Date Name

‘Blame the poor, not Brexit’

A once respected national newspaper, desperate for clickbait, has resorted to some rather bizarre explanations for UK universities’ recent performance in international league tables. Andrew McRae kindly answered the call to take them to task.

(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.

£11.5k fees? Time to come back down to earth

As fees take the stage one final time as the General Election campaign draws to a close, Mark Leach argues that it is time to bring the whole issue back to reality and proposes a bold move to ensure that HE fees and finance take their rightful place at the heart of our political and economic debate.

A Different Kind of Hunger

While studying Film and English at the University of East Anglia in the late 1980s, I witnessed a pub debate about the meaning of James Cameron’s movie Aliens (1986). ‘It’s about the family,’ one of my housemates declared confidently. ‘Oh, really?’ the other challenged. ‘I thought it was about Vietnam.’

The idea that any popular story could hold a single hidden message, and be ‘about’ only one thing, a specific allegorical code waiting to be deciphered, suddenly seemed so ridiculous that the debate segued into another round of drinks and an earnest analysis of Morrissey lyrics. We were young, and just starting to analyze media texts. But we were asking questions, and assuming that there were meanings below the surface; that a narrative could suggest multiple ideas, and stand for many things.

A couple of decades on, and The Hunger Games is the next big thing: a bestselling trilogy of novels, recently adapted into a blockbuster film. What is The Hunger Games ‘about’? This essay explores that debate in more depth and asks how it might affect the choices of future undergraduates as they consider entering the world of cultural studies.

A final farewell to the binary divide?

It is no great surprise to see Liverpool John Moores University formally announce today that their fees will be £9,000 across the board. What makes them notable for writers of copy everywhere is that they are the first ‘post-1992’ institution to formally declare that they will be charging the full whack. But others are expected to follow them, and they will in the coming days and weeks.

But a lot has changed on the higher education landscape since 1992. The binary divide between older universities and those that grew out of the polytechnics has become increasingly blurred and irrelevant to the modern discourse on HE. Indeed it has been dying a slow death, and this week’s events should be the final word on this obsolete view of the sector.

A glass of Sangria, my cake and some time to eat it please

Jim Dickinson takes a look at the all-too predictable debate about students as customers, lofty ideals of co-production, partnership and collaboration in the post-A level results lull. Does this debate present a false dichotomy, forcing a choice between concepts that make little sense? And in this context, what future is there for student as ‘citizen’?

A kinder, gentler REF? Reflections on Stern

Reflections to the Stern Review from across the sector, including James Wilsdon, Pam Tatlow, Jamie Arrowsmith, Martin McQuillan, Maddalaine Ansell, and Martin Paul Eve.

A national licence would set back the Open Access cause

Responding to the recent HEPI paper on Open Access by David Price and Sarah Chaytor, Adam Tickell and Michael Jubb argue that the proposed national licence for UK research is unworkable and unaffordable and could substantially set back the Open Access cause.

A new manifesto for UK research

As the University Alliance announce a new doctoral training alliance and report in to research and innovation, new Chief Executive Maddalaine Ansell sets out her manifesto for the future of UK research.

A quiet plea for pluralism in regulation

Following speculation that HEFCE could bring quality assurance in house, Jess Bridgman calls for regulatory powers to be shared amongst different actors.

A safe bet

Both Oxford and Cambridge have let it be known this week that they intend to charge the maximum £9000 fee. Absolutely no one is surprised by this news.

However the details about the new access requirements that will come with fees will be announced later this week and Oxbridge have taken a gamble that their measures (such as Cambridge’s ‘discount’ for the poorest students) will more than meet the new regulatory requirements.

A small sigh of relief?

Following Labour’s announcement that they would lower fees from 9k to 6k, Alistiar Jarvis looks at why the policy isn’t nearly as bad as some in the sector had feared – but warns of challenges on the road ahead.

A tale of two quality systems?

As HEFCE publish their long awaiting consultation on the future of quality assessment, Mark Leach revisits the proposals, the debates around them, the early sector reaction and a muddled relationship with the emerging Teaching Excellence Framework.

A working class hero is something to be

Students at Oxford’s StHilda’s College have voted to appoint a Class Liberation Officer – something easy to make fun of. But Claire Lynch argues why this shows they are needed more than ever.

An article of blame or an article of faith?

Responding to Sonia Sodha’s article in The Observer which strongly criticised universities, Andy Westwood asks if the sector has got the balance right in the debate about value and diversity in the system.

An innovation and efficiencies pot?

The Government doesn’t quite know what it wants to do with the core and margin policy next year. At the moment their instinct is to run it again on more or less the same terms. Ministers don’t see either AAB or core and margin as permanent features of the system but they are mightily constrained by the short and longer term costs of the student loan book. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that the places top sliced and allocated through the core and margin will definitely be filled – UCAS application data shows that the biggest falls have been from older population groups and those perhaps already in work – both more common in the FE sector that has won most of the places.

Application with results: is fairness the issue?

Last Friday, the UCAS Admissions Process Review consultation came to an end and now we must wait to see whether the proposals to shift to an ‘application with results’ (formerly known as PQA) system has legs. In short, UCAS is proposing that (young) prospective students should apply to higher education, results in hand, within a short timeframe in the early summer. Applications would be turned round and decisions made within a matter of weeks.

Apprenticeships or university – a false choice

As we mark the end of Apprenticeships Week, Andy Westwood looks at how politicians and the media talk about apprenticeships and the false choice they continually present between them and higher education. There are good reasons to expand higher level apprenticeships, but this needs to happen in a better way – in collaboration with universities and learning from examples abroad.

Are headline writers getting it wrong on fees?

As the nation’s press runs away with stories on tuition fees, Steven Jones argues that much of the subtleties of the system – both its faults and benefits – are being lost in the debate.

Are UK universities being cast academically adrift?

On the publication of the Green Paper and the announcement of the TEF, US academic Christopher Newfield offers the UK policy discussion a view from the recent debates in America about learning gain, metrics and quality.