The Environmental Audit Committee is running an inquiry into the impact of invasive species and their management. This tackles non-native species living outside their natural range which have arrived by human activity, either deliberate or accidental. Invasive species are those that negatively affect native biodiversity, ecosystem services and public health, through predation, competition or by transmitting disease, costing Great Britain at least £1.8 billion per year. They mainly affect the farming and horticultural sectors but also transport, construction, recreation, aquaculture and utilities. You can read a summary of both of the latest committee evidence sessions (two sessions on 25 June 2019) at this link.
Tagged / policy
The government has announced the launch of a campaign to tackle the stigma of feeling alone. Loneliness Awareness Week began on Monday (17th June), led by Minister for Loneliness Mims Davies. The initiative is called “Let’s Talk Loneliness” and brings together The Marmalade Trust, the British Red Cross, the Co-op Foundation, the Campaign to End Loneliness, Mind, the Jo Cox Foundation and Public Health England.
The campaign hopes to end the stigma of feeling alone and create a culture of people feeling comfortable to talk about feeling alone. As part of Loneliness Awareness Week, the government has also announced it is partnering with the Co-op Foundation to match-fund a new £1.6 million initiative that supports activity in community spaces to promote social connections.
A new YouGov poll on loneliness was released on Monday, showing:
- People in cities surveyed had a higher incidence of reporting feeling lonely than the UK overall (56% v. 44%).
- 25% of adults have reported feeling lonely on weekends.
- Over the weekend, the evenings are the most likely time for people to feel lonely (16%).
Minister for Loneliness Mims Davies said:
- Loneliness is one of the biggest health challenges our country faces. It can affect anyone at any time and its impact is in line with smoking or obesity. But we can only begin to help one another if we feel able to understand, recognise and talk about it.
- Let’s Talk Loneliness’ will encourage us all to engage with this issue, speak up without stigma, spot the signs of loneliness and help build more meaningful connections so people feel less isolated.
For the government press release, see here.
Find out more about the Government loneliness strategy, see here: Let’s Talk Loneliness campaign
Are you interested in achieving policy impact? Then you may be interested in coming to a meeting that’s taking place next Thursday which will provide some useful insights into how to go about achieving this.
As you’re aware, engaging with policy makers can lead to significant and lasting impact. In order to explore this area in more depth, Professor Sangeeta Khorana has invited the Rt. Hon Stephen Crabb MP to BU to discuss how academic research is accessed by policy makers, how it can be used by those in Parliament and how it can lead to influencing policy.
Stephen is Member of Parliament for Preseli, Pembrokeshire and has held this constituency since 2005. He is a member of the Select Committee for Exiting the European Union, was previously Secretary of State for the Dept. of Work and Pensions, Secretary of State for Wales and a Government Whip. Stephen is therefore ideally placed to give some insights into how academic research is accessed and used by policy makers at the highest levels of government.
Professor Khorana has recently contributed economic research into the trade implications of Brexit to the Welsh Assembly and to the Welsh Affairs Committee.
Stephen will give a short talk on how to engage with policy makers, how they access and use research and how it can influence policy before a Q&A with Sangeeta about the impact of her work.
The event is taking place on Thursday 16th May at 11.30 – 12.30 in EB708.
If you would like to attend, please book a place using the following (private) Eventbrite link and enter the password Impact when prompted:
If you would like to contribute to the discussion, please email questions for Stephen or Sangeeta to: firstname.lastname@example.org in advance.
Many thanks – hope to see you there.
The UK Government has produced a number of technical notices and provided details of the governmental Departments responsible for specific sectors and EU programmes. This has been done as part of no-deal Brexit preparations.
A number of Departments have drafted documents detailing plans to support UK researchers, universities and businesses who benefit from EU funding schemes, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Where applicable, the notices also set out how the Underwrite Guarantee, and the Post-EU Exit Guarantee Extension will operate if there is no deal.
More details are available on the ‘The Government’s Guarantee for EU-funded Programmes if the UK Leaves the EU Without a Withdrawal Agreement (No Deal)’ website. Website provides links to individual technical notices related to such programmes as Horizon 2020, Erasmus+, European Social Fund, European Regional Development Fund, Creative Europe, Europe for Citizens and some others. These are in addition to a wide range of other technical notices and announcements for specific sectors, which are available on the GOV.UK website.
Several submission portals have been developed by the UK Government to collect data of EU-funded projects. For example, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) launched a portal to collect basic information from UK beneficiaries of on-going Horizon 2020/FP7 projects (the RDS have populated this on behalf of all awarded projects to BU); the UK Cabinet Office has set up a portal for recipients of funds under such programmes as Health for Growth, Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme, Erasmus+, Competitiveness of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Europe for Citizens and Creative Europe; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has a dedicated portal for recipients of funds under Creative Europe and Europe for Citizens.
With regards to applying for new Horizon 2020 grants, in a no deal scenario the UK will automatically be assigned a third country status. With calls open to the third country participation, those will also be open to the UK applicants to participate and even coordinate collaborative projects. However, this may not be a case for European Research Council (ERC) and Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) applications – there are restrictions for third country participation in these actions, for example, as regards ERC grants, the PI has to be hosted by an institution in a Member State/Associated Country (MS/AC) and 50% of their total working time has to be spent in MS/AC.
If a no-deal scenario takes place shortly after a call deadline, the approach that the European Commission will follow regarding eligibility and evaluation of ERC and MSCA proposals is currently unknown. The Government and involved institutions are aware of potential issues that could arise and are working closely in seeking a solution.
BU academics having concerns regarding their research funding after Brexit or questions before applying for a new EU grant are welcome to contact Ainar Blaudums, International Research Facilitator, Research Development & Support directly, or ask your Research Facilitator/Funding Development Officer for advice.
In December 2018 The Education Committee reviewed nursing degree apprenticeships and produced the report Nursing degree apprenticeships: in poor health? The Committee warned that the uptake of nursing degree apprenticeships has been too slow (only 30 started last year) and that the DfE won’t meet their target of 400 nursing associates progressing to degree apprenticeships from 2019. The Committee stated that nursing degree apprenticeships was more of a ‘mirage’ than a successful and sustainable route into the profession unless delivery barriers are resolved. You can read the recommendations from the Committee’s report here.
The Government have now responded to the Committee’s report (Government response here) largely agreeing with several of the Committee’s recommendations. The response:
- Agrees with recommendations 1 and 2 on maintaining support to develop a sufficient number of quality nursing apprenticeships. It outlines intent of current reforms in achieving this.
- Agrees with recommendation 3 that Nurse Degree apprenticeship cannot act as the lone route to train the nursing workforce and adds “that has never been the intention”. Further outlining reforms in place to achieve this.
- Agrees with recommendation 4 on the need to incentive the NHS to spend time and resource building nursing apprenticeships and outlines the case and plan for making sure “apprenticeships to meet the needs of employers, as well as apprentices and training providers.”
- On recommendation 5 and the NMC’s consultation on whether nursing associate students should remain supernumerary, Government outline that the NMC agreed in 26th September “they have approved proposals for an additional approach to nursing associate training, which is a different choice for employers to the supernumerary approach to training. This alternative option will enable employers to work in partnership with approved education institutions, to identify the proportion of time the organisation will be able to support protected learning time for the trainees.” State the NMC will consider whether to extend this training model to the other professions they regulate once they have undertaken evaluation and review.
- On recommendation 6 and 9, response outlines the incentives for employers to invest in workforce and the role of the levy.
- Does not agree with recommendation 7, on the funding band for nursing degree apprenticeships remaining at a minimum of £27,000 and the IfA should consider increasing. Government say nursing degree apprenticeships are in the highest funding band and “The Institute for Apprenticeships is responsible for regularly reviewing standards to make sure they are high quality, continue to meet the needs of employers, and are value for money.”
- Agrees with recommendation 8 on investment in CPD and state this was recognised in the NHS long-term plan.
On 9 November 2018, Professor Dinusha Mendis of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management (CIPPM), hosted and led an Expert Meeting on the Intellectual Property (IP) Implications of 3D Printing at the European Commission, Brussels.
The Expert Meeting was hosted as part of the European Commission funded project on the Study into IP Implications on the Development of Industrial 3D Printing, which is being led by Professor Dinusha Mendis. Dr. Julie Robson (Co-Investigator) of the Faculty of Management and Mr. Dukki Hong (Research Assistant, PhD Candidate Law) were other project team members from BU who also participated in the expert meeting.
The expert meeting included invitees from the industrial, policy and academic sectors thereby drawing on views from key stakeholders in this field. Representative organisations included the EU Intellectual Property Office, European Patent Office, CECIMO, Materialise, HP, Prodintec amongst others. Amongst the academics invited, Dr. Marc Mimler (Member of Advisory Board) of CIPPM was also in attendance.
The EU-funded project led by Professor Mendis (Principal Investigator) consists of other UK and European partners including University of Glasgow, Scotland; Added Scientific Ltd UK, Technopolis Group Vienna Austria, University of Lapland, Finland and Boehmert & Boehmert, Munich Germany. The project is currently in progress and is due for completion in May 2019.
The project aims to provide an overview of the past and current industrial applications of Additive Manufacturing (AM) in selected sectors whilst identifying potential challenges and opportunities in need of clarification. In essence, the Study will aim to formulate a clear picture of the Intellectual Property (IP) framework that could enhance the competitiveness of the AM sector in Europe.
The current work builds on the Commissioned project on the Intellectual Property Implications of 3D Printing, which Professor Mendis led for the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) between 2013-2015 and the AHRC/CREATe project which Professor Mendis led between 2015-2017.
Nursing and midwifery both featured in Parliament last week.
Last Wednesday the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, announced an increase in bursaries (to £10,000) for Scottish student midwives and nurses to help cover accommodation and living expenses.
The Royal College of Midwives Scotland Director, Mary Ross Davie, commented: “This is great news and a forward thinking and important announcement…Let us not forget that in England student midwives and nurses do not get any bursary at all, which makes this increase for Scotland even more progressive. This also comes on the back of the best pay award for NHS midwives and nurses in the UK, another important step to ensuring we retain the midwives we have…I would urge the government in England to rethink their decision to take away bursaries in England.”
Suzanne Tyler, Executive Director for Services to Members at the Royal College of Midwives, responded to the announcement: “The announcement is simply great news for student midwives in Scotland…It frankly should shame the Government in England who have taken away bursaries for England’s student midwives, who also have to pay tuition fees. This leaves them tens of thousands of pounds in debt when they qualify.
This is even more worrying given the large shortage of midwives in England, and sits at odds with the Government’s commitment to bring 3000 more midwives into the NHS in England. The RCM [Royal College of Midwives] repeats its call for this Government to give our student midwives and nurses their bursaries back. So that we can attract people into the profession and so that the Government can meet their promise of 3000 more midwives for England.”
There were also two relevant parliamentary questions:
Q – Paula Sherriff: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many mental health nursing students have started degree apprenticeships in the 2018-19 academic year.
A – Anne Milton: In the 2017/18 academic year reported to date (from August 2017 to April 2018), 260 apprenticeship starts were recorded for the standard ‘Registered Nurse’. This is the level 6 degree apprenticeship approved for delivery on 9 May 2017. Mental health nursing remains an optional element within the nursing apprenticeships.
Additionally, there have been 640 apprenticeship starts reported to date (from August 2017 to April 2018) for the standard ‘Nursing Associate’ (level 5 apprenticeship standard, approved for delivery on 20 November 2017; note that we class apprenticeships at level 6 and above as ‘degree-level’). There were no starts on these standards in the 2016/17 academic year. Full final year data for the 2017/18 academic year will be available in November 2018 and data covering 2018/19 will be available in January 2019.
In England, there have been 64,830 apprenticeship starts in the Health, Public Services and Care sector subject area reported to date in the first three quarters of the 2017/18 academic year (August 2017 to April 2018). This data can be accessed at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/further-education-and-skills-statistical-first-release-sfr .
We want to increase the number of nursing apprenticeships and now have a complete apprentice pathway from entry level to postgraduate advanced clinical practice in nursing. This will support people from all backgrounds to enter a nursing career in the National Health Service (NHS).
We are working closely with employers, Health Education England and ministers in the Department of Health and Social Care to make sure the NHS is fully supported to recruit apprentices, both in nursing and in a range of various occupations.
Q – Paula Sherriff: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many students started mental health nursing degree courses in the 2018-19 academic year.
A – Matt Hancock: The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) collect data on acceptances to mental health nursing degree courses.
Acceptances for 2018/19 entry can still be made until the end of clearing on 23 October 2018.
The final number of acceptances for mental health nursing degree courses for 2018/19 will be available following the publication of end of cycle data by UCAS in December 2018.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey made an announcement on funding for microplastics research
Digital media experts discuss internet regulation
The Commons Select Committee have opened an inquiry into the challenges and opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Contact the Policy Team if you’d like to contribute to BU’s response to this inquiry.
The Foreign Affairs Committee held an evidence session questioning academics on the responsibility to protect and humanitarian intervention.
Key personnel changes:
Which? – Peter Vicary-Smith to stand down as Chief Executive.
Cancer Research UK – Michelle Mitchell to replace Harpal Kumar as Chief Executive in the summer.
Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards – Stuart Dollow appointed as Chair from 1st June for three years.
Care Quality Commission – Ian Trenholm to replace David Behan as Chief Executive in July.
Have a lovely weekend!
Macmillian has published the specialist cancer adult nursing and support workforce census 2017.
The Education Policy Institute has published research on vulnerable children and social care in England.
On Tuesday there is a Westminster Hall debate on safeguarding children and young people in sport, and a Health and Social Care Select Committee examining childhood obesity.
Meindert Boysen has been appointed as Director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation.
On Friday Jeremy Hunt launched a review into the impact of technological advances on the NHS workforce.
On Wednesday there will be an adjournment debate on Mental Health Services
Clive Efford has joined the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee as a member. On Wednesday this committee will meet to consider Fake News.
David Clark, Kenny Dey and Nick Terrell have been appointed as members of the Oil & Gas UK Trade Association.
On Tuesday the Education Select Committee will examine Alternative Provision.
On Tuesday the Home Affairs Committee will meet to discuss Policing for the future.
On Wednesday there will be a Westminster Hall debate on reducing plastic waste in the maritime environment.
There is a new register of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG). Check the list to see which fit with your research interests (scroll down past the country groups to the subject groups).
This week the following APPGs will meet: Social Work (on Tuesday), Industrial Heritage (Tuesday), Archaeology (Tuesday), Carers (Wednesday).
Catch up on last week’s policy news here, or email email@example.com to subscribe.
A week of intense debate over fees, artificial intelligence, student nurses and the decline of part time provision. Enjoy!
Fees, fees, fees…and the HE Review
HEPI’s Free and Comprehensive University
HEPI have published a new blog The Comprehensive and Free University by Professor Tim Blackman (VC Middlesex, but writing personally). In essence it argues for free fees and a greater focus on the comprehensive university model (institutions that service their regional community with less focus on entrance requirements, generally less research intensive too).
Blackman commences by tackling the current HE Review. He highlights that because the Government have informed the ‘independent’ panel conducting the HE Review that abolishing tuition fees isn’t an option there is already a political bias. He addresses the arguments against abolishing fees (unfair – non-graduate taxpayers footing bill for those that will become higher earners and unaffordable to the public purse) and raises cross-generational fairness (older graduates had no fees and maintenance grants). Instead he feels the simple solution is to raise income rates within the higher and additional tax bands (effectively raising the repayment threshold to £45,000). He notes approx. 66% of graduates are within these tax bands (so 34% are non-graduate high earners that would contribute). He states the cost of abolishing fees is £7.5 billion per year and that increasing the higher rate tax from 40% to 45% (and the additional rate from 45% to 65%) would fully cover the £7.5 billion.
This approach would see the Treasury holding these taxation purse strings. So a pertinent question is – how much of this funding would actually reach universities and who would be the winners and losers from the Government’s allocation method? Currently the funding going direct from students to Universities is a neater, perhaps fairer, system from the University prospective and one that many within Government appear keen to retain. As the tax would be retrospective we could question whether student number controls be reintroduced, at least until the Treasury was confident the public purse would be repaid. And surely there would be even more focus on graduate outcome earnings?
Returning to Blackman, he isn’t a fan of writing off the loans of existing graduates, despite the unfairness of their being the only paying meat within the chronological free tuition sandwich. He feels those paying off their loans will “know that new cohorts paying no fees will still contribute if and when they become higher earners”. He also doesn’t propose the re-introduction of maintenance grants (as the tax income wouldn’t cover this) and states its right for students who chose to move away from home to study to take out a loan to do so. Blackman believes far more students should study locally and the costs commuter students incur to study at their nearest university could be partly met by public transport discounts funded by reducing the subsidy away from the over-60’s away free travel. Note, adjustments for rurality or areas without public transport aren’t adequately addressed.
At first Blackman’s suggestions that only students that are willing to take loans and pay fees should attend a distant institution appears socially regressive. After all it seems to close down student choice – preventing selection of an institution dependent on whether the course content best fits their interest, selection for the perceived quality of the institution, or attending a prestigious institution for the reported employment outcome boost. There is a clear hit to social mobility in expecting those in the poorest areas, who may be most debt adverse to only attend their nearest institution. What if their local institution doesn’t deliver their programme, e.g. medicine. Is Blackman suggesting the choice would be loans and fees or abandon their career aspirations? Blackman defends his localism by explaining that moving away to attend university residentially is a colonial legacy, and happens less in other countries (America, Australia). He sees moving away as a perk which would only continue via the loan system. He states:
A policy of encouraging local study has many benefits. It is less costly to students and taxpayers, greener in transport terms and would take pressure off many local housing markets. It also offers an option for phasing in free higher education. Just as going to university ‘in state’ in the United States means considerably lower fees than studying out of state, free higher education in England could at least initially be restricted to studying ‘in region’, based on the Government Office regions abolished in 2011. Studying out of region would mean paying a regulated fee, at a level to be decided, but similar in principle to how students from Scotland pay fees to attend English universities.
He does go on to address the social mobility elements:
…of course, [its] potentially an argument against this idea if local study becomes the only choice for many people from low income households because they cannot afford the out-of-region fee or lack the resources to maintain themselves away from home. This would only really be an issue of educational disadvantage if the effect was to narrow the choice of types of university or course, but this choice is already narrowed by ‘top’ universities using academic selection in a way that excludes many such people, whose prior attainment tends to be significantly lower than those from better-off households.
Blackman feels the answer lies within requiring all universities to have more diverse intakes – socially, ethnically and by ability: Institutional quotas incorporating a required balance across entry grades and social background – basically an elaboration of current access benchmarks – would provide a basis for the diversification I advocate even without initially confining free higher education to local study. But it would enable such a policy to be managed so that there are enough free local places for the range of prior attainment in any region.
Above all, at a time when young people are under pressure from so many directions, and the number of part-time adult learners is collapsing, abolishing fees and using higher rate tax bands to pay for it would be an important statement about those who are successful in their careers and businesses investing in young people and adult learning.
Blackman pushes back against HE sector criticism that it is seen as the only way and discredits other vocational routes by weaving in the Government push for more flexible methods of degree delivery:
It also seems possible that with this review we will see the progressiveness of student loans for degree study being criticised as a market distortion, tempting students who would be better opting for shorter vocational courses or apprenticeships. Not only does that threaten to undo the progress made so far with widening access to degree study, but it fails to address far more important issues about what we are teaching and how, such as replacing outmoded academic years and credit with more flexible competency-based learning and assessment.
Blackman does believe there is a risk that student number controls could be reintroduced, even with the current fee loan system by noting that the Treasury’s purse isn’t unlimited. The expected future rise in the number of young people aspiring to enter higher education (as outlined in HEPI report 105) will challenge any funding system, but loans no longer mean that student number controls are off the agenda given the level of taxpayer contribution to settle unpaid debt and support high-cost subjects. The idea that fees and loans would guarantee university autonomy and funding has also worn thin with the Office for Students’ new regulatory regime and a further fees freeze.
Loan Interest Rates
The RPI inflation rise created renewed criticism this week as it means student loan interest rates will increase to 6.3% in September (up from 6.1%). Much of the controversy stems from the use of RPI which has been denounced as inappropriate method for student loans (RPI is no longer used as a national statistic). The Government now uses the consumer price index for many calculations and there have been calls for it to be applied to student loans. The Guardian ran with the story: Ministers under fire as student loan interest hits 6.3% on Wednesday. To put this into context re-read Martin Lewis’ explanatory article for his clear explanation of why (for 83% of students) the interest rate rise won’t mean they ever pay more. Here’s an excerpt:
The interest doesn’t change what you repay each year
You become eligible to repay your student loan in the April after you leave University.
From this point, students must repay loans at a rate of 9% of everything they earn above £25,000 each year (or more technically £2,083 a month). So if you earn £30,000, as that’s £5,000 more than the threshold, you repay 9% of it – which is £450 a year.
This means the amount you owe (the borrowing plus interest) never has an impact on what you repay each year. I know people really struggle with this, so let’s pick out of the air a current salary of £35,000 (purely done for maths ease as it’s £10,000 above the threshold) and look at how different levels of borrowing impact your repayments – though the same principle applies whatever you earn.
As you can see, changing what you owe – even to the absurd level of £1 billion – simply doesn’t impact your repayments (you may find it easier to listen to my BBC Radio 5 Live student finance podcast to understand this).
HE Review and Fees
At UUK’s Political Affairs in HE Forum on Thursday HE fees received frequent mention. A wide range of personal views were stated: Conference Chair Stephen Bush (New Statesman) opened by declaring the days of £12,000 fees are gone. Katie Perrior (previous Director of Comms at No 10) highlighted how if the Government can only make a measly concession on fees its better ’not to go there’ with the nuance the review should focus on wider issues instead. Her take was that the review outcome would tackle loan interest rates and perhaps address maintenance grants. Speaking officially in the session on the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding Philip Augar (Chair of the HE Review panel) set out to bring the audience ‘up to date’ and provide an ‘inking into the panel’s current thinking’. The official word on the HE Review is that it will be much broader than a review of fees, covering far more ground. The review has to fit with the Government’s objectives to reduce the deficit and the national debt, and decisions must be taken based on evidence.
The panel are approaching the review based on two questions:
- What should the tertiary education system be doing for the country (what are its objectives)?
- How does the current system match up to this?
The panel are subdividing the evidence between economic and social objectives.
Economic requirements for tertiary system:
- Innovation (expectation for the tertiary system to create innovation)
- The assertion that FE and HE is crucial for economic dynamism
- Value for money (one of the biggest issues)
- The premise that all must be done transparently and in the most official manner
- There must be a balance of contributions between state and employers
- Improving life chances
- Accessible education and training
- Cultural issues – education fostering good citizenships and interaction
- Excellence – any changes must not risk the sector’s academic excellence
Philip confirmed workstreams matching and measuring against these criteria were currently in progress, including reference and focus groups across the range of students, employers and providers. He stated he felt there was ‘room to improve value and coherence’, and then promptly left the conference for a pressing parliamentary engagement before questions could be asked.
Other members of the panel were:
Rt Hon Lord Willetts, former Universities and Science Minister (Conservative)
Professor John Denham, Professor, University of Winchester and former government minister (Labour)
Each went on to give their opinion of the HE Review.
Willetts presented a supportive stance for Universities and felt the problems and challenges within tertiary education mainly lay outside of the University sector. He felt the review should tackle:
- The underfunding of FE
- Strengthening non-university routes
- Part time and mature HE opportunities
He felt the current fees model was the best way (for young, full time, undergraduates) – but that the grievances over the interest rate should be addressed. He was clear that fees were over-debated and echoed the need to move away from fees to tackle the more pressing above three issues he described. On part time and mature he felt an entirely different funding model (non-loan) is needed.
An interesting point he highlighted is that public spending on apprenticeships now exceeds public spending on Universities.
John Denham presented a range of more complicated messages questioning whether the HE system is actually producing what the UK economy and students need, specifically on graduate underemployment. He felt how an institution responds to the funding system is pivotal – more than what the funding system is.
Although Denham is a Labour party member, and while he conceded that abolishing fees is attractive, he doesn’t feel it’s the answer. He noted if fees are abolished but everything else stays the same the result will be a costly system that delivers exactly as it does already (and doesn’t tackle any of the systemic problems – widening participation, achievement gaps, graduate outcomes). Denham’s argument was that the HE system can be made cheaper. He also noted that the investment in FE is ‘pathetically low’ and requires addressing [although presumably not at the expense of the HE sector – which the current system of direct fee payments from student to institution provides a limited safeguard against].
Quality of Apprenticeships & Skills
On Tuesday the House of Commons Education Select Committee met to consider the quality of apprenticeships and skills training. Witnesses called to provide evidence were:
- Mark Dawe, Chief Executive, Association of Employment and Learning Providers
- Lady Andrée Deane Barron, Group Education and Central Skills Director, Central YMCA
- Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy and External Affairs, Chartered Management Institute
The session focused on apprenticeships and what support could be offered to apprentices who were struggling. There was discussion about entry level requirements to apprenticeships and whether they would be able to recruit the kind of able candidate who could not suit or afford university.
Dawe was sceptical of the idea that everyone should be a level 3 or level 4 apprentice. He stated there was a lack of level 2 apprentices and the UK really needed more of these.
Degree-level apprenticeships were discussed with Lucy Powell (Lab/Co-op, Manchester Central) explaining that the committee had met a lot of degree-level apprentices, and despite the impressive quality of candidate, many had needed an A grade in their maths exam to win a place. She questioned what this meant for social mobility.
Dawe responded that high grades did not necessarily differentiate between different social classes. However, many organisations were considering different ways of assessing potential candidates, e.g. Dyson has an “amazing programme” full of “incredible applications“. Dawe argued the more high-grade students who moved in, the more tertiary education would transform. Petra Wilton presented statistics to argue that apprenticeships were supporting social mobility: 49% of apprentices were aged 30, 52.5% were female, and 51% were from disadvantaged regions. She went on to say the all age process means that those that did not get a degree the first time round, had access now and ‘failed graduates’ found it opened their career prospects in ways “they had never imagined“.
It was also noted that travel cost support for apprentices would particularly benefit those living in rural areas and could improve attendance at face to face delivery sessions.
More generally it was argued that the external evaluation of apprenticeship quality requires improvement to support employer deliver and stronger progression pathways are needed.
Other apprenticeship news
DfE’s Apprenticeship and levy statistics note a drop in apprenticeship starts – down by 31% (25,400 starts in Jan 2018 compared to 36,700 in Jan 2017). The Independent covered the story noting ‘the structure and implementation of the apprenticeship levy has acted as a barrier and brake to skills development’.
The House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence has published AI in the UK: ready, willing and able? following their recent inquiry. The inquiry concluded the UK is capable of being an AI world leader and a great opportunity for the British economy. Excerpts:
As soon as it works, no one calls it AI anymore …
Artificial intelligence has been developing for years, but it is entering a crucial stage in its development and adoption. The last decade has seen a confluence of factors—in particular, improved techniques such as deep learning, and the growth in available data and computer processing power—enable this technology to be deployed far more extensively. This brings with it a host of opportunities, but also risks and challenges, and how the UK chooses to respond to these, will have widespread implications for many years to come.
‘Access to large quantities of data is one of the factors fuelling the current AI boom.’ The report describes how balancing data gathering and access with personal privacy needs careful change. To do this means not only using established concepts, such as open data and data protection legislation, but also the development of new frameworks and mechanisms, such as data portability and data trusts. A nod is made to safeguarding amid the recent scandal too: ‘Large companies which have control over vast quantities of data must be prevented from becoming overly powerful within this landscape’.
The report calls for:
- Government and the Competition and Markets Authority to proactively review use and monopolisation of data by big technology companies
- To ensure use of AI does not inadvertently prejudice the treatment of particular groups in society. Government to incentivise the development of new approaches to the auditing of datasets used in AI, and to encourage greater diversity in the training and recruitment of AI specialists.
- Create a growth fund for UK SMEs working with AI to scale their businesses; a PhD matching scheme (costs shared with private sector) and standardisation of a mechanism for spinning out AI start-ups (based on University research).
- Increasing visas for overseas workers with valuable skills in AI.
- An AI Council is formed to rationalise the hopes and fears associated with AI and to inform consumers when artificial intelligence is being used to make significant or sensitive decisions.
- Government investment in skills and training to mitigate the digital disruption to the jobs market that AI is likely to exacerbate. The National Retraining Scheme may be vital, needs to be developed in partnership with industry taking on board lessons learnt from the apprenticeships scheme. More AI in children’s curriculum. Conversion courses (3-6 months) to meet needs of researchers and industry.
- The Presenti-Hall Review (intellectual property management in AI) recommendations be endorsed and the government commit to underwriting, and where necessary replacing, funding for European research and innovation programmes.
- Law Commission should provide clarity regarding the adequacy of existing legislation should AI systems malfunction, underperform or otherwise make erroneous decisions which cause harm.
- AI developers to be alive to the potential ethical implications of their work and the risk of their work being used for malicious purposes. (This was discussed on Monday 16th’s Today programme on Radio 4). Funding applications should demonstrate consequential understanding of how the research might be misused. 5 principles were proposed to form a shared ethical AI framework.
Read the report in full here.
The report has been heavily criticised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (see their press release) who state: The recommendations on how the UK can become a global leader in Artificial Intelligence are off the mark. While the report contains numerous uncontroversial and welcome suggestions on such topics as increased use of AI in the National Health Service, more visas for talented technologists, and the need to make public sector data sets available to the private sector, many of the recommendations would hamper the development of AI domestically and antagonise foreign innovators.
The report acknowledges the need to make it easier for universities to form “spin-out companies,” which are effectively startups with university ownership of intellectual property. Reform of the current spin-out procedure is necessary, though that is only a small part of the large amount of regulatory barriers for startups in the UK. It is not enough to care only about university research when the large American companies criticized for being too large were not university spin-outs themselves.
It is helpful that the UK’s Parliament is examining the opportunities that artificial intelligence creates. However, it would do better to focus on removing the barriers currently in place, rather than developing new ones.
Do read the short press release for critique on other elements of the Lords report if you have an interest in this area.
UKRI – Interim Executive Chair
UK Research and Innovation have appointed Dr Ian Campbell as the new interim executive chair of Innovate UK. Campbell will take over from 4 May until a permanent Executive Chair is appointed. His background is within aging, life sciences, medical devices and diagnostics.
Dr Ian Campbell said: “I am absolutely delighted to be appointed as interim Executive Chair of Innovate UK. Our role as the business-facing arm of UK Research and Innovation is more important than ever as we seek to meet the target of spending 2.4% of our GDP on research and development. Innovate UK, working together with all the research councils has a key role to play in realising that ambition through flagship programmes such as the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. I am really looking forward to working with and leading our fantastic team to make sure that businesses have the support they need.”
Here is the press release on the interim appointment.
Widening Participation & Achievement
HE’s influence on life and death
Nora Ann Colton (UCL) blogs for Wonkhe to explore the link between lack of HE provision and high rates of mortality within cold spot areas. Excerpt: In 2014, HEFCE published maps that revealed “cold spots” in higher education provision across England. These maps revealed gaps in subject provision, student mobility, and graduate employment. Though this work was significant in providing useful information for higher education providers and local authorities, there is more to the question of educational “cold spots”. There has always been an understanding that a lack of employment opportunities, poverty, and deprivation lead to higher mortality rates, but recent research suggests a link between a lack of higher education provision and high rates of mortality.
Nora highlights Blackpool as an example of ‘death by no higher education’ where demand for professional occupations is increasing and fewer and fewer jobs are available for lower skilled workers. Nora discusses the research demonstrating that better-educated people live in less-polluted areas, tend to be less obese, are more physically active, are less likely to smoke, and do not as frequently engage in risky behaviours. She argues against an economically focussed reductionist approach to HE: A reductionist approach to higher education, its mission, and its impact fails to recognise the profound effect that it can have on an individual in terms of shaping their quality of life, health and life expectancy. Nora calls for the sector to re-consider their messaging:
If a university education is the best signifier of future good health and high earnings, the higher education sector needs to get its messaging right. This approach requires that we recognise that higher education and the missions of universities are more than simply getting a student a job. Institutions must work with the government and the health sector to ensure these life changing outcomes. The higher education sector needs to start adopting this approach to fulfil its role in ensuring that we not only have a better-educated working population, but a healthier one as well.
Q – Sir Mark Hendrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the introduction of the £200 self-contribution for disabled students who are in receipt of disabled student allowances on (a) the take-up of the equipment needed to study independently and (b) trends in the level of participation of disabled students; and if he will make a statement.
A – Sam Gyimah: The most recent data show that, for full-time undergraduate students domiciled in England, 4,600 fewer students were in receipt of equipment Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) in 2015/16 than in 2014/15. The main reason for this fall is that the £200 student contribution to the costs of computer hardware took effect from September 2015.
This government remains committed to supporting disabled students in higher education, both through DSAs and through supporting higher education providers’ efforts to improve the support they offer their disabled students. Alongside this commitment, we are keen to better understand the impact of DSAs on eligible students, including that of recent DSAs reforms. We have commissioned a research project to explore this – we will respond to the research findings when they are available in spring 2018.
6.6% of UK-domiciled full-time first-degree students received Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).
On the non-continuation rates of part-time first-degree entrants, and rates of resumption of study after a year out – of the 31,155 full-time, first-degree entrants who did not continue into their second year in 2015/16 10% resumed study at the same provider the following year. The release also shows that, two years after entering higher education, around a third (33.5%) of part-time students had terminated their studies. The Open University accounted for 83% of these students.
Lifelong Learning (House of Lords)
On Tuesday the House of Lords debated Lifelong Learning. Baroness Garden of Frognal (Lib Dem) opened the debate by discussing the huge decline in part time degree uptake and stated the higher fee system was “undoubtedly one of the major factors that prevents adults from upskilling or reskilling” She asked the minister to comment on fee changes and its impact on disadvantaged groups. Shadow spokesperson for education, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, agreed that fees were a cause of decline and raised questions on the Government’s target for apprenticeship starts.
The impact of technology creating changes within employment and employment opportunities was raised and the Baroness called on the minister to comment on the Made Smarter review (proposes to digitally upskill 1m people over the next five years through an online platform). Lord Knight of Weymouth (Labour) stated a lifelong learning culture was vital as technology will force multiple career changes within an individual’s life. He concluded that radical reform was needed and “not just tinkering with a redundant system“.
The Baroness stated craft and creativity had “been squeezed out” of the school curriculum in favour of academic content and she asked the Government to discuss their engagement on this topic, along with how the Government were encouraging adults to learn languages.
She said that Government should recognise that lifelong learning was critical and explicitly give the recommendation that all universities should “consider how best to support this educational provision, either through developing a more flexible curriculum or producing open educational resources.” Lord Addington (Lib Dem) added the importance of lifelong learning and skills for those with dyslexia and other hidden disabilities.
Baroness Bakewell (Lab), a member of the Artificial Intelligence Committee, asked if the post-18 review of funding would confront the fourth industrial revolution.
Lords Spokesperson for Higher Education, Viscount Younger of Leckie, discussed the points made throughout the debate and stated that ‘lifelong learning was becoming increasingly important due to a number of trends and challenges that are shaping the future of work in the UK.”
He outlined the various Government schemes and initiatives that aided in the development of skills throughout life which included the national retraining scheme, career learning pilots, the flexible learning fund and the outreach and cost pilots. He stated that the response to the T-level consultation would be released “very soon.”
On barriers to part-time learning he said that the review of the post-18 education-plus funding would look at how we can encourage flexible and part-time learning to allow people to study throughout their lives.
Earlier in the academic year some nursing students were overpaid on their student loan.
Helen Jones asked a parliamentary question to follow this up:
Q – Helen Jones: what estimate he has made of the number of nursing students who have received incorrect payments from the Student Loans Company and who have been told that money will as a result be deducted from their future payments.
While the parliamentary question hasn’t been answered yet (due on Monday) the Government have responded on how they intend to recover the funds from nursing students who have been overpaid on their student loan. Additional payments of up to £1,000 and a deferred re-payment scheme have been set up. The Government says affected students can apply for this additional, non-repayable, maintenance support for the rest of this academic year if they are facing hardship. The Student Loan Company will also defer the recovery of the overpaid funds until affected students have finished their courses and can afford to repay. Overpaid students will be eligible for normal support as per usual in the next academic year.
Sam Gyimah stated: “My priority has been to ensure none of the affected student nurses should suffer hardship as a result of an administrative error. These short-term, practical steps will provide immediate help for those who need it so they can concentrate on their studies and their future careers without concern.”
The Royal College of Nursing have responded:
“This is a small but welcome recognition of the problem. But it does not go anything like far enough. Student nurses will still struggle to pay bills and childcare costs and they must not be forced to turn to loan sharks or even quit their studies as a result.
“This was not a problem of their making and we will not let them pay the price. The overpayment mistakes must be written off and they need money this month without a bureaucratic nightmare.
“This announcement lacks detail and we will keep asking the difficult questions until students have the answers.”
Student Loans – Appointment
Q – Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Education when he plans to appoint a new permanent chief executive of the Student Loans Company.
A- Sam Gyimah: The Student Loan Company’s (SLC’s) Shareholding Administrations (the Department for Education, the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and the Northern Irish Executive) are working closely with the SLC Board on the appointment of a new permanent CEO. This appointment will take place as soon as possible.
Q – Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Education when he plans to appoint the independent chair of the review into the Teaching Excellence Framework.
A – Sam Gyimah: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State is planning to appoint a suitable independent person to report on the operation of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework by autumn 2018. The department is currently engaged in a process for identifying people who have both the required experience and can command the confidence of the sector.
Q – Gordon Marsden: what discussions he has had with the (a) Home Secretary and (b) Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union on universities being able to continue to recruit academics to teach STEM subjects after the UK leaves the EU.
A– Sam Gyimah: The government recognises that the ability to continue to attract Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) academics from across the EU post-exit is a priority for the higher education (HE) sector. That is why departments are working to ensure the interests of the HE sector are represented in EU exit planning, and the government has been clear that the UK will remain open to academic staff and researchers from Europe and beyond.
To help provide certainty to current and prospective EU academics, in December 2017 we reached an agreement with the EU that EU citizens living in the UK when we exit will be able to get on with their lives broadly as now, and enjoy rights such as access to healthcare, benefits, and education. We will extend the December deal to those that arrive during the implementation period, but EU citizens who arrive here during this period must register with the Home Office after three months residence in the UK.
We are considering the options for our future migration system and a crucial part of this work is the government commissioning the Migration Advisory Committee to assess the impact of EU exit on the UK labour market. Their report in September will help to inform our thinking.
Elsewhere, the government is taking steps to increase the supply of important STEM skills, including by supporting new institutions such as the New Model in Technology and Engineering and the Institute of Coding, where a consortium of employers and universities will ensure HE courses meet the needs of the economy.
Q – Stephen Timms: what assessment he has made of the prevalence of fraudulent dissertation-writing services for university students; and what plans he has to address that practice.
A- Sam Gyimah: Higher education providers, as autonomous organisations, are responsible for handling matters of this nature, including developing and implementing policies to detect and discourage plagiarism. To help providers tackle the issue, we asked the Quality Assurance Agency, Universities UK and the National Union of Students to produce new guidance, which was published in October 2017.
This guidance is the first set of comprehensive advice for providers and students on the subject. It makes clear that where providers are working with others to deliver programmes, such as through validation, care should be taken to ensure that partner organisations are taking the risks of academic misconduct seriously. Providers are also encouraged to consider steps to scrutinise potential partners’ processes and regulations when developing validation arrangements. This is in line with the wider expectations set out in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education which all providers must meet. The code establishes the fundamental principle that degree awarding bodies have ultimate responsibility for academic standards and the quality of learning opportunities, regardless of where these opportunities are delivered and who provides them.
Going forward, I expect the Office for Students to encourage and support the sector to implement strong policies and sanctions to address this important issue in the most robust way possible.
2019/20 EU student fee levels
Q – Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether non-UK EU students starting university courses in the UK in academic year 2019-20 will be charged home student fees for the full duration of their course.
A – Sam Gyimah: Applications for courses starting in 2019/20 do not open until September 2018, and we will ensure EU students starting courses at English Institutions in that academic year have information well in advance of this date.
Social Media: a new All Party Parliamentary Group has launched on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing. It will be chaired by Chris Elmore MP (Labour).
Disadvantage: An Education Policy Institute report comparing educationally disadvantaged pupils within England with other nations has concluded England needs to double the number of disadvantaged pupils achieving the top GCSE grades to match the performance of the best nations.
Industrial Strategy: Ministers have announced £8 million for innovation to tackle global climate change and prepare for natural disasters as part of the Industrial Strategy for Commonwealth countries.
Transition to work: Stephen Isherwood writes about the stark differences between academic and working life in Communicating the university-to-work transition to students.
He states we underestimate the difficulties of the transition that students have to make when they start full-time work. That it’s a myth that employers expect fully work-ready hires who don’t require any development, but the spectrum of experience ranges from the student who hasn’t even had a bar job, to those with a one-year placement and more. The biggest development need is found in the complex areas of working with others. “Teamwork” is vague – a term used to describe managing up, dealing with conflicts, and working across complex team structures – University group exercises don’t match up to this. Real on the job experience is valued most and graduates with meaningful work experience are more employable. Isherwood states employers think that interns are much more likely to have the skills they seek than those without work experience:
But not all work experience has to be gained via a city internship in a gleaming Canary Wharf skyscraper. Work experience comes in many forms. Pulling shifts in a restaurant often involves dealing with demanding people. A student on a supermarket till can see around them the business decisions that companies make on a day-to-day basis. The fact that fewer and fewer young people are now working part-time during their school years is a problem.
Students who interview well demonstrate how they proactively developed relevant skills. A problem with course-related group work examples is that everyone has them. Employers are more likely to hire the student who has done more than they were told to, and can explain how they overcame difficulties and got stuff done.
It’s in the interests of employers, universities, and the students themselves to improve transitions into work. The more students gain meaningful experiences to develop the skills that will get them started in their career, the deeper their understanding of their strengths, and the easier and quicker they will transition to the world of work.
The Guardian ran a related article this week: Working while you study: a means to an end or a career opportunity.
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JANE FORSTER | SARAH CARTER
Policy Advisor Policy & Public Affairs Officer
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“Our vision is to host a successful, safe and secure Games that deliver a lasting legacy for the whole of Scotland, and to maximise the opportunities in the run up to, during, and after the Games.”
This was the promise made by the Scottish government to the Commonwealth in 2014. In the 12 days of competition that followed, the city of Glasgow achieved a “hero-like status”, Team Scotland achieved its biggest-ever medal haul of 53 medals, and the games recorded the highest number of tickets sold for a sporting event in Scottish history.
Minister for sport Aileen Campbell hailed the event as a huge success by announcing that Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games was the largest sporting and cultural event ever held in Scotland and had changed the lives of thousands of people.
The message from the host nation was clear: the games were not just about showcasing elite athletes, but about delivering a legacy that would provide a flourishing economy, celebrate cultural diversity, embrace sustainable living, and create a more physically active nation. But four years on, not all those ambitions have been achieved.
Getting a nation off the couch
The games were considered a golden opportunity for Scotland to harness the power of sport to motivate a sedentary nation. A ten-year implementation plan was launched in 2014 to tackle physical inactivity across Scotland as well as myriad other initiatives to support communities in improving the local sporting infrastructure.
Two and a half years after the games, an interim report by the Scottish parliament’s Health and Sport Committee was undertaken to assess the progress made in increasing physical activity levels across Scotland.
The report concluded that there was no evidence of an active legacy being achievable. More alarmingly, any evidence of a relationship between the hosting of a major sporting event and raising the host nation’s physical activity levels was inconclusive.
This raises serious questions as to why such an ambitious legacy aim was included in the first place given the likelihood of failure. It could be that the Scottish government included the aim of increasing participation within its legacy pledge as a desperate attempt to address Scotland’s poor health profile, one of the worst in Europe.
A final evaluation report on the impact of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games published by the Scottish government days before the opening ceremony of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games highlighted the harsh reality that the active legacy programme had not “resulted in a step change in population levels of physical activity in Scotland”.
In fact, the GoWell East study that tracked participant levels within the surrounding area of Glasgow found that overall rates had actually declined, with just over 53% achieving the recommended physical activity levels in 2016, compared to 62% in 2012.
However, the east end community surrounding the main games site is one of the most deprived areas in Scotland, with some of the worst statistics in Europe for child poverty, health, crime, and alcohol and drug abuse. This could account for the declines in physical activity levels in the east end of Glasgow as the underlying reasons behind social inequalities in sports participation is poverty – not having the income to spend on sport.
But Glasgow is not alone. Other nations hosting major sporting events have failed to capitalise on the perception that a sprinkling of magic over a big sports event will motivate a population to become active. Data that tracked participation levels of Australians before, during and after the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games found they had declined, due – ironically – to Australians spending more time watching sport on TV than taking part themselves.
Undoubtedly, many nations believe that elite sporting success and the hosting of major sporting events on home turf can encourage mass involvement, and in turn create an active nation. An example of this is London’s 2012 Olympic Games, which promised to “do something no other Olympic Games host nation had done before”: inspire a new generation of young people to get involved, get active and take part in sport. This bold statement from the UK government has since been questioned, because in fact, no previous games had even attempted to leverage improved physical activity as a legacy outcome.
It became abundantly clear post-London 2012 that the Olympic Legacy promise had failed to come to fruition with figures showing no more young people taking part in sport than before the games. As has been argued elsewhere, there is still a lack of robust evidence to suggest that the presumed trickle-down effect of hosting a major sporting event can trigger an increase in physical activity.
Big spend but no return
The failure of London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 to create and inspire a nation to get active is not really surprising. For more than 40 years, community sports policy in Britain has been plagued by failings to meet physical activity performance indicators set by governments.
This could be down to a variety of factors including: poor policy analysis to inform future policy-making decisions; overambitious or naïve participation targets; inadequate resources to deliver long-term programmes; and changes in direction leading to ambiguity regarding who is responsible for delivery.
Given these issues, it is understandable that grass-roots sport policies and major sporting events have failed to encourage more people to get active. Future government policy on community sport needs to have an all-party group commitment, that is evidence-based to ensure objectives are realistic. It needs to have a long-term plan and be adequately funded to ensure that there are real and lasting results.
In the end, we have to face a difficult truth: governments continue to invest in costly elite sport and big extravagant sporting events that come at the expense of community sport.
On Thursday BU will host Sam Gyimah, the Minister for Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, for a question and answer event. This is an amazing opportunity for students and staff to directly question the Minister on HE and wider political matters.
This event forms part of Sam’s tour to a handful of universities. Entry to the event is by (free) ticket only. At the time of blogging approximately 50 tickets were still available.
Click here to book your ticket and for more details go to.
The event is being held in KG01 on the Talbot Campus on Thursday 15 March from 17:45-19:30.
Nibbles and refreshments will be available at the end of the event.
Tweeting and sharing on social media is encouraged!
Last week the Journal of Manmoham Memorial Institute of Health Sciences based in Nepal published as its editorial ‘What can we learn from the Nepal Health Facility Survey 2015.  The Nepal Health Facility Survey 2015 is a first of its kind. It is a much needed start to help analyse and improve the workings of the country’s health system. This is very important and timely as one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is to reduce premature mortality by one-third from non-communicable diseases. Success in this effort will depend on the concerted efforts on health facilities (for both health promotion, prevention and management) for an early and optimal care. The editorial also raises some of the ethical and methodological issues associated with the first ever Nepal Health Facility Survey 2015. The lead author of the editorial is Dr. Pramod Regmi and our co-authors include Prof. Padam Simkhada (Visiting Faculty in the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences). The Journal of Manmoham Memorial Institute of Health Sciences is an Open Access journal hence freely available to scholars and politicians and health managers across the globe, including those based in low-income countries such as Nepal.
- Regmi, P., van Teijlingen, E., Simkhada, P, Kurmi, O, Pant, P. (2017) What can we learn from the Nepal Health Facility Survey 2015? Journal of Manmohan Memorial Institute of Health Sciences (JMMIHS) 3(1): 1-5
The parliamentary outreach service are running an event aimed at academic researchers who would like to engage with parliament for their research to inform policy making.
Here are the details:
Want to have an impact in the UK Parliament? Discover how your research could broaden debate and better inform our democracy
Book a place at Research, Impact and the UK Parliament at Plymouth Marjon University on Wednesday 21 March 2018 at 1.30pm.
At our 3 hour training event, you will learn:
- How to contact MPs and Members of the House of Lords from Parliament’s Outreach & Engagement Service
- How to work with Select Committees from a clerk of a House of Commons Select Committee
- How Parliament has been cited in REF 2014 impact case studies from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
“This event was excellent – well organised, highly relevant, focused, all speakers strong, content highly practical” – RIUKP Attendee
Tickets cost £40 and include afternoon tea. If this fee is a barrier to your attendance, please contact us; we may make exceptions in some circumstances.
Our BU briefing papers are designed to make our research outputs accessible and easily digestible so that our research findings can quickly be applied – whether to society, culture, public policy, services, the environment or to improve quality of life. They have been created to highlight research findings and their potential impact within their field.
The Communications Act 2003 requires the UK’s media regulator Ofcom to promote ‘media literacy’, although it left the term undefined. In response to the new legislation, the regulator espoused a deliberately generalised definition, but one that never became a meaningful measure of its own policy work.
This paper investigates how Ofcom managed this regulatory duty from 2003 onwards. It explores how the promotion of media literacy was progressively reduced in scope over time as its funding was incrementally withdrawn. Media literacy in 2016 may be characterised as one of the zombies of cultural policy: an instrument devoid of its original life but continuing in a limited state of animation governed by other policy priorities.
For more information about the research, contact Dr Richard Wallis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out how your research output could be turned into a BU Briefing, contact email@example.com.
Need any help with understanding how to use your research to influence public policy? Looking for support and guidance on how to effectively engage with policy makers?
Policy-makers often use research evidence to help inform policies and solutions for issues that affect everyone on a daily basis. They can incorporate a range of individuals, including those who are elected into political positions, civil servants who work in government departments or those working in professional governing bodes, meaning there are a variety of ways in which research can lead to influencing policy.
Research can be particularly influential in policy making as it could provide the basis for an evidence-based change or amendment to legislation. This can be a very powerful way of developing research impact, but it can also be a very complex process.
Join us at next week’s session with BU’s Policy Advisor, Jane Forster, who will help you develop an understanding of the process of influencing public policy and how to use your research to influence policy makers as part of the Research & Knowledge Exchange Development Framework.
|Engaging with policy makers||Thursday 16th November 2017||10.00 – 12.00||Talbot Campus|
By the end of the session, you should have a good understanding of and feel confident to use your research to engage and influence policy makers effectively in order to develop your research impact.
As the sector continues to digest TEF the date to register for appeals has already passed. The Times report that Durham, Liverpool, Southampton and York will be appealing their ratings. Read Jane’s TEF blog published by Wonkhe. The Times Higher have published a comprehensive review of the data.
The second NewDLHE consultation has closed and the new survey will be called the Graduate Outcomes survey. Read about it on the HESA website and Rachel Hewitt’s Wonkhe blog: What’s in a name? Arriving at Graduate Outcomes. Rachel writes: The new model will enable us to provide high-quality data that meets current and anticipated future needs, while also realising efficiencies in the collection process. The data that will be available, including new graduate voice measures, will expand our understanding of what graduate success means.
HESA have published the synthesis of responses to the consultation and also have a helpful response and clarification page which follows more of a Q&A style. The first cohort of graduates to receive the new survey will be from the 2017/18 academic year and there will be a minimum 70% response rate requirement for full time UK undergraduates (some concern has been expressed about whether this is achievable). The first full Graduate Outcomes publication will be in early 2020, followed by the LEO earnings data later in Spring 2020. HESA clarify that there will not be a gap in data for TEF, although some students will be captured a little later than the existing DLHE model. When asked how HESA would mitigate the change in census point impacting on the TEF data they clarified it was for HEFCE to consider the matter.
It’s been a busy week for widening participation. OFFA have released the national outcomes of the 2015/16 Access Agreement monitoring and announced a new HESA data set will be released at the end of July which will support institutions to evaluate the impact of their financial support (including bursaries) to students.
The Access Agreement monitoring noted greater investment during 2015/16 and ‘significant and sustained’ improvements in fair access in the last decade. However, it identified particular challenges in the fall of part-time student numbers, non-continuation rates for mature students (almost double the rate of young students), little progress in retention and attainment of students from certain BME backgrounds, and professional employment rates, which are significantly lower for graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds. It also stressed the importance of flexible study options, particularly for mature students.
The Social Mobility Commission published Time for change: an assessment of government policies on social mobility 1997 to 2017 which considers the impact and effectiveness of the key social mobility policies over the last 20 years. The HE sector has seen success in improving disadvantaged students access to university (less so at selective institutions), however, the retention rates and graduate outcomes for disadvantaged students still lag behind with only minimal improvement over the 20 year period. For more detail read our summary of the report here.
Research Councils UK released their Measuring Doctoral Student Diversity report. And the Herald has a piece on how Glasgow University contextualises its admissions successfully ‘Dumbing down’ myths scotched.
EU citizens’ rights
The Home Office have published a policy paper addressing the continuation of UK residence rights for EU nationals, which was the basis of the government’s proposal to the EU for negiotiations on this issue, which is a gateway issue to wider negotiation on Brexit. A short factsheet explains the intended process for EU citizens to remain in the UK. The policy paper mentions access to fee and maintenance loans for undergraduates and EU citizens access to research council PhD studentships – both to continue until 2018-19. Upon Brexit EU students with “settled status” will be permitted to complete their studies.
The current UK proposal appears to be relatively generous to EU citizens currently in the UK – although there is a cut off date which has yet to be set and will be between 29 March 2017 and 29 March 2019. Those arriving after that date will not have the same rights. It does propose a registration requirement for those acquiring “settled” status (or in the course of acquiring it – it takes 5 years) but it proposes a 2 year transition period for that process to avoid administrative chaos. The EU have already said that they are not happy with the proposal that the EU court will not have jurisdiction. This is the opening position in a negotiation, so expect it to evolve over the next few months.
Three of our local MPs have been appointed to Government positions.
- Simon Hoare has been appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Ministerial team within the Home Office.
- Conor Burns has moved from BEIS and been appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Boris Johnson (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs).
- Michael Tomlinson has been appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Ministerial team within the Department for International Development.
There were a number of HE relevant parliamentary questions this week.
Catherine West asked the Secretary of State for Education whether it remains the Government’s policy to allow the opening of new grammar schools. Justine Greening responded: There was no education bill in the Queen’s Speech, and therefore the ban on opening new grammar schools will remain in place.
William Wragg asked the Secretary of State for Education whether the proposals relating to universities in the Schools that Work for Everyone consultation document will be taken forward. Justine Greening responded: “As part of the Government’s commitment to create more good school places, last September we published the consultation document: Schools that work for everyone. This asked how we could harness the resources and expertise of those in our higher education sector to work in partnership to lift attainment across the wider school system.
The Government has welcomed the way that our world-class higher education institutions are willing to think afresh about what more they could do to raise attainment in state schools, in recognition of their responsibility to their own local communities.
Universities are currently agreeing Access Agreements with the Office for Fair Access. Earlier this year, his strategic guidance to the sector, the Director for Fair Access set out an expectation that HEIs should set out in their access agreements how they will work with schools and colleges to raise attainment for those from disadvantaged and under-represented groups.
The Government hopes and expects more universities will come forward to be involved in school sponsorship and free schools, including more mathematics schools, although support need not be limited to those means.”
Lastly, Justine Greening confirmed that her department would provide further information on the Schools that work for everyone consultation ‘in due course’.
Research England is recruiting members for the first Council.
The House of Commons Library have published a briefing paper on The value of student maintenance support.
Jane Forster Sarah Carter
VC’s Policy Adviser Policy & Public Affairs Officer
UUK have published International Research Collaboration After the UK Leaves the European Union. The information below summarises the main thrust of the document.
Benefits of Research Collaboration
International collaboration is vital as it enables individual academics to increase their impact through pooling expertise and resources with other nations to tackle global challenges that no one country can tackle alone. Cross-nation collaboration increases citations and combined talents produce more innovative and useful outcomes.
The paper emphasises that the researchers themselves need to drive the collaboration and have choice. Selecting ‘Britain’s best new research partners’ is infeasible as sectors have different needs and Britain needs to collaborate with the countries with the richest talent and expertise. Funding needs to be well-structured and flexible to allow this.
The foreword on page 2 states “We should look to developing new networks and funding arrangements that support collaboration with major research powers” both within Europe and internationally. “The primary focus should be on delivering excellent research”, the government should seek to access and influence the 9th Framework Programme (Horizon successor), alongside new funding sources to incentivise collaborations with high-quality research partners beyond the EU. UUK call for a cross-government approach to supporting international research and the drawing together of the current disparate funding mechanisms, including “promoting research collaboration opportunities as a central pillar of the UK’s offer to overseas governments and businesses.”
While its important to work with both EU and non-EU partners the report notes that research with other EU member states collectively makes up the largest pool of collaborators. “Research undertaken with EU partners like Germany and France is growing faster than with other countries – hence while it is vital that the UK takes every opportunity to be truly global in their outlook, the importance of collaboration with EU partners should not be underestimated.”
Almost all the growth in research output in the last 30 years has been brought about by international partnership. In 1981 less than 5% of UK research publications had an overseas co-author. Whereas Figure 1 below demonstrates how collaboration has changed, illustrating how domestic output has plateaued and non-UK collaborations accounts for recent growth.
Figure 1: The trajectory of international co-authorship on research publications from Imperial, UCL, Cambridge and Oxford. (Data: source, Web of Science; analysis, King’s College Policy Institute).
Table 1 below highlights the UK’s major collaborative partners demonstrating a mix of EU and non-EU partners (non-EU partner in bold).
Table 1: Countries co-authoring UK output (2007-2016).
The UUK report reminds that research is a form of diplomacy leading to alliances and memoranda between national academies. The international links create esteem and demonstrate the wider engagement and status of an institution which is attractive to international students and staff.
Addressing Collaborative Barriers
Addressing the barriers to research collaboration is more than just funding, the report calls for:
- Better information on capabilities and strength of UK researchers
The report states there needs to be better understanding and matching of research and innovation strengths between partners and potential collaborators, with clearer articulation of these and provision of contact points at the research organisation, funding agency and sector levels.
The circulation of people and ideas is fundamental to international research collaborations: National policy frameworks of all partners must be flexible enough to support international exchange, enabling critical human resources – including technical expertise – to flow between systems.
- Cultural barriers need better understanding
The report highlights South Korea and Taiwan as attractive collaborators because of their research-intensive economies, strong technology investment, excellent university system, and high-English speaking rate. However collaboration is challenged by geography, proximity and cultural differences. UUK report that communication problems are a key barrier alongside the uncertainty about research profiles of UK universities and significant differences in research governance.
Researchers working within different national contexts will have experience of different research cultures. These can be a source of strength and innovation, but also create challenges that must be understood, acknowledged and addressed. This requires time, but can be mitigated by the development of shared understandings, priorities and policy frameworks.
- Policy and funding stability is essential
Stability, certainty and trust are required if successful international research collaborations are to be fostered. Partners need to have confidence that the policy and funding environment will not be subject to unexpected or dramatic change after they have invested the time and resources necessary to develop productive and beneficial partnerships. Stability and certainty in both policy and funding environment is a key facilitator.
- Bilateral agreements with defined funding facilitated by a coordinated application process
The report effectively highlights the difficulties of ‘double jeopardy’ (Roberts, 2006) whereby all partners need to individually secure funding across a sustaining period to both commence and fully complete. Furthermore while countries commission and pay for the research it depends on individual motivation for success. Individuals make research choices that further their career and are fundable. EU links exist because researchers at well-funded institutions saw mutual net benefits, however EU collaboration proliferated because mutually assured Framework Programme funding supported it.
The report suggests a mechanism for effective research collaboration is to create more flexible agency-level bilateral agreements with associated secure funding. A Memorandum of Understanding should identify common priorities and mutual research standards yet this should be backed up by a research fund. Page 6 describes collaboration with Brazil as an example of this.
Furthermore, UK research funding beyond the EU is highly dependent on the ODA budget which limits research themes and fundable countries. Post Brexit the UK needs new money without ODA type restrictions to support collaborations with partners not eligible for EU funds.
Note: UUK have also released a second report on whether free trade agreements can enhance opportunities for UK higher education post Brexit.
Roberts, Sir Gareth. (2006). International partnerships of research excellence.