Date Name

‘Seriously deficient’: or Whither London Met? or Where’s Willetts?

On Wednesday night the news broke at 10pm: the UK Border Agency confirmed the revocation of London Metropolitan University’s ‘highly trusted sponsor’ status. This means that London Met is no longer able bring in non-EU students into the UK to study under the ‘Tier 4’ visa scheme.

In fact, the move is more draconian in that such students currently studying at London Met will have their visas withdrawn: at least 2000 face deportation within 60 days of official notification, unless they can find another sponsor. Effectively they must find a place on another course at another institution.

By what extent is this disastrous episode a symptom of wider political and administrative failures? Last year’s HE white paper made it clear that the government was no longer prepared to act as the backer of last resort, perhaps making London Met’s situation even more precarious.

(It’s) Hard Labour?

Labour’s 2015 position on higher education policy – of all the three main political parties – is still probably the hardest to predict. But this is not necessarily because of the affordability of a £6k or even a £5k fee (the IPPR costed it at nearly £2billion up front – even more for a graduate tax – an awful lot to spend in a cash constrained election). Andy Westwood continues his series marking party conference season and takes a look at the state of Labour’s HE policy.

£6,000 fees: unanswered questions

As the dust settles on the Labour announcement that they would lower fees to £6,000 next year, Julian Gravatt looks in detail at the policy and asks ten questions on funding, regulation and policy that are raised by the promise of lower fees.

A beginner’s guide to Open Access

Access to research publications is one of the key issues faced by researchers and scholarly publishers. For those new to the area, Graham Steel and David Kernohan explain.

A call for transparency in university admissions

Angela Nartey, policy officer at the University and College Union, takes a look at their new report which suggests an overhaul of the university application system using actual grades rather than predicted.

A critical moment for the quality debate

With debates about the future of quality in UK higher education hotting up behind the scenes, Mark Leach looks at the forthcoming HEFCE consultation and the potential huge implications that it has for the sector and how it is regulated, as well as for the future quality assurance itself.

A degree of value?

Jim Dickinson reviews a new report published by Which? – the consumer rights organisation which offers a fresh insight in to students’ views of their experience of higher education and their relationship with universities, further moving the debate around consumerism and the market.

A new threat from the right?

The Government’s friendless higher education policies may have another enemy that has been previously lying low; the Tory right. Yesterday the Government announced their Social Mobility Strategy which has been broadly welcomed by most. But right-wing Tory, and one-time leadership hopeful David Davis, used the opportunity to further his libertarian argument that would see the retreat of the state in almost every aspect of life, including laws designed to rebalance unfair socio-economic realities. Included in his complaint are measures to ensure that universities take state school applicants through what many view as the discredited and largely toothless OFFA regime which in any case allows institutions to set their own benchmarks for success, rather than complying with a Whitehall edict.

A statement that we didn’t expect?

Like everyone else I thought this year’s Autumn Statement was going to focus on the cost of living, energy and fuel prices. For all I know it might have done but I haven’t yet got past the announcement of 30,000 extra university places next year and the abolition of all number controls in 2015-16. That on top of 20,000 new high level apprenticeships and money for new science facilities across the UK. Andy Westwood takes an early look at the implications of the Autumn Statement.

A time for governing in prose (and spreadsheets)

Ahead of Wednesday’s Autumn Statement, Andy Westwood previews what we might expect and walks the narrow passage that the government desperately needs to navigate to keep the UK economy on track and provide some hope of staving off disaster post-Brexit.

AAB or AARGH? A schoolboy funding error in the HE White Paper

Okay, so much in the White Paper to process, probably the focus of many posts to come, but here’s the glaring issue for me. Paragraph 4.19: “We propose to allow unrestrained recruitment of high achieving students, scoring the equivalent of AAB or above at A-Level. Core allocations [I assume this means allocated student numbers] for all… read more

Aaron Porter decides not to re-stand for election [updated]

Last week we reported on Aaron Porter’s impossibly difficult political situation and today he has announced that he won’t be seeking re-election in the forthcoming NUS elections. This will come as a shock to many who assumed that he would re-stand and most probably win. From his statement, it’s clear that he’s come to the conclusion… read more

Aaron Porter’s catch-22

This morning’s story in The Times about a leaked NUS memo advising students’ unions to “not fight against fees” was depressingly predictable. Wonkhe has seen the secret memo which is not at all hard to get hold of and it doesn’t advise anything of the sort. It discusses fees and what institutions might take into account when setting pricing levels and it suggest that SUs if not already, should demand to be part of the decision making process as the legitimate representatives of the student body. It suggests questions that might be worth asking as part of holistic campaign to ensure a fair deal for students. It doesn’t take an expert in campaigning to realise that a students’ union president will get more leverage through a well-informed debate at University Council than standing outside the registry with a placard saying “NO TO FEES!”

Access debate still stuck in the mud

More evidence out this week confirms what, in the main, we already know. Access to the most selective universities for working class young people is not only incredibly unequal, but apparently in decline, according to the latest report of the Milburn commission on social mobility and child poverty. But caught up in this debate once again are differing views about what a ‘good’ university is, and who they should be for. We need to stop having the same conversation over and over again.

All aboard the USS pension deficit

The USS pension fund deficit is not exactly news, but the latest round of headlines only adds to the stink of intergenerational unfairness that surrounds universities. Ant Bagshaw unpicks the numbers and the politics.

Anderson appreciated

On the 54th Anniversary of the publication of Grants to Students – also known as the ‘Anderson Report’, David Malcolm reassesses its legacy for higher education. Re-examining Sir Colin Anderson’s life, and responding to some of the recent criticisms levelled against him in the context of the 2012 system, today we revisit this much-overlooked report and the man that set in motion a period of radical change for UK higher education.

Another false dawn for Grade Point Averages?

The Green Paper and White Paper differ markedly on their enthusiasm for GPA. Martin Hewitt wonders if there might be alternatives to a complete overhaul of degree classification.

Are global university rankings losing their credibility?

It’s the season of the global university rankings, and so long-time rankings watcher Richard Holmes compares the major results and methodologies used – and finds much change in the data, but little change in how the rankings are treated by the media and higher education establishment.

Are we ready for a postgraduate NSS?

It will not have escaped the notice of regular readers of this site that attention is finally turning towards the future of postgraduate provision. Others have focused on elements of the debate such as the widening of participation to postgraduate studies. Another area which is gathering momentum is the push for a postgraduate equivalent of the National Student Survey and the natural extension of the Key Information Sets to include postgraduate programmes. But are we ready for this big move and do we understand the effects of these at undergraduate level yet?

Austerity, the Spending Review and a crisis in human capital

We thought the last Spending Review in 2010 was bad enough. But this one – covering 2015-16 and then 2016-2018 is beginning to look a whole lot worse. Alongside this is a growing attack on the knowledge economy and the idea of human capital in the media and by policy makers. What might this mean for the future of further and higher education in the UK? Andy Westwood gives his take.

Australian free for all

As the Australian Government announces radical reforms to higher education in its budget this week, including a lifting of the cap on fees, Gavin Moodie reviews these new changes, their possible implications on institutional and student behaviour and makes important comparisons to the UK system.