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.
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.
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.
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.
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’?
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.
Following speculation that HEFCE could bring quality assurance in house, Jess Bridgman calls for regulatory powers to be shared amongst different actors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Coalition Government is in terminal decline. Its sense of purpose has dissipated and internal politics threaten to derail the whole enterprise. The higher education policy circus that came to town in 2010 reflects more than ever the tensions within the Coalition and the bizarre, inconsistent and occasionally bad policy-making that stems from this faltering political arrangement. The Coalition’s expiry date is May 2015, and despite the entire Government machine fixing its sights on that date, things may fall apart before then.
With the arrival of the Competition and Markets Authority to the higher education sector, debates about consumerism, regulation and the role of students and their institutions have intensified. In this piece, Jim Dickinson looks at power and the balance set between students, academics and institutions. Jim asks if this question of power is being left out of the debate and offers a different way to look at the work of the CMA and the debates around their intervention.
As the BIS Select Committee adds its weight to the growing consensus about the (un)sustainability of the Coalition’s higher education funding policies, Sam Jones looks at the difficult political and economic climate both before and after next year’s General Election. With the policy case now hard to refute, he calls for another Browne-style review to create political consensus and lasting change.