Tagged / UKRI

HE policy update w/e 16th June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fees and Funding

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

Jane Forster                                   Sarah Carter

VC’s Policy Adviser                                    Policy & Public Affairs Officer

Innovation defined? Outcomes and connections ….

Innovate 2011v4

Following on from the blog post yesterday on  Innovation the next set of outcomes and connections introduces the concept:

Game changer 2 = UK innovators + regional priorities

It was as Minister for Universities, Science and Cities in December 2014 that the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP launched “Our plan for Growth: science and innovation.

It was the first time that the importance of place was recognised in the science and innovation strategy and set in motion a series of new conversations and the development of a new set of connections.

Now, eighteen months on, Innovate UK has in place a team of Regional Managers to understand the intercepts between regional priorities and UK excellence and we will be opening shortly our first regional hubs.

Our UK-wide competitions, not only ensures that the best results are obtained for the public money invested but the approach raises the game of every business participating in them.

If you are competing globally, it is not sufficient that you are the best in your locality; you need an intensity of competition, which ensures you are up there with the best in the world.

There is a powerful opportunity now for Innovate UK to partner with other funders in order to combine UK excellence with regional priorities.

Innovate UK consistently receives more proposals over the quality line than it can fund itself.

Going forward we look forward to working with a wide range of funders to invest in many more proposals, which are both over the quality line and aligned to regional priorities. It’s an exciting way forward and is already in trial with Scottish Enterprise in the Biomedical Catalyst.

Read the blog post in full on Innovate UK’s website.

Innovation defined? Outcomes and connections ….

Innovate 2011v4

Everyone has a different definition for “innovation”.  Is the view of Kevin Baughan Director of Technology and Innovation at Innovate UK.  For him innovation defined simply as  “delivering better outcomes”.

It is broad enough in scope to reflect the importance of innovation in enhancing every aspect of our lives, whilst at the same time emphasising the criticality of delivery and the need for leadership and collaborations in order to achieve those better outcomes.

Better connections was a key theme of the new Secretary of State’s early speeches on introducing his new ministerial team The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, observed that: “[An industrial] strategy makes connections between what might otherwise be disparate forces; aligning them, rather than leaving them isolated or even opposed.”

So how do you use industrial strategy to make effective connections between what might otherwise be disparate forces and how do you then use those connections to deliver better outcomes? As part of a series of blog posts these ideas are introduced:

Game changer 1 = UK innovators + cross disciplinary science

Each sector of the economy is of course very different and the journey from concept to commercialisation is rarely a linear one but a clear industrial strategy fosters connections and alignment.

We have all experienced the powerful difference when you are in a team with a common purpose.

Following Sir Paul’s Nurse’s review, the government has set in motion legislation, which will bring together the Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England into a single organisation – UKRI. Creating new opportunities to build even stronger connections both between research disciplines and between cross-disciplinary research and innovation.

This not only fits well with the benefits demonstrated by the earlier automotive example, but it moves the entire game on, by ensuring that it’s cross disciplinary research teams, which are integrated into cross technology innovation initiatives which are in pursuit of our future industrial strategies.

Read the blog post in full on Innovate UK’s website.

What’s been happening at the research councils?

RCUKlogoAs you will know, the Government has published a White Paper which details its planned policy to reform support for higher education and research, including proposals on the future of the Research Councils. ‘Success as a Knowledge Economy’ outlines how Government intends to take forward the implementation of the recommendations of Sir Paul Nurse’s Review.  What does this mean for the research councils, and more importantly, how will this affect the pots of money available for funding?

The quick facts on the over-arching changes are as follows:

  • New organisation to be formed: UK Research and Innovation (UKRI replaces RCUK (can you spot the difference?)) with John Kingman (HM Treasury) being appointed as interim Chair of the board for UKRIJohn Kingman
  • This will include the seven research councils plus Innovate UK and part of HEFCE (Research England)
  • New organisation to be headed by a single Chief Executive/Accounting Officer with existing RC Chief Executives to become ‘Executive Chairs’
  • Councils will retain names and will each have a council of 7-10 individuals (Council members will no longer be ministerial appointments)

The role of the UKRI will be as follows:

  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a new research and innovation funding body that will allocate funding for research and innovation and act as a champion for the UK’s world class system.
  • The names and brands of the Research Councils and Innovate UK will be retained.
  • UKRI will have a strong board with responsibility for leading on overall strategic direction, cross-cutting decision making and advising the Secretary of State on the balance of funding between research disciplines.
  • The board will manage funds with cross-disciplinary impact and a ‘common research fund’ as proposed by Sir Paul Nurse.
  • They will retain and strengthen leadership in specific research discipline areas, innovation and England only research funding by establishing nine Councils within UKRI with delegated autonomy and authority.
  • The Councils will be responsible for the strategic leadership of their disciplines and on scientific, research and innovation matters.
  • The Secretary of State will set budgets for each of the nine Councils through an annual grant letter.
  • There would be a new legislative protection for the dual support system in England and they are formally restating the Government’s commitment to the Haldane principle.

The second reading of the Bill is likely to be in July and it will then go to the ‘Commons Committee’ for intensive work for 6-8 weeks.  However, given the current uncertainty of who will be running the country and which MPs will form a new cabinet, this could change (see the latest Research Professional article on the uncertainty of the HE and research Bill).

If the Bill does go through, the RCUK Change Programme will move to centrally led corporate functions, such as HR and Finance, but this will also include the grant funding platform.  They are aiming for a (much welcome) single common approach as the default for all activities.  The overall aim is for better ways of working and responding to new challenges, such as the Global Challenges Research Fund (see by blog post on what this is).

You may also have heard that the research councils are replacing their electronic grants submission service, Je-S, in 2017.  Please see my other blog post on how you can be part of the testing group for the new system.