part of the Department for Education), making them an important regulator for HE too.  If you haven’t heard of the ESFA, then here is what they do: it isn’t obvious from this that it includes degree apprentices delivered at universities; but it does.

As an executive agency of the Department for Education, and on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education, ESFA is responsible for administering funding to deliver education and skills, from early years through to adulthood.  

ESFA funds education and skills providers, including: 

  • maintained schools and early years institutions, through local authorities 
  • academy trusts 
  • special schools 
  • colleges 
  • independent training providers (ITPs) 
  • high needs institutions 

ESFA is responsible for: 

  • £67 billion of funding for the education and training sector, ensuring timely and accurate allocations and payment to education and training providers 
  • providing assurance to Parliament that public funds are spent properly, achieving value for money for the taxpayer and delivers the policies and priorities set out by the Secretary of State 
  • provides, where necessary, financial support for providers

Outstanding OfS consultations

Just a reminder of the ones that are ongoing or we are expecting outcomes on from the OfS:

  • Consultation on a new free speech complaints scheme: open until 10th March: BU is considering a response
  • Consultation on the approach to regulating students’ unions on free speech matters: open until 17th March
  • Consultation on the inclusion of higher technical qualifications in student outcome measures: closed November 2023
  • Consultation on a new approach to regulating harassment and sexual harassment-this one has been closed since May 23 so there should be an outcome soon

And two Department for Education ones:

Apprenticeships

In the last couple of updates I have mentioned the government focus on apprenticeships, which is being supported by funding provided by the OfS to support the development of new L6 apprenticeships.   On 17th January the outcome of the latest funding competition was announced, with £12 million being allocated.  The list is here (BU is on it).

Applications and admissions

UCAS have published the end of cycle 2023 data.

Sector:

  • Overall applicants fell in 2023, the peak was 2022
  • 18 year olds had grown (slowly in some years) since 2014 when this data starts until 2023 when the number fell back
  • More females than males applied in every age group

As well as the more general picture there is also data for nursing, which shows tor UK applicants there is a fall in application numbers for most age groups since 2021 but applications for 18 year olds and over 35s remain higher than they were in 2019, and the over 35s are now the biggest group, as they were in 2020 (and almost were in 2021).  The proportion of male applicants over 35 is also higher than the other groups.

Midwifery applications have also fallen since 2021 but remain higher than 2019 for 18 years olds and the over 35s, 18 year olds being by far the largest group with the over 35s just squeaking in at second.  The gender data is interesting: tiny numbers of male applicants.

Wonhke have an article and analysis: there are a little over a thousand more English domiciled applicants who have accepted a place at a Russell Group provider this year than last. Everyone else (excluding alternative providers) has lost accepted applicants over 2022, but (as UCAS is always keen to remind us) the “last regular year” comparison to 2019 looks a bit rosier. There are loads of charts and even a map.

Student experience, wellbeing and finances

Cost of living: This year’s updates have covered this ongoing issue; the Russell Group published a briefing this week on the impact of inflation on the maintenance loan and what their members are doing to help. The briefing also points out: The shortfall is compounded by the freeze on the parental earnings threshold used to calculate maintenance loans in England. Students with a household income of less than £25,000 are eligible for the maximum loan, but this figure has been frozen in cash terms since 2008. It is estimated that had this threshold increased with earnings, it would now sit at £35,000, making many more students eligible for the maximum support.

Lifelong loan entitlement

This has been a long running story and we have reported for several years on the various legislative changes and consultations but it all still seems a bit remote and confusing: the new funding system will be in place for entrants to HE from September 2025.

This is about two things, really:

  • putting funding arrangements for university degrees and other post 18 higher level courses on an equal footing; and
  • the “lifelong” bit: enabling flexible and modular learning including to support returning or mature learners

The real change is in the mechanics of funding for universities.  In preparation for modules and to support the “LLE personal accounts” the funding basis is switching to a system based on credits, not academic years.

Last week I talked about the OfS funded short course trial that had a microscopic take up.  I wonder if the public accounts committee will be interested in the cost/benefit of that £2m investment?

There’s a blog here that the OfS wrote in October 2024 on the changes for HE that the LLE will bring:

Over time, we think this will lead to some or all of the following changes:

  • Universities and colleges will offer standalone modules from existing courses
  • Students will be able to build a full qualification by completing different modules, across different courses, from different universities or colleges
  • Students could end up studying at several universities or colleges at the same time, or across multiple departments in a single higher education provider
  • Students will be able to study modules that will give them the skills or knowledge they need to progress their career without the intention of building or completing a full qualification.

If there is a growth in LLE funded modular study, we also think there might be a shift to:

  • Universities and colleges changing existing …courses to an LLE fundable modular format
  • …An increase in modular study overall, not only LLE fundable modules
  • A decrease in the number of employers paying for continuing professional development (CPD) related courses as individuals will receive funding for standalone modules; [and] an increase in employers encouraging employees to take up CPD related modules as they will not need to fund them.

But if you are still puzzled about what it is all really about, and what it means in practice for universities, the Department for Education have published a guide in the form of a policy paper this week. sorry this is a bit wordy!

The summary: so far not very revolutionary.

From the 2025 to 2026 academic year, the LLE loan will be available for:

·       full courses at level 4 to 6, such as a degree or technical qualifications

·       modules of high-value technical courses at level 4 to 5

Under the LLE, eligible learners will be able to access:

·       a tuition fees loan, with new learners able to access up to the full entitlement of £37,000, equal to 4 years of study in today’s fees

·       a maintenance loan to cover living costs

Targeted maintenance grants will also be available for some groups such as learners with disabilities, or for support with childcare.

An additional entitlement may be available in certain cases – for example, for some priority subjects or longer courses such as medicine.

Learners will be able to see their loan balance through their own LLE personal account. This will help them make choices about the courses and learning pathways available.

So the devil, as always, must be in the detail.  What is covered, see below, again, fairly straightforward, except the bit about modules. 

But that isn’t coming straight away “The government will take a phased approach to provide modular funding. We expect to expand modular funding to more courses from the 2027 to 2028 academic year.”

Eligibility:

·       The LLE will be available to new and returning learners.

·       For returning learners, the amount they can borrow will be reduced depending on the funding they have previously received to support study.

·       LLE tuition loans will be available for people up to the age of 60. Learners who are over 60 may still qualify for maintenance support, though not a tuition fee loan.

·       Eligibility criteria for the LLE will track existing higher education (HE) student finance nationality and residency rules.

Courses: the LLE will be available for:

·       full years of study at higher technical and degree levels (levels 4 to 6)

·       modules of technical courses of clear value to employers

From the 2025 to 2026 academic year, the LLE will fund:

·       full years of study on courses currently funded by HE student finance including:

o   traditional degrees

o   postgraduate certificates in education (PGCE)

o   integrated master’s degrees (a 4-year programme that awards a master’s degree on top of a bachelor’s degree)

o   the foundation year available before some degree courses start

·       all HTQs, including both full courses and modules of those courses

·       qualifications currently funded by advanced learner loans where there is clear learner demand and employer endorsement

·       modules of some technical qualifications at levels 4 and 5 currently funded through advanced learner loans with a clear line of sight to an occupational map and evidence of employer demand

So what does this mean for students?  The main change is that tuition fee and maintenance loans will be available for a wider range of courses.

The entitlement

New learners (those who have not yet received government support to undertake higher-level learning) will be able to access a full entitlement equal to 4 years of full-time tuition. This is currently equal to £37,000 across 4 years, based on today’s maximum fee limit of £9,250 per year.

This means a student could use their £37,000 to pay for more than 480 credits of learning, depending on the per-credit cost of the course. For example, if a student can borrow £37,000 and they use £7,000 for a 120-credit course, they would have £30,000 of the LLE left for other courses, regardless of the size or duration of the original programme.

Returning learners …who have not used it all will have access to a residual entitlement. For example, a typical graduate who completed a 3-year degree worth £27,750 in today’s fees will have a £9,250 residual entitlement.

An additional entitlement above the core 4-year entitlement will be available for some priority subjects and longer courses such as medicine.

Maintenance loans

Maintenance loans are designed to help learners with living costs while they study. There is a maximum claim amount based on a student’s course, location and personal circumstances.

Under the LLE, the maintenance loan for living costs and targeted support grants, such as the Disabled Students’ Allowance and the Childcare Grant, will be made available for all designated courses and modules that require in-person attendance. Maintenance support will be subject to personal criteria such as income. This will broadly remain the same as the current criteria.

Repayments

The latest repayment arrangements apply as for students who started university this year.

And what does it mean for universities?

There will be a maximum financial amount per credit and a maximum number of credits that can be charged for in each course year, which will be set by the government.

We will treat certain course types under the LLE as ‘non-credit-bearing’. This means that different rules will apply. Non-credit-bearing courses include courses such as medicine and PGCEs, and courses where the provider has not assigned a qualifying credit value.

To support the LLE, the government will introduce a standardised transcript template to ensure a learner’s assessed achievements are always captured under the new modular, credit-based system.

There will be a new process for new providers and new qualifications.  This is properly new stuff and the subject of a lot of the ongoing work listed below, but probably not a lot of interest to readers of this update!

There is a separate paper on how tuition fees will work, from November 2023. This bit is confusing and implementing it will be tricky: lots of new reporting and forms likely to achieve this!

In the LLE system, we’ll set fee limits per credit. Credits are a measurement used by colleges and universities to identify how much learning is in a period of study. One credit generally equals 10 hours of learning by the student. This includes all tuition, assessment and any self-guided study in the student’s own time.

The credit-based system means that providers will only be able to charge for as much learning as they offer. A course containing 60 credits will have half the fee limit of a course containing 120 credits at the same provider.

The LLE system will have different fee limit rates. The limit-per-credit will depend on the type of study. There will be different limits for work placement, study abroad, and foundation years in certain subjects. Each of these limits may be lower if the provider does not have:

·       a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) award

·       an approved access and participation plan (APP).

There will no longer be different limits for part-time study. Instead, each course or module will have a fee limit based on the number of credits it contains. This is subject to a course year maximum and a course maximum. This means that if a course contains 360 credits, its overall fee limit will be the same regardless of how many years it takes to complete.

Some courses will be non-credit-bearing. For these courses, we’ll allocate a default number of credits. For example, we’ll allocate a PGCE course 120 default credits. This is because currently providers do not always allocate the same number of credits to these courses, but the amount of content is always very similar.

Under the LLE system, we’ll calculate fee limits according to the number of credits in a course year, multiplied by a limit-per-credit. For example, if a year of a course contained 120 credits, and its limit-per-credit was £50, its fee limit would be £6,000.

The LLE system will no longer have different fee limits for accelerated study. Instead, the overall fee limit for an accelerated degree will be the same as the overall fee limit for the same degree (full-time or part-time).

There will be a cap on the number of credits for which providers can charge in each type of course. This ensures that credits are not added on to courses simply to increase tuition fees. Providers may offer additional credits beyond the maximum, but are not allowed to charge for them.

If a student repeats part of their course, the repeat study is not counted towards the course cap. For example, if a student on a 360-credit degree fails a 30-credit module and repeats it, the provider can charge them for 390 credits overall.

And those modules?

There are no restrictions on the number of chargeable credits in a module. However, a module must have the same number of credits as it does when it is offered as part of the full course.

Modules offered separately from full courses must contain at least 30 credits. This can include multiple smaller modules bundled together.

So what is next?

In spring 2024, we will:

·       launch a technical consultation on the wider expansion of modular funding

·       lay secondary legislation covering the fee limits for the LLE in parliament

·       communicate the details on the benefits of the third registration category

In summer 2024, we will: publish further information about the qualification gateway

In autumn 2024, we will: lay the secondary legislation that will set out the rest of the LLE funding system in parliament

In spring 2025, we will: launch the LLE personal account, where users can track their loan entitlement and apply for designated courses and modules

In autumn 2025, we will: launch the qualification gateway, an approval process that allows qualifications to access LLE funding (as noted above, not directly relevant to us)

Who are the staff at UK universities?

HESA published a bulletin about UK HE staff statistics as at 1st December 2022, on 16th January 2023.

  • Research Professional article here.
  • Wonkhe article here

The data shows an increase in the number of academic staff and non-academic staff employed in the sector since the previous year and a small decrease in the number of a-typical academic staff employed.

  • In 2022/23, 103,005 or 43% of academic staff were employed on contracts described as having a teaching and research function. The total for 2021/22 was 100,170 or 43%.
  • A further 36% of academic staff were on teaching only contracts. This percentage has steadily increased year-on-year since 2015/16, when it was 26%.
  • Among academic staff, 71,420, or 30% were employed on fixed-term contracts in 2022/23. Of full-time academic staff, 22% were employed on fixed-term contracts in 2022/23. In contrast, 43% of part-time academic staff were employed on fixed-term contracts, marking an eight percentage point decrease from 2021/22.
  • Of academic staff with known ethnicity, 22% were from ethnic minority backgrounds in 2022/23. This has increased from 16% in 2017/18.
  • Of the 22,345 professors with known ethnicity, 2,865 or 13% were from ethnic minority backgrounds. The majority of professors from ethnic minority backgrounds were Asian.
  • From 2021/22 to 2022/23 there was an increase of 40 Black professors.
  • The number of staff known to have a disability increased by 1,100 compared to 2021/22

Financial sustainability: Scotland

Last week’s update mentioned student number caps, which may soon be applied in specific cases (by provider, by subject) based on quality reviews by the OfS.  The government recently ruled out reintroducing more widespread caps in England after a consultation.  There have caps in Scotland, though, and they are about to be reduced.  Wonkhe reported this week on remarks in the Scottish Parliament:

  • Scottish finance secretary Shona Robison confirmed that at least 1,200 funded university places for Scottish-domiciled students will be cut following the Scottish government’s 2024–25 budget. Her remarks were made a scrutiny session with the Scottish finance committee – Robison told MSPs that the funding for additional places, instituted due to increased demand during the pandemic, was no longer sustainable.

The Scottish caps on home students have had a direct impact on the finances of Scottish institutions and they have turned increasingly to the international market to make up the income as, like in the rest of the UK, the real value of domestic tuition fees falls.   The financial challenges for Scottish universities are described in this recent report from the Scottish Funding Council (4th Jan 24).

You will recall that there is a reason for these caps: the Scottish government funds tuition fees directly in Scotland for Scottish students, there is no tuition fee loan. The actual amount received was £7,610 for each Scottish student this academic year year (see a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies from December 2023), significantly less than the £9,250 capped fee in England.

Institutional failure

Last week I talked about the OfS licence conditions in place to protect students in the context of a university closing down, perhaps as a result of financial issues.

Wonkhe have several blogs this week.

There is one from two members of Public First on what would happen if a large university ran out of money:

  • The DfE (rightly) puts in place lots of warning measures for schools in difficulty, and if a school or group of schools start to find themselves in real trouble, a lot of things kick into place. They can mandate that schools have cost cutters come in; they can prescribe significant changes to operating models; and they can both demand that the school or school group takes an advance from the state, whilst placing (pretty onerous) conditions that are attached to repaying that advance. And given that financial trouble often goes hand in hand with performance trouble, the government has pretty carte blanche to change leadership and management when a poor performance judgement is made….
  • Universities are, of course, not big schools. And it is their fiercely guarded autonomy – as safeguarded in HERA – which means we don’t have a clear set of state interventions. When the Westminster government made its various moves to extend a more market based HE system in England in the early 2010s, it was explicitly envisaged that some providers could exit the market – and that government wouldn’t step in. This was not a bug, but instead a positive virtue of the system…
  • There is no power in today’s legislation for the government to give “extraordinary support” to a particular institution. In a major failure scenario, they could theoretically want to support (or even force) a merger or acquisition. They could also want to support specific institutions financially to keep them open at least for an interim period. But both would likely require new legislation, potentially at speed, and all of this tells against a story of autonomy
  • …. This issue all relies on some very big P political questions. Which institutions might be allowed to fail – and which won’t? What does increased government intervention mean for institutional autonomy, an idea already much eroded in political and policy circles? What does it mean for the status of universities, and could they be reclassified as FE colleges as public sector bodies if the state gains more control over funding or governance? And how much is the sector as a whole willing to trade to save a small, but potentially significant number of institutions?

There is one is from two members of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) talking about what will really happen if a provider fails.

They point out the regime that applies to FE, for which there is no equivalent for universities:

  • the Technical and Further Education Act 2017 established an insolvency regime that applies to further education and sixth form colleges in England and Wales. This introduced a special education administration regime, which protects learner provision for existing students at insolvent colleges with the overarching duty to the learner

They conclude:

  • We have talked before about insurance schemes or a “pot of money” to help students in these situations. We often hear that many providers would not be willing to pay into a system as they do not think such a situation really impacts them.
  • But the impact on the wider sector, students and the reputation of HE must be worth further serious discussion, and we are increasingly finding that there is an understanding that this situation needs to be addressed. …..
  • Whatever the answer, students should not be the collateral damage. A provider closure can leave students significantly disadvantaged, with their experience of and faith in higher education ruined. The potential impact on some students’ mental health cannot be underestimated. The financial impact, in a system where students are at the end of a long list of unsecured creditors, could create significant hardship and may make it unsustainable for a student to complete their studies.
  • We cannot just wait for a large-scale disorderly exit to happen before we engage in a serious discussion.

Horizon Europe News – December 2023

Last Horizon Europe update this year and also the last one we were not associated to the programme. As stated previously, from 1 January 2024 the UK will be fully associated to almost all parts of the HEU programme.

Now to the news. The European Commission has adopted the European Innovation Council (EIC) Work Programme for 2024, an area BU has not been involved before. Perhaps, worth to explore it in 2024? The European Innovation Council, officially launched in March 2021, provides a coherent and connected system of innovation funding that supports projects with market potential. Its schemes, piloted at the end of Horizon 2020, are principally targeted at Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and industry, but also have opportunities for academic involvement. You can find more information about EIC funding opportunities and upcoming online information days on the UKRO webpage (UKRO login details required).

It has been announced that the ESRC and the AHRC, in their capacity as the UK National Contact Point for the Horizon Europe Cluster 2 (Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society), are holding an online session to support applicants in writing successful proposals for Cluster 2 calls. The Zoom event will take place on 17 January 2024 (13:00-16:00 UK time). Please note that prior registration is required. More information and registration forms are available here.

On this note, I am finishing and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Updated information about EIC funding (03/01/2024): the UK entities take part in this pillar, with a small exception of one stream under the EIC – the EIC Fund, which provides equity funding for SMEs. So far, the UK universities have been particularly keen on EIC Pathfinder calls and also use the other mechanism – the EIC Transition.

European Innovation Council online Info Day dedicated to Work Programme 2024 is scheduled for 15 January 2024. There is no need for registrations as the event will be web streamed live – watch the event live following the link. Programme of the event is available here.

For more information you can also refer to the EIC’s frequently asked questions section.

Reminder – MSCA Staff Exchanges 2023 Call Info Session

This is a reminder that the European Research Executive Agency invites those interested in applying for the next call to join the online info session on 8 December 2023 (9 am UK time) and learn more about MSCA Staff Exchanges.

The 2023 call of the Horizon Europe Staff Exchanges action is open for new proposal applications until 28 February 2024.

Please note that this is a 2023 Work Programme call. If a proposal is successful, UK institutions will not be eligible to coordinate the project and funding will be provided from the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee. To claim this funding from UKRI, UK applicants must apply for funding from the EU as beneficiaries and not as Associated Partners.

You can download the agenda from the dedicated webpage library or navigate directly to the streaming page.

In the meantime, the European Commission has announced the submission rates for the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Doctoral Networks 2023 call, which closed on 28 November 2023. The European Research Executive Agency received 1066 proposals, which is an increase compared to the 946 applications received in the previous call.

Standard Doctoral Networks received 920 proposals, two of which are with BU academics participating – good luck to our colleagues!

Horizon Europe News – November 2023

There’s only one month left until the university closes for Christmas break. I am glad to tell you all that our academic colleagues have successfully submitted another four proposals to Horizon Europe (HEU) call closing on 23 November 2023. In this case, all of these were from the Computing and Informatics department.

Since mid-September, the total number of proposals submitted to HEU by at least one BU academic participating is 18. Next week we expect two more bids to be finalised and sent to the European Research Executive agency for evaluation. So far for BU, in 2022 and 2023, 8 Horizon Europe proposals have been successful.

As many of you have already heard, from 1 January 2024 the UK will be fully associated to almost all parts of the HEU programme.

Please note that some calls from the 2023 work programme close in 2024 and if successful, those will be funded using UK government guarantee and UK participants will still not be eligible to coordinate those projects. You can identify 2023 work programme calls from the call ID, for example, HORIZON-MSCA-2023-SE-01 (MSCA Staff Exchanges) or HORIZON-MSCA-2023-COFUND-01 (MSCA COFUND).

On the RKE SharePoint site you can find the latest funding opportunities and recently updated information about EU funding, here are some links for your convenience:

In the meantime, the Research Professional (RP) has published the news regarding Switzerland’s association to the Horizon Europe programme. According to the latest information, after blocking the country from joining for almost three years, the European Commission has announced that it is ready to start talks on the Swiss association to the EU’s research and innovation programme. Maroš Šefčovič, Commission vice-president for inter-institutional relations, announced on 21 November that the Commission had endorsed a “common understanding” with the Swiss government that ‘will frame the negotiation of a broad package’ between the two sides. The scientific community across Europe has received this as good news.

If you have EU funding-related questions, do not hesitate to contact personally Research Facilitator International Ainar. If you have general pre-award queries, please use this link.

On that note, let me wish you a successful December!

MSCA Staff Exchanges 2023 Call Info Session

BU has been a successful participant in the Horizon Europe Staff Exchanges  (previously Horizon 2020 RISE) actions.

The 2023 call of the Horizon Europe Staff Exchanges action is open for new proposal applications until 28 February 2024.

European Research Executive Agency invites those interested in applying for the next call to join the online info session on 8 December 2023 (9 am UK time) and learn more about MSCA Staff Exchanges.

The info session will be the occasion to learn more about this innovative programme, which offers unique opportunities for public and private organisations and their staff in terms of R&I, transferable skills and competencies, as well as intersectoral and international exposure. You can download the agenda from the dedicated webpage library or navigate directly to the streaming page.

Please note that this is a 2023 Work Programme call, so UK organisations will still not be eligible to coordinate the project if the grant is awarded. It will be implemented under the transitional measures and the funding will be provided by the Government Guarantee scheme.

More Information on Horizon Europe Association

As announced earlier, the European Commission and the UK Government have concluded negotiations and reached an agreement in principle on the association of the UK to the Horizon Europe Programme.

UK researchers will be able to fully participate in the Horizon Europe on the same terms as researchers from other associated countries from the 2024 Work Programmes and onwards – including any 2024 calls opening this year.

If you are interested in participating in Horizon Europe and wish to find out more about existing EU grant support, please find some useful links for more detailed information below.

For more information regarding EU funding feel free to get in touch with Research Facilitator International Ainar.

I would also like to remind you that as part of academic drop-in sessions (previously, funding briefings), there will be a presentation about the Horizon Europe association on 8 November 2023. To join the session, please follow this link.

HE policy update for the w/e 29th September 23

It was a funny old week. TEF and KEF results popped out with little fanfare, OfS announced a degree apprenticeship push and are getting on with the sexual misconduct survey (finally). We’ve got to hope the Government keep their receipts safe if they wish to claim the Horizon Europe guarantee refund – through a voucher discount for the next scheme (which we may or may not join). UKRI’s PGR new deal scheme gets a pasting and Minister Halfon sneers at the criticism that the Lords Committee dished out to the OfS. It’s a parliamentary recess for conferences so you can expect more politics and less policy in the news for the next couple of weeks!

Teaching Excellence Framework

The new TEF results were announced on Thursday for 228 providers, the remaining 23% (53 providers) are pending appeal. More detail will be provided in November when the provider submissions, panel statements, and student submissions are published (along with the outcome of the appeals). Once this is released we’ll have a fuller national picture of how institutions have engaged with TEF across the nation.

You can search the results here.

If you’re not familiar with TEF it’s changed a lot since BU received the previous silver award – since then there were lots of experiments and interim exercises. Wonkhe have an explainer: TEF now contains two “mini TEFs” – one covering student experience (the NSS metrics plus evidence from submissions) and the other covering student outcomes (continuation, completion, progression, plus evidence from the submissions. You get an award for each, which are then combined into your main TEF award

73 universities and colleges were awarded Gold for at least one aspect.   Of the Gold ratings awarded:

  • Ten are for what the OfS has categorised as “low entry tariff” providers. A further seven low tariff providers have been awarded Gold for one of the two aspects.
  • Seven are for what the OfS has categorised as “medium entry tariff” providers. A further five have been awarded Gold for one of the two aspects.
  • Ten are for what the OfS has categorised “high entry tariff” providers. A further eight have been awarded Gold for one of the two aspects.
  • Nine are for specialist providers in creative arts subjects.
  • Three are for specialist providers in other subjects. A further three have been awarded Gold for one of the two aspects.

It is interesting to see how little the new “requires improvement” award was used in practice – no-one received an overall RI rating and only a few had one aspect rated as requiring improvement.  Which is good, of course.

Prior to the announcement Wonkhe questioned: But what – if anything – does TEF mean in a world of dwindling resources and acute student hardship? The 2015 Conservative manifesto that sparked the exercise was speaking to a different world, and it seems highly unlikely that anyone in power will use these results as a spur to praise the excellence and diversity in the sector.

What does it all really mean – we don’t know until we can read the submissions and the panel assessments.

Blogs:

KEF

Research England published the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF 3) results on Wednesday. If you’re unfamiliar with the KEF the best explainer is on the Research England website. KEF is a series of dashboards which summarise an institution’s performance on seven areas of knowledge exchange (or ‘perspectives’) – public and community engagement, research partnerships, working with business, working with the public and third sector, CPD and grad start-ups, local growth and regeneration, IP and commercialisation. If you scroll down to table 1 (on the webpage) you’ll see what activities are measured to provide the KEF judgement for each of the perspectives listed above. The data for the KEF is pulled from the Higher Education Business and Community Interaction survey.

For the KEF, institutions are grouped into “clusters” and results are compared across the cluster, with every institution being given a rating for each perspective based on which quartile it falls into in its cluster.  Confused?  Well yes, it is confusing!

For more coverage delve into:

  • NCUB blog: What can the KEF tell us about university KE performance and improvement?
  • Wonkhe blog analysing the KEF 2023 results across providers and clusters.
  • Some good (if rather chatty) coverage from Research Professional (suitable for novices to KEF) in At KEF’s door. It begins:
    • some of our readers may be old enough to remember when former universities and science minister Jo Johnson told the Universities UK annual conference that the KEF was “a challenge” that all universities “did not need to rise to”. The fact that the architect of the KEF did not expect all universities to take part in it has not prevented the entire sector from having a go …with the KEF: the large research-intensives of the Russell Group have their own group of death, and the specialist arts providers play among themselves….It’s all in a good cause, we are told, because obviously the Royal College of Music should not be compared with the University of Oxford when it comes to industrial research collaborations. Over the years, the KEF has developed a basket of metrics to allow meaningful comparison, to encourage institutional improvement.
    • …[this] third instalment…leaves us wondering if anyone is enjoying this apart from the people who produced it.
    • …Is the KEF driving improvement in knowledge exchange across the board or has it created another battleground for institutions to compete against one another? At the moment, Research England is sitting on the fence on that one.
  • UKRI article: KEF3 gives insights on emerging trends in performance improvement

Research

Horizon Europe voucher refund. Following intervention from the Lords last week Science|Business have broken the news that the financial guarantee mechanism will only be implemented if the UK participates in the Framework Programme 10 Horizon successor programme (FP10). Underperformance against contributions in Horizon will be ‘refunded’ in the form of a voucher against FP10 participation. The guarantee assures the UK if they pay over 16% more in Horizon costs than they receive credit back through the voucher. Martin Smith, Head of the policy lab at the Wellcome Trust said the rollover clause is good news, because it lays the groundwork for the UK to take part in future framework programmes. “It’s setting up an expectation that participation is a long-term thing, which is great”. Full details here.

Wonkhe blog:  With Horizon association secured, Maëlle Gibbons-Patoure takes us through the challenges, joys and practicalities of working with the world’s largest funding framework.

Quick News

  • Consultations: REF 2028 planning continues to move forward. There are currently two consultations open for contributions – our tracker outlines who to contact if you wish to contribute to BU’s responses. Wonkhe have two blogs on the topic:
  • Business links: Research Professional – the performance of very large universities with a major research focus has dropped slightly when it comes to linking with businesses, according to a major assessment.
  • PGR New Deal: Wonkhe criticise UKRI’s new deal for PGRs, excerpts:
    • If I thought the Office for Students’ work on student voice and engagement was weak, I wasn’t quite prepared for UKRI’s “New Deal” for PGRs…The trifecta of a pretty weak set of rights to start with, institutions that are trying to squeeze every last drop and effort and value from dwindling funding, and an environment in which PGRs think any attempt to enforce the rights that are there will result in perceived reputational damage when trying to build a career means that we really do need to work out how their “voice” can engender protection and change…As such, the “New Deal” for PGRs…is a real let down.
    • …The “baseline” of support it’s thinking of establishing – over everything from supervision standards to mental health – ought to have a real relationship with quality frameworks from OfS and QAA, and government-backed work like the University Mental Health charter. That neither the Quality Code, OfS’ B Conditions nor Student Minds are mentioned doesn’t fill me with hope that PGRs will be properly considered 
    • …A genuine sector collaboration on the issue – drawing in providers, funders, regulators, the unions and actual PGR students – is long, long overdue. Read the short blog in full here.

Try this blog for a rundown on what the new deal includes or read the official version by UKRI.
Meanwhile the Russell Group issued a statement welcoming the new deal for PGRs.

  • PGR stipends: UKRI to review stipend payments to improve support for postgraduate researchers.
  • Spinouts (part 1): Wonkhe – Investment group Parkwalk has releaseda report on equity investment in UK university spinouts, finding that the total amount invested fell from £2.7bn in 2021 to £2.3bn in 2022, and “looks set to fall again in 2023.” However, the figure for 2022 was significantly higher than that of 2020 (£1.5bn) and all preceding years, and the number of spinouts over the last three years has been largely unchanged. Life sciences continues to be the main area for spinouts, though the report also highlights the growing importance of artificial intelligence-related companies. It’s also suggested that since 2021 there has been a decline in the proportion of investments exclusively from UK investors – historically around 80 per cent, but in the last two years at 64 per cent – with an increase in the share of UK-foreign co-investment deals. The Financial Times covers the report.
  • Spinouts (part 2): Wonkhe – The government should introduce standardised agreements with universities regarding the equity shares they take from spinouts, the Social Market Foundation has argued in a new report – the think tank suggests five to ten per cent in companies founded by staff, and no share in student-founded firms. The report also suggests identifying regional hubs for high value industries, and scaling up the local universities with increased investment and research funding. The Times covers the report.

Lifelong Learning Entitlement

The Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE) became law last week, closely followed by the DfE publishing the modelling assumptions behind the LLE financial planning. It assumes learner numbers for modular programmes will start small.

Wonkhe say: There are also some very generous assumptions about costs incurred by providers and the modelling on which the Department for Education is basing the business case contains assumptions about staff time that many in the sector will find generous to the point of fantasy. There’s plenty of time for that to change because the LLE is only in the planning stages, it will be implemented from 2025 onwards. Blogs:

Regulatory

Cracking quality: Research Professional report on the announcement in the Sunday Times that Rishi Sunak is planning yet another “crackdown” on low-quality university courses as part of his pre-election reset of Conservative policies. However, they anticipate it to be more bark than bite: The last time the government rattled a sabre over low-quality university courses, the attack was all but abandoned by lunchtime as ministers struggled in media interviews to name a course or university that would be subject to restrictions. We can expect a line or two about Mickey Mouse degrees in Sunak’s conference speech in Manchester next week, but little more in the way of action from a regulator licking its wounds following the Lords select committee report that criticised the Office for Students as too close to government.

Of course, the government already announced how it was tackling low quality courses earlier in September – through the regulatory system.

In favour:  Universities Minister Robert Halfon responded to a comment in the Financial Times defending the university sector and trotting out a reminder of his pet projects (degree apprenticeships, lifelong learning entitlement, cracking down on low quality courses). What was most interesting in the response was Halfon’s dismissive mention of the Lords inquiry which heavily criticised the OfS. Halfon states: while I recognise there is always more to be done to reduce regulatory burdens, the Office for Students is an essential part of our mission to drive up the quality of higher education by holding universities to account, championing students’ interests and improving social justice. It’s a strong indication that the Government’s response to the Lords formal report won’t call for significant change or rebuke the regulator publicly.

Sexual Misconduct: The OfS launched a pilot survey aiming to identify how widespread sexual misconduct in HE is. They’ve commissioned independent research by IFF Research who will work with the 13 HEIs that put themselves forward for the pilot. All students at the HEIs will be invited to complete the survey and answer questions about their experiences of sexual misconduct, how these experiences have affected their lives and studies, and their experiences of using the reporting mechanisms in their university. Note, this is the fieldwork element of the pilot survey announced in January 2023 (here).

Wonkhe highlight a warning for the sector regarding what the pilot may find: this pilot survey should offer some insight into the scale of the issue facing institutions and what kind of support students might need…At a Wonkhe event last week, academic and founding member of The 1752 Group Anna Bull warned that the sector should prepare for the discovery that the scale of sexual misconduct is higher than anticipated – smaller-scale prevalence surveys have indicated that around one in five students in any given year may be affected, and up to two-thirds of students during their time enrolled in higher education. These students are predominantly, though not exclusively, women – and perpetrators are typically other students at the same institution. Replication of these findings could change the picture considerably for how institutions seek to tackle the problem, encourage reporting, support survivors, and handle alleged incidents. 

Blogs on the topic:

Degree Apprenticeships: The OfS have earmarked £40 million (awarded through competitive bidding) for HEIs to expand their Level 6 degree apprenticeship programmes.

Apprenticeship levy: There’s a parliamentary question on the total amount of unspent apprenticeship levy and the funds returned to the Treasury.

Cooperation: the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ofqual agreeing to work together and share information in order to meet their respective responsibilities in the HE sector.

Student News

  • Turing: Parliamentary Question revealing the DfE cannot currently calculate the actual average cost to the public purse per participant supported by the Turing Scheme in each academic year. And that data on the international mobilities delivered in the first year of the Turing Scheme (2021/22) is coming soon.
  • Accommodation: Wonkhe – Cushman and Wakefield’s annual student accommodation report highlights the brewing “student accommodation crisis” – with average private sector rents outside of London now at 77% of the maximum available maintenance loan. Fewer than one in ten spaces are now affordable for the average student, with university cities including Durham and Exeter offering even less affordable housing. Overall average rental costs have risen by more than 8% this academic year – driven by a growth in demand, rising operational and development costs, high inflation, and fewer new spaces available. The Guardian has the story.
  • Student support: Wonkhe have a neat blog looking at student support across the four nations and which students/parents get the best deal for their household income. HEPI also published a paper earlier this month on how different institutions are approaching student support with cost of living.
  • Loan forgiveness: It feels as though one organisation or another calls (or writes about) the need for student loan forgiveness for nursing (and often other allied health disciplines) every week. This week it’s the BBC’s turn covering calls for the loans to be written off once the student has completed 10 years of NHS service, although much of the article focuses on non-completion of training. The research behind the BBC’s article comes from a Nuffield Trust report: Waste not, want not. Nuffield state the estimated cost would be somewhere in the region of £230 million for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals per cohort in England. A similar scheme, or early-career loan repayment holidays for doctors and dentists in eligible NHS roles, should also be seriously considered. We believe this would represent a very sound investment.
  • Meanwhile the Royal College of Midwives highlight a report which finds that midwifery degree apprentices improved accessibility and retention within the workforce. There were lower drop outs (almost 0%) than through a traditional degree route (13%) – likely influenced by the majority of apprentices already holding positions in the maternity support workforce. And the programme was also found to support diversity, both in terms of supporting mature apprentices and those with caring responsibilities, and those from non-white backgrounds.

Admissions

A Levels: The Times reported that Rishi Sunak plans to replace A levels with a British baccalaureate qualification incorporating more subjects including compulsory English and his manifesto committee of maths to age 18. The extension of compulsory maths already has an expert advisory group looking into it. Dods report that the DfE have not denied Rishi’s proposals are being explored but that they had already reformed post-16 education (T levels and apprenticeship changes) and that the baccalaureate policy was a personal mission for Rishi, not the DfE.

Sector response to the possibility of replacing A levels has been dismissive. The concept faces many barriers because it would require significant infrastructure change for the educational curriculum, the overcoming of the maths teacher shortage, and the policy has to convince not only the DfE but also the electorate in the upcoming general election. Even if adopted it may polarise education in the nations further as Wales and Northern Ireland may choose to retain their current systems.

Here’s a comment from Research Professional on the baccalaureate:

  • Just as with the seven recycling bins, all of this can be filed in the category of never going to happen. Even if Sunak were to win a general election, the teacher shortage would make such a curriculum impossible.
  • Universities have not been consulted on replacing A-levels and there are no details on the changes that would need to be made to both GCSEs and higher education admissions to make any of this possible. Given how long it would take for these wholesale reforms of English education, it is almost as if Sunak himself has no real expectations of any of it happening.

What is interesting is the timing of this announcement. We’ve entered conference season and the political parties and party leadership need to be seen to make bold changes for the future demonstrating both their worth and that of their party – positioning it well in the electorate’s eyes for the forthcoming general election.

The party conferences are staggered so we’ll provide coverage across the next few policy updates.

Finally, Lord Willets weighs in on the A level debate in this Conservative Home blog: Why Sunak is right about A-levels and what should be done next.

Quick news

  • Recruitment caps: Wonkhe blog – Northumbria SU’s Tom Wellesley is concerned that the government’s plansfor recruitment caps on “low-quality” courses will restrict opportunities for prospective students.
  • New UCAS Chief: Dr Jo Saxton steps down as Chief Regulatory of Ofqual (in Dec 2023) to become the Chief Executive of UCAS (in Jan 2024 – replacing Clare Marchant). Recruitment for her Ofqual replacement has begun. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: I am hugely grateful to Jo for guiding Ofqual through the challenges that followed the pandemic, ultimately overseeing a smooth return to exams and normal grading. Jo’s knowledge and experience have been invaluable as we’ve navigated the past 2 years and returned to the exam arrangements that best serve young people. I look forward to continuing to work with Jo in her new role at UCAS, supporting students to progress onto university, degree apprenticeships and the world of work.

Access & Participation

Parliamentary Question: Care leavers’ access to HE.

TASO published: Student mental health in 2023 – Who is struggling and how the situation is changing. It highlights more and more students are experiencing (or reporting) mental health difficulties and looks at how gender, LGBTQ+, ethnicity and student background factors interact with poor mental health. It also highlights mental health as the leading reason to withdraw from university. If you don’t fancy reading all 32 pages check out the conclusion starting on page 27 or read Research Professional’s analysis of the TASO paper which also delves into university resources and the Government’s attention to student mental health to provide a rounded picture.

International Recruitment

The Big Issue reports on international recruiters: £500 million is being spent by UK universities on a murky and unregulated industry. Education agents, who are paid a commission for each international student they enlist, are involved in 50% of international student admissions in the UK. In some countries such as China, this number reaches 70%. Twenty years ago the figure was just 10%. So who are they, and why are they now so widespread?  The article is timely given Lord Jo Johnson’s call for international recruiters to be regulated and for HE providers to diversify their international portfolio to reduce financial risk and alleviate security concerns about the influence of overseas nations.

Inquiries and Consultations

Click here to view the updated inquiries and consultation tracker. Email the contact listed against the item you’re interested in (or policy@bournemouth.ac.uk) if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

Other news

Skills shortages: The DfE published the 2022 employer skills survey demonstrating that 10% of employers have a skill shortage related vacancy. Skills shortages as a proportion of all vacancies rose from 22% in 2017 to 36% in 2022. 15% of employers stated they had an employee (or employees) who lacked the skills for the job and overall 5.7% of the workforce have a skills gap (up from 4.4% in 2017).

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JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

VC’s Policy Advisor                                                              Policy & Public Affairs Officer

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

Association to Horizon Europe – Agreement in Principle Reached

The European Commission and the UK Government have reached an agreement in principle on the association of the UK to Horizon Europe.

This morning (7 September 2023) Joint Statement by the European Commission and the UK Government on the UK’s association to Horizon Europe and Copernicus was published on UK Government’s webpage.

It says that the European Commission and the UK Government have concluded negotiations and reached an agreement in principle on the association of the UK to Horizon Europe and Copernicus under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

How does it look in practice? UK researchers will be able to fully participate in the Horizon Europe programme on the same terms as researchers from other associated countries from the 2024 Work Programmes and onwards – including any 2024 calls opening this year. As a result:

For calls from the 2023 Work Programmes, the UK will continue to provide funding under the UK Guarantee scheme managed by UKRI.

Update:

There is also European Commission press release available – feel free to forward link to this page to those EU potential partners who may still be in doubt.

The European Commission has published an updated set of FAQs with more detail on the agreement. Today’s political agreement must now be approved by EU Member States before being formally adopted in the EU-UK Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes. Association to Horizon Europe programmes will become effective as of 1 January 2024.

For more information regarding EU funding feel free to get in touch with Research Facilitator International Ainar.

Webinar – ERC grants 2024

European Research Council (ERC) announced a webinar dedicated to their next 2024 work programme to be held on 20 September 2023 from 11:15 to 12:15 UK time.

It is anticipated that potential ERC grant applicants will learn more about the novelties of the ERC Work Programme 2024. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions about the current and upcoming grant competitions.

More information and the link to webinar on ERC event webpage.

The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe. More information about funder may be found on ERC webpage.

The ERC offers 4 core highly competitive grant schemes:

BU have been successful on a couple of occasions. For example, in January 2023 Professor Melanie Klinkner was awarded ERC Consolidator Grant.

For more information regarding ERC grants feel free to get in touch with Research Facilitator International Ainar.

Update on Horizon Europe Guarantee

The UK government remains in discussion on the UK’s involvement in EU research programmes and hopes that negotiations on Horizon Europe will be successful.

There are good news regarding Horizon Europe guarantee provided by the UK government. The UK government has announced an extension to the support provided to UK Horizon Europe applicants until the end of September 2023.

The UK Horizon Guarantee will now be in place to cover all Horizon Europe calls that close on or before 30 September 2023. Eligible, successful applicants to Horizon Europe will receive the full value of their funding at their UK host institution for the lifetime of their project.

Full details of the scope and terms of the extended Guarantee are available on the dedicated UKRI website (login may be required).

With any further questions related to Horizon Europe, please get in touch with me.

Please note that, as part of RDS funding briefing, there will be a session dedicated to Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Postdoctoral Fellowships 2023 call on 21 June (no briefing this week).

MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships 2023 Call Information Webinars

As announced earlier, BU internal deadline for submission of Intention to Bid form for MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships scheme is 17 July 2023. RDS Funding Development Team will start active support of this year’s applications from 5 June.

We have already received some Intention to Bid forms and really appreciate that. Those willing to apply, please start submitting yours, you can find ItB form here.

Please note that individual support for BU academics will be provided as usual, however there will not be specific workshops organised at BU. The UK Research Office (UKRO) will hold information webinar series for those interested in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Postdoctoral Fellowships 2023 call. These sessions will provide attendees with all the information needed to submit a successful application to this call, including the eligibility criteria, the available budget, submission and evaluation criteria, and practical advice on proposal writing.

Here is the schedule of UKRO information webinars (registration for participation required):

  • Session 1: Overview and Eligibility Rules – 6 June 2023 at 10:00 to 11:30 UK time
  • Session 2: Practical Matters – 8 June 2023 at 10:00 to 11:30 UK time
  • Session 3: Process for Submission and Evaluation – 9 June 2023 at 10:00 to 11:30 UK time

To register for and access UKRO training sessions, login details may be required. BU is one of UKRO service subscribers and receives training as part of our subscription benefits. If you still have not registered, there are more details how BU academics can register.

With queries related to MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships 2023 Call please contact Funding Development Officer Sara Mundy or Research Facilitator International Ainar Blaudums

Horizon Europe MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships – Internal Deadline

As announced earlier, The 2023 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Postdoctoral Fellowships (PF) Call is now open on the Funding & Tender Opportunities Portal, with a deadline of 13 September 2023.

We have now set BU internal deadline for submission of Intention to Bid form – 17 July 2023. Please not that ItBs submitted after the deadline will not be accepted, although we encourage academics to submit their ItB as soon as possible. If you do it well in advance, complete budget table is not mandatory (completed budget table will be required by 17 July).

You can find ItB form here.

The UK Research Office (UKRO) will hold information webinar series for those interested in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Postdoctoral Fellowships 2023 call in early June (three different sessions on 6, 8 & 9 June). These sessions will provide attendees with all the information needed to submit a successful application to this call, including the eligibility criteria, the available budget, submission and evaluation criteria, and practical advice on proposal writing.

Please note that individual support for BU academics will be provided as usual, however there will not be specific workshops organised at BU. For UKRO webinars, please refer to their webinar web page.

To access UKRO training sessions, login details may be required. BU is one of UKRO service subscribers and receives training as part of our subscription benefits. If you still have not registered, there are more details how BU academics can register.

With queries related to MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships 2023 Call please contact Research Facilitator International Ainar Blaudums.

MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships 2023

​The 2023 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Postdoctoral Fellowships (PF) Call is now open on the Funding & Tender Opportunities Portal, with a deadline of 13 September 2023. The Guide for Applicants and other guidance documentation can be found on the call page as well as on the “MSCA How to Apply” website. There is also some useful information about this call on UKRO webpage.

Due to continuous uncertainty around UK’s accession to the Horizon Europe programme, BU internal deadline for submission of eItB forms is not set yet, however it’s expected to be no later than mid-July if UK entities are eligible for funding.

We would appreciate if  potential BU supervisors inform their Funding Development Officers or Research Facilitator International about their intention to submit an application as soon as possible. As usual, we will have very busy period in August-September supporting your applications, so we need to plan resources to provide appropriate support.

Where necessary, we will provide individual support to BU academics starting from June. In addition, UKRO, in its capacity as UK National Contact Point for the MSCA, will hold information webinars for prospective applicants. More information will be provided as soon as it becomes available. UKRO sessions will cover all aspects of application, so specific BU-hosted training sessions will not be organised.

To access UKRO training sessions, login details will be required. BU is one of UKRO service subscribers and receives training as part of our subscription benefits. If you still have not registered, there are more details how BU academics can register.

With queries related to MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships 2023 Call please contact Research Facilitator International Ainar Blaudums.

UKRO Session for Bournemouth University – 26 April 2023

UKRO annual visit to BU

As advertised earlier, RDS will host the annual UK Research Office (UKRO) visit to BU on 26 April 2023. This will be online event (Zoom) with an option to meet our UKRO European Advisor Malgorzata Czerwiec individually after general sessions. Event will start on Wednesday at 12:30.

All academic and professional staff interested in Horizon Europe framework programme and EU funding in general, either experienced or new to it, are invited to attend this session.

Agenda

12:30-13:15     Update on UK participation in Horizon Europe, with Q&A time (UK eligibility, how to include UK in HE proposals, the UK Horizon Europe Guarantee and statistics)

13:15-13:30     UKRO services and NCPs support for UK applicants to Horizon Europe (signposting to open HE call opportunities, webinars and support)

13:30-13:45     Break

13:45-14:45     Introduction to COST opportunities, with Q&A time

15:00-17:00    Bookable 1-2-1 meetings (each slot 15 minutes)

Instructions for joining

Registration is not mandatory, although I would appreciate if you email Research Facilitator International about your intention to participate. In return, I will forward you Zoom link. Link will also be sent to your Heads of Departments for information.

Those willing to speak with our European Advisor individually will have to email me by the end of Friday 21 April to receive individual Zoom link for their session. Please indicate in your email the topic you would like to discuss and if there are any specific questions you would expect to be answered during the meeting.

UKRO

Based in Brussels, UKRO are a UKRI team supporting the UK’s involvement in the EU’s key research and innovation programme – Horizon Europe. UKRO team works with partners across the UK government and stakeholders to maximise UK engagement in Horizon Europe.

In addition to offering a subscription-based service for UK universities and research organisations, UKRO also provide free advice on the European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and Widening Participation parts of Horizon Europe, as well as COST. The latter is a new area UKRO is covering for their subscribers and we have included this topic in this year’s annual meeting.

As part of UKRO services, BU members of staff may sign up to receive personalised email alerts and get early access to the EU funding related publications on UKRO portal. More about UKRO services you can find here.

Wishing you all Happy Easter,

European research project to promote local food purchasing and reduce food waste

A new European research project will enable consumers to find and buy local food supplies, reducing waste and supporting sustainable purchases.

FoodMAPP logoThe FoodMAPP project – being led in the UK by Bournemouth University (BU) – will develop a searchable map-based platform that will enable consumers to search and buy food products directly from local suppliers.

Currently within Europe food is transported, on average, 171km from farm to fork. 26 per cent of global carbon emissions come from food and large volumes of food are wasted.

The FoodMAPP project aims to address these challenges by enabling consumers to identify and purchase local sources of food in real time to shorten supply chains and reduce food waste, while also providing additional sustainable income to food producers and providers.

A consortium of European partners, comprising academic partners in Croatia, Hungary, Spain and Belgium and industry partners in France & Austria will support the project.

BU’s involvement in FoodMAPP will be led by Associate Professor Jeff Bray and supported by an interdisciplinary research team from across the university including Professor Katherine Appleton, Professor Juliet Memery, Dr Roberta Discetti and Dr Vegard Engen.

Dr Bray said: “Our current food supply system is not sustainable both in terms of its ability to reliably provide the right nutrition for a growing world population and in terms of the environmental footprint of current practices.”

“The project aims to transform local food supply reducing food miles, reducing food waste and increasing localised food supply resilience.”

The FoodMAPP project team gathered outside a building

The FoodMAPP project team

BU led on the development of the four-year project, which has been awarded €584,200 from Horizon Europe Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, alongside additional funding from UKRI to support BU’s continued inclusion.

The European coordinator is Associate Professor Vinko Lešić from Zagreb University (Croatia) and partners include Ghent University (Belgium), Eötvös Loránd University (Hungary) and CREDA (Centre for agro-food economics and development, Spain) alongside partners from the food industry – Institute Paul Bocuse (France) and Ronge & Partner (Austria).

Horizon Europe Update – January 2023

Welcome to the first Horizon Europe news of 2023. This is a summary based on articles published by UKRO and Research Professional early this year.

Horizon Europe association

The EU and New Zealand have concluded the official negotiations on the non-EU country’s association to Horizon Europe; the signing of the Association Agreement is expected to take place in early 2023. This will allow researchers and organisations from New Zealand to participate as beneficiaries receiving EU funding in projects funded under the six thematic Clusters of Horizon Europe’s second Pillar (Societal Challenges).

This is the first time that a highly industrialised country outside of Europe has become associated to the EU framework programme, however for all other parts of the programme, including European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, New Zealand will continue to be considered a non-associated third country. Canada is also expected to become associated to Horizon Europe in early 2023, while Japan and South Korea continue to have early exploratory talks on association with the EU.

UK Government’s plan B

According to Research Professional, the UK science minister has said that the UK’s alternative plan for spending money ringfenced for European R&D programmes, the so-called ‘plan B’, is being signed off by prime minister Rishi Sunak. In his speech, Freeman said that ministers “haven’t yet finalised” the alternative package, which is “now with the prime minister, the chancellor, the cabinet and the National Science and Technology Council”.

The science minister said that the government was “still pushing, and I’m still hopeful”, for UK association, but added that access to EU R&D programmes was “caught up in the high politics of the post-Brexit negotiation”.

A glimmer of hope for such negotiations was reached this week when the EU and the UK reached agreement on a specific issue related to trade in Northern Ireland. The UK government has ringfenced £6.8bn for membership of EU programmes.

Pilot of two-stage proposal evaluation

The European Commission will pilot a new mechanism in the Horizon Europe evaluation process called ‘blind evaluation’ in all two-stage calls included in the recently published Work Programme 2023-24. The objective of anonymised proposals in the ‘blind evaluation’ pilot is to tackle some concerns about a potential bias of evaluators towards well-known organisations in countries with better-performing R&I systems.

The ‘blind evaluation’ approach means that at stage one of the evaluation process, the applicants’ identity is not revealed to the experts. At the first stage of proposal submission, applicants may not disclose their identity in Part B of their proposal. The second stage, in which full proposals are submitted, is not anonymised. All first stage applicants should keep in mind that if a proposal includes any identification of the applicant(s) in Part B, the bid will be declared inadmissible and will be rejected.

Expert Evaluators in Horizon Europe

The Commission and its executive agencies that manage Horizon Europe’s calls for proposals are continuously looking for new evaluators who assist the EU services in a personal capacity as experts with the implementation of EU funding and tenders. The Commission is looking for experts with a high level of expertise and professional experience in all EU action and policy fields, particularly those relevant to Horizon Europe’s calls for proposals.

Individuals interested in becoming expert evaluators in Horizon Europe should register in the dedicated ‘Work as an expert’ area of the F&T Portal. The Portal Expert Database is the central database for all expert work in this domain. Registration is a mandatory prerequisite for being contracted by the Commission to work as an evaluator on any EU funding programme. The Commission welcomes experts from any country, as long as they are not subject to EU administrative sanctions.

Becoming an expert evaluator in Horizon Europe is the best way to get to know the evaluation process in the new programme and become successful as an applicant faster. Knowing how the evaluation process works and what the experts are looking for in an excellent proposal will allow you to improve your own applications in the future.

Horizon Europe Resources

Happy New Year everybody!

In December, Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and the UK’s Horizon Europe National Contact Points (NCPs) hosted a series of webinars presenting funding opportunities of the Horizon Europe 2023-24 work programme parts for the six Clusters under Pillar 2 ‘Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness’.

The video recordings and presentation slides from these events are now available online. Each webinar provides an overview of calls for proposals for the specific Cluster, practical tips for applicants and case studies.

As a reminder, the European Commission’s info days and brokerage events are taking place in in January 2023, follow the link for more information. You can also find more Horizon Europe internal resources on Brightspace.

As a reminder, one of BU Funding Development Briefings in January (scheduled for 25/01/23) will have spotlight on UK government guaranty related Horizon Europe grants.