As the 2014 REF is published, widespread concerns are expressed in the sector that a level of grade inflation has artificially skewed the overall results. This has led to fears, from lots of different corners of the sector, over the for the future of the exercise itself and the funding that underpins it. John O’Leary brings together the sector and funder reactions to the 2014 REF results.
As a Committee of the Whole House of Parliament considers the Government’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill today, Pam Tatlow looks at its deep implications for universities, the new powers over HE that it gives the Home Office and why the whole sector needs to pay attention to the political debate and passage through Parliament of this landmark piece of legislation.
The Autumn Statement confirmed the Chancellor’s plans to make further substantial cuts in the next Parliament. Around £4bn will likely have to come out of the budget for Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Julian Gravatt thinks the unthinkable about what this means for HE, research, science and skills.
Following the second report from Which? on students’ experiences of higher education, Louisa Darian, Policy Adviser at Which? talks about students as consumers alongside the complaints at higher education institutions and explores the ways in which the system could improve.
The principle of fair access is central to debates about higher education: almost everybody agrees that no one should be denied the opportunity to go to university because they cannot afford to pay. This is why we have a subsidised loans system. However, this principle has not been applied to postgraduate study, where there is no subsidised loan system at all. Rick Muir writes about his latest report for IPPR which shows why we need such a system for postgraduates and how it would be affordable for government to implement.
Shadow Universities, Skills & Science Minister Liam Byrne has given a far-ranging interview to The House Magazine this week. It includes some interesting clues to where Labour is on HE fees – a question on the lips of much of the sector. Perhaps more intriguingly, this interview and other briefings are being used as evidence elsewhere for Labour being at war at the top.
Perhaps it is because liberalism is an ultimately optimistic philosophy that explains why Liberal Democrats were so up beat at their annual conference this week. Despite dire poll ratings the conference bar was full of cheery activists and senior MPs determined to cling on to their seats. As the Liberal Democrats wrap up this year’s party conference season, Sam Cannicott looks at the mood of the party and their ongoing difficulties with fees and higher education.
When robustly challenged about HE and immigration policy this week, James Brokenshire MP, Minister of State for Immigration made clear that, despite growing calls for policy change, he was ruling out excluding international students from the net migration figures. But are there signs that this might change after the election? Alistair Jarvis takes a look from Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.
With rising fears that there is a crisis looming in English postgraduate higher education, Jenny Shaw takes a look at a recent study which shows that that there is a crisis in identity and belonging amongst postgraduate students. With so much policy attention focussing on full time undergraduates and their fees, is it now time to look seriously at what is going on beneath the surface of the complicated postgraduate landscape?
As longstanding higher education and science minister David Willetts steps down from his government post, and from politics in general, Andy Westwood looks back at his time with the brief – from 2005 when in opposition to today. What will be his legacy? Is it too soon to judge? With mixed feelings in the sector, the ultimate legacy of David Willetts may take quite some time to fully understand. In the mean time, there’s much to learn from the last nine years with David Willetts.
The Higher Education Academy’s Annual Conference this week signals its tenth year as the UK’s quality enhancement agency for teaching and learning. The focus of the conference is ‘Preparing for learning futures’ over the next decade. Given significant cuts to the Academy’s budget over the next two years, the conference focus will likely be as much about the HEA’s future as about the learning futures in the title. In this piece, Robin Middlehurst looks at the important challenges now faced by the Academy, sector and Government and presents the key choices that now need to made.
It is now twenty years since the 1994 Education Act, an important moment for students’ unions and the higher education sector at large. Much has changed since, both inside the student movement and outside where perceptions of students and representation has been constantly evolving. Alex Bols takes a look at the last 20 years of evolution and how it might inform the next 20 years of students’ unions.
What did Margaret Thatcher ever do to British universities? The last few days have seen much analysis of Thatcher’s legacy for universities, research and science – which gives us an appropriate moment to assess the history. Tom Bailey takes a look at Thatcher and her critics – when in power and today – and how their response to her policies shaped today’s landscape.
Michael Brown, the former Vice Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University reflects on his new report: ‘Higher Education as a tool of social mobility: Reforming the delivery of HE and measuring professional graduate output success’. Michael looks at the problem with purely focusing on ‘input’ measures rather than ‘output’ and suggests new ways to measure the positive social mobility outcomes in the sector. As well as looking ahead to the future, Michael reflects on the sector’s reaction to these ideas and the debate surrounding the report.
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.
Reviewing the recent HEPI/HEA Student Experience Survey, Carl Lygo looks at what students want from their university experience contrasted with the high price that the sector and politicians assume that universities need. Carl questions why fellow vice chancellors have allowed their salaries to rise faster than their staff and questions why a university education really needs to cost so much.
Following a disastrous result at the European and Council elections, it seems that the Lib Dems are still haunted by the 2010 decision to raise tuition fees. With Nick Clegg facing challenges to his leadership and with a General Election now less than a year away, Dewi Knight takes a look at the state of the Lib Dems and their fractious relationship with higher education policy.
In December 2013 the Chancellor of the Exchequer blindsided sector pundits with the announcement that the cap on student numbers would be lifted from 2015. Aside from the flurry of press releases and formal responses, analysis of the implications of his announcement for the future shape and size of the sector has only begun to take shape. In this piece, Debbie McVitty maps out the possible scenarios that may emerge as institutions respond to the new policy and plan for their uncapped future.
Despite widespread recognition that higher levels of education are essential for countries to compete, and the fact that the number of people in higher education is growing, access to higher education continues to be skewed according to socio-economic status. Mary Stuart takes a look at some of the current issues with policies on ‘access’ and unpicks how and why universities should play a role in social mobility.
There is a recent trend for policymakers and politicians to look at Australia to find solutions to the policy problems facing UK HE. The most recent example is a report published yesterday by HEPI that outlines compares the Australian and UK HE systems. There are some interesting comparisons to be made between Australia and England, however seriously comparing the two systems is a difficult task. Although interesting, HEPI’s report does not tell the whole story of Australian higher education; elements of which may not be wholly desirable to bring back home.
Sue Littlemore looks at recent polling to assess public attitudes towards universities and finds some sobering results. In the context of higher fees, and pressures coming from other places, how the wider public feel about the value of HE and the debts that the next generation are getting in to really matter. Universities may have been protected from public opinion in the past, but as we head towards a general election, politicians are likely to be influenced by the largest of protest groups; parents.
It is widely understood that graduates with higher level skills are critical to the ability of the UK economy to innovate and thus be competitive internationally so it is vitally important that the way we measure how the supply of graduates meets the demand of employers is useful to both universities and businesses. Rosa Fernandez looks at recent research that shows why current measures of graduate employability are not sufficient, and shows how it could improve.
With a lot of public attention on the RAB charge and the cost of the current funding system, Dr Gavan Conlon of London Economics looks at two major issues that may have been overlooked and are areas where the greatest damage may have been done in the transition to the current fees and funding system – both because of the outcomes themselves – but also because the fact that the changes may be irreversible.
The last week has seen a political and media frenzy as it has come clear that the RAB charge is now coming very close to the point where the new HE funding system costs around the same as when fees were just above £3k. With the wider public understandably not engaged in the wizardry of public accounting and a sector avoiding an opportunity for self-reflection, Andy Westwood attempts to unpick the dark arts at play, the rows that overlay them and attempts to drill just a little bit deeper.
Performance indicators might sound dull, but how the sector chooses to evaluate themselves in the future will have a huge impact on league tables, reputation and institutional success. Post-financial crisis and with a political desire to create a ‘level playing field’, shaping the future of performance indicators takes on a new urgency and raises a host of complications that the sector needs to get to grips with. Adam Child takes a look for us.
At the start of the week that we expect the HEFCE grant letter, Alistair Jarvis looks at the scale of the hole in BIS’ budget and assesses the options that the Government now faces as it decides where to cut and how far to go – decisions that could have drastic long-term consequences.
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.
The Government has said today that it will make £20bn of asset sales between 2014 and 2020. £12bn of the total is to come from the student loan book. That’s about a third of the total book. Emran Mian takes a look at the logic and risks of selling these loans – and what we might expect to come.
It’s perhaps fitting that it was the week of Dr Who’s 50th anniversary when a ‘black hole’ reportedly emerged in the BIS higher education budget. Over recruitment of HNDs and HNCs at private colleges has been reported by the Guardian as the cause of this serious financial problem.
Already there are reports of immediate pressures to BIS, SLC and HEFCE and possibly even to Research Council budgets as a result. According to the Guardian, BIS must find £900m of savings by 2015/16 – the first £600m of that in 2014-15, the final year of this Parliament and Spending Review period. Andy Westwood takes us on a tour of the negotiations that will now be taking place inside government and explores what might be cut in light of these latest revelations.