Institutes of Technology, first seen in the 2017 Conservative manifesto, could be a way to better link academic and vocational pathways. Stephen Martin of PublicCo, along with Ant Bagshaw, take us through the latest policy developments.
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.
Following the Welsh Government’s publication of a Higher Education Bill, Greg Walker looks at the implications of its policies and the reactions to them in the Welsh HE sector. Greg also shows how some of the controversial measures designed by Labour in Wales might be replicated in English HE, should Labour come to power after the General Election next year.
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.
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.
The media today has been covering the public launch of Pearson College. The new offering from the education publishing giant sees it move into full undergraduate degrees from the HNCs and HNDs it offers through its subsidiary, the examination board Edexcel. This post looks at the interesting changes to Pearson’s business model that have taken place which tells us a lot about the current state of HE reform.
It’s not just the torrential rain and gales that have hit university campuses and rattled Vice Chancellor’s whisky cabinets across Wales over recent weeks and months – the whirlwind reform and restructuring in higher education demanded by the Welsh Government and HEFCW also took its toll. But the publication last week of the Government’s White Paper on Further & Higher Education had the effect of bringing some calm to the storm.
Yesterday the Government published its long awaited response to the HE White Paper and technical consultations. Smashing straight through the three-month deadline that Departments have to publish these, there were many who thought the long wait indicated that they were cooking up something big. It’s the classic policy wonk trap – you see big schemes, plots and grand strategies wherever you look because that’s how you think. But in politics – particularly in the Coalition, the truth is always much simpler. The Government’s response this week did a pretty good job of kicking issues into the long-grass and not committing to much at all. But it’s hardly a surprise when you consider the state of the White Paper itself when it was published last June – an equally thin document – and the political difficulties that HE has caused the Coalition to date.
With so much going on in the political and policy landscape, it is a good time to ask ‘where are we with respect to the Government’s plans for higher education?’ This post will set out why I think we should expect primary legislation in 2013 and give a run-down of other recent developments that are important to keep in mind as we look ahead to what might be in store for the future.
On the political battleground of recession, jobs and growth, the rhetorical weapon of choice is the “plan”. Whether you’re signed up to the UK Coalition’s ‘Plan A’, prefer to think there’s been a subtle change towards ‘Plan A+’, or you’re more of a Two Eds ‘Plan B’ supporter, you’re nobody if you’re not a “man with a plan”.
Next week, we are expecting the government to launch their long-awaited Innovation & Research strategy. Still suffering whiplash from the HE White Paper, there are those in the sector feeling nervous about what might be coming. But do they need to be?
In a classic ‘Take out the Trash Day’ move last Friday, it was announced that University of Wales would move under the royal charter of Trinity St David once it merges with Swansea Metropolitan, effectively abolishing an institution which has stood for 190 years.
I have reflected a great deal about how my grandfather, a Welsh nationalist and academic, would have reacted to recent events. The University of Wales was an iconic higher education symbol for the Welsh identity, but I am sure he’d agree the effectiveness and relevance of this symbolism was waning long before recent events. With the more respected universities like Cardiff, Swansea and Bangor looking to move away from the UoW collegiate, it became harder for the university to hold the same significance it once had in Wales.
Yesterday, The Open University announced plans to charge £5000 fees. A THE story claims that it puts OU in ‘pole position’ to snap up the 20,000 places that are being made contestably available for institutions charging less than £7,500. But these 20,000 places are for full time undergraduate students – currently all of OU’s students are counted as part-time, even if they are studying at a rate of 1FTE.
Where things get complicated are with OU-validated degrees in further education colleges. By putting these 20,000 places aside for low-cost courses, it is the intention of BIS to expand provision in FECs – either validated through a body like OU, or even funded directly. What no one knows for sure is the true extent of the demand for these courses. It must be remembered that these 20,000 places are just theoretical lines on a spreadsheet – they will not necessarily become students unless there is sufficient demand for the low-cost courses in the mix.
The Government’s White Paper, Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System, is a reckless gamble with university education in England. An opportunistic, ideologically-driven document, it uses the excuse of deficit reduction to transfer much of the burden of financing undergraduate degrees, which it conflates with training for employability, to the individual graduate; it promotes consumerism and competition with a view to producing a wide variation in the resources available to institutions so as to stratify degree quality; it misrepresents social mobility accordingly by advocating the slotting of ‘talent’ into its appropriate tier; it presents a charter for privatization with a calculated attack on the notion of the public university, both creating conditions that support new, ‘alternative’ providers with public money (some potentially for-profit) and promising to make it easier for established universities to ditch their charitable status to increase access to private finance.
I have spent more time in higher education as a postgraduate than an undergraduate and given my perspective, the first time I read the HE White Paper, I thought I had missed something. There was virtually no reference to postgraduate students in the much-awaited document. When I say ‘no’ reference there are a handful of paragraphs on page 21 that refer to other studies, particularly the 2010 Adrian Smith review, but the sense appears to be that this White Paper has passed the issue of postgraduate education back to Adrian Smith and HEFCE for ‘continued review’. Smith’s initial review highlighted that in contrast to undergraduate study / participation etc. we know relatively little about postgraduates and their requirements. As such the absence of a reference to postgraduates, particularly taught postgraduate students, concerns me in relation to two areas.
Whilst the graffiti sprayed on Westminster walls during student protests in December has long since been removed, (although one stubborn proclamation of “this is NOT a riot” remains) debate has somehow remained feverish throughout the long wait for the government’s plans. Nonetheless, not a great deal in yesterday’s White Paper was likely to surprise.
The Government has today finally published their long-delayed, much anticipated higher education White Paper. It’s remarkably long-gestation has ensured that there has been maximum scrutiny by No.10. A couple of weeks ago I imagined a scenario where No.10 would push for deeper, more radical reforms, allow David Willetts to face any political fallout – in the hope that a compromise could be reached later down the line that would still push reform hard. Just not over the edge. But it seems that a combination of the need to build a delicate consensus in the Coalition, and the effect of highly successful lobbying from HEFCE and universities, has this time trumped that more risky strategy.
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
The HE White Paper is currently sitting on the desks of the No.10 policy wonks. Their beefed up unit charged with ensuring that everything this Government does is consistent with The Plan. So much ink has been spilt in pursuit of the underlying forces, the guiding principles, the motivations. The reason why David Cameron gets up in the morning. Over the last 12 months, much of the mainstream media has been sent on a wild goose chase. They assumed it would be this unsettling, unknown quantity of ‘coalition’ that would be driving everything. But what if the truth was so much simpler?
Today the Public Accounts Committee has released their report ‘Regulating Financial Sustainability in Higher Education’. It calls for greater regulation of HE after the new funding regime begins and raps BIS on the knuckles for getting their sums wrong over fees. It could make for uncomfortable, but probably not devastating reading in some parts of Government. And it adds weight to those who’ve been arguing for a long time that the Coalition’s fees policy doesn’t add up. This post has a look at some of the headlines from the report.
The answer is; not a great deal, but some useful morsels of information can be found with a bit of digging. One of the transparency initiatives of this Government has been to make Departmental business plans publicly accessible. They have all just been updated for May 2011 and the BIS plan is certainly worth a scan from an HE perspective, even though it’s not setting the world alight.
Last year, we were promised a white paper to bring together the Government’s vision for higher education post-Browne review and after the debate about fees had run its course. As we enter British Summer Time, it seems a good time to consider the status of this elusive document, originally scheduled for some time in ‘winter’. A few weeks ago we were told that its publication had been put back until the summer, to wait and see to how Universities responded to new OFFA guidance and how they set their fees. Since then, there has been mounting panic by the Government whose HE funding settlement with the Treasury depended on the average fee to be set at £7,500. As has been well documented elsewhere, the average is likely to be closer to £8,500 – which would see the Exchequer lose out considerably as they are forced to lend much more money than planned.