Tagged / social mobility

What does Augar mean for the Arts and Humanities – Policy Update Supplement 7th June 2019

One thing that everyone can agree on is that the implications of Augar are ominous for the Arts and Humanities – the (historian) Minister for Universities gave a speech on Thursday which we discuss below, with some reflections on what Augar could mean for Arts and Humanities subjects in universities.

The Minister speaks

In an interesting choice of headlines, the headline on gov.uk is “Science Minister hails the importance of humanities to society”.  Of course his full title is Minister of State for Universities, Science and Innovation (and currently also Interim Minister of Stage for Energy and Clean Growth.  Like his predecessor , Chris Skidmore has also taken several titles upon himself – Sam Gyimah was famously “minister for students” and Chris Skidmore has called himself “minster for the 2.4% [investment in R&D]” and “minister for EdTEch”.  But most importantly, he adopted the title “Minister for the Arts and Humanities”.

So what did this former academic and historian say on this vital topic at the meeting of the Arts and Humanities Research Council?  The full speech is here.  It is long – and actually quite interesting.  It’s a shame really that given all the other turmoil we can’t read too much into it because he may not remain as Minister for any of this stuff for very long (as he admits in the speech).  [Did you know? The HE sector has had 5 Universities Ministers in the past 5 years. The last time a Minister lasted more than 6 years in the job was 1902 (source: HEPI – scroll to near end). ] Of course, we may be surprised, if suddenly unity breaks out amongst MPs in the face of the possibility of Nigel Farage as PM, and strong and stable government finally returns…in which case there is a lot of hope for the sector and for the Arts and Humanities in this speech.  He starts:

  • “As many of you know, I’ve attempted to try and achieve a work-life balance that involves juggling policy and public service, with a personal passion for exploring the past and continuing to write history. I continue to do so…because, like many of you here this evening, I am drawn by that overwhelming desire to understand, to comprehend, how different, how similar, previous generations are to our own, and to understand them on their own terms, for their own sake.
  • It is not something that can ever be fully measured, or its value codified by some anonymised data collection processor. Indeed, my own graduate outcome data was only salvaged at the last moment, in the final week before I turned twenty nine, when to my surprise I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Kingswood. That brought to a sudden end any hopes I might have had of my first career path of choice, and dream of entering academia.”

On Augar: “Indeed, even before the report was released, I made clear my concerns over some of the initial leaks, such as the speculation over a three-‘D’ threshold to enter university. And I’m pleased to see that proposal didn’t make the cut. If it had done so, it would have been completely regressive, and would have shut the door on opportunity for so many people whose lives are transformed by our world-leading universities and colleges.” [Yes, but it did make the cut – as a recommendation if the sector does not itself cut recruitment to “low tariff, low value” degrees.]

He makes a very important point which has been bothering your policy team: “But we must be careful not to confuse high-quality with high-value, for they are two different concepts, with two very different outcomes.  High Quality is something that we should all aspire to, whether in our work, our research, our teaching….I hope that our reforms to Higher Education, with the establishment of the Office for Students, which will be fully operational from 1 August this year, will help embed and achieve that focus on quality which must be continued.”  [In other words quality is something for the OfS regulatory regime to worry about, using TEF and other things as tools to support it.]

And then he turns to value:

  • “…data, in its current form, cannot measure everything. And until we have found a way to capture the vital contribution that degrees of social value make to our society – degrees like Nursing or Social Care – then we risk overlooking the true value of these subjects. The same goes for the Arts and Humanities.
  • Although some people around us may argue that the contribution of these disciplines to society may be less tangible, their influence is all around us. …Without people who can think outside the box or challenge ideas.  All this comes from the critical thinking that knowing about different cultures, philosophies and languages provides us….What might be ‘low value’ to one man, might to others represent money well spent on acquiring knowledge for its own sake, expanding one’s cultural horizons, learning to empathise and reflect upon the human condition, applying it to the challenges for the future.
  • There is a place for knowing which subjects have the potential to generate higher salaries in the future– not least for those students who want to make sure they make the right choice of subject and institution for them. For those who wish to know this information, it is also important to highlight the economic benefits of studying creative subjects too.
  • And, actually, the story isn’t all negative for those studying creative subjects. The latest Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) data show us that women studying creative arts, in particular, can expect to earn around 9% more on average than women who don’t go into higher education at all. And the highest returning creative arts course can significantly increase female earnings by around 79%. So, a creative education can certainly be the right choice for a number of people….After all, our Industrial Strategy recognises the importance of the Creative Sector in the UK economy, as being an absolutely vital one.”

And the role of arts and humanities in innovation:

  • “Today, we live in a world where around 50% of the UK population have a degree by the time they are 30. Still not enough in my opinion, and certainly not enough if we are to compete as a knowledge economy for the future internationally. As Universities Minister, I’m keen that nobody is deterred from pursuing a particular discipline just because it appears that studying it isn’t for people like them. This is a principle, which applies equally to the Arts and Humanities as it does to Science and Engineering. Thankfully, one mitigating factor to this is the fact that our disciplinary landscape is continually evolving. … multi-disciplinary approaches have become more desired – not just within academia itself, but by businesses, industry and government.
  • Part of this is down to our recognition of the fact that we have to tackle the world’s grand challenges now, before it’s too late. And these challenges, themselves, are not constrained within individual disciplinary boundaries. Indeed, the grand challenges we face today are formed at the intersection of the traditional disciplines – where the Arts, Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences meet…
  • The Arts and Humanities are also what makes science ‘useable’. It’s no good developing a cure for a pandemic like Ebola, for example, if you don’t have the anthropologists, the linguists or the lawyers to make the science work on the ground. To bring the product to market. To win the trust of the people. And at a time when trust in knowledge and expertise is constantly threatened by the lapping tides of populism, we need the humanities more than ever to be able to reach out and communicate the value of science and research more than ever….
  • …it is the inclusion of the humanities, running like a golden thread through all scientific collaborations and projects that will protect the future of Western science, maintaining its focus on excellence, but excellence for a human purpose.”

What does Augar mean for the Arts and Humanities?

One narrative around the Augar Review is that it has embraced, and even validated the popular narrative about “mickey mouse degrees” and universities filling low cost, high volume courses, putting “bums on seats” to subsidise other activities, doing a disservice to “overqualified graduates” who are “saddled with debt” that they can never repay.  This shocking state of affairs means that the government subsidy to higher education, in the form of direct funding and underwriting for the student loan system, in which 83% of students will not repay their loans in full, is misdirected and therefore the taxpayer is receiving poor value for money.  And, the argument goes, it is not only the taxpayer who is being ripped off, but students are too.  They are being tricked into taking courses that will not lead to better paid jobs but will instead leave them with student loans that will hold them back even further.  These are the students who should be doing technical training, apprenticeships.  They should be plumbers and bricklayers.  They have been told that they will achieve social mobility through education, and it isn’t true.

These narratives were not born with the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding in February 2018.  They became sharper once the tuition fee cap was increased to £9000 and were heightened when Labour adopted a policy of abolishing fees.  Jo Johnson raised them when launching the Green Paper in November 2015 that led to the Teaching Excellence Framework and the Higher Education and Research Act 2017.  In just one example, many of the arguments were rehearsed by Jo Johnson as Universities Minister in a speech in February 2017.  It all boils down to value for money.

But there is a terrific confusion here, as highlighted by the Minister earlier on.  The talk in Augar is all about value for money subject level.  But when people (including previous Universities Ministers (both Sam Gyimah and Jo Johnson) and the current Education Minister) talk about this, they talk not about the value of whole subjects, but of individual courses at individual universities.  And so they talk about quality.  But they don’t really mean quality either, because they talk about entry tariffs and outcomes and start talking about bums on seats.  Which is the big give away.  What they really mean is that they believe that there are too many students going to universities to do courses which are not aligned with the government’s priorities.  This is about the government wanting to choose not to invest in subjects that they believe do not add value to the economy.  Which is why Augar, which is all about money, has kept in the threat of a 3D threshold and/or a cap on student numbers (for some courses at some universities).

See this bit in Augar (page 88): “A small minority of institutions produce graduates who on average earn significantly less at age 29 than their comparators who did not attend higher education. The IFS estimate that 33 per cent of male students, and 1 per cent of female students – together making 15 per cent of all students – attended universities that had either significantly negative or statistically negligible earnings returns when these are averaged across all students at age 29.”

It goes on: “Altogether 34 per cent of courses – accounting for 29 per cent of male students – were shown to have negative returns for men at age 29 (without taking foregone earnings and interest loan repayments into account), suggesting that one in three male students who took these courses could have earned more if they had chosen a different course of study or not gone to university at all.”

Augar looked at the overall cost for the government of the sector – taking into account direct investment and the subsidy given through student loans.  For this section, Augar relied on the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) analysis published in March 2019 Where is the money going? Estimating the government cost of different university degrees.  They break it down by borrower (i.e. by student, for those that take student loans) and by subject (which takes into account the number of students).  On a student by student basis, the most expensive programmes for the government – in terms of loan write-off plus direct grant are Agriculture and Veterinary Science, and Medicine, driven by teaching grants followed by Creative Arts, which is driven by loan write-offs.  The best “value” course on an individual basis is Economics, with no teaching grant and loans paid off at a higher rate.  Comms and media and other arts and humanities courses sit more in the middle.  But when they overlay the student numbers (figure 5), the picture changes, because of the comparatively large number of students studying some of the subjects with fairly large write-offs or subsidy.  This chart highlights the overall cost of the Creative Arts, but also brings biosciences, subjects allied to medicine, business and social studies to the top. For this table, Social Studies includes Politics, Anthropology, Human and social Geography, Sociology, Social Policy, Social work, Development studies (see footnote 100, page 110 of the Augar Report).  Again the best value is economics, but Veterinary Science and Foreign languages come off relatively well too, because so few students study them.

The Augar report refers to the Graduate outcomes (LEO) data for 2016-17 released in March 2019. It says (pages 87-88):

  • “Among men, the earnings premium for an Economics graduate at age 29 is 33 per cent on average, whereas a graduate in the Creative Arts will, on average, earn 14 per cent less than his peers who did not attend university. Among women, the earnings premium for a medical graduate is 75 per cent, but only 9 per cent for those graduated in the Creative Arts. 
  • The graduate premium for men is low or negative at age 29 for a sizeable minority of subjects. In addition to the Creative Arts, these include English and Philosophy, for which the premium is negative, and Agriculture, Communications, Psychology, Languages, History, Biosciences and Physical Sciences for which it is zero or very small. Women, by contrast, enjoy a graduate premium at age 29 irrespective of the subject they studied, but the premium is small for the Creative Arts, Agriculture, Social Care and Psychology.”

This is interesting but it is not comparing apples with apples.  Looking at the original DfE LEO data report you can see the problem – in that report they compare graduates in a particular subject with median earnings for all subjects.

This ignores the choices made by those students.  Students who choose creative arts degrees, on average, probably do not go on to high earning careers, based on this data.  But there is nothing to say that if they had chosen a different subject, or not gone to university at all, they would have been any higher earning.  To establish whether a creative arts degree is better than no degree at all, it could be argued that you would need to compare the employment outcomes of a creative arts graduate against a cohort of people who did not go to university but have the same background profile and prior academic attainment and are doing the same mix of jobs.  Then you would know what difference a creative arts degree made to the outcomes for that student.

But those who do not go to university undertake a wide range of careers, and on average they may earn more than those undertaking some degrees at some universities.  But that does not mean that those individual students would have earned more if they had not gone to university at all.  That’s possible, but it isn’t proved by this data, even though the data is controlled for background characteristics and prior attainment.  They might not have become plumbers, or bricklayers, they might still have pursued badly paid careers in the creative arts and individually in fact earned less than the creative arts graduates.

If all students were robotic clones, with the same potential and no personal talent, interest or individual motivation, then they would all do economics at university and become bankers or CEOs.  But that would lead to a different problem, because the world does not need that many bankers.

And see this from Tuesday’s Lords Augar discussion: Lord Storey (LD): My Lords, everybody seems to be very much in support of the Augar review. I have real reservations about the funding proposals for higher education. When the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, and my noble friend Lady Garden raised the issue of how the funding model, interest charges, the extension and all the rest will favour the rich and not the poor, the Minister kept saying that we will see it in the round. What does “in the round” actually mean? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, but we have to be very careful, because there are degree courses that are undersubscribed. We are seeing those courses cut, but they are courses that we need to develop, such as modern foreign languages. Fewer students are doing modern foreign languages because there are fewer studying them in secondary schools. It is the same with music. Music is hugely important to the creative industries, which is one of the major growth industries in this country, and yet we are seeing music in secondary schools, because of the EBacc, being scaled back and back. That has a knock-on implication for our universities, where music degree courses are declining as well. If we took the idea of the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, all these courses would be cut, much to the detriment of our country.

I have argued before that using LEO to assess subjects is misleading for lots of reasons including because it only really works if all courses are vocational and all students follow their vocation.  If all law students became lawyers, all PPE students became politicians, all history students pursued an academic career (in schools or universities) and all language students became translators, interpreters or teachers then it  would be valid to compare.   Of course for some subjects there is more of a linear connection.  But for many subjects, students will go on and pursue a wide range of careers, using the generic skills that they have learned at university.   Generic skills which they may have learned more effectively because they were following a subject they were passionate about.

[In June 2018 I wrote: “[1] Whether your degree pays for itself is a function of a lot of things – such as what your degree is, and where you do it, but also what you did before you went there, where you live, where you work, the state of the national and local economy, what career path you choose now and in the future, your gender, your age, your ethnic group, your family background, your disabilities, how hard you work at university and at work, the culture, policies and success of the organisation you work for, your other life choices…and many more”]

Just as an experiment, I looked at the 13 candidates for the Tory leadership (as at 3rd June 2019).

University Politics/Economics/PPE Law Other
Oxford – 8 5 (Gyimah, Hunt, Hancock, Harper, Stewart) 1 (Raab) 2

Classics (Johnson)

English (Gove)

Post 92 – 1 1 – Hospitality management University of West London (Cleverly)
Other 3

Exeter (Javid)

Warwick (Leadsom)

Newcastle (Malthouse)

1

Queen Mary (McVey)

So is a politics degree vocational training for a career in politics?  Surely it really just shows an interest in the subject.  Certainly not all politics graduates go into politics.  And these people did not go into politics for the money.  Some of them didn’t need to, but they went into it for other reasons.  Using Wikipedia I looked at their early careers, and only 6 of them “used” their degrees (and that is stretching the point a bit): Michael Gove taking his English degree and becoming a journalist, and 5 of those with an economics aspect to their degree going on to be bankers, accountants or, in the case of Matt Hancock, an economist.

I also looked at the careers of FTSE 100 CEOs in 2017 and being fairly generous in terms of definitions (apart from other things, the choice of degree subject was more limited, looking at their ages), out of the 53 I could easily find information for, only 31 had a link between their degrees and their early career choices.  And these are clearly talented and successful people, 2/5 of whom chose to immediately pursue a career for which they had not been “trained”.

It might be easier to deal with the “problem” if it was defined more honestly.  The problem really is that the government thinks that the cost of HE is becoming unaffordable.  The effort to encourage students to make “better” choices, by giving them more and better data about outcomes and other things hasn’t really been given a chance to work but also very few people were convinced by it – because students make choices based on a whole range of factors.  Even Sam Gyimah (a  huge proponent of transparency) said when asked that students should follow their passion when choosing what to study.  So instead what we are going to get is rationing.  Rationing by subject feels like a blunt instrument, because it leaves it up to the sector to make the “sensible” decision about cutting student numbers when faced with lower fees but it may have odd effects – like making it harder for disadvantaged students to access courses in those subjects which they might have excelled in (and which might have increased their chances of exceeding median earnings in, too).  Or just reducing the quality of those programmes as they are delivered at a lower cost.

So if Augar is implemented, could we get a much more sophisticated methodology.?  Augar already talks about an institutional Student Premium for disadvantaged students.  You could see a world where there is institutional student uplift for those courses that achieve good student outcomes and loan repayment outcomes.  Maybe they could be relative outcomes, subject adjusted not just based on the median and adjusted for geographical factors.  And maybe they will find a way, as Augar suggests that they do, to measure the social value and adjust for that in the teaching grant as well.

HE policy update for the w/e 31st May 2019

We’re going early again this week as we have a big focus on this week’s big report, and we’re sure you all want to know (although there is a lot of coverage).  There is other news as well.

Augar recommendations for the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding

So finally, the long awaited report has landed.  Either it changed quite a lot in the last few weeks (no minimum threshold based on 3 Ds at A-level) or the leaks were inaccurate.  Actually the leaks were pretty inaccurate, because although the £7500 tuition fee loan cap is there, there are recommendations to make up the difference.  And that part was very badly trailed, probably because the recommendations are not simple and don’t make an easy soundbite.

The commentary will be extensive and you can read it for yourselves, we’ll give you some links below and recipients of Wonkhe and the Research Professional HE updates will get more in the coming days.  In the meantime:

We think that there is a risk with summarising and cherry picking the “most interesting” bits so we give you the whole set of recommendations below – with a little bit of commentary in places.  There’s some context and narrative first, so skip down to the big table if you want to go straight to the recommendations.

The report defines the purposes of post-18 education – nicely pulled out in a tweet by Mike Ratcliffe.

And the principles:

In setting about our task, we have been guided by a set of principles. Some of these were self-evident to us at the start, others have been developed in the light of emerging evidence during the panel’s life. The principles and their rationale are set out below.

Principle 1. Post-18 education benefits society, the economy, and individuals. The potential benefits of an increasingly educated adult population have guided our work. But increasing the sheer volume of tertiary education does not necessarily translate into social, economic and personal good. That depends on the quality, accessibility and direction of study.

Principle 2. Everyone should have the opportunity to be educated after the age of 18.We have noted the disparity of resources between higher and further education and the steep decline in opportunities for education and training in later life. We have this in mind in seeking to create an integrated and sustainable post-18 system with opportunities for the whole population.

Principle 3. The decline in numbers of those getting post-18 education needs to be reversed. In many developed economies, increased participation in tertiary education has been associated with productivity growth over the past half century but in England – where attention has focused largely on degree-level study – the total number of people involved in post-18 education has in fact declined. This decline needs to be reversed urgently.

Principle 4. The cost of post-18 education should be shared between taxpayers, employers and learners. This was the defining principle of the seminal Dearing Report (1997) and continues to have resonance: the alternatives are simply inconceivable. Getting the taxpayer to pay for everything is unaffordable. Getting learners to pay all their own costs is unfair to those of limited means. Getting employers to pay for the whole system would put too much emphasis on economic value alone. A shared responsibility, in our view, is the only fair and feasible solution.

Principle 5. Organisations providing education and training must be accountable for the public subsidy they receive. The receipt of taxpayer funding, whether this is directly through grants or indirectly through forgiveable loans, carries with it the expectation of transparency and accountability for the purposes to which it is put and the outcomes that it delivers. There should be no sense of entitlement.

Principle 6. Government has a responsibility to ensure that its investment in tertiary education is appropriately spent and directed. The government should consider public spending on tertiary education alongside its spending on other parts of the public sector and should hold the sector accountable whilst respecting its intellectual freedom and academic autonomy.

Principle 7. Post-18 education cannot be left entirely to market forces. The idea of a market in tertiary education has been a defining characteristic of English policy since 1998. We believe that competition between providers has an important role to play in creating choice for students but that on its own it cannot deliver a full spectrum of social, economic and cultural benefits. With no steer from government, the outcome is likely to be haphazard.

Principle 8. Post-18 education needs to be forward looking. The future challenges of technological innovation, artificial intelligence and shorter job cycles will require greater labour market flexibility. The post-18 education system needs to respond to this: doing more of the same will not be enough.

Here is the summary of the proposals from the front of the report itself:

  • Strengthening technical education – England needs a stronger technical and vocational education system at sub-degree levels to meet the structural skills shortages that are in all probability contributing to the UK’s weak productivity performance. Improved funding, a better maintenance offer, and a more coherent suite of higher technical and professional qualifications would help level the playing field with degrees and drive up both the supply of and demand for such courses.
  • Increasing opportunities for everyone – Despite the very large increase in participation in higher education by young people, the total number of people involved in tertiary education has declined. Almost 40 per cent of 25 year olds do not progress beyond GCSEs as their highest qualification and social mobility shows little sign of improvement. Our recommendations seek to address these problems by reversing cuts in adult skills provision and encouraging part time and later life learning.
  • Reforming and refunding the FE college network – Further education colleges are an essential part of the national educational infrastructure and should play a core role in the delivery of higher technical and intermediate level training. Our recommendations are intended to reform and refund the FE college network by means of an increased base rate of funding for high return courses, an additional £1bn capital investment over the coming spending review period and investment in the workforce to improve recruitment and retention. Rationalisation of the network to even out provision across over-supplied and under-supplied areas, funding for some specialised colleges and closer links with HE and other providers would help establish a genuinely national system of higher technical education.
  • Bearing down on low value HE – There is a misalignment at the margin between England’s otherwise outstanding system of higher education and the country’s economic requirements. A twenty-year market in lightly regulated higher education has greatly expanded the number of skilled graduates bringing considerable social and economic benefits and wider participation for students from lower socio-economic groups. However, for a small but significant minority of degree students doing certain courses at certain institutions, the university experience leads to disappointment. We make recommendations intended to encourage universities to bear down on low value degrees and to incentivise them to increase the provision of courses better aligned with the economy’s needs.
  • Addressing higher education funding – Generous and undirected funding has led to an over-supply of some courses at great cost to the taxpayer and a corresponding under-supply of graduates in strategically important sectors. Our recommendations would restore more control over taxpayer support and would reduce what universities may charge each degree student. Universities should find further efficiency savings over the coming years, maximum fees for students should be reduced to £7,500 a year, and more of the taxpayer funding should come through grants directed to disadvantaged students and to high value and high cost subjects.  [see CHAPTER 3 and in particular 3.2 to 3.5 below]
  • Increasing flexibility and lifetime learning – Employment patterns are changing fast with shorter job cycles and longer working lives requiring many people to reskill and upskill. We recommend the introduction of a lifelong learning loan allowance to be used at higher technical and degree level at any stage of an adult’s career for full and part-time students. To encourage retraining and flexible learning, we recommend that this should be available in modules where required. We intend that our proposals should facilitate transfer between different institutions and we make proposals for greater investment in so-called ‘second chance’ learning at intermediate levels. We endorse the government’s National Retraining Scheme, which we believe to be a potentially valuable supplement to college based learning.
  • Supporting disadvantaged students – Disadvantaged students need better financial support, improved choices and more effective advice and guidance to benefit fully from post‑18 education. Our recommendations would provide them with additional support by reintroducing maintenance grants for students from low income households, and by increasing and better targeting the government’s funding for disadvantaged students.
  • Ensuring those who benefit from higher education contribute fairly – Most graduates benefit significantly from participating in higher education – as does the economy and wider society. We therefore endorse the established principle that students and the state should share the cost of tertiary education. We support the income-contingent repayment approach as a means of delivering this fairly, with those benefitting the most making the greatest contribution. However, public misunderstanding is high and better communication is required, including a new name, the Student Contribution System. We believe that more graduates should repay their loans in full over their lifetimes, and recommend extending the repayment period for future students and effectively freezing the repayment threshold. These changes – with the reduction in fees – would apply only to students entering higher education from 2021-22 at the earliest: students starting before then would not be affected. Some aspects of the present system appear to be unfairly punitive and we recommend reducing students’ in-study interest charges and capping graduates’ lifetime repayments.
  • Improving the apprenticeship offer – Apprenticeships can deliver benefits both for apprentices and employers but there is evidence of a mismatch between the economy’s strategic requirements and current apprenticeship starts. Our recommendations, together with recent government reforms, look to make further improvements in the quality of the apprenticeship offer by providing learners with better wage return information, strengthening Ofsted’s role – and thus the quality of providers – and better understanding and addressing the barriers SMEs face within the apprenticeship system. We have considered how best to use the finite funding which is available for apprenticeships and recommend that apprenticeships at degree level and above should normally be funded only for those who do not already have a publicly-funded degree.

And the actual recommendations are at the back:

CHAPTER 2: SKILLS

2.1 The government should introduce a single lifelong learning loan allowance for tuition loans at Levels 4, 5 and 6, available for adults aged 18 or over, without a publicly funded degree. This should be set, as it is now, as a financial amount equivalent to four years’ full-time undergraduate degree funding. [This will be widely welcomed but has the potential to be very expensive if these loans turn out to be written off at high levels over time – the hope will be that these courses will directly lead to improved earnings and so there will be a better chance of repayment?]

2.2 Learners should be able to access student finance for tuition fee and maintenance support for modules of credit-based Level 4, 5 and 6 qualifications. [“bitesize” learning will also be welcomed as a solution for mature students to replace traditional part-time study which has collapsed]

2.3 ELQ rules should be scrapped for those taking out loans for Levels 4, 5 and 6. [this will be widely welcomed]

2.4 Institutions should award at least one interim qualification to all students who are following a Level 6 course successfully. [this is interesting]

2.5 Streamline the number and improve the status of Level 4/5 qualifications.

2.6 The OfS should become the national regulator of all non-apprenticeship provision at Levels 4 and above.

2.7 Government should provide additional support and capital funding to specific FE colleges in order to ensure a national network of high quality technical provision is available. Government should work with the OfS to determine how best to allocate this using, for example, quality indicators and analysis of geographic coverage. [this will be welcomed although the targeting and the suggestions of metrics (a TEF for FE?) may not be so welcome]

2.8 From 2021-22 the fee cap for Level 4 and 5 qualifications currently prescribed by the OfS should be £7,500 – the same as that proposed for Level 6 qualifications and in line with current arrangements for prescribed HE qualifications. Longer term, only kitemarked Level 4 and 5 qualifications that meet the new employer-led national standards should be able to charge fees up to the Level 6 cap and be eligible for teaching grant. From that point, any other Level 4 and 5 courses should have a lower fee cap.

2.9 The current age cap should be removed so that a first ‘full’ Level 3 is available free to all learners whether they are in work or not.

2.10 Full funding for the first ‘full’ Level 2 qualification, for those who are 24 and over and who are employed should be restored.

2.11  The careers strategy should be rolled out nationally so that every secondary school is able to be part of a careers hub, that training is available to all careers leaders and that more young people have access to meaningful careers activities and encounters with employers.

CHAPTER 3: HIGHER EDUCATION

3.1 The average per-student resource should be frozen for three further years from 2020/21 until 2022/23. On current evidence, inflation based increases to the average per-student unit of resource should resume in 2023/24.  [the interesting part here is not the freeze, as that was expected, but the proposal for an increase in 2023/24.  See page 93 of the report – “We believe that the gradual effects of a funding freeze would give HEIs time to rise to the challenge of greater efficiency and redesigned business models, whilst maintaining the quality of provision.  However on current evidence we believe that attempts to generate further savings over this proposed funding freeze would jeopardise the quality of provision”.

3.2 The cap on the fee chargeable to HE students should be reduced to £7,500 per year. We consider that this could be introduced by 2021/22. [so no cliff edge this year, may affect student numbers next year as some defer. They say on page 210 that ALL policies embed in 2021/22 for new students so although it isn’t clear in the section, this would be for new students only.  Also worth noting on page 205 they note that actually students may not be better off under the current scheme in the long run because of changes to repayments (see below) – but explaining that to students (and parents) will be a nightmare – the headline reduction will be what many people see]

3.3 Government should replace in full the lost fee income by increasing the teaching grant, leaving the average unit of funding unchanged at sector level in cash terms. [page 95 “We firmly believe that the total reduction in resources from the fee cut must be matched with an equivalent increase in average per student grant funding from the government, so that the average per student resource to the sector stays level in cash terms]

3.4 The fee cap should be frozen until 2022/23, then increased in line with inflation from 2023/24. [see 3.1 above]

3.5 Government should adjust the teaching grant attached to each subject to reflect more accurately the subject’s reasonable costs and its social and economic value to students and taxpayers. Support for high-quality specialist institutions that could be adversely affected should be reviewed and if necessary increased.

  • [The link to cost was well trailed in the press, but the Secretary of State focussed on the part about social and economic value to students and taxpayers – actually the report covers both. This is worth looking at in more detail – page 95/96 says that the current “system under-funds certain high cost subjects to the detriment of the economy in general and the government’s Industrial Strategy“, that “the current long-term taxpayer subsidy is poorly directed” and that “Government currently has very limited control over the substantial taxpayer investment in higher education”. 
  • There is more detail of the analysis that they did on page 72.
  • They propose that the OfS should carry out a review of the funding rates for different subjects, having “regard to economic and social value and consider support for socially desirable professions such as nursing and teaching”, and then rebalance funding towards high cost and strategically important subjects and to subjects that add social as well as economic value”.
  • They go on: “we would expect some subjects to receive little or no subject specific teaching grant over the £7500 base rate” – and this is where they add in about specialist institutions offering the highest quality provision.
  • This is really interesting stuff – but it is not at all clear how this would work and how economic and social value would be evaluated.  Anyone thinking that the debate over use of raw salary data in this process might be answered one way or the other by Augar will be sadly disappointed – the issue is put firmly into the hands of the OfS.  See also pages 104 and 105 for the things they rejected
  • Critics of using LEO in this context will like this bit on page 87: ““Limitations of the IFS early-career earnings analysis….
    • The data do not distinguish between full and part-time work, which is likely to affect comparisons of earnings between men and women, and they also do not cover the self-employed.
    • The results we discuss are for earnings up to the age of 29 whereas the principal benefit in earnings for graduates tends to arrive in the following decade and thus we would expect full lifetime earnings for most graduates to generate higher premiums than those shown.
    • However, the current data excludes the cost of foregone earnings during study and loan repayments after graduation which need to be taken into account for a full assessment of lifetime returns.
    • Earnings are largely a product of the labour market for particular skills and qualifications and should not be regarded as a measure of teaching quality. They also vary according to location: a graduate working in an economic cold spot is likely to earn less than her or his counterpart working in a hot spot.
    • However, if analysed with care, the data provide an insight into the early career financial consequences of degree study and will be a useful source of information for students, government and HEIs alike.”]

3.6 Government should take further steps to ensure disadvantaged students have sufficient support to access, participate and succeed in higher education. It should do this by:

  • Increasing the amount of teaching grant funding that follows disadvantaged students, so that funding flows to those institutions educating the students that are most likely to need additional support.
  • Changing the measure of disadvantage used in the Student Premium to capture individual-level socio-economic disadvantage, so that funding closely follows the students who need support.
  • Requiring providers to be accountable for their use of Student Premium grant, alongside access and participation plans for the spend of tuition fee income, to enable joined up scrutiny.

[Page 97 says that the current system prioritises access over successful participation, “fails to resource adequately those institutions that admit a large proportion of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds, relies on too limited an evidence base of what works best”.  They want to “discard measures or prior academic attainment and area-based measures of participation” (goodbye POLAR) and look at individual measures of socio-economic disadvantage to ensure that support is better directed.  They want a pupil premium style minimum sum for each student.  They also say that all the other changes should not mean a cut in the overall levels of spend on disadvantaged students.]

3.7 Unless the sector has moved to address the problem of recruitment to courses which have poor retention, poor graduate employability and poor long term earnings benefits by 2022/23, the government should intervene. This intervention should take the form of a contextualised minimum entry threshold, a selective numbers cap or a combination of both.

  • [Here’s a threat, then.  So 3Ds are not dead (see page 100 for the research), and neither are numbers caps.  But imposed on a course by course basis for students that “persistently manifest poor value for money for students and the public”.  They mention indicators such as employment, earnings and loan repayments.  They suggest the caps would be time limited – capping the numbers of students eligible for financial support who could be admitted to the course” (see page 102). 
  • So three years for the sector “to put its house in order”.  That gives the government time to sort our technical alternatives and the impact would be offset but the uptick in demographics from 2021.]

3.8 We recommend withdrawing financial support for foundation years attached to degree courses after an appropriate notice period. Exemptions for specific courses such as medicine may be granted by the OfS. [People are asking questions about this – it’s odd at first glance.  They say (page 103) that “it is not hard to conclude that universities are using foundation years to create four-year degrees in order to entice students who do not otherwise meet their standard entry criteria”.  But is that a bad thing?  The report concludes that it is a bad thing because of the fee and loan implications, and so it would be better to have access courses (usually in partnership with FE) on lower fees, better loan terms and a standalone qualification.  They say have a two year delay on implementing this recommendation]

CHAPTER 4: FURTHER EDUCATION

4.1 The unit funding rate for economically valuable adult education courses should be increased. [no-one will disagree but it will be expensive.  There’s a chart on page 124 which suggests what they mean by “economically valuable”.  It means higher level courses, it seems]

4.2 The reduction in the core funding rate for 18 year-olds should be reversed.

4.3 ESFA funding rules should be simplified for FE colleges, allowing colleges to respond more flexibly and immediately to the particular needs of their local labour market.

4.4 Government should commit to providing an indicative AEB that enables individual FE colleges to plan on the basis of income over a three-year period. Government should also explore introducing additional flexibility to transfer a proportion of AEB allocations between years on the same basis.

4.5.1 Government should provide FE colleges with a dedicated capital investment of at least £1 billion over the next Spending Review period. This should be in addition to funding for T levels and should be allocated primarily on a strategic national basis in-line with Industrial Strategy priorities.

4.5.2 Government should use the additional capital funding primarily to augment existing FE colleges to create a strong national network of high quality provision of technical and professional education, including growing capacity for higher technical provision in specific FE colleges.

4.5.3 Government should also consider redirecting the HE capital grant to further education. [that’s interesting – they suggest that £1billion needs to be invested.]

4.6.1 The structure of the FE college network, particularly in large cities, should be further modified to minimise duplication in reasonable travel to learn areas.

4.6.2 In rural and semi-rural areas, small FE colleges should be strongly encouraged to form or join groups in order to ensure sustainable quality provision in the long term. [consistent with the pressure on schools and academies to combine]

4.7 Government should develop procedures to ensure that – as part of a collaborative national network of FE colleges – there is an efficient distribution of Level 3, 4 and 5 provision within reasonable travel-to-learn areas, to enable strategic investment and avoid counterproductive competition between providers.

4.8 Investment in the FE workforce should be a priority, allowing improvements in recruitment and retention, drawing in more expertise from industry, and strengthening professional development.

4.9 The panel recommends that government improve data collection, collation, analysis and publication across the whole further education sector (including independent training providers). [As noted above, perhaps an equivalent of TEF for FE and all the other related metrics  – on top of Ofsted requirements where they apply.  They compare this critically with schools as well as HE (see page 137)]

4.10 The OfS and the ESFA should establish a joint working party co-chaired by the OfS and ESFA chairs to align the requirements they place on providers and improve the interactions and exchange of information between these bodies. The working party should report to the Secretary of State for Education by March 2020. [These will be interesting interactions.  The OfS is meant to be “light-touch” and “risk-based”, remember.  But it would be good to see them take a more similar approach – as universities registering with the ESFA to provide apprenticeships are aware, the requirements are different]

4.11 FE colleges should be more clearly distinguished from other types of training provider in the FE sector with a protected title similar to that conferred on universities.

CHAPTER 5: APPRENTICESHIPS

5.1 The government should monitor closely the extent to which apprenticeship take up reflects the priorities of the Industrial Strategy, both in content – including the need for specific skills at Levels 3 through 5 – and in geographic spread. If funding is inadequate for demand, apprenticeships should be prioritised in line with Industrial Strategy requirements.

5.2  The government should use data on apprenticeships wage returns to provide accessible system wide information for learners with a potential interest in apprenticeships.

5.3  Funding for Level 6 and above apprenticeships should normally be available only for apprentices who have not previously undertaken a publicly-supported degree.  [ELQ by the back door?]

5.4  Ofsted become the lead responsible body for the inspection of the quality of apprenticeships at all levels.

5.5  No provider without an acceptable Ofsted rating should receive a contract to deliver training in their own right (although a provider who has not yet been inspected could sub-contract from a high-quality provider pending their own inspection).

5.6  The IfATE and the DfE (through the ESFA) should undertake a programme of work to better understand the barriers that SMEs face in engaging with the apprenticeship system and put in place mechanisms to address these, including raising awareness of the programme and making the system easier to navigate.

5.7  The IfATE improve transparency when processing standards that have been submitted for approval. Trailblazer groups and providers should have a clear indication of progress, available on-line, so they can start to plan, recruit and invest within workable timelines.

5.8  All approved providers of government-funded training, including apprenticeship training, must make clear provision for the protection of learners in the case of closure or insolvency.

CHAPTER 6: STUDENT CONTRIBUTIONS

6.1 Continue the principle of loans to cover the cost of fees combined with income-contingent contributions up to a maximum. [NB they have not looked at PG loans – see page 166]

6.2 Set the contribution threshold at the level of median non-graduate earnings so that those who are experiencing a financial benefit from HE start contributing towards the cost of their studies. This should apply to new students entering HE from 2021/22.Adjust the lower interest threshold to match, with the higher interest threshold moving by the same amount. This should apply to new students entering the system from 2021/22. [That’s a reduction from £25,000 to £23,000 at current rates.  Note it went up to £25,000 from £21,000 in 2018 in a hasty attempt by the PM to appeal to the “youth vote” in a move welcomed by many (because the promised indexation for the threshold was abandoned) but also said to be regressive (because it reduced the total amount repaid by the highest earners).  The proposal is that it should be a floating threshold, linked to median earnings, and not implemented until 2021/22, so they expect it would be £25,000 then and when the first cohort of students start repaying it would be around £28,000 (see page 170)]

6.3 Extend the repayment period to 40 years after study has ended so that those who have borrowed continue to contribute while they are experiencing a financial benefit. This should apply to new students entering the system from 2021/22. [This is the big change and is why the main headline fee cut does not save many students much overall]

6.4 Remove real in-study interest, so that loan balances track inflation during study. This should apply for new students entering the system from 2021/22. [This is a tweak, but an important one, because this is one of those optical things that makes students really cross, as they incur interest at 3% plus inflation while studying.  A student on a maximum maintenance loan incurs £3800 in interest while studying on a three year course (see page 172)] 

6.5 Retain the post-study variable interest rate mechanism from inflation to inflation plus 3 per cent. [Many have called for this to be scrapped but the report thinks that’s a trade-off not worth making.  They also don’t adopt the arguments about moving away from RPI to CPI – some will be disappointed]

6.6 Introduce a new protection for borrowers to cap lifetime repayments at 1.2 times the initial loan amount in real terms. This cap should be introduced for all current Plan 2 borrowers, as well for all future borrowers. [This hasn’t been much covered in the press coverage so far – but it is interesting.  It addresses the “squeezed middle” who pay back more slowly and thus pay back more than the highest earners.  As the 40 year period makes that problem worse, this is a mitigation for it (see pages 174/5)]

6.7 Introduce new finance terms under the banner of a new ‘student contribution system’. Define and promote the system with new language to make clearer the nature of the system, reducing focus on ‘debt’ levels and interest and emphasising contribution rates. [Hurray, the rebranding.  Widely anticipated although it will take a mammoth effort to change national cultural expectations on this after everyone from the PM down has banged on about student debt.  This is a huge job.]

CHAPTER 7: MAINTENANCE

7.1 The government should restore maintenance grants for socio-economically disadvantaged students to at least £3,000 a year.

[This is really interesting, has been widely welcomed including by the PM who has taken the credit for it and blamed George Osborne and Sajid Javid for a mistake” in her statement this morning. The report says that this is a particular problem because of the assumption of parental support and that it impacts the choices that disadvantaged students make.   But…is £3000 enough?  The report says (page 192 “Combined with the reduction in the level of tuition fee recommended in chapter 3, this recommendation would see the maximum debt for a disadvantaged student on graduation from a 3 year degree decrease by £15,000, from approximately £60,000 to approximately £45,000”.  They looked at the Welsh system and  said it was not a priority for investment to make such a significant (and expensive) change).

7.2 The expected parental contribution should be made explicit in all official descriptions of the student maintenance support system. [Yes, alongside the other comms challenges, this is a big and important one.]

7.3 Maximum maintenance support should be set in line with the National Minimum Wage for age 21 to 24 on the basis of 37.5 hours per week and 30 weeks per year. [That’s a small cut outside London “We do not believe that students, who in practice are often studying for less than 37.5 hours, should receive a higher income than the minimum received by young people in full-time employment” (see page 193)]

7.4 In delivering a maintenance system comprising a mix of grant, loan and family contribution, the government should ensure that:

  • The level of grant is set as high as possible to minimise or eliminate the amount of additional loan required by students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • The income thresholds within the system should be increased in line with inflation each year.

7.5 The new post-18 maintenance support package should be provided for all students taking Level 4 to 6 qualifications. The government should take steps to ensure that qualifications which are supported through the maintenance package are of high quality and deliver returns for the individual, society, economy and taxpayer.

7.6 The OfS should examine the cost of student accommodation more closely and work with students and providers to improve the quality and consistency of data about costs, rents, profits and quality.

[Interesting comments on page 196:

  • “We believe that HEIs retain a responsibility for overall student welfare and delivering value for money and that this extends to university accommodation, whether or not they are the direct provider.”
  • And “The public subsidy of student maintenance, much of which is spent on accommodation, gives the OfS a legitimate stake in monitoring the provision of student accommodation in terms of costs, rents, profitability and value for money”
  • Also “We suggest a detailed study of the characteristics and in-study experience of commuter students and how to support them better.”(page 195)]

7.7 Funding available for bursaries should increase to accommodate the likely growth in Level 2 and Level 3 adult learners.

7.8 The support on offer to Level 2 and Level 3 learners should be made clearer by both the government and further education colleges so as to ensure that prospective learners are aware of the support available to them.

And there’s more

There are also other bits that are not reflected in the many, many recommendations but may be seized on by Ministers and others.  In the section on Market Competition, page 78, the report says that “‘post-18 education cannot be left entirely to market forces’.81 We have already established that England’s market in HE has produced substantial social, economic and personal benefits but have noted that price competition has not developed as was originally expected. This is rational behaviour in a market where price is taken as a signal of quality.”

It goes on:

It is of concern to us that these marketing approaches sometimes include cash and in-kind inducements to prospective students to accept a place. It would be an unacceptable use of public funds for universities to recycle tuition fees, funded by state-subsidised income contingent loans, as gifts over which the state has no recourse. A recent study for Universities UK found “… perceptions that universities are becoming more like commercial businesses, driven by profit” and we would not be surprised if over-enthusiastic marketing had contributed to this perception. We further note three aspects of academic practice that could be interpreted as being a consequence of market competition.

  • Grade inflation. The growth in the proportion of first and upper second-class degrees awarded (see box) has been too great to suggest plausibly that it can be entirely attributed to a genuine improvement in the quality of students’ academic performance. It is not unreasonable to assume that part of the explanation is that academic assessment has become a means of reputational enhancement, albeit how this has happened is unclear.84 We note the intervention in March 2018 on this matter by the Secretary of State for Education.
  • Lower entry requirements. An increasing proportion of students with lower prior attainment are now attending university. We welcome this but not at any price. Low prior attainment, measured by A level and BTEC grades, is associated with dropping out from university studies, to the financial and often emotional cost of the student. From the 2016/17 cohort, as many as 12.8 per cent of students with UCAS tariff points between 0 and 100 (equivalent to D and E at A-level in the old tariff scheme), and 11.6 per cent of students with BTECs at any level, did not progress past their first year of a degree. This is about double the 6.3 per cent drop out rate for students as a whole. For the lowest attaining BTEC students the drop-out rates are well above 15 per cent. At fourteen UK universities, projections of the number of students likely to obtain a degree is below 70 per cent; the lowest has a degree projection rate of 51.7 per cent with 28.1 per cent of its students dropping out entirely rather than transferring or obtaining another award such as a Level 4 or Level 5 qualification.
  • Unconditional offers. Responsibly used, unconditional offers can have benefits, particularly in attracting students from disadvantaged backgrounds – but the emphasis has to be on ‘responsible’. We agree with the OfS that “Universities must not resort to pressure selling tactics in promoting unconditional offers”87 and we note the intervention in April 2018 on this matter by the Secretary of State for Education.

They don’t have a recommendation in this area, but they do use these examples as justification for why the system needs to change – and government given back more control through grants and targeting of funding.

There’s also a kick at TEF: “the use of metrics in the TEF process must be robust and command confidence. The Royal Statistical Society has raised concerns about the statistical validity of the current approach and the risk of the system being “gamed”.72 We await the outcome of the on-going independent review of the TEF, led by Dame Shirley Pearce, which is examining this and other issues.”  It is really interesting to think about what, given this, they think will be the basis for their cost and value-based assessment for the top-up funding.  They manage not to suggest anything.  All they say about it is on page 75: “We expect this assessment to be contested within the sector. Typically, it has been resistant to measures of performance based on inputs (contact hours), outputs (student satisfaction) and outcomes (graduate salaries). There are undoubtedly weaknesses in all of these metrics, including the TEF framework which brings them together, but they give universities important information about their own performance and we encourage the sector to use them constructively.”

And what of employers?  When interviewed during the process, Philip Augar made a lot of the role of employers in the system.  In the opening principles, Principle 4 is “the cost of post-18 education should be shared between taxpayers, employers and learners”.  But there is nothing new here for FE, lots of references to employers working with FE, and of course the apprenticeship levy.

They also address the unintended consequences in terms of the cross-subsidy for research funding (see page 93): “Universities in the UK educate the graduates, especially in STEM fields, needed to achieve this target. Our proposals on rebalancing funding towards high‑cost and high‑value subjects, discussed below, are intended to encourage this and are likely to result in more funding going to institutions with a strong research base. We also make recommendations to protect high quality specialist institutions. We recognise that there will be concerns about the impact of the resource freeze on some institutions with pockets of research excellence. We are of the view that it is for government, business and other interested bodies to fund research adequately and directly.

So what now?  The coverage will be excited and excitable.  Justine Greening has already condemned the whole thing as regressive and called for a radical new student contribution system.  But will a new leader of the Tory party take it up?  Will it get lost in party politics and Brexit?  Will it be too unattractive in terms of cost (remember the spending review) and not attractive enough in terms of attracting voters (young and older)?. They have costed it all (page 204).

We’ll just have to wait and see.  But the main thing is that, despite several menacing bits, when taken as a whole it is not the nightmare scenario for HE that some were predicting, but neither is it a silver bullet.  It’s complex, subtle and intended to work as a package – if existing or new leaders start cherry picking, there is plenty of potential for the nightmare to materialise.  And the OfS have a LOT of work to do.

At a speech launching the review, Theresa May said: “I was not surprised to see the panel argue for the reintroduction of means-tested maintenance grants both for university students and those studying for higher technical qualifications. Such a move would ensure students are supported whichever route they choose, and save those from the poorest backgrounds over £9,000. It will be up to the Government to decide, at the upcoming Spending Review, whether to follow this recommendation. But my view is very clear: removing maintenance grants from the least well-off students has not worked, and I believe it is time to bring them back.”

On reforming tuition fees, she argued: “There is much to be said for the panel’s proposal to cut fees and top up the money from Government, protecting the sector’s income overall but focussing more of that investment on high-quality and high-value courses. I know there are some, including the Labour Opposition, who will reject this finding because they want to abolish fees altogether. Such a move would be regressive and destructive – hurting our institutions and limiting the opportunities for our young people.”

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner commented: “The report alone does nothing to address the burning injustices facing our education system. With no formal Government response, no extra funding and no guarantee that the recommendations will be implemented by her successor the Augar review epitomises May’s legacy as Prime Minister and this shambolic Tory government –  all talk, empty promises and very little action.”

Speaking on LBC earlier, Chancellor Philip Hammond warned: “We won’t be able to prioritise every area. If we want to be able to spend some of that fiscal headroom that I have accumulated, we first have to get the Brexit issue resolved.”

By the way, as well as the report, there is a whole lot of supporting material including the outcomes of the call for evidence that informed the review. Some nuggets:

  • For student finance, more than half of students responding thought fees should be reduced or abolished. There was a mix of views from providers over whether the fees charged to students at present covered the cost of courses, with views further split about the advantages and disadvantages of applying differential fees for different subjects and how this might work. Student loans were seen by many as burdensome and off-putting, in particular for part-time and mature students. Many respondents suggested that means-tested maintenance grants should be reintroduced.
  • Respondents and respondent groups had a range of views of what constituted value for money in post-18 education including student experience, employability and commercial terms, as well as the wider benefits to society. Some questioned the need for the concept. HE providers and HE employees tended to favour value in terms of student experience and qualifications achieved, whereas students and graduates valued employability and the earnings advantage of a degree, seen as a return on their investment.
    • Overall employability was perceived as the most important measure of value for money, followed by value to society and the student experience.
    • Value for money was considered to be improved either if the cost of education to students is reduced, or if the quality of education and its contribution to the economy and to society is increased.
  • Respondents identified financial barriers as the most common difficulty for disadvantaged students, including debt (both real and the prospect of it), covering costs out of term time and inadequate maintenance support.

And the Tory leadership contest?

New potential candidates are joining the fray all the time.  There are so many it is hard to work out what they all stand for.  The whittling down process can’t start until after 10th June.  Until then we will have to put up with remarkably similar soundbites and some startling announcements as they try to be distinctive.  11 (or 12, or more) views to canvas on every issue that comes up from Augar to football to British Steel.  Oh dear.

This internal squabble really matters – because whoever it is, is going to try and sort out Brexit and nothing else will get done until they do.  The solution might be trying to create a cross party consensus to pass the Withdrawal Agreement legislation and leave with the PM’s deal in October (seems vanishingly unlikely).  Or by going back to Brussels with a backstop unicorn and trying to renegotiate (surely even more unlikely than it was when Parlaiment voted on it).  Or throwing the whole thing up in the air and asking for a long extension for a people’s vote (exceptionally unlikely because any candidate who would go for this will surely not be selected unless they are the last person standing).  Or going for a no-deal Brexit by default, with no legislation if Parliament won’t play ball – surely very unlikely indeed given that this is the only thing Parliamnet agrees on.  Any hint of this would surely spark another Letwin-style rebellion enabled by the Speaker (leading to what, though – there’s no time.  And surely the EU wouldn’t grant an extension in these circumstances).  The timing is critical, because the summer recess takes Parliament to the middle of September, unless they come back early.

And it may all be irrelevant.  If the new leader faces a vote of no confidence fairly early on, and is someone that enough Tories can’t work with (whichever approach they are taking), will enough rebels back it and force a general election?  Then surely the EU would grant an extension.  And all bets would be off, although it seems pretty likely that a general election would lead to another hung Parliament, probably very hung indeed, with a fair number of MPs for the Brexit Party (unless the new Tory leader wins them over) and more Lib Dems and Greens.  So then it would all be about coalitions.  Tricky.

So who could it be?  The BBC have a list although Philip Hammond hasn’t ruled himself out and isn’t on the list yet.  There are some predictions and some more details on The Week here

EU student fees and finance after Brexit

After the recent storm when it was pointed out that EU students would at some point after Brexit stop being eligible for tuition fee loans and “Home” fee status, Chris Skidmore this week confirmed that the current arrangements would continue for students starting courses in 2020-21, continuing the “one year at a time” approach that has been adopted since the EU referendum.

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said: We know that students will be considering their university options for next year already, which is why we are confirming now that eligible EU nationals will continue to benefit from home fee status and can access financial support for the 20/21 academic year, so they have the certainty they need to make their choice.”

“Work to determine the future fee status for new EU students after the 2020/21 academic year is ongoing as the Government prepares for a smooth and orderly exit from the EU as soon as possible. The Government will provide sufficient notice for prospective EU students on fee arrangements ahead of the 2021/2022 academic year and subsequent years in future.”

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HE policy update for the w/e 3rd May 2019

Did you know you can access previous editions of the policy update online here?  You can also find them on the BU research blog by searching on the “policy” category, although that is often a shorter version without the pictures.

Local elections

If you are reading this on Friday, the results are still being announced.  The main headline at the time of writing is that the Conservatives and Labour have been hit by a Brexit backlash – interestingly there is a contradiction between the view that people are fed up with the two main parties for bodging Brexit – and the fact that they seem to have voted for the Lib Dems instead.  Which would be odd, but of course it probably isn’t as simple as that.

With the Brexit party not standing, UKIP having swung perhaps too far to the right for those ex-Conservatives who have voted for them recently, and Labour holding their vague line on Brexit, leave voters may have had nowhere to go and may have stayed at home, while fed up remainers have turned out and voted Lib Dem.  As turn-out is apparently close to the last time, despite predictions it would be low, that doesn’t seem to stand up.

The Lib Dems were previously the party of local politics, especially in the South West.  Perhaps the swing back to them is just about local issues.  Or, maybe they have just recovered their national position after their post-coalition drubbing, as former Lib Dem voters have finally forgiven them.

And the much shouted about swing to independents may not be all it seems either.  We reviewed the candidates for the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch election and found that a proportion of the independents had previously been Conservative or UKIP councillors or candidates.  So despite the potentially attractive image of a set of independent minded councillors who will change local politics, they may be the same people who are fed up with their former party for a range of reasons – national or local (perhaps opposed to the council merger for BCP) – and will therefore not advocate radical change if elected.  We’ll see.

All in all, while there will be a lot of handwringing and speculation, in the end there is no one story here.  A clearer view of the state of the nation might emerge from the EU votes, although they are likely to pull out the protest votes – people may vote for parties that they would never vote for in a general or even a local election just to make a point (especially as these appointments are likely to be short term and leave voters are fed up at having the elections at all).  And turn out in the EU elections may be spectacularly low for the same reason.

Local results:

Brexit goes missing

There is very little news on Brexit.  The government seem to have stopped pretending that the deal will be approved in time to stop the EU elections, the government/Labour party compromise discussions seem to be going nowhere and it has all gone very quiet.  No-one even asked the PM about it in PMQs.  At some point someone will have to do something if they don’t want a no deal Brexit by default in October, but there seems to be no hope of a breakthrough or plan to achieve one. It’s strange that we have gone so quickly from the chaos a parliamentary takeover and daily mini-crises to hopeless inaction.  And it really shows the importance of a deadline in politics.  Without one, they seem unable to do anything.  Perhaps they have just been distracted by the local elections, but it doesn’t seem likely.  Or perhaps everyone is waiting for someone else to find a solution.

Contextual Admissions

The OfS have published Contextual admissions – promoting fairness and rethinking merit challenging the sector ‘to be ambitious and innovative in reducing persistent inequalities in access and participation.’ They go on: ‘Contextual admissions are one way of doing this, but a more radical approach is needed if we are to achieve fair access.’… ‘In parts of the sector, good progress has been made in recruiting disadvantaged students. Overall, however, analysis shows that contextual admissions have not yet had a significant impact on fair access to higher education.’

 Key points:

  • While there has been some progress as a result of the increased use of contextual offers, gaps in equality of access between the most and least advantaged groups remain wide. Universities need to rethink how they are judging merit, rather than focusing narrowly on school exam success alone. A more radical use of contextual admissions is one way to achieve this conceptual shift.
  • Through reforming access and participation plans the OfS will instigate more honest self-assessment, more ambitious targets, more evidence-based measures and better evaluation. Each university will need to demonstrate how it will make progress to reduce its access gaps, including where appropriate the use of contextual admissions.
  • Alongside the government, the OfS will continue to work to persuade league table providers to use measures that do not penalise contextual admissions.
  • The OfS will encourage providers to evaluate their approaches rigorously and to share widely their approaches to admissions, including through the new ‘what works’ centre, the Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education and the A to Z guidance on effective practice.

The University of Bristol is included as a case study and OfS praise the ‘evolving approach’ at Bristol since 2009. Accepted students are automatically offered a lower grade if they attend a state school in the bottom 40 per cent for attainment, live in POLAR3 quintiles 1 or 2, have completed a University of Bristol outreach event, or have spent time in care. Although the students are not offered any additional targeted support once admitted, research has shown that students admitted to Bristol with one grade lower than the entry requirements do just as well as, if not better than, those admitted on the standard offer.

The publication concludes: The OfS has high expectations of universities and colleges to reduce equality gaps in relation to access and participation. Through our reforms to regulating access and participation, we are giving them the time and flexibility to be more ambitious and to innovate.

Read more on the OfS’ expectations and other case studies here.

BAME attainment

Universities UK and NUS have co-published a report on BAME attainment at Universities. It covers how a student’s race and ethnicity can significantly affect their degree outcomes highlighting that the biggest gap is that between white student and students from Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds getting a ‘good degree’ (first- or upper-second-class degree) at 13% in 2017–18 graduates. It calls on the sector to partner meaningfully with students and robustly demonstrate commitment to addressing the BAME attainment gap.

Key Recommendations:

  • The Office for Students, (OfS) Evidence and Impact Exchange should systematically review ‘what works’ (as well as what does not) as a priority, to inform universities’ investment and strategies to address the attainment gap.
  • The government’s Race Disparity Audit should consider how it can support different parts of UK civil society – including universities – that are addressing similar, structural inequalities, and draw together evidence on how different types of organisations have achieved success.
  • Universities should raise greater awareness amongst staff of how to support BAME students, gain greater insight into BAME students’ perceptions, and ensure practices and initiatives on this issue reflect varied experiences and needs.

Read more here.

Amatey Doku, Vice President Higher Education, National Union of Students, said: I ask university leaders, from whom strong leadership on these issues is essential, not to treat the BAME attainment gap as a numbers game. Data analytics and targets will be critical to ensuring that there is accountability and transparency, but we must never lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with the lives of individuals who face systematic discrimination from all parts of society.

Social Mobility

The Social Mobility Commission (restarted last year after all its members resigned) have published the State of the Nation 2018-19: Social Mobility in Great Britain report stating inequality is now entrenched in Britain from birth to work, and calling on the Government to take urgent action to help close the privilege gap.  The report looks at early childhood, schools, FE, universities, and work to reiterate familiar messages that social mobility has stagnated for the last 4 years. The report analyses Office for National Statistics (ONS) data to show the wide gap in school attainment and income between the rich and the poor has barely shifted, with the financially better off nearly 80% more likely to end up in professional jobs than those from a working-class background. Other findings include:

  • People from more affluent backgrounds are 70% more likely to move region than those from working class backgrounds and are three times more likely to move to London
  • The class pay gap: those from working class backgrounds earn 24% less a year than those from professional backgrounds. Even when those from working-class backgrounds are successful in entering professional occupations, they earn on average 17% less than their more privileged colleagues.
  • Living standards: there are now 500,000 more children in poverty than in 2012. Those from working class backgrounds are less likely to own a home than those from more privileged backgrounds. Young people are less likely to own a home, and typically earn less than in previous generations.

To help address this inequality, the commission calls on the government to:

  • extend eligibility and uptake of the 30 hour childcare offer to those only working 8 hours a week, as a first step to make it available to more low-income families
  • raise per pupil funding by a significant amount for those aged 16 to 19, and introduce a new pupil premium for disadvantaged students in that age group
  • become an accredited voluntary living wage employer so that government departments pay the voluntary living wage to civil servants and all contracted workers including cleaning and catering staff

Dame Martina Milburn, chair of the commission, said: “Our research suggests that being able to move regions is a key factor in being able to access professional jobs. Clearly moving out is too often necessary to move up. At a time when our country needs to be highly productive and able to carve out a new role in a shifting political and economic landscape, we must find a way to maximise the talent of all our citizens, especially those that start the furthest behind.”

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said: “Social mobility is fundamental to people feeling that the economy is working for them. Most companies understand their responsibilities and want to do even more to support the next generation of talented people from all backgrounds. Companies succeed when they embrace life-long learning and work with schools and colleges to give young people the best start in life. That’s why the Government must end the financial neglect of England’s further education system and carefully consider this recommendation as part of its Spending Review.”

EU tuition fees post-Brexit

Over the weekend BuzzFeed leaked plans suggesting the Government is considering an increase in tuition fees and ending EU financial support. The government has previously confirmed that all EU students starting courses in the UK in the 2019/20 academic year are eligible for student finance and will be treated as “home” students for fee purposes – regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with a deal or not.  Scotland has recently extended their own guarantee to students starting in September 2020.  The UK government has not confirmed what will happen in the 2020/21 academic year.  It was always expected that – unless a post-Brexit deal is done with the EU which includes an ongoing arrangement about EU student finance – at some point the UK government would stop requiring universities to treat them as home students and stop providing student finance.

So what would happen then?  The absence of student loans would probably impact the number of EU students coming to the UK, but also the demographic of those students who do come – like international students now, EU students would have to find their own fees.  They do not usually qualify for maintenance loans (unless they have been resident in the UK for a number of years).

And what would those fees be?  The press articles assume that they would be the same as other international students.  It is important to note that the government does not set international student fees, and so a steep rise in tuition fees for EU students is not guaranteed.  At the time of the referendum, there was an argument made that it would be anti-competitive for universities to charge (say) US students one fee and EU students something less, in the absence of an agreement between governments.  The government has taken its current position unilaterally, as has the Scottish government, but there could be complaints by non-EU students against individual universities who chose to do the same in the future.  One way to mitigate this might be to offer bursaries to EU students, but again, that might be challenged.

The rumours over the weekend suggest that the government is going to announce that their current policy (of extending the guarantee a year at a time) will finally end – perhaps for students starting in 2020 or maybe 2021.

UUK are quoted in the Guardian:

  • “It is essential there is no further delay in the UK government confirming the fee status for EU students starting courses at English universities in autumn 2020. The recruitment cycle is already well under way,” a spokesperson for Universities UK said.
  • “The ongoing uncertainty is restricting student choice and the ability of English universities to recruit the best students from the EU. Whatever the eventual fee status of EU nationals, universities need at least 18 months’ notice of any change.”
  • A DfE spokesperson said: “Last year, we announced that students from the EU starting courses in England in the 2019-20 academic year will continue to be eligible for home fee status, which means they will be charged the same tuition fees as UK students.
  • “The government will provide sufficient notice for prospective EU students on fee arrangements ahead of the 2020-21 academic year and subsequent years in the future.”

And what about the impact?  You may remember at the time of the referendum there was a big argument about whether EU students repay their loans – the suggestion being that this was a huge hidden contribution that the UK was making to EU citizens.  The SLC brought out a repayment strategy to address this.

HESA have the data about where EU students come from but it’s in rather more digestible form from the Complete University Guide here.  One possibility as noted above is that the overall numbers of non UK students may not fall or at least not drop off completely, but that the demographic might change, so that we will see fewer EU students from less wealthy backgrounds.

Parliamentary debate

On Monday the Opposition tabled an urgent question on EU tuition fees. Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said no decision had been made yet but that the Government would provide enough notice for 2020/21 applicants. The Opposition also questioned the Government’s International Education Strategy expansion plans (more on this below), the Minister explained the need to attract HE students from all corners of the globe and think beyond EU residents. Carol Monaghan, SNP Shadow Education Secretary, highlighted that despite Scotland’s continuation of free tuition for EU students they anticipate a drop in EU demand because the “European temporary leave to remain scheme will not suit many courses”.  She also asked when the post-study work scheme would be reintroduced for international students (EU and globally). The Minister said the immigration white paper would tackle this issue and reminded that postgraduate fees were separate from this discussion of EU undergraduate fees and that the Government “do not want to do anything that will damage the potential of UK universities to research and continue with their research partnerships”. The post-study work issue was raised again in light of the length and greater expense of medical and dental degrees highlighting that the lack of opportunity to work in the UK after completion was hurting recruitment. Skidmore acknowledged this was particularly an issue for the Scottish Universities. Politics Home ran an article quoting Jo Johnson as in favour of the post-study work visa: Britain [is] missing out on billions of pounds, and losing top talent to other countries, by limiting their post-study stay to just four months.

Former Universities Minister, Sam Gyimah, took part in the debate stating: “whilst no decision has yet been made on this specific policy, the cumulative impact of some our policy decisions, whether it’s the immigration cap, which would make it more difficult for researchers from abroad to come and work and study here, whether its policy which would hike up fees for EU students or lack of clarity on Erasmus, the cumulative effect could be that we are undermining the university sector.”

Speaking outside of the debate previous Education Secretary Justine Greening also criticised the proposal to end EU fee remission: “As one company put it to me recently, Britain is in a talent war. We won’t be successful in that if we put up more barriers to encouraging talent, from home or abroad.”

During the urgent question debate Vicky Ford MP alluded to a recent agreement between the EU27 and UK on future cooperation in science, innovation, youth, culture and education, calling for “fair and appropriate financial contribution”. She encouraged members to vote for the Government’s withdrawal agreement to guarantee such a future relationship. Chris Skidmore agreed stating that the UK does disproportionately well out of scientific grants from the EU and confirmed that he would attend the EU Competitiveness Council meeting on 28th May.

There was some to and fro over whether subsiding EU students to study in Britain prevented students coming from elsewhere, particularly developing countries.

Chris Skidmore’s tone was on the whole supportive and positive of the contribution that Universities make. In conclusion to the urgent question discussion he said: “we have provided the certainty on 2019-20, and an announcement on 2020-21 will be made shortly. Any future policies will be part of those future negotiations, which, if we can have the EU deal voted through by the House, we will be able to get on with”.

Post-18 Review – policy options

The Education Policy Institute have published a report examining the evidence on various policy options for the Government ahead of the Augar Review. The report scrutinises policy proposals on tuition fees, student support, and non-HE funding; it outlines the evidence for each policy option, before setting out recommendations on how the government should proceed.

Key Findings:

  • Proposals from the government and opposition parties to reduce or abolish tuition fees, or lower interest rates, would have a regressive impact. Most of the high profile options for reform would benefit higher earners, and have little impact on improving education access or quality.
  • To help address inequities between higher and further education funding, maintenance loans should be extended to 19-23 year olds pursuing vocational, level 3 qualifications. The government should offer more financial support to those pursuing study outside of higher education. Currently, vocational learners are not entitled to maintenance loans.
  • The government should avoid a system in which tuition fees vary by subject or university. Varying fees by subject to steer students toward high demand courses has been ineffective when applied in other countries, with demand largely unresponsive to changes in price. Varying fees by institution may entrench inequality. Rewarding high graduate returns with extra funding may penalise institutions with high proportions of disadvantaged students.
  • Imposing a minimum academic standard to access university loans – a ‘UCAS tariff floor’ – should not be introduced without strong evidence that the majority of those denied loans would be better off pursuing other education routes.

You can read the full detail here.

 Rt Hon David Laws, Executive Chairman, EPI said: Many of the most widely discussed policy options would be likely to have little or no impact on participation or education quality, and higher earning graduates would often be the major gainers from reform – even though it is arguable that in education terms they are not the obvious priority at a time when difficult public spending choices are necessary.

International Expansion

Education Secretary Damian Hinds delivered a speech on the Government’s International Education Strategy (published in March). He confirmed that the strategy aims to increase the number of international higher education students to 600,000 by 2030. Hinds said:

In higher education we are still gaining volume, but we are losing share, as we have grown around 5% from 435,000 students in 2013/14 to 458,000 in 2017/18. We do have quite a reliance on one source market – albeit a very big one: China. We should look to develop both existing markets but to diversify and develop new and sustainable opportunities too, for example continuing to grow the Indian market, and countries from South East Asia and Africa too.

We need to talk about Education Technology too. This is a flourishing business sector for the UK, with a steadily growing export market. We know that domestic market development and export success are closely linked, so we will support UK EdTech businesses in both.

Specifically, this means:

  • defining 10 new “EdTech challenges” to galvanise industry action on some real-world issues faced by the education sector where technology has strong potential to drive progress;
  • helping to forge new connections between technology innovators and their users, through the creation of testbed schools and colleges; and
  • supporting more effective procurement practice for both suppliers and users. For example, through support for BESA’s LendED platforms – a try-before-you-buy service linking EdTech companies and educators.

It has never been more important for us to be globally-minded, outward looking and ambitious. The competition has never been fiercer. But the opportunities have never been greater. They are there to be taken.

Consultations

Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

Other news

Food for thought: Results of two interesting national polls:

Schools – Ofsted positivity: Ofsted published their fourth annual parents survey which explores parents’ awareness and perceptions of the regulator and is used to feed into Ofsted’s strategic priorities. Key points:

  • 68% of parents agreed that Ofsted is a valuable source of information about education within the local area
  • 68% believe Ofsted’s work helps to improve standards of education (this was a statistically significant increase compared to the previous year results)
  • 65% agreed that Ofsted provides a reliable measure of a schools quality (statistically significant increase)
  • 65% of parents agree that Ofsted is a valuable source of information about childcare in local areas
  • 9 out of 10 (89%) parents know the Ofsted rating of their child’s childcare provider or school.
  • Parents are most likely to feel ‘core’ subjects of Maths, English and Science are sufficiently covered in their child’s education. However, 4 in 10 parents or less feel that subjects such as Art, Music, Languages and D&T are sufficiently covered
  • Three quarters of parents feel Ofsted is a reliable source of information and there has been a drop in parents who feel their judgements are unreliable (down 3% to 16%). However, some parents were concerned that the Ofsted reports didn’t provide an accurate representation of what that school is like, and some felt the reports were pointless as they would be sending their child to that school anyway.

Read more or delve deeper into the pretty charts representing the data from page 11 onwards.

Disinformation Committee: Fake news and disinformation continue to be of importance to the public so the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee are launching a new sub-committee on Disinformation:

  • We believe that there is a public interest in continuing our examination of the continuing threat posed by disinformation to democracies.
  • In order to do this, we are forming a new Sub-Committee on Disinformation. We are launching a new website and will hold evidence sessions in May 2019 with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP, and with the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham. Among other issues, we will discuss with them the Government’s response to our report on ‘Disinformation and ‘Fake News’’, and the White Paper on Online Harms, due to be published shortly.
  • …we plan to make use of the new Standing Order enabling us to invite members of any other select committee to attend any meeting of the Sub-Committee to ask questions of witnesses. In this way, the Sub-Committee will become Parliament’s ‘institutional home’ for matters concerning disinformation and data privacy; a focal point that will bring together those seeking to scrutinise and examine this threat to democracy.
  • In launching this Sub-Committee, we are creating a standing programme of work. It signals our commitment to continuing our rigorous scrutiny of democratic accountability, and to play our part in protecting individuals from the insidious onslaught of disinformation and digital disruption. We look forward to continuing the highly important work that we have begun.

School work experience: Founders4schools and LKMco have published a joint report on young people and work experience, focussed upon making work experience fit for purpose. This highlights that the quality of work experience is hugely variable, and often very poor. A large proportion of young people do not think the work experience they undertake is good quality. However the quality is likely to be higher for more affluent pupils, who have access to stronger, higher-status networks relevant to their needs and aspirations. Key points:

  • Many young people do not have access at all. Survey data indicates that half of young people aged 14- to 25-years-old have not participated in work experience.
  • Demographic characteristics affect access to work experience opportunities. Poverty, minority ethnic status, gender and special educational need or disabilities all reduce pupils’ likelihood of participating.
  • Access is also affected by subject choices. Pupils choosing ‘academic’ routes in school are less likely to participate in work experience. In addition, work experience is more readily available in certain sectors and organisations than others.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General, CBI said: “… young people who have at least four interactions with business at school are five times less likely to be unemployed as an adult, with early exposure to business – whether through work experience, internships, mentoring or career talks – helping young people to feel better prepared.”

Ed Tech investment: The Australian SEEK Group have invested £50 million to half own the FutureLearn social learning platform in partnership with the Open University making this it largest ever private-sector EdTech investment in Europe. FutureLearn currently has over 9 million learners.

  • OU VC Mary Kellett said: “Our partnership with SEEK and the investment in FutureLearn will take our unique mission to make education open for all into new parts of the world. Education improves lives, communities and economies and is a truly global product, with no tariffs on ideas.”
  • The partnership with SEEK will have contractual arrangements in place to protect the University’s academic independence, teaching methods and curriculum.
  • SEEK CEO, Andrew Bassat, said: “This investment follows the same logic applied to IDP and Online Education Services ‘OES’ in that we like to invest in disruptive business models that provide world class student education outcomes. Technology is increasing the accessibility of quality education and can help millions of people up-skill and re-skill to adapt to rapidly changing labour markets. We see FutureLearn as a key enabler for education at scale”.
  • FutureLearn CEO Simon Nelson said: “This investment allows us to focus on developing more great courses and qualifications that both learners and employers will value. This includes building a portfolio of micro-credentials and broadening our range of flexible, fully online degrees and being able to enhance support for our growing number of international partners to empower them to build credible digital strategies, and in doing so, transform access to education.” 

Rankings: The Complete University Guide published its University League Table 2020.

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JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

Policy Advisor                                                                     Policy & Public Affairs Officer

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

 

HE Policy update for the w/e 14th December 2018

A busy week in politics, and for policy too.  Not looking any quieter as we approach the end of the year, either.  We will do a short update next week because the ONS report on student loan accounting is due and there are likely to be interesting reflections on that through the week.

Student loans and accounting

Ahead of the big ONS announcement on Monday about accounting for student loans, there is a House of Commons library report: Student loans and the Government’s deficit

Following concerns from parliamentary committees, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is re-examining how student loans are recorded in the Government’s deficit (which is the difference between the Government’s spending and its revenues from tax receipts and other sources). The ONS will announce its decision on 17 December 2018. (more…)

HE Policy update for the w/e 23rd November 2018

Considering we were late and included much of Monday’s news in the last update, this is a bumper update for you.  Lots of data and lots of speculation about fees etc.  We have managed to avoid the B word this week – as you will have had enough of it from all the other news sources.

Internships

Sophie Bradfield, the Policy & Campaigns Coordinator for SUBU, returns with another guest piece for us this week

Sutton Trust has published research today on graduate internships detailing that “39% of graduates in their twenties have done an internship, including almost half (46%) of young graduates under 24.” These statistics have a direct correspondence with research published in a Lancaster University HECSU-funded Graduate Resilience Project in 2016, looking at how students transition after graduating, where “45% of respondents identified a concern that they lacked relevant experience.” Pairing this with the competition for graduate jobs, it’s of no surprise that so many students seek to undertake internships. At BU gaining placements and real-world experience is a unique selling point and as BU proudly states on the placement information page “90% of our graduates have relevant work experience and this can give you a real head start in the competitive jobs market.” The Students’ Union at Bournemouth University (SUBU) is in absolute agreement that offering opportunities to gain experience can really help students to stand out from the crowd; learn transferable skills for employment; and increase employability and so we have a lot of extra-curricular opportunities on offer for students and collaborate with BU on a number of joint projects including recruiting paid students to be on programme review panels.

(more…)

HE policy update for the w/e 9th November 2018

Two major reports out this week covering value for money and international students plus all the excitement and intense debate from Wonkfest. Enjoy!

Value for Money in HE

The Education Select Committee have published their inquiry report on Value for Money in Higher Education. The committee calls on both universities and the Government to ensure better outcomes for students, expand degree apprenticeships, make university more accessible to a more diverse range of students and tackle Vice-Chancellor pay. Here are the key recommendations taken from the report: (more…)

HE policy update for the w/e 2nd November 2018

The Budget

As previously trailed in the media the Autumn Budget was focused on demonstrating the end of austerity. There wasn’t much in the way of HE announcements, however paperwork released with the budget confirms that the Government intends to continue to freeze the maximum tuition fees at the current £9,250 level (UUK report this means £200 million less funding for the sector by 2023-24). Previously announced increases to research and development funding (£1.6 billion more) were reiterated:

  • £1.1 billion through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
  • £120 million through Strength in Places fund
  • £150 million for research fellowship schemes
  • Funding for 10 university enterprise zones, and for catapult centres

(more…)

HE Policy Update – w/e 17 August 2018

To read the policy update in full with all the accompanying charts please click here, or continue reading below for the text only version.

 

The build up to A level results day and clearing has dominated this week, amid much talk of the future of technical and vocational education.

Admissions and Clearing

National Picture

HEPI provide a guest blog by Mary Curnock Cook (previous Chief Executive of UCAS).

The blog notes that higher tariff institutions have benefited most from the buyers’ market this year.

 Mary describes the increase in disadvantaged students in detail:

Things also look good for more disadvantaged students, measured by the serviceable but imperfect area-based POLAR4 measure. 

Here we see that participation rates for POLAR Quintile 1 (roughly the fifth of the population living in areas having the lowest participation rates in higher education) has again grown, up 0.3% to 16.4%. 

Quintile 5, from the highest participation areas, is also up by 0.7%.

The most advantaged (Quintile 5) are still 2.4 times more likely to enter higher education than the least advantaged (Quintile 1).

On ethnicity Mary writes:

Although white students are still the largest group of undergraduate students, BAME students have a higher and faster growing appetite for higher education.  Today’s data from UCAS indicate that while the number of placed white students from the UK is down 3%, placed BAME students are up 1%. The entry rate by ethnic group is the lowest for the White group and Asian students are 15% more likely to enter higher education.

Mary’s analysis is based on A level results day data which captures 80% of the End of Cycle data, it cannot be fully comprehensive but is sufficient to indicate trends.

 

Education Secretary of State Congratulatory Speech

Damian Hinds congratulated A level students on results day and welcomed record numbers of 18 year olds who intend to enter university study. The Government’s news story  provides a national picture of the A level results:

  • Maths continues to be the most popular subject at A Level, with the number of entries up 2.5% on last year – up 26.8% compared to 2010;
  • Entries into STEM subjects continue to rise, up 3.4% on last year and up 24% since 2010;
  • An increase in entries to STEM A Levels by girls, up 5.5% from last year and 26.9% since 2010 [see this Financial Times article for a chart illustrating female STEM study programmes];
  • The proportion of entries to art and design, music and modern foreign languages remains broadly stable;
  • In the second year of reformed A Levels, the percentage of UK entries awarded the A* grade remains stable at 8.0% this year, compared with 8.1% in 2010 and the overall UK pass rate remains stable at 97.6%, compared to 97.9% last year.

Damian stated that the reforms to A levels mean students are better prepared for future study or the workplace and reiterated messaging around choice of progression pathway on from A level study:

We’ve worked to improve education for every child – from their early years through to secondary school and beyond. I also want young people to have wider choice, whether that’s going to university, earning through an apprenticeship or in future taking technical qualifications that match the best in the world…As young people receive their results and prepare for the next steps, for the first time National Careers Service advisers will be giving young people information, advice and guidance on skills, learning and work alongside the UCAS clearing service. This will help ensure young people are aware of all the education and training options available to them.

Sam Gyimah said:

Thanks to the support offered by this government, no student with the talent and potential is restricted from studying in our world-class university sector. We have worked with employers to design new high quality apprenticeships – including degree apprenticeships – making them longer, with more off-the-job training and proper assessment at the end so that apprentices are learning the skills that industry really needs.

Wider sector perspectives

CBI Head of Education, John Cope, spoke ahead of the results stating:

There are many great routes to a successful career whether that’s at a university, college, or learning on the job. It’s important that those getting their A-Level results consider the whole range of options available.

University absolutely offers students a great next step but is by no means the only route to a higher-level education. There are a range of different options – a Higher National Certificate or Diploma, a foundation degree, or a ‘degree apprenticeship’, with an apprenticeship offering the chance to gain both a qualification employers value and start earning a salary straight away.

He went on to talk about the rise in the number of unconditional offers:

What’s driving the growth of unconditional offers is complex. To protect the credibility of our world-class sector, universities must ensure that unconditional offers are used carefully, such as helping widen access to university and driving social justice

The Chartered Management Institute’s statement also cites the growing favour for degree apprenticeships quoting a parent survey which found half (49%) of respondents said they would encourage their child to start a degree apprenticeship rather than an academic-only university course. 52% of parents said they were put off the traditional academic route by substantial university costs. In addition, 71% of those surveyed believed degree apprenticeships provide a better chance of getting a job than a traditional university degree, with many considering them to be the best value-for-money option for young people currently. (Note, CMI partners with 12 universities and major corporates to deliver a degree apprenticeship offer.)

Meanwhile the Careers and Enterprise Company have published the myth-busting truth about life after A levels (full report here).

Times Higher report that UK student acceptances are down by 2% on A level results day with lower-tariff institutions continuing to feel the squeeze.

Headlines:

  • The number of placed applicants for nursing continued to drop – down another 2% from last year.
  • There has been a small rise in the percentage of students from the most disadvantaged groups accepted to universities.
  • There was also an increase in EU acceptances (up by 1%) plus a record 31,510 international (non-EU) students.

Nationally, there were 26,000 unfilled places on A level results day

Research Professional published comments from the University and Colleges Union who have refreshed a pitch from earlier this year calling for a post-qualifications admission system. The article also reiterates familiar themes on Government’s concern over the rise of unconditional offers.

The Guardian ran a piece highlighting that some students who missed their grades and had entered Clearing to obtain an alternative university place may need additional support to adjust.

Times Higher pull together statements from key HE sector figures in response to A level results and early UCAS acceptance data.

University – declining as the ‘default’ choice?

The Sutton Trust has published research on young people’s attitudes to university across a 16 year period, conducted by Ipsos MORI. School pupils indicated how likely they were to attend university compared to the previous responses for the last 15 years. Overall figures fluctuate slightly and in 2018 more pupils indicated they were fairly likely to go, but less were certain enough to select ‘very likely’.  Delving into the reasons why pupils were unlikely to attend HE all the major reasons were scored lower than in previous years (period 2013-2017), except for social concerns (friends not attending, teachers advised something else for me, people like me are not expected to go to university) which remains turbulent. See the Sutton Trust news article and report overview for more analysis of the data.

(See link for the tables, chart and Twitter snapshots)

The Guardian reported on the research in: Young people ‘more sceptical about value of university’ – poll

 

Economics of Post-School Education

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee undertook an inquiry into the Economics of Post-School Education, publishing their concluding report on 11 June 2018. You can read a summary of it  in our previous policy update (pages 3 to 5). The Committee report called for immediate reform stating there was too much emphasis on university degrees, with undergraduate study dominating post-school choices, which isn’t in the country’s best interest.  Their report attributes this dominance to the ‘lack of alternative viable, consistent and quality alternatives’ with the guaranteed HE Finance system and the removal of the student number cap acting as enablers.

This week the Government published their official response to the House of Lord’s report. The response continuously acknowledges the current Government Review of Post-18 Education and Funding throughout the replies to the Lords Committee’s calls for change. In general the Government’s response echoes the Lords sentiment for better post-school careers options and alternative technical routes with equal recognition as a degree. This is unsurprising as these are both current policy pushes and set within the context of the reform of technical education which aims to span FE and HE. As expected the Government’s response focuses on pathways to employment, provides a nod to automation, and emphasises all forms of education as a driver of social mobility. However, it disagrees with the Committee’s calls to revisit student finance. In the full response the Government references the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding at the end of each reply –the effect is to set out a firm policy position but allowing room for future manoeuvre.

The key recommendations of the Lords inquiry report are set out below with the Government’s response in blue beneath.

  • Sector rhetoric has long held FE to be the poor cousin of HE and the Lords report called for better distribution of public funding across FE and HE with separate single regulators for level 4 and above (OfS) and sub level 3, including apprenticeships.
    1. The Government response notes the DfE review of classroom-based, level 4 & 5 technical education launched in October 2017 (interim findings here) which it states is ensuring that learners have high quality, accessible and attractive study choices at Levels 4 and 5. The response doesn’t comment on the funding aspect deferring an answer until after the Post-18 Review concludes: Access to loan funding and maintenance support for all courses at Level 4 and above including wider funding for FE colleges will be considered as part of the Review of Post 18 Education and Funding.
    2. On single regulators the Government confirms the role of the OfS as the HE regulator, only for those on the HE register, but with a wider student focussed outlook: In his strategic guidance letter 2018/19, the Minister for Universities asked the OfS to ‘look beyond its register, develop an understanding of providers and students in the currently unregulated parts of the HE sector and consider ways of encouraging such providers to register and engage with good regulatory practice.’
  • Address the decline in part-time and mature students by removing loan restrictions and maintenance support, by introducing innovative methods of learning, working with employers, and cooperation between universities to ensure a flexible credit-based modular system where individuals can learn at their own pace.
    1. The Government response noted the changes already introduced aiming to support part-time and mature students, including the 2018/19 starter part-time maintenance loans, and the Masters and Doctoral loans. The push for accelerated degrees, with the revised finance arrangements to facilitate this (outcome of consultation on this due autumn 2018), and greater ease and transparency for students wishing to transfer credit between institutions were characteristics of Jo Johnson’s stint as HE Minster. While the Government has been quieter on these aspects under Gyimah the impetus for a system that incentivises student choice remains and the Government’s response describes on-going government work to empower people to study at different times in their lives and sets out their commitment to the value of innovative methods of provision as a means of broadening choice available to students. One of which is the growth of new and alternative providers to plug cold spots and increase competition. The feel behind the response is that the Government is genuinely committed to reversing the dearth of mature and part time students and are looking to universities to collaborate, attract, innovate and offer sufficient flexibility to reinvigorate this group of learners to return to HE study, whether they chose a traditional academic programme or follow a higher level technical or employer focussed route.
    2. Specifically on credit transfer systems the response highlights that the Higher Education and Research Act tasks OfS to monitor and report on the availability and utilisation of student transfer arrangements, and confers on the OfS the power to ‘facilitate, encourage, or promote awareness of’ the provision of transfer arrangements’ whilst recognising the autonomy of HE providers in England to determine the content of particular courses and the criteria for the admission of those courses. It also notes that from August 2019 the OfS will require all registered HE providers to publish information about their arrangements for student transfer.
  • Refresh apprenticeships – remove targets to prioritise quality over quantity, focus on the skills employers really need, abolish the Institute for Apprenticeships, increase the status of apprenticeships to be seen as a valid and worthwhile alternative to a degree
    1. The Government response sets apprenticeships within the wider policy vision of a refreshed, high-quality, economically productive technical education and training pathway that delivers the cutting edge skills employers need. Including T levels and the 15 new technical routes, the National Retraining Scheme, Institutes of Technology, National Colleges, the role of Skills Advisory Panels in supporting local skills needs and business growth, and emphasising student mobility across all academic and technical routes and levels. The response also noted the Government wanted to have a positive impact on the progression and earning potential for apprentices over their lifetimes.
    2. The Government confirmed their aspiration for the technical route to have equal status and validity to an academic degree route and cited the introduction and continued growth of degree apprenticeships within the sector:

The development of degree level apprenticeships aims to widen access to the professions and develop the higher-level technical skills needed to improve productivity and make sure businesses compete internationally. Not all occupations will lend themselves to a Degree Apprenticeship and not all people will want to work whilst doing their degree. Sitting alongside… Degree Apprenticeships provide another route for employers and people to gain the skills that they need.

  1. The Government’s response acknowledged the poor quality within current apprenticeship provision: we agree with the Committee that for too long apprentices have not received the quality of training we would expect. Yet resisted the Lords calls to abolish the Institute for Apprenticeships, instead stating the Government has given the Institute for Apprenticeships a clear remit.
  • Alternative viable non-degree routes with parity of esteem – moving away from university undergraduate study as the default post-18 choice. The Lords also recommended a simpler approach to post-school choices through a single UCAS-style portal covering all forms of higher education, further education and apprenticeships.
    1. The Government shares the Lords’ vision for alternative non-degree routes as set out under 1a, 2a, 2b, 3a and 3b above.
    2. With regard to redressing university study as the default choice the Government response acknowledges more could be done to improve information on post-18 options provided in schools and references the Careers Strategy. There is a statutory duty on schools to provide independent and impartial careers guidance on the full range of education and training options, including apprenticeships, and provide pupils with access to the full range of training providers. The Careers strategy also sets out a requirement for schools to facilitate a number of employer encounters for pupils. However, they resisted the Lords call for a single UCAS style entry system:

We agree that it is important that students have the necessary information to consider all of their options, not just the academic route. We are making sure that all Government careers information is available in one place on a new National Careers Service website. Online resources will include information on routes into apprenticeships, including higher and Degree Apprenticeships, and T Levels. We are improving the functionality of the post-16 course directory. This provides information about all the courses that a young person might choose at 16..We will consider what further action might be helpful in ensuring that young people are able to make informed decisions about their education, training or career options.

We have considered whether apprenticeships should be included in a centralised application system (either at age 16+ or at 18+). Our discussions with employers have made it clear that they value having their own recruitment processes and so would not welcome an attempt to standardise the process.

The Review of Post-18 Education and Funding is considering how we can help young people make effective choices between academic, technical and vocational routes after the age of 18.

Again the task of implementing this aspect of the Careers Strategy falls upon OfS shoulders:

The provision of information is one of the OfS’s top priorities. The strategic guidance letter asked the OfS to play a key role in ensuring better information, advice and guidance is provided to students so that they can make the right choices for them. The Government expect the OfS to combine this with the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data on salary outcomes and to reform Unistats, whilst working with students to identify what information they need to make effective informed choices and how to present it most effectively. The OfS are expected to publish an information, advice and guidance strategy by Autumn 2018.

 

  • Structural changes including addressing the high level of interest charged on student loans, criticism of the removal of maintenance grants, and censure for the masking effects in the way the student loan book is calculated and reported
    1. The Government rejected the recommendations surrounding the student finance system. The response notes that cutting the interest rates would be socially regressive as it would primarily benefit the highest earning graduates. This runs counter to Government policy, the introduction of the 2012 higher fees and cessation of student maintenance grants, which states that students who benefit financially should pay for their degree rather than the public. However, there is a slight softening within the Government’s response which references the Review and states [we] will consider the report of the independent panel in this regard.
    2. On maintenance support the response defends the Government’s position stating the move from grants to loans ensures that students contribute to the cost of HE – creating a fair balance of contribution between those who benefit – society and the student. It reiterates the familiar messaging which establishes the non-repayment of loans as a deliberate and conscious investment subsidy in the long-term skills capacity of the economy. Again there is a softening in the now familiar final statement on the Review which provides room for manoeuvre in future policy direction: The Review of Post-18 Education and Funding is considering how disadvantaged students and learners receive maintenance support, both from Government and from universities and colleges.
    3. The Director General of the Office for National Statistics also writes to Lord Forsyth (Chair of Lords Economic Affairs Committee) to respond to the Committee’s recommendation on the way the Office for National Statistics (ONS) accounts for the loan deficit. The letter acknowledges the complexity of the current accounting method and references the ONS’ own review tackling the pros and cons of the various alternative options in calculating the deficit.

Research Professional report on the student finance elements of the Government’s response in: Department rejects interest rate cuts for student loans.

Finally, while the majority of the Government’s official response to the House of Lords inquiry report holds to the current familiar policy lines it consistently acknowledges the importance of the Post-18 Education and Finance Review, including the role of the independent expert panel (chaired by Philip Augar). Perhaps portending movement on some of the key HE issues, such as finance, alongside a shake-up of sub level 4 provision. The independent panel is due to report later in autumn 2018 with the Government concluding the full Review early 2019. Potentially the Review could mean the biggest change in the sector landscape since the Higher Education and Research Act, and all set against the backdrop of impending Brexit.

Parental role in funding university

This week also brought an upsurge of articles on funding the costs of university timed ahead of the A level results.

Times Higher ran: Parents worldwide contribute to the cost of university, finds survey. It compares the differing levels of finance parents provide to facilitate their child’s degree study – UK and French parents contribute the least worldwide. The article also considers variety in global parental opinion on which skills are most important for their children to learn at university.

The Association of Investment Companies ran the article: A-Level results day approaches and parents vastly underestimate student debt.

Educating the world’s leaders

HEPI,  Times Higher and Research Professional cover the news that America has overtaken the UK in the statistics which recognise the country who educates the most world leaders. America has educated one more serving monarch, president or prime minister than the UK to take the top spot. Nick Hillman (HEPI) states:

You build up incredible soft power if you educate the leading lights of other countries. In the past, we have been more successful than any other country in attracting the world’s future leaders. But these new figures suggest our position could be slipping. To ensure this does not become a long-term trend, we need to adopt a bold educational exports strategy, remove students from the main migration target and roll out the red carpet when people come to study here.

One practical way to make all that happen would be to end the Home Office having complete control over student migration and to share it across government departments instead, as they do in other countries.

Technical Education

The Conservative leaning Centre for Policy Studies has published Technically Gifted – How Selection Can Save Technical and Vocational Education. It makes bold suggestions on how to achieve parity of esteem for technical and vocational education through exclusive selection methods. The document’s authors are no strangers to controversial headlines. It is written by Toby Young, the Free Schools guru who resigned from the OfS Board within days of appointment following public outcry at his past inappropriate tweets; with the Foreword by Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s ex-special advisor and Chief of Staff who advised her to call the snap election in 2017 which left the Conservatives without a majority in Parliament.

Toby highlights the growing skills gap in Britain – by 2022 it is anticipated there will be 3.6 million vacancies in skilled technical occupations despite the Government’s technical education policy agenda. He notes that, with a few exceptions, University Technical Colleges, Studio Schools and Free Schools have all failed to thrive and achieve quality outcomes. Toby believes the difficulty lies in student recruitment numbers – for viability the providers accept all applicants including those marginalised or excluded from other local schools and often have higher numbers of pupils with behavioural difficulties or low attainment. This makes the institution unattractive for pupils who excel within the educational specialism the institution provides, creating a negative downward spiral of declining numbers and status.

The document lands at a time when the Government and Lords are striving to engender a culture of parity of esteem between technical and academic education, where a higher level technical or vocational qualification is considered of equal value to a degree. The Government has invested heavily and is introducing T levels reforming vocational education into the 15 new technical routes, and promoting degree apprenticeships;  focusing more on choice for young people and promoting technical and vocational options through the Careers Strategy and the National Retraining Scheme; continuing to provide new funding to invest in Institutes of Technology and the National Colleges; whilst maintaining their support for the Institute for Apprenticeships. The quality and status of vocational education has been an issue throughout successive Governments so it remains to be seen whether the new approach will successfully bring the economic and skill benefits that Britain needs. What has been noticeable in the run up to A level results day this year is the additional volume of media stories and promotions espousing the benefits of degree apprenticeships and alternative choices.

For Toby the answer to both of the above conundrums – high quality technical education and equal status to an academic route – lies within exclusivity through selection. He believes being selected for a technical institution should be a high status achievement (like passing the 11-plus for grammar school entry) rather than a negative decision because the pupil is unsuitable for a standard academic route.

Toby writes:

…if the Government wants England’s technical/vocational schools to survive and thrive, it must cut the Gordian Knot linking technical and vocational education to a lack of aptitude for academic subjects and allow these schools to select pupils according to aptitude for their particular specialisms at the age of 14. Not only would this transform the fortunes of these schools, it would also enable the Department for Education (DfE) to set up new 14-19 technical/vocational schools that would be likely to succeed….This would not require any amendment to primary or secondary legislation. A policy change by the Secretary of State for Education would suffice…. Above all, it would fundamentally improve the life chances, income and well-being of those who have an aptitude for this type of education and would like the opportunity to pursue it, rather than treating them – as we have done for so long – like second-class citizens… Members of the professional class, including headteachers, must stop thinking of this type of education as second best – as only being appropriate for ‘other people’s children’.

Toby goes on to argue that:

  • technical courses should be as intellectually rigorous as academic subjects, including a common core of academic GCSEs
  • specialist schools should commence at age 14 as technical aptitude cannot be measured at age 11; children need time to develop the cognitive skills required by such courses. Moreover the pupils need an interest and passion in the specialist technical area they will study – this comes through experience and maturity
  • technical education should be delivered in specialist schools, not mainstreamed. The requirement for schools to enter 75% of their pupils for the narrowed subject mix of the English Baccalaureate (90% by 2025) means the wider range of subjects needed for vocational education aren’t being delivered
  • Technical education has to start pre-GCSE. He believes the post GCSE T levels will be a bolt on and won’t work because of the prior standard academic content with its narrowing mix of subjects. He calls again for the Government to signal that it regards this type of education as suitable for children of all abilities, not just those who find themselves without the necessary qualifications to do three A-levels
  • Toby notes a school admitting children at age 14 does pose a difficulty because it is not a standard transfer point in England’s schools system. Parents are reluctant to move children who have already settled and established friendships away from their current secondary school, and the middle school system moves children on at the end of year 8 not year 9. Furthermore, secondary head teachers have a financial incentive to retain their current pupil roll. In particular they are motivated to avoid additional funding cuts on top of those expected from pupils leaving to pursue post-16 options elsewhere. Toby highlights that persuading the local multi-academy trust to run a technical school is a potential solution, even better if they worked in partnership with local industry.
  • Selection methods should be commensurate with the type of specialist education delivered (e.g. the one day workshop style auditions common to the BRIT school) measuring interest/passion and technical aptitude rather than standard intelligence testing.
  • Currently there are two successful selective specialist technical schools. Through these Toby highlights that exclusivity doesn’t run counter to social mobility. In these schools both have significantly higher levels of pupils previously eligible for free school meals – 15% and 29% respectively compared to the 7% national average.
  • Abroad, nearly every country that has rolled out successful technical/vocational schools has allowed those schools to select.

 

Nick Timothy’s supports Toby’s proposals, writing in the foreword:

Young has identified why schools providing technical education have struggled in England: too often a pupil’s suitability for technical education is judged by their lack of suitability for an academically rigorous alternative. This is a false choice, and it inevitably means technical education is treated as second best. As a result parents and pupils shun technical schools, which end up being treated as dumping grounds for unruly students who are unwanted elsewhere. If we want to become world leaders in the STEM fields and meet our skills shortages with homegrown talent, this has to change. Young people should be encouraged to study technical subjects, and not only when teachers judge that they are not equipped for a purely academic education. For that to happen, a new generation of prestigious schools – selecting their pupils by aptitude, specialising in technical subjects, and still offering a core of academic subjects – can lead the way.

 

Graham Brady MP writes in Conservative Home in support of selective technical schools:

Wouldn’t it be better, as Young argues, if these schools were able to select those students with a particular aptitude for their specialisms? This should be the starting point in the Government’s efforts to revitalise technical and vocational education – a journey that leads to T-levels (which include a mandatory work placement), a place at an Institute of Technology, before entering a skilled occupation.

The choice, in other words, is not between grammars and comprehensives. It is between a flourishing ecosystem of schools, both selective and not, which do the best possible job of matching pupils and education – and a one-size-fits-all model which is increasingly out of step with the modern world.

Level 4 & 5 Qualifications

On Tuesday the DfE published findings from its ongoing review of level 4 and 5 qualifications. These shorter qualifications such as Foundation Degrees and diplomas are lower than the full undergraduate degree at level 6. However, the Government believes they are becoming a more important part of the employer skills jigsaw and pursuing them will lead to a healthy salary. The initial findings from the review note:

  • Studying at this level can increase earning potential and employability – students achieving a Level 4 or 5 qualification by age 23 had higher median wages by the time they were 26 and were more likely to be in sustained employment than students who achieved a Level 3.
  • A growing demand for qualifications at this level from employers in key sectors such as ICT and Engineering – meaning increased take up could play an important role in the UK economy, helping to plug technical skills gap and boost productivity.
  • Learners at this level often study part-time, and come from diverse backgrounds – highlighting how studying at this level could boost learning and job opportunities for hundreds of thousands more people across the country.

However, only 7% of people in England aged between 18 and 65 are undertaking training at this level, with the majority ceasing study at level 3 or instead pursuing a full degree. These latest findings fit with the Government’s call on the HE sector to offer a wider range of study options and structural flexibility to appeal to a wider audience –progressing social mobility and meeting the UK’s economic ambitions.

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton stated:

We want everyone to be able to access high quality technical education and training so they can get the skills they need. Having these skills can change people’s lives, leading to a rewarding career and fantastic opportunities. These early findings show how learning at Level 4 and 5 can benefit people of all ages and a wide variety of backgrounds, whilst helping employers get the skilled workforce they need. This research will play an important part of our ongoing review of Level 4 and 5 qualifications so we can understand how we can make education at this level work even better for everyone.

Research Professional report on the findings focusing on the low update of the level 4 and 5 qualifications.

 

Global Matters

This week the Government responded to a parliamentary question on visa delays which cause students to miss the start of their course:

Q – Stephen Kerr: How many tier 4 [visa] applications that have not been processed within the timescale set out in the service level agreement for processing such applications have caused students to miss university start dates in the latest academic for year for which figures are available.

A – Caroline Nokes: …The latest available data indicates the vast majority, 98.1% (and 99.8%) of straightforward cases were dealt with within service standards. Information on students who may have missed their university start date is not collated for publication on Home Office visa case-working systems.

International: The Pie News explores the popularity of UK HE delivered in Hong Kong, with 39 institutions delivering programmes. Pie News also reports that international students attending Chinese universities may be permitted to work part time in future to increase the attractiveness of the Chinese education system.

Brexit: On Friday the European Commission and the UK team continue to negotiate the future EU-UK relationship. Here is a helpful chart which sets out the UK and EU key players since the post Chequers cabinet reshuffle.

Buzzfeed News capitalises on a leaked listing of the Brexit technical papers in which the Government explore the consequences of leaving the EU on a ‘no deal’ basis. In part the papers aim to advise individuals and businesses on how to prepare for ‘no deal’ within their operating sphere. You can see the list of topics covered here, however, no content from the papers has been leaked.  The list includes Erasmus, Horizon 2020, Broadcasting, Environmental Standards, EU citizens in the UK, Life Sciences and many more. Buzzfeed report that a Government spokesperson stated the Brexit technical papers will be published for all to see in August and September on www.gov.uk  website.

Consultations

Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

New consultations and inquiries this week:

Other news

Horizon 2020: The Financial Times explore the Horizon 2020 funding figures released last week questioning whether collaboration is the major Brexit concern and noting the stabilisation effect Horizon funding provides for researchers.  Meanwhile this Government Horizon 2020 paper, issued last Thursday, explains the Withdrawal Agreement, the Underwrite and Post EU Exit Extension Guarantees, along with mobility and the Government’s position to Horizon Europe. It is written in plain language and an accessible catch up read.

Horizon Europe: Research Professional report on the Russell Group’s position paper which urges the EU to not seek to focus on closer-to-market projects at the expense of basic research.

Social Mobility Action: With the recent appointment of Dame Martina Milburn to lead the Social Mobility Commission comes a call to the public and industry to get involved with the social mobility movement for change. The news story is here, with a promise to update the page as more opportunities to get involved arise. It also contains details for interested colleagues to join their mailing list.

Masters fee hike: Times Higher report that since the postgraduate loans have been introduced many universities have increased the tuition fee for masters study.

Nursing: Nursing Times writes on the most recent NHS digital data showing the number of practicing learning disabilities nurses has dropped by 40% and that students choosing this form of nursing is decreasing. The article also references the Council of Deans for Health survey which found that 46% of education institutions considered dropping learning disability nursing from 2018/19 due to low student interest meaning courses are not financially viable. In this article the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) criticise the Government for doing too little too late – with the £10,000 golden hello for postgraduate students having little impact on recruitment. In this older news story RCN raise the removal of the NHS bursary for student nurses as a major factor in declining recruitment to degree programmes. It is likely that the decline in mature students contribute to the fall in numbers too. Mature students, with their greater life experience, are more likely to study learning disability or mental health nursing. The Independent also cover the recruitment drop warning of a return to Victorian era practices where patients are moved away from family to institutions because of insufficient trained expertise locally.

Justin Madders MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said:

“The Royal College of Nursing’s powerful warning must serve as an urgent wake up call to the new Health Secretary. Under this Government learning disability nurses have been cut to the bone, and they appear to have gone quiet on their plans to attract more students into the profession. This unprecedented workforce crisis is completely unacceptable.

£9k fees unjustifiable:  Times Higher report on a YouGov poll which found that although students are satisfied with the quality of their degree they don’t feel the fee level is justified or results in a sufficiently high graduate job pay off.

“The data shows that while students’ satisfaction with the quality of their degree teaching is very high and a large majority still expect to be better off financially and in terms of being able to find a good job, this seems to be in spite of the costs of tuition, which the majority consider unjustified.”

Contract cheating: Wonkhe have a new blog post on essay mills to accompany a forthcoming petition to Parliament to legislate against contract cheating.

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HE Policy update for the w/e 3rd August 2018

Social mobility

Damien Hinds gave a speech at the Resolution Foundation on 31st July.  The story was widely trailed in the media  – it had a big focus on early years and on access to HE.

Mr Hinds said, in the speech in London, that this early gap had a

  • “huge impact on social mobility”.  “The truth is the vast majority of these children’s time is at home.  Yes the home learning environment can be, understandably, the last taboo in education policy – but we can’t afford to ignore it when it comes social mobility. I don’t have interest in lecturing parents here… I know it’s parents who bring up their children, who love them. who invest in them in so many ways, who want the best for their children. But that doesn’t mean extra support and advice can’t be helpful.”

The Department for Education says 28% of children in England do not have the required language skills by the end of Reception.

Guardian –  Children starting school ‘cannot communicate in full sentences:

  • “The education secretary promised to halve within a decade the number of children lacking the required level of early speaking or reading skills.”  Children with a poor vocabulary aged five are more than twice as likely to be unemployed at age 34 as children with good vocabulary, research shows.

Initiatives announced included:

  • A competition to find technology to support early language development (there’s an app for everything….).
  • An education summit in the autumn to encourage parents to get involved in supporting children
  • An OfS research initiative (see below)

The OfS have confirmed that they are inviting tenders for an independent Evidence and Impact Exchange (EIX) – a ‘What Works Centre’ to promote access, success and progression for underrepresented groups of students.

  • The EIX will be independent of the OfS, but the OfS will fund it up to £4.5 million over three years (£1.5 million per year) and work with it during this time to develop a sustainable funding model for the future.
  • The purpose of the EIX is to provide evidence on the impact of approaches to widening access and successful participation and progression for underrepresented groups of students, and to ensure that the most effective approaches are recognised and shared.
  • It will collate existing research, identify gaps in current evidence and generate its own research to fill those gaps, and disseminate accessible advice and guidance to decision makers and practitioners across the higher education sector.
  • It therefore addresses a need in the sector for a systematic approach to evidence development, sharing and use in informing policy and practice.
  • Tenders must be submitted by noon on Friday 28 September 2018. Tenders will be assessed by a panel of OfS staff and external assessors against published evaluation criteria. The top three tenders will be shortlisted and invited to interview in October 2018, with a decision to be made by November 2018.
  • The EIX is expected to officially launch in spring 2019.

REF – the myths

Kim Hackett, the REF Director at Research England, has written for Wonkhe on REF myths following last week’s publication of the REF 2021 guidance.

She deals with the following myths:

  • Only journal articles can be submitted
  • The discipline-based UOA structure means that interdisciplinary research will be disadvantaged
  • You can’t have a high-scoring impact case study based on public engagement (PE)

And invites comments on other myths that need to be busted.

NSS – the analysis

John O’Leary, Editor of The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, wrote a blog for the Office for Students on NSS.  Some excerpts:

  • Of course the NSS has its faults – even after last year’s introduction of improved questions, it remains an extremely broad brush exercise that unintentionally favours particular types of institutions and makes life difficult for others.
  • The results do not provide the last word in the assessment of teaching quality, any more than the Teaching Excellence Framework as a whole does. But the results give the best available picture of students’ perceptions of their course – and it is difficult to see that being matched by any other exercise.
  • The trends are generally consistent (and overwhelmingly positive) – so much so that politicians and commentators often resort to quoting much smaller, less representative research to support a critical narrative. Satisfaction levels may be down this year, but still 83 per cent were positive about their course and only 8 per cent dissatisfied.
  • That is not to say that the NSS is perfect – in my view, it takes too narrow a view of students’ unions, for example, implying that their sole purpose is to represent their members academically. But more serious criticisms of the survey, that it encourages an ‘intellectual race to the bottom’ with lecturers dumbing down courses and reducing expectations to ensure positive results, are invariably anecdotal.
  • The survey’s outcomes have also provided unique leverage for students to force through improvements to services and facilities. In particular, levels of feedback and assessment practices have been given a focus that would never have been applied without the negative views expressed in successive editions of the NSS.
  • Even last year’s partial boycott of the NSS – now receding further – had more to do with the uses to which the results were being put at national level than dissatisfaction with the survey itself. Applicants would be much the poorer without the insight it provides.

Wonkhe have published some analysis and some interactive visualisations.

Migration and Brexit

The Home Affairs Committee have published an interim report, Policy options for future migration from the European Economic Area, which recommends that the Government should build migration consensus and engage in open debate and warns all those involved in the debate not to exploit or escalate tensions over immigration in the run up to withdrawal agreement.

The Committee is waiting on the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) report in the autumn before making further recommendations, they stress that the Government ideally should not make final decisions on the majority of immigration policy in advance of the

Press Release: Government should build migration consensus and engage in open debate

The Committee has criticised the Government’s failure to set out detail on post-Brexit migration policy or to build consensus on immigration reform despite having over two years since the referendum in which to do so. Continued delays to the publication of the White Paper on Immigration and the Immigration Bill has meant there is little indication of what immigration policy will be. Despite the fact that the issue was subject to heated and divisive debate during the referendum campaigns in 2016 the Government has not attempted to build consensus on immigration reform or consult the public over future migration policy in the two years since. The Committee believes this is a regrettable missed opportunity.

The interim report looks at three broad sets of policy options:

  • Within the EU and during transition there are further measures that could be taken, in particular on registration, enforcement, skills and labour market reform. As witnesses noted, the UK has opted not to take up measures which are possible.
  • Within an EFTA-style arrangement with close or full participation in the single market, the report highlights a range of further measures that might be possible – especially in a bespoke negotiated agreement. These include ‘emergency brake’ provisions, controls on access to the UK labour market, accession style controls and further measures which build on the negotiation carried out by the previous Prime Minister. We conclude that there are a series of options for significant immigration reform that should be explored by the Government.
  • Within an association agreement or free trade agreement, the options in part depend on how close such an agreement is. While any agreement itself may not cover many ‘labour mobility’ measures, the government will still need to make decisions about long-term migration, including for work, family and study.

Interim findings and recommendations include:

  • The net migration target should not be an objective of EU migration policy.
  • Refusing to discuss reciprocal immigration arrangements with the EU will make it much harder to get a close economic partnership. Geography, shared economic, social and cultural bonds between the UK and EU mean we will need a distinct and reciprocal arrangement for EU migration that is linked to our economic relationship.
  • The Government has not considered the range of possible immigration measures and safeguards that could allow the UK to participate in the single market while putting in place new immigration controls. It should immediately do so. Should the Government change its red lines, there are a series of options which could provide a basis for greater control on migration within the single market.
  • Even whilst in the EU and during the transition there are immigration reform measures that the UK has not taken up – in particular on registration, enforcement, skills and labour market reforms to address lack of skills, exploitation or undercutting.
  • Irrespective of the future EU relationship, the Government should seek to improve labour market conditions. Regulation of the labour market, further measures to prevent exploitation and increased funding for enforcement would benefit both domestic and migrant workers, subject to practical arrangements with business.
  • Within a Free Trade Agreement the options depend on how close the agreement is, but it is not the case that an FTA would necessarily mean limited migration. A free trade agreement along the lines of CETA would only require limited immigration provisions, but decisions would still have to be made on long-term migration from the EU and there would still be pressure for educational, high and low skilled, seasonal and family migration that the government would need to address.
  • The DCFTA between the Ukraine and the EU gives a precedent for partial integration in the single market without requiring the free movement of people. The European Commission has said there can be no ‘cherry-picking’ of the four freedoms of the single market, however this is a political judgement rather than a technical or legal obstacle. The Committee notes that the EU-Ukraine package was agreed in the context of Ukraine moving towards the EU, rather than away, and the European Commission has so far insisted that, for the UK-EU negotiations, the four freedoms of the single market are indivisible.
  • Whatever the Government’s intentions for EU migration, it should overhaul immigration arrangements for non-EEA nationals about which the Committee received many complaints. We heard considerable evidence of problems that would arise if arrangements for non-EU migration were applied for EU migration.  The Government should also introduce a Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme as soon as possible.

Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, said:

“Immigration was one of the central issues during the referendum and it divided the country, but sadly there has been no attempt by the Government to hold any kind of sensible debate on it or build any kind of consensus on immigration since. That is deeply disappointing and it has left a vacuum—and it’s really important that people don’t exploit that again.

The misinformation and tensions over immigration during the referendum campaign were deeply damaging and divisive. It is essential that does not happen again, and those who exploited concerns over immigration during the referendum need to be more honest and more responsible when it is debated in the run up to the final deal. We are calling for a measured debate and consultation on immigration options instead.

We found there were a much wider range of possible precedents and options for immigration reform than people often talk about – including options that could be combined with participation in the single market – that we believe the Government should be exploring further now.”

Post-18 review

Nick Hillman has written a blog for HEPI on the cost of the student loans system.

  • Opponents of the student funding model we have, which is characterised by high fees and taxpayer-supported income-contingent loans, regularly point out the shift from the old model to the current one may not save money in the long run. Arguably, HEPI was the first organisation to point this out.
  • It is a clever debating point. It may well be true too, as could soon become much clearer if the way students loans are classified in the national accounts changes, as is widely expected.
  • The danger for the health of our higher education sector comes in failing to recognise that one logical policy response to believing the current funding system could cost more would be to deliver less funding for each student (known as ‘a lower unit of resource’). Another would be to introduce much tougher repayment conditions so that more money comes back to the Exchequer (known as a lower ‘RAB charge’) – if you doubt the likelihood of this, take a look at the new reduction in the student loan repayment threshold in Australia.
  • Are such changes really what opponents of the current funding model want? If not, what is the right policy response to the claim that the costs of higher education might have increased even during the austerity years? If we only deliver problems to politicians without mentioning our preferred solutions, we will not be well placed to complain when they deliver something we dislike. (There may be echoes of some of the arguments on Brexit here…).
  • I said above it may be true that the current system will end up costing more than the old one. It is certainly widely believed and, as pointed out in the previous paragraph, the argument has taken us to a tricky place. Yet, in fact, it is only conceivably true if you intentionally choose to ignore the likely huge extra tax payments from additional graduates. They should provide a boost to the Exchequer that far outweighs any additional long-term costs.

Sector challenges

Mary Stuart, VC of the University of Lincoln, has written for Wonkhe on 21st Century Challenges.  She looks at three drivers of change, technology, geography and globalisation and what she calls a “legitimation crisis” – the rise of populism and ant-establishment movements.

Adam Wright, Deputy Head of Policy (Higher Education and Skills) at the British Academy has written for Wonkhe on the market in HE.

  • It seems unfair to blame institutions for not responding well enough to market conditions. Providers are responding to the perverse incentives and uncertainties that are produced by market competition, and yet their behaviour is characterised as anti-market. Moreover, the responses to policies, regulation, incentives and uncertainties are messy and occur at the micro-political level, the result of competing personalities, different governance processes, and bureaucratic standard operating procedures – as much as anything else…
  • Both Government and the PAC look to the Office for Students (OfS) to make institutions (and students) behave as rational actors. OfS, whether it likes it or not, is now the very visible hand of the market. It’s now going to publish the salaries of vice chancellors and try to curb the excess, ignoring the fact that VC pay is the product of market forces and the encroachment of a corporate mindset on sector governance. This echoes the response to the financial crisis where the failures of unfettered capitalism were personified in individual bankers while the underlying contradictions of the free market were largely ignored.

His conclusion is that we need a new paradigm based on collaboration.

Consultations

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New consultations and inquiries this week:

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HE Policy Update for the w/e 8th June 2018

HEPI Student Experience Survey

The  Higher Education Policy Institute  (HEPI) and  Advance HE  have published a joint  report on student academic experience.  The report was launched at the annual HEPI conference and Sam Gyimah gave the keynote address.

The report includes a lot of insight and is worth looking at – there are some new questions this year too. The headlines focussed on two things – value for money (which has had a step up this year after years of decline) and mental health and wellbeing (which is declining amongst students).

They asked the respondents to consider what influenced their views on value for money – price driving perceptions of poor value and quality of good – perhaps not surprising – and that doesn’t tell the whole picture.  They also asked about how fees should be spent and it is interesting to note that campus development is high.

Commenting on the publication of the 2018 HEPI Student Academic Experience Survey, Yvonne Hawkins, director of teaching excellence and student experience at the Office for Students, said:

  • ‘We welcome the publication of the HEPI Student Academic Experience Survey – this kind of analysis underlines the importance of listening to students and capturing their voices. It also improves our understanding of what matters to them. 
  • ‘While we note the survey’s findings on value for money, and the fact that a slightly higher proportion of students feel they have received good value for money this year, significant numbers of students report not being satisfied with their higher education experience. Overall the results send a clear signal that there is more work to be done. 
  • ‘The concerns identified in the survey about the experience of particular student groups, and about student wellbeing, go to the heart of the OfS’s aim to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers. 
  • ‘Students have a diversity of perspectives on what constitutes ‘value for money’. We are working closely with our student panel to ensure that we understand and respond to students’ priorities. Our goal is to ensure that students have the information they need to make informed choices, receive high quality teaching and support, and know how providers are spending their income from tuition fees.’

Commenting on the Advance HE and the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) Student Academic Experience Survey, Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust said:

  • “It is good to see that more students feel their degrees are providing value for money. However, there’s only been a 3 percentage point increase and it’s just not good enough that only 38% perceive they are getting good or very good value from their course.
  • “In sharp contrast 60% of students in Scotland and 48% in Wales – where fees are lower or non-existent – think their courses are good value.
  • “English graduates leave university with debts of over £50,000. A more fair and affordable fees system would increase the number of students who believe they are getting value for money. To do this we need to see the reintroduction of maintenance grants and means-tested tuition fees.”

Value for money

Sam’s speech at the HEPI event focussed on value for money  – linked to student choice.  The Minister referred extensively to the latest IFS research into the LEO (Longitudinal Education Outcomes) data.  The research is here and the LEO data is being released in full on 21st June.

The IFS analysis shows that women who study one of the bottom 100 courses have earnings up to 64% (approximately £17,000) less than the average degree after graduation. For men, it can be up to 67% (approximately £21,000).  The analysis – commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) – finds that family background has an important impact on graduates’ future earnings, as well as subject and institution choice.

The Minister said

  • “Today’s publication has important and far-reaching ramifications for the debate on value for money in Higher Education.
  • These findings demonstrate that studying the same subject at a different institution can yield a very different earnings premium. The choices that students make about what and where to study does matter.
  • We must build a system where everyone with the ability to benefit from a university education has the opportunity to attend, the information they need to make the right decision, and that when they go to university, they receive a first-rate education that delivers real value for money.

The Minister went on to challenge universities to review their offer to students:

  • The clutch of underperforming degrees is a problem for students – it is likely they include many of the courses whose students feel they are not getting value for money.
  • I believe mass participation in higher education is here to stay and is key to our economic future. But for this vision to be realised in full, universities need to focus relentlessly on value for money.”

In the coming weeks, Sam Gyimah will launch an Open Data competition – the first of its kind in the UK Higher Education sector – allowing tech companies and coders to use government data on universities to help students decide where to apply.

After his recent visit to BU, Sam mentioned us in his speech:

  • One sometimes hears the critique that Britain focuses too much on university degrees and not enough on vocational learning. Vocational and technical skills are vital.
  • But I reject the false dichotomy between university and vocational education. In fact, much of Britain’s best vocational education goes on in degree courses in universities.
  • Take Bournemouth University’s computer animation and visual effects courses, whose graduates have gone on to work on some of the biggest movies of the past decade… In all these cases – and countless others – universities have engaged with the wider world and are delivering courses that combine first-rate education with excellent outcomes for students.

Responding to the IFS report and comments from the minister,  Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK , said: “It is right to expect that students receive a high quality education and that all universities offer a high value experience.

  • “A university degree remains an excellent investment. On average, graduates continue to earn £10,000 per year more than the average non-graduate and are more likely to be in employment. When looking at graduate salaries, it is important also to take into account the regional differences and socio-economic inequalities that exist in society, that a university degree cannot fully address.
  • “It is important that we do not use graduate salaries as the single measure of value. Many universities specialise in fields such as the arts, the creative industries, nursing and public sector professions that, despite making an essential contribution to society and the economy, pay less on average.
  • “A priority must be to make sure that all students receive timely and accurate information about different university courses, to ensure that their experience matches their expectations. Universities are keen to work with government to enhance information for students.”

At the conference and since, there has not surprisingly been some pushback on the research and the use that the Minister is making of it.  “The clutch of underperforming degrees is a problem for students – it is likely they include many of the courses whose students feel they are not getting value for money.”

The problem with this assertion of course is that there are no students on these courses. This data is from students who graduated years ago.  Those courses may not be offered any more or will have changed out of all recognition since those students graduated.

And that’s before you start unpicking the other challenges with using this data in this way.  Louis Coiffait from Wonkhe and Pam Tatlow both asked about regional employability differences and the issues with comparing nationally.   See the article on Research Professional here and the Wonkhe article here and here.

The research report itself questions this use of the results (page 10):

  • “Our findings significantly expand understanding of the variation in graduate earnings; however, we cannot argue that our findings can definitely be interpreted as the true causal effect of different subjects and institutions. We use new exciting data and apply sophisticated methodologies to control for the selection into HE courses, and in so doing move beyond the existing literature in UK. However, selecting an institution and subject to study is an inherently non-random process. It reflects the skills and preferences of young people, and may be affected by unobservable traits, such as confidence or other soft skills, that also determine labour market outcomes.”

And

  • “Furthermore, we do not observe identical people (even on observable characteristics) at multiple different institutions and the impact of a specific course may be different for different types of people. We estimate the average effect based on the people that take that course. For example, we are not claiming that all individuals would have higher earnings if they studied medicine.”

Your policy team are finding it rather frustrating to see everything reduced to an average in this way.  Although this sort of comparison might (subject to all of the issues above) make sense for a programme that leads directly to a specific career, it makes no sense at all if graduates are going on to do a range of jobs that bear no relation to each other.

In the old days, if you planned to do languages at university, a careers adviser would suggest that you could go on to teach or be an interpreter (I had that conversation).  Of course even in those days language students actually could go on to do a whole range of things, many of them nothing to do with their language skills, with salaries that varied enormously.

So applicants thinking about a degree in modern foreign languages (if they are interested in salary outcomes at all, which is another question) might be interested in the differences between salaries earned by languages graduates from one university rather than another, if they have a particular career in mind.  If I want to be an interpreter I might (and I mean might) want to know where the best paid interpreters studied.  But a cohort of language graduates from uni b who earned less than a cohort from uni a –where both cohorts include a random number of graduates who teach, become bankers, are academics, translate novels, are civil servants, work for the BBC world service, are ski instructors, lawyers, mountaineers, professional cricket players, work in advertising, are poets, musicians or artists, run a cupcake business, write computer software, work in Sainsbury’s or anything else– really, what is the point?

Whether your degree pays for itself is a function of a lot of things – such as what your degree is, and where you do it, but also what you did before you went there, where you live, where you work, the state of the national and local economy, what career path you choose now and in the future, your gender, your age, your ethnic group, your family background, your disabilities, how hard you work at university and at work, the culture, policies and success of the organisation you work for, your other life choices…and many more.

So putting aside for now the philosophical debate about whether the value of higher education should be measured by salaries, there is also a practical problem here – it just can’t be done.  The timelines are too long and there are too many variables.  And this debate is not just philosophical –the TEF now includes an assessment based on LEO of whether graduates earn above the median earnings threshold – and it might have a role to play in differential fees in the HE review.

Meanwhile Nicola Dandridge wrote for Wonkhe on how the Ofs will address value for money.

  • We will be doing this partly through our regulation of individual providers where our conditions of registration will ensure a common, high quality threshold for all registered providers. These conditions include requirements that applicants and students should be provided with accurate information about their course and their provider, and also that effective arrangements are in place to provide transparency and value for money for all students and taxpayers.
  • At the same time we will seek to empower students to make informed decisions about where and what to study. We will want to ensure that all students have a general understanding of what their higher education experience will be like and how much it will cost – including, as our survey highlighted, additional costs outside of tuition fees. Achieving this depends on the provision of information which makes sense to students. We will seek to empower students to make informed decisions about where they study, and strengthen their ability to challenge poor value for money once they are enrolled. Transparency will be one of the ways we will make this happen.
  • This is still work to be developed and we will be working with our Student Panel and engaging with students and other stakeholders over the coming months to ensure their views inform our response. But our objective is clear: by addressing these common themes, we will have more students reporting that they have received value for money, and that has to be a priority for us all.

Jim Dickinson wrote for Wonkhe on value for money from a different perspective – not related to salaries

  • Inside universities, it’s almost too easy to debunk. You can argue that multiple meanings and motivations make “value” impossible to meaningfully measure. You can argue that the total “money” that is paid varies according to earnings and the rules of the loans system. You can argue that “value” is only created in later life. You can point out that in many cases the money isn’t paid by the user, or that the benefits are to wider society, or that it distorts student behaviour, or that what you get is difficult to compare or that, anyway, it’s all neoliberalism.
  • One of the often-used arguments against this agenda centres on deferred benefits and impacts. “Value is created when students realise their potential”, goes the argument – or it’s created when students “benefit from their education in later life”, or even “when they earn more”- all of which render the measurement of VfM meaningless.
  • But the argument misses the point. Of course, I only get “value” from a TV if I watch it, or “value” from a gym membership if I bother to go. But that doesn’t change the fact that unlike a gym or a TV purchase, university is a public endeavour jointly funded by the taxpayer and the student. Both groups have the right to demand standards in the service being offered. Both groups also have the right to ask that regulation ensures that their money isn’t being wasted.
  • One of the classic public policy mistakes of universities in their response to massification and marketisation has been simply to sneer. But VfM gets deployed by policymakers not just as a fig leaf in return for high fees, but because it’s popular – right across society, there is something simplistically positive about getting good value for money and something viscerally unpleasant about the feeling of being ripped off.
  • Ministers know this. The public wants it. Being part of society rather than above it, spending oodles of its money and engaging with half the population in the endeavour requires engagement with it, not dismissal. And accepting the desire for value for money as a legitimate concept is central to understanding how government policy and the new market regulator will develop over the next decade.

And some more perspectives from Louis Coiffait on Wonkhe here “The argument here is not to ignore money and efficiency, but also not to be too myopic about such things. It’s necessary not sufficient, a means not an end. Money is an output, not an outcome.”   Hurray.

TEF

It’s been a busy week for TEF news with the year 3 results coming out.  Much of the sector press commentary has focussed on the potential for gaming  – a Guardian article criticised the gold/silver/bronze awards system and suggested the Minister would be wise to cancel the TEF, that it doesn’t really measure what it sets out to do and the costs to run it are far higher than the benefits.  There is a planned parliamentary review in 2019

Subject-level TEF continues to be mentioned in parliament. This week Gordon Marsden asked:

Q – Gordon Marsden: what discussions he has had with representatives from universities on his proposals for a subject-level version of the Teaching Excellence Framework.

A – Sam Gyimah: The department has met regularly with university representatives about the development of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) at subject level. Between 12 March and 21 May, we also undertook a technical consultation on subject-level TEF. This consultation provided an opportunity for all stakeholders, including universities and other higher education providers, to comment on the proposals for subject-level TEF both in writing and at consultation events.

It was interesting that in his speech, the Minister said very little about it.  We were expecting a defence of it, but there wasn’t one.

Latest News

The latest news on our regularly featured topics.

Immigration – Immigration Caps remain controversial. The HE sector is concerned to maintain freedom to recruit from the international talent pipeline and attract the brightest and best minds to teach and research in the UK – but without additional fees and charges. This week at Prime Minister’s Questions the fear around immigration fees was highlighted in the case of Grimsby Hospital. Melanie Onn MP (Labour) stated that Grimsby Hospital had been forced to pay £50,000 a month on fees for doctors’ visas. 85% of those applications had been rejected because of restrictions that May imposed as Home Secretary. Onn asked if NHS staff would be exempted from the cap. May responded that she was aware of the issue. The Government had already taken action in relation to nurses and were currently looking at recent figures to determine what further action should be taken to solve the problem.

Brexit – A parliamentary question clarifying whether the Brexit White Paper will specifically cover HE matters:

Q – Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, whether the Government plans to include sections on (a) higher education and (b) further Education in the forthcoming Brexit White Paper.

A – Robin Walker: The White Paper will offer detailed, precise explanations of our position, and set out what will change and what will feel different outside the European Union. It will cover all aspects of our future relationship with the European Union, building on the ambitious vision set out by the Prime Minister in her speeches in Mansion House, Florence and Munich.

As the Prime Minister said in her Mansion House speech on 2 March, ‘There are many other areas where the UK and EU economies are closely linked – including education and culture.’ And we will continue to take part in specific policies and programmes which are greatly to the UK and the EU’s joint advantage, such as those that promote science, education and culture.

Senior Pay – The Committee of University Chairs has published The Higher Education Senior Staff Remuneration Code for senior staff.  Commenting on the publication of the new code Nicola Dandridge (Chief Executive, OfS) stated: “Later this month, the Office for Students will publish its accounts direction for universities and colleges. We will set out our increased expectations around transparency for senior pay, and will be expecting all higher education providers to justify how much those who lead their organisations are paid. Where an institution breaches our regulatory conditions, we will not hesitate to intervene.”’ The Universities and Colleges Employers Associated have commented here.

OfS – The Office for Students (OfS) is set to take on a greater regulatory role and be differently focussed than HEFCE was. If you’re not quite sure what the OfS encompasses the House of Commons library have a neat little reference briefing to catch you up. Its sets out how the OfS was established, their duties, the regulatory framework, the Provider Registers, Degree Awarding Powers and University Title, quality and standards, data collection, participation and access and the issues of contention raised against OfS so far.

Admissions – On Thursday the Lords debated equality within Admissions. Contact Sarah if you would like the content of this. – School attainment has kept up with the rise in undergraduates – the growth in student numbers has not lead to university entrants having lower qualifications. This week Universities UK published Growth and Choice in University Admissions. Wonkhe report that since 2010, increased competition for students has emerged in the UK higher education sector  due to the nationwide decrease in the number of 18-year-olds and the removal of student number controls. Universities are now making more offers to a wider range of students throughout the recruitment cycle. The report shows that this has not led to a decline in the prior attainment of the students going to university. As undergraduate acceptances have increased, average student attainment has also risen. The story is covered in the Times here.

Alistair Jarvis, Universities UK Chief Executive, said the analysis shows the changing face of university admissions:

“Reforms to the university system have led to more students, greater choice for them and increased competition among universities. This analysis shows that university entrants continue to be highly qualified and increasing numbers of applicants are accepted with vocational qualifications at all types of universities. This has made it possible for people from a broader range of backgrounds to benefit from a university education.

“There are a growing range of university courses with a vocational focus, from traditional undergraduate degrees such as architecture and engineering to newer courses like degree apprenticeships in cyber security. In fact, four in ten university courses could be considered vocational in some way.”

Nursing Application Decline

Q – Rushanara Ali: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the effect of the withdrawal of NHS bursaries on the number of applications for nursing degrees.

A – Stephen Barclay: The University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) published data 5 April 2018 which shows that the number of students applying to study nursing and midwifery has decreased by 13% from this point in the cycle last year.

There is still strong demand for nursing courses with more applicants than available training places. The UCAS data show that up to March 2018 there had been around 1.4 nursing and midwifery applicants per available training place. The university application cycle for 2018/19 is on-going up until 30 June 2018. Applications received after 30 June are entered in to Clearing.

In support of this, Health Education England has recently launched a national clearing campaign to recruit more students to courses in the lead up to the end of clearing, 23 October 2018. Further information is available at: https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/knowaboutnursing

Officials in the Department are also introducing the ‘golden hello’ incentive scheme for postgraduate nursing students, which I announced on 9 May.

These payment incentives offer £10,000 to future postgraduates who completed courses funded by loans in the 2018/19 academic year and are anticipated to be contingent on these graduates working in specific fields of the health and care sector including mental health, learning disability and community, including district, nursing.

Digital Student ID Cards

Inside Higher Ed report that Apple and Blackboard are using Near-Field Communications technology to create a digital student ID card for the iphone and Apple Watch. The student’s device can be waved past the card reader for standard services such as taking out library books, gym or halls access, paying for lunch or printing credits. Six American Universities go live with the system this autumn.

Widening Participation & Achievement

Dominating Monday was criticism towards Cambridge for their poor diversity and acceptance of black applications. It was widely discussed on Radio 4 and in the press: Cambridge: BBC, Guardian, FT and TImes. Oxford was discussed in the FT and Wonkhe delved a little more widely in their consideration of Oxford as an institution. Malia Bouattia took to the Guardian to reemphasise the UCAS troubles but also to highlight that racism in education is entrenched as a far earlier age.

On Wednesday UUK and NUS launched a joint call for evidence to help universities tackle the BME attainment gap. Between 2007 and 2016 there was an almost 50% increase in the number of BME undergraduates in England. However, the disparity in achievement outcomes continues – 78% of white students who graduated last year ended up qualifying with a first or a 2:1, 66% of Asian students achieved the same, and 53% of black students. Prior qualifications have an influence on the attainment gap, however are not the whole story.

The BME attainment gap is well known in the sector and many universities are trialling a wide range of initiatives to reduce the gap. However, progress has been slow and inconsistent across the sector.  UUK and NUS have made a direct call to students, their representatives and university staff to identify best practice in closing the attainment gap.

The work aims to:

  • Increase understanding of the barriers to BME student success
  • Identify initiatives that have been successful in addressing this
  • Share experiences and best practice of what works in narrowing the BME attainment gap

A series of evidence gathering sessions and online survey data from students and staff are planned for later in 2018, with the outcome recommendations to be published in December 2018. Parliament have shown interest in this initiative so we can expect the HE Minister and OfS to be pressing universities for faster progress.

Following this call for evidence NEON are encouraging Universities to attend their working group on 13 July (free to BU staff as we are a NEON member).

The place of good careers advice

This week HEPI blogged a manifesto idea from Justin Madders MP: The Class Ceiling report by the Social Mobility APPG on access to the leading professions advocates increasing the use of contextual recruitment, and the Office for Students should encourage exactly the same in higher education.

  • While universities have made much more progress towards this than the elite professions, the exact mechanisms of the recruitment process can too often be a mystery to the young people approaching it. This is particularly prevalent in those from schools without a history of sending pupils to top universities.
  • In relation to this, good careers advice can be transformative for young people and can drive them towards educational opportunities that they have never considered, but it is far too variable. There is a place for much greater collaboration between schools, universities and employers in spreading a ‘what works’ approach, so that as many people as possible find the options that suit them best.
  • This should be part of a far more strategic approach to social mobility, led by government, requiring cross-sector leadership and real collaboration. While there are excellent examples of good practice, too often this work is carried out in isolation.

Youth Employment and Social Mobility – At Prime Minister’s question time this week youth employment and social mobility was discussed:

Alex Chalk (Conservative) noted that the number of children growing up in workless households in the UK was at a record low. He stated that to further drive opportunity and social mobility in the UK, it was vital to support projects like the Cheltenham Cyber Park to ensure children had the opportunity to go as far as their talents would take them.

May, responded that, to continue to lift people out of poverty, helping young people get into the workplace was pivotal. She noted that employment sat at a record high and unemployment at a 40 year low. May concluded there were one million fewer people in absolute poverty since 2010.

Social Mobility featured again in the PM’s questions. This time Thelma Walker (Labour) criticised gaps that had been left unfilled on the Social Mobility Commission following resignations and said that it showed the Government did not take the issue of social mobility seriously. May dismissed the claims, saying the Government had implemented policies specifically to address issues of social mobility.

Disabled Students’ Allowance – There continue to be questions asked about the Disabled Students’ Allowance computing equipment.

Q – Steve McCabe: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 26 April 2018 to Question 137102 on Disabled Students’ Allowances, excluding the cost of a standard computer, what other equipment his Department includes as a mainstream cost to participate in Higher Education; and what items are covered by a maintenance loan.

A –Sam Gyimah: Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) is available solely where a student is obliged to incur additional costs while studying as a result of their disability. In the case of computer equipment, it was clear from evidence that this had become a mainstream cost for all students and that disabled students should therefore contribute towards the cost of computer equipment recommended through DSA. On receipt of a DSA Needs Assessment Report, the Student Loans Company will make a decision where necessary as to whether a particular piece of equipment that has been recommended is a mainstream cost or not.

Maintenance loans are available to help fund the costs of study that all students incur. However, the department does not issue guidance to students on how they should spend these funds.

World Access to Higher Education Day – NEON are asking Universities with widening access activities taking place on Wednesday 28 November 2018 to sign up to World Access to HE Day to showcase the activities to an international audience. Follow World Access HE day on Twitter: @WorldAccessHE

Consultations

Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

New consultations and inquiries this week:

And a shameless additional plug for the industrial strategy topical conversations. These are a fab chance for academics to have a mini (2 paragraphs) elevated pitch on their research hitting directly at the heart of Government and sharing your ideas for the future with the public too. The engaging set up allows the public (and other academics) to directly comment and support your research and future vision. An opportunity academics won’t want to miss! Think laterally about how your work fits with the themes of:  AI and data,  Ageing society,   Clean Growth,  and the Future of mobility.  Have a chat with Sarah and then get involved!

Other news

APPG’s: A new register of the All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) is available. First up are the Country interest groups, after this all the topical interest groups. Have a browse through and follow those that fit with your work and personal interest areas. APPG’s are cross-party groups convened by Members of the Commons and Lords who come together with a joint purpose and interest in the specified area. The administration of APPGs is often provided by external sector bodies and the APPG members may visit organisations and sites of relevance to their remit. APPGs have no officials status within Parliament, however, some are very successful at canvassing Government and influencing policy making. Some groups are more active than others, and easier to follow. Some have a clear and up to date web based presence, whilst others are more aloof!

Nursing: The Education Committee interrogated nursing degree apprenticeships this week finding low uptake, high supervisory costs, insufficient dedicated learning time and difficulties arising from the inflexibility of the apprenticeship model. Read the summary of the session here.

Rankings: U-Multirank have released their annual world university ranking.

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JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

Policy Advisor                                                                     Policy & Public Affairs Officer

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

 

HE policy update for the w/e 25th May 2018

Brexit

In the PM’s speech this week referred to below, she mentioned the implications of Brexit for research:

…. since 2010 the number of overseas students coming to study at UK universities has increased by almost a quarter. The UK will always be open to the brightest and the best researchers to come and make their valued contribution. And today over half of the UK’s resident researcher population were born overseas.

When we leave the European Union, I will ensure that does not change.

  • Indeed the Britain we build together in the decades ahead must be one in which scientific collaboration and the free exchange of ideas is increased and extended, both between the UK and the European Union and with partners around the world.
  • I know how deeply British scientists value their collaboration with colleagues in other countries through EU-organised programmes.  And the contribution which UK science makes to those programmes is immense.
  • I have already said that I want the UK to have a deep science partnership with the European Union, because this is in the interests of scientists and industry right across Europe.  And today I want to spell out that commitment even more clearly.
  • The United Kingdom would like the option to fully associate ourselves with the excellence-based European science and innovation programmes – including the successor to Horizon 2020 and Euratom R&T.  It is in the mutual interest of the UK and the EU that we should do so.
  • Of course such an association would involve an appropriate UK financial contribution, which we would willingly make.
  • In return, we would look to maintain a suitable level of influence in line with that contribution and the benefits we bring.

The UK is ready to discuss these details with the Commission as soon as possible.

Some more flesh was put on these bones by a policy paper from the Department for Existing the EU: Framework for the UK-EU partnership Science, research and innovation

AI, data and other Industrial Strategy news

The PM made a speech this week announcing 4 “missions” that sit below the Industrial Strategy with a  focus on AI and data, amongst other things– you can read my blog of the highlights here

In related news, Innovate UK published a report on the immersive economy

And the government issued 4 calls for ideas and evidence on the PM’s 4 missions.  They want new ideas here:

  • AI and data:  “we have one question:  Where can the use of AI and data transform our lives?”
  • Ageing society: “we would like to hear your thoughts on the following: How can we best support people to have extra years of being healthy and independent? 
  • Clean Growth: “we would like to hear your thoughts on the following:  How can our construction industry use its existing strengths to halve energy use in buildings?”
  • Future of mobility: “we have one question:  How can we ensure that future transport technologies and services are developed in an inclusive manner?.

If you’d like to contribute to any of these, please contact policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

Subject level TEF

You can read BU’s response to the subject level TEF consultation here.  We agree with the issues raised below and we advocated a new model because of serious problems with both Model A and Model B.  We also suggested a longer time frame (because of the volume of work involved, not complacency), and disagreed with both grade inflation and teaching intensity metrics.  And we challenged the awards at both institutional and subject level, proposing instead two awards (good and excellent/ excellent and outstanding) with stars for subjects.

Interesting developments for TEF (and more generally), the OfS have published their timetable for NSS and Unistats data for 2018:

  • The Office for Students (OfS) is applying the Code of Practice for Statistics to its data publication in anticipation of its designation as a producer of official statistics by July 2018. This has implications for the pre-publication access that we can grant to NSS outcomes and Unistats data, as these will now be treated as official statistics. As a consequence, we will now publish the NSS public dataset at the same time as providers are able to access their own data 2 on Friday 27 July 2018.
  • There will also be no provider preview as part of the annual Unistats data collection and publication process, and data available in system reports will be limited to that essential for quality processes associated with the Unistats return.
  • In June 2018, we will add earnings data from the Longitudinal Education Outcomes dataset for English providers to Unistats.
  • From September 2018, we will begin to use the Common Aggregation Hierarchy developed for the Higher Education Classification of Subjects to present data on Unistats in place of the current subject hierarchy.
  • The Unistats website will be updated in June 2018 to include Year three outcomes from the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework.

And :

  •  Following consultation on the outcomes of the Review of Unistats in 2015, the funding bodies are working together on options for a replacement for the Unistats website. This new resource would draw on the findings from the review about decision-making behaviour and the information needs of different groups of prospective students. We will progress this work in stages – ensuring that it is developed in a way that meets the needs of prospective students across all countries of the UK – and will provide the sector with periodic updates, the first of which will be in summer 2018.

Research Professional have a neat summary of the sector response.

On Wonkhe:

  • panel chair Janice Kay of the University of Exeter reflects on progress made and the challenges – and opportunities – arising from the exercise.  when breaking down the metrics into 35 subjects, cohort sizes can be small”  “ it is clear that the current format of the seven subject groupings poses challenges. For example, while it may reduce the writing load by asking institutions to describe its subjects in a summated way, it has sometimes limited what subjects can say about themselves, making it difficult to identify what happens in individual subjects. And we have heard that the format can increase writing effort, even if volume is reduced… It’s critical during this exercise that the written judgments can continue to do this, and that holistic judgments are not captured by metrics. There is therefore a question whether metric and written submission data can be better balanced in Model B.”  Plus some credibility issues with Model A
  • Melanie Rimmer, chief planner at Goldsmiths, University of London, ponders the likely outcomes of the subject-level TEF consultation.  Model B best meets the primary intention of Subject-Level TEF – that being to provide greater information to students – since it allows for greater variation between outcomes for subjects. However, highlighting variation in provision will only be attractive to institutions where that differentiation is a better rating than the current provider-level rating. If you want to hide weaker performance, then opt for Model A.  The main argument in favour of Model A is that it will reduce the burden of submission and assessment. That will be attractive to institutions which, having been through the exercise once and established their credentials, perceive the requirements of TEF as an unnecessary additional imposition that will deliver minimal return. Solid Golds and Silvers are likely to prefer Model A for this reason. Those at the borders of the ratings, with an eye on how close they are to moving between them, are more likely to see value in the greater effort required by Model B.”  “Those which are unlikely to see their rating change, or indeed which might see their metrics moving in the wrong direction and worry about a lesser rating, will naturally support longer duration awards. Those hoping to gain a shinier medal as a result of improving performance will see value in more regular submissions.”  “There are, however, bound to be areas of common ground on the consultation proposals. Every institution I have spoken to has identified a problem with the subject classifications, highlighting why combining disciplines X and Y makes no sense in their institution. However, in each case the disciplines cited are different because the issues stem primarily from institutional structures.”
  • Stephanie Harris of Universities UK (UUK) looks ahead to the future of TEF and the forthcoming statutory review of the exercise.
  • Claire Taylor of Wrexham Glyndŵr University looks at TEF from a quality enhancement perspective and considers the options for institutions in devolved nations.  “perhaps the very act of putting together the written submission also provides an opportunity for us to engage with an enhancement agenda. By reflecting upon TEF metric performance within the written submission, providers have an opportunity to outline the qualitative evidence base in relation to enhancement, evaluation and impact, within the context of their own overall institutional strategic approach to improving the student experience”.  But: “the introduction of grade inflation metrics during TEF3 is of questionable value. Such a metric does not consider the contexts within which providers are operating. Providers have robust and detailed mechanisms for ensuring fair and equitable assessment of student work, including the use of external examiners to calibrate sector-wide, a system that contributes positively to the enhancement agenda and to which the grade inflation metric adds little value.”, and “The consultation asks for views around the introduction of a measure of teaching intensity. In my view, the proposed measure has no meaning and no connection to excellence, value or quality, let alone enhancement. There is the potential for the information to be misleading as it will need specialist and careful interpretation”
  • with an updated TEF diagram, “The Incredible Machine”, David Kernohan and Ant Bagshaw look at TEF3 and question its compatibility with the earlier versions of the exercise.  “So what – honestly – is TEF now for? It doesn’t adequately capture the student experience or the quality of teaching. It does not confer any benefit – other than a questionable marketing boost – to providers, and there is no evidence that students are making serious use of it to choose courses, universities, or colleges. Internationally, concerns have already been raised that the three-level ratings are confusing – it’s been widely reported that “Bronze” institutions are often not considered to meet the UK’s laudably stringent teaching quality thresholds. And it is not even a reliable time series – a TEF3 Gold is now achievable by an institution that would not have passed the test under TEF2 rules. Later iterations may well be built “ground up” from subject TEF assessments, once again changing the rules fundamentally. Let’s not even mention TEF1 (it’s OK, no-one ever does) in this context.”

From Dods: The Science and Technology Committee have published its report from the Algorithms in decision-making inquiry which acknowledges the huge opportunities presented by algorithms to the public sector and wider society, but also the potential for their decisions to disproportionately affect certain groups.

The report calls on the Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation – being set up by the Government – to examine algorithm biases and transparency tools, determine the scope for individuals to be able to challenge the results of all significant algorithmic decisions which affect them (such as mortgages and loans) and where appropriate to seek redress for the impacts of such decisions. Where algorithms significantly adversely affect the public or their rights, the Committee highlights that a combination of algorithmic explanation and as much transparency as possible is needed.

It also calls for the Government to provide better oversight of private sector algorithms which use public sector datasets, and look at how best to monetise these datasets to improve outcomes across Government. The Committee also recommends that the Government should:

  • Continue to make public sector datasets available for both ‘big data’ developers and algorithm developers through new ‘data trusts’, and make better use of its databases to improve public service delivery
  • Produce, maintain and publish a list of where algorithms are being used within Central Government, or are planned to be used, to aid transparency, and identify a ministerial champion with oversight of public sector algorithm use.
  • Commission a review from the Crown Commercial Service which sets out a model for private/public sector involvement in developing algorithms.

Social Mobility Commission

Under the 10 minute rule, the Chair of the Education Committee Robert Halfon introduced legislation to give greater powers and resources to the Social Mobility Commission (SMC), the body set up to promote social justice.  (Link here at 13.52.09pm).  It will have its second reading on 15th June.

The Committee published a draft Bill in March alongside its report.  In its report, the Committee called for the establishment of a new implementation body at the heart of Government to drive forward the social justice agenda.

And in the meantime, the Government have announced a recommendation for a new Chair.  Dame Martina Milburn has spent 14 years as Chief Executive of the Prince’s Trust, supporting more than 450,000 disadvantaged young people across the country in that time, with three in four of these going on to work, education or training. She is also a non-executive director of the National Citizen Service and the Capital City College Group, and was previously Chief Executive of BBC Children in Need and of the Association of Spinal Injury Research, Rehabilitation and Reintegration.

Immigration

From Dods: Last Friday the Science and Technology Committee announced that it intends to develop its own proposals for immigration and visa rules for scientists post-Brexit. This work follows the Government’s rejection of the Committee’s call for the conclusions of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) relating to science to be brought forward to form part of an ‘early deal’ for science and innovation.

The Committee published its report on “Brexit, Science and Innovation” in March, and has recently received the Government’s response. The report welcomed the Prime Minister’s call for a “far-reaching pact” with the EU on science and innovation and recommended that an early deal for science—including on the ‘people’ element—could set a positive tone for the rest of the trade negotiations, given the mutual benefits of cooperation on science and innovation for the UK and the EU.

The Committee will draw on the submissions to its previous Brexit inquiry and the sector’s submissions to the MAC to construct its proposals for the immigration system, but further input to this process is welcome on the following points:

  • If an early deal for science and innovation could be negotiated, what specifically should it to contain in relation to immigration rules and movement of people involved with science and innovation?
  • What are the specific career needs of scientists in relation to movement of people, both in terms of attracting and retaining the people the UK needs and supporting the research that they do?
  • What aspects of the ‘people’ element need to be negotiated with the EU-27, as opposed to being simply decided on by the Government?
  • On what timescale is clarity needed in relation to future immigration rules in order to support science and innovation in the UK?

Consultations

Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

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To subscribe to the weekly policy update simply email policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

Policy Advisor                                                                     Policy & Public Affairs Officer

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

 

 

HE Policy Update (w/e 20 April 2018)

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.

  • Student loan & interest: £20,000. Your earnings: £35,000.
    As you repay 9% of everything above £25,000 your annual repayment is £900.

 

  • Student loan & interest: £50,000. Your earnings: £35,000. 
    As you repay 9% of everything above £25,000 your annual repayment is £900.

 

  • To get silly to prove a point: student loan & interest: £1 billion. Your earnings: £35,000. 
    As you repay 9% of everything above £25,000 your annual repayment is £900.

 

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:

  1. What should the tertiary education system be doing for the country (what are its objectives)?
  2. 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:

  • Skills
  • 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

Social elements:

  • 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’.

Artificial Intelligence

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.

 

PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

Disabled Students

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.

WP Statistics

HESA have released their statistical UK performance indicators for 2016-17 using the Polar 4 measures. This link gives a good summary, or for a brief insight Wonkhe note:

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.

Nursing Students

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.”

Parliamentary Questions

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.

TEF

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.

 

STEM

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.

Contract Cheating

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.

 

Consultations

Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

Other news

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.

He concludes:

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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Policy Advisor                                                                     Policy & Public Affairs Officer

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

 

HE Policy update for the w/e 23rd March 2018

HE Review

The major review of HE was announced in late February (see policy update 23 Feb 2018 for our analysis). It’s a Department for Education review supported by an independent panel with an advisory role. The independent panel, led by Philip Augar, have opened a consultation and evidence gathering exercise inviting responses from the education sector and students, industry, professional representative groups and the wider public. The principles of the consultation are:

  • An education system that is accessible to all
  • An education funding system that provides value for money and works for both students and taxpayers
  • A system that incentives choice and competition across the post-18 education sector
  • A system that provides the skills development that the country needs to function productively

Chair of the review panel Philip Augar said:

  • This is an ambitious and wide-ranging review. We begin with no preconceptions. Our priority is to undertake a thorough examination of the evidence and to hear from a broad range of stakeholders who like us are committed to ensuring the system works for everyone.”

This consultation will feed into the independent panel’s interim report. The full HE Review will conclude early in 2019 when the Government will publish their findings and announce policy changes. To inform our BU response to the HE Review all staff and students are invited to consider the issues in this (anonymous) 5-minute survey. Please take a look at the survey questions as we’d like to hear from as many staff and students as possible. You don’t have to answer all the questions! The major review of HE will shape the HE system, including how universities are funded for years to come. The survey will be available to staff until Friday 20th April –but don’t wait until after Easter!

This week HEPI have a guest blogger who discusses his thoughts on the HE review.

Part Time Students

The Government spokesperson, Viscount Younger of Leckie, showed remarkable resilience and adherence to the party line during a challenging House of Lords oral questioning session this week. The charge was led by Baroness Bakewell who called for action and pushed the Government to find further methods to promote part time study following the publication of The Lost Part-Timers (see below). Other members called for maintenance grants to be restored and for a focus on the barriers that part-time students commonly encounter and failings within the new apprenticeships scheme. Viscount Younger’s response was that the HE review focus on flexibility, the duty on the OfS to address this variety of methods to access study, and the incoming (2018-19) part-time maintenance loans would address the questioner’s concerns.  The full text of the Part Time debate is a quick read – you can access it here.

The Lost Part-Timers

On Sunday the Sutton Trust published The Lost Part-Timers which considers the last decade’s decline in UG part-time student numbers in England. Unsurprisingly the 2012/13 higher fee reforms feature heavily. Here are the key findings:

  • Since 2010 part time UG entrants have fallen annually. By 2015 numbers nationally had decreased by 51% – this was most keenly felt at the Open University (OU) whose numbers declined by 63%, whereas other UK universities and FE colleges only declined by 45%. This difference between the OU and the rest of the sector features throughout the data in the report.
  • Colleagues with a particular interest in part time provision will want to reference the full report and access a number of charts which illustrate the level of change in part time numbers for other institutions more clearly – see the difference in degree decline rates in figures 4 (OU) and 5 (others).
  • Using the OU decline data combined with the fee increases (English student increase in fees of 247%, compared to 2% for those from Scotland and Wales) at 2015, numbers in England were down by 63%. The Sutton Trust conclude that this indicates that a decline in the English numbers would likely have occurred regardless of the 2012 changes, but that it is much higher as a result of the fees increase. They attribute 40% of the numbers decline to the fee changes.
  • The biggest drops have been among mature students over-35, those pursuing sub-degree qualifications, such as courses leading to institutional credit, and low intensity courses (lower than 25% full-time equivalent).
  • The decline in part-time study has significant knock-on effects for widening participation, particularly as young part-time students tend to be less well-off than those studying full-time. Using the POLAR measure of disadvantage, 17% of young part-time students are from the most disadvantaged group, compared to just 12% of full-time.
  • Interestingly, the drop in numbers between 2010 and 2015 has been highest for the most advantaged group of young entrants – 59% compared to 42% for the most disadvantaged group. Nevertheless, the Sutton Trust note that the 42% drop is extremely significant for a group that need greater access to higher education.

Her are the Sutton Trust’s Recommendations (verbatim):

  1. The government’s Review of Post-18 Education should recognise that the costs of tuition for part time and mature students need to be tackled to reduce barriers to entry. The review should acknowledge the end of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to student finance, and recognise that the mature and part-time sector requires tailored solutions. One option, which calculations for this report show would come at a low or zero additional cost per student, would be to give students who are eligible for the new part-time maintenance loan the option of a tuition fee grant for the first two years of their course instead of having to take out a maintenance loan.
  2. In the longer term, government should consider the most effective use of additional resources to combat the decline in mature and part-time study. Options include widening eligibility for student support (in terms of means-testing and relaxing equivalent qualification conditions), or increased teaching grants to universities through a ‘part-time premium’. The latter option could particularly help to alleviate declines in the supply of part-time courses.
  3. Information on fees and loan eligibility should be much clearer for prospective students. Providing accurate, up-to-date data on fees and ‘fees per full-time equivalent student’ in an easily accessible form should be a priority for the Office for Students. Eligibility criteria should be streamlined to make them less complex and easier to understand.
  4. Resources should be invested in reinvigorating lifelong learning, particularly for the less well-off. In a rapidly changing economy, the need to upskill is likely to become greater and greater. It is essential that this doesn’t lead to a two tier-workforce. Additional resources for supporting lifelong learning should be directed at those with lower levels of education and from low socio-economic backgrounds who would benefit the most.
  5. Data collection that can inform future policy should be improved. There are four sets of information which, if they were available more systematically, would make future analysis much more effective: part-time tuition fees, loan eligibility and loan take up, and means to measure the impact on social mobility of mature entry to higher education.

Widening Participation and Social Mobility

Social Mobility Commission – The Commons Education select committee has concluded that the Social Mobility Commission ‘needs greater powers and ‘should be complemented by a new delivery body to drive forward social justice initiatives across Government and the country’. Among the enhanced powers proposed is greater resource for the Commission to publish social justice impact assessments on Government policies and to proactively advise Ministers on social justice issues in an independent capacity (currently they can only advise Ministers when requested to do so). The Committee also expressed regret that the Commission’s membership had to operate at a reduced capacity and now recommends a minimum membership of seven members in addition to the Chair.

Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP for Harlow, Chair of the Education Committee, stated:

  • “Without stronger powers the Social Mobility Commission will do little to tackle social injustices and give the most vulnerable in society the chance they deserve to climb the ladder of opportunity. The Government needs to co-ordinate the social justice agenda from the centre and should give a Minister in the Cabinet Office specific responsibility to lead on this work and to ensure that the policies deliver in improving opportunities for all.
  • It’s crucial that a new body is created inside Government with the levers and powers to co-ordinate and drive forward initiatives across Whitehall and ensure social justice is delivered across the country. We need a Commission which has the teeth to undertake objective assessments of the implications for social justice of Government policies and is properly equipped to hold Ministers’ feet to the fire on social mobility.”

The Education Committee has recommended the ‘revamped’ Social Mobility Commission should be paired with a body inside Government to coordinate action and implement solutions. It also recommended that as the Commission should seek to offer all people equal access to opportunities the name should be changed to the Social Justice Commission. The Education Committee has published a draft Bill to enact the recommended changes.

Displaced People – UUK report that there are more than 65 million displaced people in the world (almost 1% of the global population). Of these:

  • 61% are under 26 – therefore almost 40 million young people are estimated as likely to be missing out on education at all levels, and
  • only 1% of displaced people are in higher education. UUK state this loss of individual opportunity and human potential is immense.

UUK has launched a guide for institutions outlining how they can support refugees and displaced people.

Three relevant parliamentary questions this week:

Education maintenance allowance – Q – John Cryer (Lab): Did the abolition of the education maintenance allowance contribute to or hinder social mobility?

  • A – Damian Hinds (Con): With the alternative funding that was put in place, it was possible for sixth-form colleges to do other things to ensure that they were attracting the full range of students. More disadvantaged youngsters are going on to university than ever before.

Improving participation – Q – Ms Marie Rimmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to improve participation of students from under-represented areas in further or higher education.

  • A – Sam Gyimah: Widening participation in further and higher education is a priority for this government and we want to continue to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from it, regardless of background or where they grew up. ‘Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential’ published in December 2017 set out our plan for improving social mobility through education.
  • Whilst more disadvantaged 18 year olds are going to university than ever before we have, through our first guidance to the Office for Students (OfS), asked the OfS to encourage higher education (HE) providers to undertake outreach work with schools, and to focus particularly in those parts of the country with the greatest challenges, including in opportunity areas. These areas have been identified as those weakest in both the 2016 Social Mobility Commission’s index and the Department for Education’s data on school standards and capacity to improve.
  • In addition, the National Collaborative Outreach Programme run by the Higher Education Funding Council for England is supporting 29 consortia (including HE providers, further education (FE) colleges, schools, employers and others) to undertake outreach activities in geographical areas where the HE participation of young people is both low and much lower than expected based on GCSE-level attainment.
  • FE providers already fulfil a crucial role in driving social mobility by equipping or reskilling individuals with relevant labour market skills, providing routes into further study and often acting as a second chance at a basic education.
  • FE providers will play a key role in our reforms to technical education, leading to more and better opportunities for young people, whatever their background and ensuring that they are on a high quality route to employment.
  • A thriving careers system, that is accessible to everyone, is at the heart of our focus on social mobility. Our recently published careers strategy will support everyone, whatever their background, to go as far as their talents will take them and have a rewarding career.

Commuter students and Maintenance Grants – Q – Baroness Deech: What assessment they have made of (1) the impact of the abolition of maintenance grants on university students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and (2) the report from the Sutton Trust, Home and Away, which found that students who cannot afford to live away from home while at university are disadvantaged in terms of social mobility.

  • A – Viscount Younger Of Leckie: The government published an equality analysis in November 2015 which sets out the impact of the abolition of maintenance grants on protected and disadvantaged groups of students. We are seeing record rates of 18 year olds, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, entering full-time higher education. Our new reforms to higher education will go further to ensure the system is offering more choice and value for money for all students.
  • We have increased support for full-time students’ living costs by 2.8% in 2017/18 to £8,430 a year for eligible full-time students from households with low incomes who live away from home and study outside London – the highest ever amount.
  • The Sutton Trust’s report provides helpful insight into the experience of students who choose not to relocate for study. This is why government’s review of post-18 education and funding will consider how we can encourage and support learning that is more flexible for students, including commuter study options.
  • The review will also consider what more can be done through the financial support available to widen access to university for disadvantaged students, including making sure that the right maintenance support is available.

Parliamentary Questions

Student Electoral Registration – Q – Cat Smith: What steps he is taking with the Department for Education to implement the student electoral registration provision of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017.

  • A – Chloe Smith: The Cabinet Office and Department for Education worked together on the public consultation that led to the issuing of Ministerial Guidance to the Office for Students (OfS) on electoral registration. The OfS is now in the process of drafting guidance to HE providers which will be made available later this year.

Non-Continuation – Q – Gordon Marsden: With reference to the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s non-continuation performance indicators, published on 8 March, what steps he is taking to tackle the increase in non-continuation rates for mature students.

  • A – Sam Gyimah: The data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) on 8 March 2018 shows that the non-continuation rate for mature students has remained broadly similar over recent years, regardless of course type or mode of delivery. The vast majority of higher education students complete their courses and achieve their chosen qualification. However, we are not complacent. We want everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education to be able to do so but we recognise that some students are at a higher risk of ‘dropping out’.
  • The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework includes a metric that measures continuation rates. Institutions with below average retention rates will receive a negative flag, which may affect their overall award. This will incentivise institutions to take measures to improve retention rates.
  • Within the first access and participation guidance to the Office for Students (OfS), my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State has asked the OfS to encourage higher education providers, when developing their access and participation plans, to build on work already underway aimed at improving student retention. This guidance also asks the OfS to encourage providers to consider the recruitment and support of mature learners.

TEF for private providers – Q – Lord Storey: (a) Whether the rating of degree courses as gold, silver or bronze will also apply to those private colleges offering higher education degrees.
(b) Whether the rating of degree courses as gold, silver or bronze will apply to overseas universities established by UK universities.

  • A – Viscount Younger Of Leckie: (a) Private colleges offering higher education degrees can participate in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) if they meet the eligibility requirements. From the 2019-20 academic year, TEF will be a condition of registration for providers with more than 500 students on higher education courses. Smaller providers, for whom the cost of participation might be disproportionate, may participate on a voluntary basis if they meet the eligibility criteria.(b) The delivery of UK ratings or awards to overseas campuses of UK providers is outside the scope of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF).

Revisiting older discussions on impact of EU student decline – Q – Lord Fox: What estimate they have made of the possible reduction in the number of EU students registering for UK universities in the event of those students having to pay international fees following Brexit.

  • A – Viscount Younger Of Leckie: EU students, staff and researchers make an important contribution to our universities. We want that contribution to continue and are confident – given the quality of our higher education sector – that it will.Analysis of Higher Education Statistics Agency finance data shows that in 2015/16, EU tuition fee income accounted for around 2.3% of total higher education institution sector income in the UK. However, some institutions are more dependent on the EU tuition fee income meaning the impact of leaving the EU may be greater for some institutions than others. The precise impact will depend on the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU and the subsequent response of universities.

Strikes – compensation for students – Q – Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he is taking steps to secure compensation for students affected by strike action by university lecturers; and if he will make a statement.

  • A- Sam Gyimah: Universities are autonomous institutions and it is for them to ensure that they meet their obligations to their students. We remain concerned about any impact of strike action on students and expect universities to put in place measures to maintain the quality of education that students should receive. I am aware that during this period universities are putting in place measures to mitigate the impact of the industrial action on students, and that some are putting withheld salaries into student support funds. I would expect universities to offer financial compensation where the quality of a student’s experience has been seriously affected. I am pleased that some have already said they will consider this and I would urge others to do so.

Cyber Crime – Q – Gordon Marsden: How many cyber security related incidents affected (a) further education colleges and (b) higher education institutions in 2017.

  • A – Anne Milton: Jisc, who provide ICT infrastructure services to further education (FE) colleges and higher education (HE) institutions, reported that in 2017 the Jisc Security Operations Centre responded to 5,023 security incidents or queries from HE and FE in England. These include malware, phishing, copyright infringements, compromise, denial of service and RIPA requests. The impact of an incident varies greatly from minimal to significant. Of these 1,389 incidents or queries were from FE institutions in England and 3,634 from HE institutes.

And there’s more…

You may also be interested in the responses to the following parliamentary questions and debates:

Consultations

Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations:

Other news

Contract Cheating: The Advertising Standards Agency has upheld two complaints (originating from the QAA) against an essay mill company. The complaints focussed on the semantics within an advert and led to the ruling preventing similar advertising within the essay mill organisation. QAA states the ruling represents: the first successful challenge to their claims of legitimacy, exposing their cynical use of anti-plagiarism disclaimers and exploitative media referencing. The Telegraph covers the ruling in Essay mill website must warn students about risks of submitting fake work, advertising watchdog rules.

Health & Social Care: The House of Commons Treasure Committee tackled health and social care on Tuesday discussing what would be required in the 2019 spending review to address pressures on social care. A spokesperson for the Office for Budget Responsibility, Chote, confirmed it was a choice between recalibrating policy in the area or reducing spending in other areas to spend additional money in social care. Chote noted tackling the social care issue would make it more difficult to meet deficit reduction targets by the mid-2020s. He also spoke about uncertainties related to the impact of migration on social care need in the future and possible effects on immigration policy changes.

HE Sector Financial Health: HEFCE reported on the (16/17) financial health of the HE sector this week concluding that overall the sector is sound and generally outperformed financial forecasts. However, there was considerable variability in the financial performance and position of individual institutions. In general there has been a rise in borrowing and reductions in surplus and cash levels. Facing the future the uncertainties of Brexit, global competition, and UK education policy instability were all noted as significant factors for sustainability moving forward.

HEFCE’s Chief Executive, Professor Madeleine Atkins, said:

As the higher education landscape evolves, institutions will need to be alert to emerging risks and opportunities. The sector has risen to these sorts of challenges in the past, forecasting prudently and showing itself to be adaptable to a more competitive and uncertain environment. However, any risks will need careful monitoring and mitigation to ensure long-term sustainability.

Student Housing: Early in his role HE Minister Sam Gyimah championed unreasonable student rent prices. This week Student Co-op Homes issued the press release: New national body launched to fix “broken” student housing market. The organisation aims to provide value for money in student accommodation and promotes the three student housing co-operatives (accommodation owned and managed by students) that have been established nationally. Currently the three housing co-operatives manage 150 beds (aiming to expand to 10,000 beds by 2023), have lowered rents by 10-30%, reinvesting rental income to improve the quality of the accommodation. The Financial Times covered the story here.

Advance HE: The Advance HE website has gone live, view it here.

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JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

Policy Advisor                                                                     Policy & Public Affairs Officer

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

HE Policy update for the w/e 2nd March 2018

Despite the bright sunshine in the first half of the week, the snowy week caused a fair amount of disruption, but there was plenty to read in the new HE Regulatory Framework launched on Wednesday.

HE Regulatory Framework

On Wednesday the OfS launched the revised HE Regulatory Framework at their inaugural conference. The Minister for Universities declared himself to be the “Minister for Students” and to many in the room his speech sounded fairly ominous.  You can read the speech here (“a revolution in accountability”).  There’s an article by Dods here on Politics home.

You’ll remember the detail on the proposed new framework from the December policy updates and you can read BU’s response to the consultation here.

The main changes are:

  • the Basic category of registration is gone. The regulation of these providers was going to be very light – and arguably ineffective.  There is some concern that these are the majority of the currently unregulated providers, and that the risk from these providers is greater than the (slightly smaller) number of regulated providers.  The OfS will have plenty to be getting on with without dealing with these providers.
  • A stronger role for students in regulation: ““student engagement” has been added to the list of principles, with the governing body having to ensure that “all students have opportunities to engage with the governance of the provider, and that this allows for a range of perspectives to have influence”.
  • The new approach to student protection plans has been welcomed (although it may be very bureaucratic).
  • Compulsory TEF for larger institutions ie those with more than 500 HE students

A Wonkhe guest blogger writes on the danger of over-reliance on data to regulate the HE sector and highlights more innovative design interventions such as ‘nudge’ theory claiming it incentivises compliance from the outset.

The folks at Wonkhe have gathered all the materials here.  It is worth looking at the Ministerial instructions to the OfS to see what the priorities are.

Widening Participation

The OfS released the Access and Participation plans guidance (2019/20) and associated documentation on Wednesday at their launch event.

In the Government guidance to OfS there is a continued emphasis on demonstrating robust evidence of impact for the spending interventions universities support – ‘invest wisely’, incorporating TEF data, and further Transparency measures that the OfS might require universities to publish to advance equality of opportunity. Mention is made of OfS and the ‘levers at its disposal’ to regulating for continuous improvement of access and participation, and the increase in non-continuation amongst WP students in recent years. Flexibility of provision (including part time study, accelerated degrees, degree apprenticeships, evening degrees and foundation years) are also included, as is closing the differential degree and employment outcomes gap.

  • Given the strength of our ambitions for access and participation we will be looking for the OfS to push providers to set challenging targets for themselves within their plans and so drive further improvements across the sector. The goals for higher education2 published under the previous Government remain in place and our expectation is that the OfS will want to consider these when developing its own ambitions for the sector.
  • We understand that given the time-constraints, the OfS will not be able to bring about substantial changes through plans for 2019-20. However, we are clear that we continue to expect high ambition and continuous improvement in the plans that are approved. We would expect the OfS to develop and consult on further enhancements to its expectations for plans in future years. 

(Taken from the Government guidance to OfS)

The links to schools sponsorship, one of Theresa May’s original ambitions, remain although they are relatively low-key:

  • This Government has emphasised its strong desire to harness the resources and expertise of our higher education sector to work in partnership to improve outcomes across the state school system. The Government expects more higher education providers to establish stronger long-term relationships with schools. This could include becoming involved in school sponsorship, opening free schools and supporting mathematics education in schools (although support need not be limited to those means), with the aim of raising attainment and progress for disadvantaged and under-represented groups so that more pupils are qualified to progress to higher education. As part of this providers should be able to demonstrate clearly the impact their support is having on the schools and pupils.

In the OfS guidance to institutions:

  • We expect all providers, in particular those with the weakest performance on access, to demonstrate how they are developing deeper relationships with schools and colleges to raise attainment and enable more students from underrepresented groups to enter higher education if they wish to…We also expect that we will see greater numbers of higher education providers sponsoring schools (either as a main sponsor or co-sponsor) or with advanced plans to do so.

There is also an expectation for universities to ‘do more’ for careers outreach (see page 11).

From the guidance on the wise investment, whereby a university chooses which Access and Participation interventions to support:

  • It is, of course, for providers to invest their own money as they see fit, but it is in their interests to take evidence-led approaches and we think it is important that the OfS challenges investment for which there is little justification, based on evidence and the provider’s targets and performance. We expect the OfS to be firm with providers about the way their investment should be allocated, encouraging more investment in outreach and other activities, and less on financial support where appropriate. We also expect that financial support should be backed up by clear and robust evaluation plans and supporting evidence that shows that the investment is proportionate to the contribution it is expected to make towards widening access.

The guidance also sets out the expectation that the OfS will continue to advise providers on effective practice. And hints the Government are looking for their regulator to bare their teeth more often:

  • The establishment of the OfS provides an opportunity to consider afresh the arrangements for monitoring and reviewing access and participation plans….We will be looking for the OfS to challenge those providers that are not judged to be taking sufficient steps to meet the commitments in their access and participation plans. We would also expect the OfS to consider the action they might take in relation to those providers…that include poorly focused measures in their plans that are not supported by robust evaluation….The OfS will have a broad range of enforcement powers available to it where it considers that a provider has failed to comply with commitments set out in its access and participation plan and so breached an ongoing registration condition. These could include increased monitoring, imposing additional specific registration conditions or imposing a monetary penalty…The OfS will also have powers to refuse to renew an access and participation plan or suspend a provider’s registration (entirely or for specified purposes) or de-register a provider.

Part-time Study

In December OFFA commissioned HESA and CFE to research part-time students aiming to understand the reasons behind the decline and understand an effective provision offer. Existing HESA data has been analysed alongside a fresh survey investigating students’ motivations for studying part-time and identifying the barriers and enablers to access and progression. Case studies are also being undertaken to ‘provide insights for institutions seeking to recruit and tailor their support for different groups of part-time students, as well as improving access and provision across the sector’. The full findings will be released in April, however, on Tuesday HESA published a first update.

The data shows the widely recognised drop in part time recruitment associated with the introduction of higher fees occurred but a downward trend was already visible from 2008/09. The data delves deeper to highlight the overall influence the decline of ‘other’ undergraduate study is having on the overall decline. HESA pose the following questions:

  • Is the demand for part-time courses reducing?
  • Is there a lack of supply of part-time courses?
  • Is it a mixture of both supply and demand factors combining to exacerbate the decline

There is also a drop within the mature student grouping for those aged 40 years and over (with proportionally part time students aged up to 25 compared to the past). HESA state the sector must therefore consider the factors that may be switching mature learners off this type of study – for instance, are the numbers studying for self-interest reducing, or are retraining opportunities becoming restricted?

When combing deprivation factors (Polar 4 – low participation neighbourhoods and highest qualification on entry) there is an even sharper decline in ‘other’ undergraduate entrants. HESA ask:

  • Why do other undergraduate courses now feel less appealing for disadvantaged students when choosing to study part-time?
  • In which subjects are entry numbers collapsing, and what will the knock-on effect be for skills in our economy?

They go on: For example, we know from existing HESA data that entry into Nursing courses continues to decline, so what impact will this have on skills shortages within the NHS, particularly in light of Brexit? We will consider these questions further as the research progresses.

Social Mobility

The Sutton Trust have published Home and AwayTheir research explores how staying at home and studying locally is strongly differentiated by ethnicity and social background.

They found that:

  • Contrary to traditional assumptions, only 1 in 10 students move long-distance to attend university.
  • Disadvantaged students are over three times more likely to live at home whilst they study.
  • State school students are over twice as likely to commute from home to university.
  • British Pakistani and British Bangladeshi students are six times more likely to stay at home whilst they study.

They recommend greater financial assistance to help disadvantaged young people meet the increased cost of moving out and to meet the needs of ‘commuter students‘ – especially given their socio-economic make-up.

  • “The traditional view of what it means to go away to university, moving out and far away, is very much the preserve of white, middle class and privately educated young people from the South of England” – Dr Michael Donnelly, co-author of Home and Away

Home and Away received national coverage from the BBC, The i, The Herald, TES, Press Association, Metro and Buzzfeed among others.

Unpaid Internships

In January The Sutton Trust published Internships- Unpaid, unadvertised, unfair. This week they announced the government has committed to tackling unpaid internships ‘by improving interpretation of the law and enforcement action taken by HMRC in this area’. See pages 17, 37, 46-48, 73 of the Taylor Review for the most relevant detail on unpaid internships and the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations. Here are some key excerpts:

  • The government accepts the recommendation of the review. Exploitative unpaid internships should not exist and we will work to eradicate these. We will take action to improve the interpretation of the law and the enforcement action taken by HMRC in this area to help stamp out illegal unpaid internships.
  • The law is clear that interns who are classed as workers must be paid at least the NMW/NLW. An employer cannot avoid paying someone the minimum wage simply by calling them an ‘intern’ or saying that they are doing an internship. Determining whether an individual is ‘working’ is based on the presence of multiple factors; there is not a single determining feature of a worker.
  • We will take further steps to engage with sectors where unpaid internships are prevalent and with bodies that represent interns, such as university careers services, to uncover good practice examples that should be highlighted and proliferated.
  • The concentration of this problem within particular sectors provides the opportunity for targeted action. This government continues to invest heavily in minimum wage enforcement, increasing the budget to £25.3m for 2017/18, up from £13m in 2015/16. HMRC already pro-actively contacts employers who have advertised for unpaid internships to ensure they are aware and compliant with the law. Over 500 employers have been contacted in the last three months. Furthermore, in the coming year, we will formally ask HMRC to prioritise NMW enforcement efforts to focus activity on employers who use unpaid interns, through intelligence-led enforcement.

Policy Impact

Colleagues wanting to engage and have an impact on Government policy may be interested in a new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) to learn about select committees. UK Parliament Explored the Work and Role of Select Committees launches next week on 5 March. It will cover:

  • An overview of the work and role of select committees’ work in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
  • The focus of select committee inquiries in each House.
  • Cross-party membership of select committees, including the process for selecting chairs and members.
  • How select committees have evolved and changed over time.
  • How select committee inquiries work, the different steps in the process.
  • A greater understanding of the potential impact of select committee reports and recommendations.
  • How members of the public can engage with select committees.

Future Learn also run an Introduction to the UK Parliament: People, Processes and Public Participation. The course covers:

  • the difference between Parliament and Government including differing roles and responsibilities
  • the three parts of Parliament and the role Parliament plays in scrutinising the work of the Government
  • an introduction to the work of the House of Commons and the House of Lords
  • how Parliamentary Questions are used by MPs and members of the House of Lords to hold the Government to account
  • the difference between oral and written questions, and how questions can be used to seek immediate answers on urgent or important matters
  • what happens during Prime Minister’s Questions and public perceptions of PMQs
  • debates in Parliament, including some of the rules and conventions
  • the role and work of select committees
  • the different types of Bill, and the process of how a Bill becomes a law
  • the effect that changes in the law can have on individuals and on society, with reference to specific case studies
  • the different ways the public can input in the work of the UK Parliament.

Follow this weblink to register interest in the Intro to Parliament course.

Consultations

Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

OfS Board Recruitment Scrutiny

Despite Toby Young’s resignation from the OfS Board the controversy surrounding his appointment began afresh on Tuesday (and may have made Wednesday’s launch a bit uncomfortable).  The Commissioner for Public Appointments Report on the OfS Board recruitment campaign was published – both Times Higher and Civil Service World cover the report including:

  • the criticism levelled at Jo Johnson for his direct encouragement for Toby to apply for the role,
  • that Justine Greening’s concerns at Toby’s proposed appointment were quashed by DfE officials,
  • that while checking historical social media activity it not considered ‘proportionate’ for Board appointments, and therefore wasn’t undertaken for Toby, such checks were conducted for the student representative
  • and there was a further unpublished requirement that the student representative shouldn’t be linked to Union activity.

Angela Rayner (Labour) asked an urgent question in the House on Tuesday: To ask the Secretary of State for Education to make a statement on the appointment of the board of the Office for Students. Sam Gyimah responded to the question on behalf of the Government

Sam Gyimah (excerpt): The commissioner raises important points with regard to due diligence in public appointments. We have already accepted that in the case of Toby Young the due diligence fell short of what was required, and therefore the Department has already reviewed its due diligence processes and will seriously consider the further advice from the commissioner.

The longer debate covered other issues including why there aren’t any FE representatives on the OfS Board (because it’s a regulatory body for the HE sector and there are already two reps with FE expertise serving double duty).  It also questioned the role of the NUS and OfS in countering radicalism on campus. On the OfS Sam Gyimah stated: It is important that the Office for Students has the relevant skills, and also the laser-like focus and the teeth to do something about this. I am glad that we will have a regulatory body with the teeth to do that very effectively.

Sam Gyimah came under significant fire from the Opposition and other parties during the ensuing discussion which he handled unflustered, rather reminiscent of his predecessor Jo Johnson.

Other news

Schools news: the Department for Education announced plans to introduce an income threshold of £7,400 for Free School Meal eligibility under Universal Credit, and a threshold of £15,400 for free early education entitlement eligibility.

Subscribe!

To subscribe to the weekly policy update simply email policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

Policy Advisor                                                                     Policy & Public Affairs Officer

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