Live: GuildHE Annual Conference

We are live blogging throughout GuildHE’s 2015 Annual Conference at the University of Worcester.

Sessions include: “Students and value for money”, “Implications of the Green Paper” and keynote Andrew McGettigan’s speech immediately following the Chancellor’s Spending Review.

Photo: University of Worcester Arena. Credit: TECU Consulting UK

 

Updates

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  • Andrew McGettigan responds to the Spending Review

    Author and sector commentator Andrew McGettigan spoke to Wonkhe straight after his keynote address. You can listen to the interview in full below.

    That brings our coverage of GuildHE annual conference to an end, but our Spending Review coverage will continue throughout the next couple of days.

    4 years ago
  • Spending Review: key points for universities

    Mark Leach is digesting the Spending Review in London and its key implications for universities. Among other things, he looks into the lifting of the age cap on postgraduate loans and the introduction of part-time maintenance loans from 2018-19.

    Fears that the BIS budget would be cut by 30% has not come to pass, the overall cut to the department will be 17%. Crucially, the switch from maintenance grants to loans, announced in the summer’s Budget, is being allowed to count in this Spending Review which the Government estimate to be around £2bn. The science budget is being protected in real terms, which will be strongly welcomed by the research community, and the Nurse Review is to be implemented in fully.

    However there is still pain on the horizon.

    You can read it in full here.

    4 years ago
  • Freezing the repayment threshold

    McGettigan: “What I think is most problematic is freezing the repayment threshold. The thing I’ve taken out of it is that they’ve inadvertently created a tax on social mobility because of the way students from poorer backgrounds will take on more debt.

    “It’s only an issue when you freeze the repayment threshold. Essentially, you’ll see them paying much more.”

    4 years ago
  • Andrew McGettigan

    McGettigan: “The headlines appear to be that BIS’ budget has been protected far more than expected. The cuts look like only about 17%.

    “There does appear to be confusion around research. The £4.7bn doesn’t actually look like a real terms increase as claimed in the speech, but more a cash terms raise.

    “The Spending Review also appears to lift the current age restriction on postgraduate loans and make them available to everyone under 60.

    “It looks like ELQ for STEM subjects have gone.

    “The maintenance grant saving has accounted for most if not all of BIS’ budget.”

    There are £360m of efficiencies from the adult skills budget. To make up the extra bit up to the remaining £600m, McGettigan suggests that, as the Spending Review (2.74) says: “to ensure universities take more responsibility for widening access and social mobility” means cuts to student opportunities funding.

    “In financial terms, no longer going to be an extra bit of grant”, he suggests.

    Joy Carter says that would be “a huge cut for institutions”.

    4 years ago
  • End of statement

     

    Delegates watching the end of the Chancellor’s Spending Review. Other announcements included Osborne saying he “will not cut core adult skills funding for FE colleges but will protect it in cash terms.”

    Gordon McKenzie then mutes the sound to introduce keynote speaker Andrew McGettigan: “Apologies to those looking forward to hearing John McDonnell…”

    McKenzie comments that there’s a certain amount of “the employers are going to pay for this” in the CSR.

     

    4 years ago
  • Student nurses

    Delegates are watching Chancellor George Osborne’s Spending Review. More widely expected than his u-turn on tax credits, Osborne announced uncapping student nurse places but switching from grants to loans. The government believes the cap on places, now set to be abolished, is “self defeating”, but replacing direct funding with loans has drawn criticism from some student leaders past and present.

     

    4 years ago
  • Also at the regulation session, one delegate suggests there are other ways of delivering the objectives of the ECU and the LFHE and that their functions could be transferred elsewhere: “Maybe the ECU need not exist”.

    Another says: “I really do think we should avoid power to raise tuition fees lying with the Secretary of State. It’s anti-competitive to just say the minister does it.”

    4 years ago
  • Regulation

    Gordon McKenzie

    McKenzie asks attendees of the discussion on regulation:

    “What power should the Office for Students have to contract out its functions? It seems rather odd for it not to have that power – would be quite a limited thing to do.

    “The big thing behind that is ‘Should there be so many separate bodies?’ It’s clearly not something the government can ask directly. Do we want to fight for the continual model of the QAA, HESA and so on for as long as we are able?

    A delegate suggests there are increasing tensions between some of the bodies now they’re competing for funding.

    McKenzie adds that institutions will be funding the OfS: “The sector will be funding the ECU, QAA and LFHE because nobody else will be. Just on affordability, is it suitable to think collectively about how many of these bodies one wants to fund?”

    4 years ago
  • Coffee break

    Quick break for tea and coffee. Now delegates have split up into parallel sessions:

    • Initial Teacher Education chaired by Leeds Trinity University vice-chancellor Professor Margaret House with UCET executive director James Noble-Rogers as a speaker
    • Regulation chaired by Gordon McKenzie
    • UKADIA Board Meeting (members only)
    4 years ago
  • rsz_dsc_0296

    Woodman says:

    “From a perception point of view, we have to recognise that for many international companies, London is the sales point. How do we move them from there?

    “Basketball’s another driver for us [here in Worcester]. We haven’t got a Premier League football club, but pick any other sport, and this area is “premier league”: basketball, rowing, rugby, cricket and disabled sport. We use that as a driver to raise the profile of the area.”

    Now a brief coffee break.

     

    4 years ago
  • Innovation, leadership and local economic growth

    Francis Davis Southern Policy CentreThe morning’s first open session, chaired by Southampton Solent University vice-chancellor Professor Graham Baldwin, is on innovation and local growth.

    After talks by Neil Anderson from Worcestershire County Council and Gary Woodman from Worcestershire LEP, Francis Davis, CEO of the Southern Policy Centre, tells delegates:

    “If we’re going to unlock new aspiration by the sector and using all sorts of in-kind and non-financial resources, we need a fresh approach.

    “It’s challenging for governing bodies, leadership and faculty, but full of opportunities with the rise of combined authorities expected later today.”

    He also talks about universities introducing compulsory volunteering, to which Baldwin replies: “I mentioned compulsory volunteering in a meeting once and got my head chopped off”.

    4 years ago
  • Making students as partners a reality

    NUS president Megan Dunn spoke at the conference yesterday evening. The below is an edited version of her remarks:

    Megan Dunn NUS WonkheStudents as partners is an important and attractive concept, but very challenging to make a reality. It’s vital therefore that we support, develop and promote authentic activity at a local level and ensure that institutions and students’ unions are delivering on the promise of partnership.

    As the report on student engagement launched yesterday says, “Student leaders and student governors are integral to a community in which students’ independent judgements are valued and used as a basis for enhancement”.

    We must all be clear that atomised student feedback could never substitute serious, collective student representation. Many students’ unions are brilliant at driving educational change, but some will need support, offered in good faith, to engage on academic and education issues.

    There is no shortcut to a culture of partnership and it cannot exist without strategic leadership from both the institution and the students’ union. Individual students may engage in various forms in their learning, but a whole system of partnership must flow through the students’ union.

    In response to the questions raised in the higher education Green Paper from the government about the accountability and activity of students’ unions, on Monday NUS held our #LoveSUs day. The response we had from students and students’ union officers past and present about the impact students’ unions have had on their lives was overwhelming and humbling.

    I was particularly grateful to the support of sector bodies and those who have a stake and an interest in the vibrant future of students’ unions for supporting us and helping us make the case that students’ unions are life changing and education transforming organisations.

    NUS will be making a compelling case to the government about the impact of students’ unions in our response to the Green Paper, but it’s vital that institutions do the same. As the report demonstrates, many will have a lot to say about the importance of students’ unions, not just in what’s been achieved in the past but the central role they play in achieving the missions of institutions and aspirations for their students’ educational experience.

    4 years ago
  • Student Engagement

    This evening at the conferece, GuildHE launched a new report on student engagement, in collaboration with The Student Engagement Partnership. You can download it here.

    Elsewhere on Wonkhe, GuildHE’s Alex Bols looks at the effectiveness of student representative systems:

    Below are some of the behaviours that were suggested that could enable course reps to have a clearer idea of their role.

    Chameleonic – the idea that reps need to be able to speak to the “university management speak” so that they will be listened to more by the institution, but also be able to switch back and be able to relate to ordinary students and speak about education in an engaging way. It was suggested that this might also help mitigate against the feeling that the rep has been co-opted or “gone native”. 

    Communications – in addition to be able to speak in different ways to different audiences, good communications is key to the role. In particular ensuring that students know what the rep is doing, but also given the privileged position of rep having more information about what is going on the in the department they can act as a conduit of information from the institution when appropriate.

    Policy actors – a strong theme that came out from the interviewees was that reps are not simply there to be vessels of other people’s views. It is not their role to simply re-present data and views of students, but rather to digest this information and use it to identify priorities, they are not simply “ventriloquists”.

    Internal externality – this idea that the representative is a useful source of feedback for the institution, acting as a critical friend, able to give helpful advice but on occasion to say the uncomfortable thing that an institution may not wish to say out loud.

    You can read the article in full here.

    The live blog is now closed for the evening and will be back in the morning.

    4 years ago
  • Hope says:

    “An MA is becoming the new BA. A lot of people are now getting an undergraduate degree, so more and more employers are expecting an MA too.

    “A few years ago, I spoke to Dave Brailsford, the head of British Cycling, which it would be my dream job to work for; I told him I was going to university and he said ‘Wow! With a degree, you’ll be overqualified.’

    “Last week, I looked on the British Cycling website and found I’d now need an MA in physiotherapy [to work for them].

    “In the space of 4 years, I’ve gone from overqualified to needing an MA”.

    She suggests this is happening across the sector.

    That draws the session to a close. Now time for a coffee break.

    4 years ago
  • Dunn reminds the audience that originally, we were told £9,000 fees would be an exception.

    She also says: “I think competition runs the risk of homogenising the sector. When we measure things in such specific ways, we risk losing the wonderful thing about HE, which is the diversity of institutions.”

    4 years ago
  • Wesley Hudson, president of University of Worcester SU, says “Students shouldn’t be seen as consumers but as partners.

    “SUs have a big role in developing this culture and relationship with the institutions. To give an example here [at Worcester], we have a really good student rep system, where students have the chance to buy in to the university and develop it to ensure their course is for them – not just for their year but future years as well.”

    Hudson also points out that a large majority of Russell Group universities are majority 18 to 21-year-olds, whereas GuildHE institutions can be quite different: “Worcester is 63% mature students.”

    Dunn agrees: “We talk about ‘the student experience’… There is no singular student experience.”

    4 years ago
  • International students

    Anglo-European College of Chiropractic (AECC) SU Charlie Bertoia, who is originally from Canada, echoes Dunn’s criticism of visa restrictions:

    “I only got back on Saturday – I was deported. I had to apply for a visa to get back into the country. Student protection is imperative, especially to smaller universities and GuildHE institutions, which can be seem to be passed over – as international students from them are seen as ‘only 500 students of 1.3 million’… They fall through the cracks the most.”

    4 years ago
  • NUS president Megan Dunn

    Megan Dunn comments: “Having a panel titled ‘students and value for money’ is interesting in itself in how we’re discussing students and where we view students within HE.

    “It’s a phrase that in reality students don’t use much. ‘Value for money’ is not how students frame it to begin with. So it’s interesting to see a narrative coming from the government that students are asking for ‘value for money’.

    On the TEF, she says: “I don’t understand why students should have to pay more than £9,000 to expect excellent teaching. I’d say that’s an awful lot of money. I challenge you to find an 18-year-old starting university or a parent returning to university who says £9,000 is not a lot of money. I don’t think we should ever be shy about talking about the enormity of it.”

    4 years ago
  • Students and Value for Money panel

    Delegates are now being addressed by a panel, chaired by University of Abertay VC Nigel Seaton, consisting of three Students’ Union presidents and the national president of NUS.

    Jodie Hope, University of Chichester Students’ Union president, who was a first-generation university student from a single-parent household, says her biggest concern about the TEF is the prospect of the price of higher education increasing: “I think it’s completely unfair that people coming from my neighbourhood might not have the same opportunities I had.”

     

    4 years ago
  • GMK cropped

    McKenzie: “The TEF is not a Christmas Tree. I think former colleagues in BIS are aware of the risk people will want to hang things on the TEF.

    “When I was a civil servant, I found that someone somewhere always wants universities to do something, somewhere that they perceive they’re not doing at the moment.

    “A new policy initiative about challenging provider could look a bit like ‘Oh, can we just hang this thing onto it?'”, he warns, adding that he has confidence that his former colleagues will try to avoid this.

     

    4 years ago
  • Gordon McKenzie

    McKenzie on the Spending Review:

    If, as some commentators predict, the government is to make £1.4bn of savings, “There are large lumps of money there if you’re looking to try and get to £1.4bn. But they feel like quite significant changes if you are actually in that territory. Maybe converting the Innovate UK grants to loans – you’re still getting the product…

    “But do you need to find balancing money from the HEFCE teaching grant? If you did apply a 30% cut, that could be as high as £500m taken off that. With that scale of cut, it’s hard to see how you’re not putting pressure on student opportunity funding and funding for high-cost subjects.”

     

    4 years ago
  • David Green opening remarks

    Prof David Green

    After being welcomed by Carter, David Green says the Conference Suite he’s speaking in is to be renamed the Joel Richards Conference and Media Suite after the former Worcester student who was the youngest victim of terrorist attacks in Tunisia this summer.

    Green says the arena, winner of The Guardian‘s Buildings that Inspire award, has been “a runaway success”.

    “An attractive facility to students, the arena is also used by other members of the community. And, among other things, it has played host to the biggest paralympic event since the 2012 Olympics – the 2015 European Wheelchair Basketball Championships.”

    Green adds that the arena “Fits perfectly within the mission of GuildHE”.

    He then hands over to Gordon McKenzie.

    4 years ago
  • Event set to get underway

    The Conference Suite here at the University of Worcester Arena is starting to fill up, with the event scheduled to kick off shortly (or, perhaps we should say, “tip off” given that the room overlooks a basketball court). Delegates will first of all be addressed by Professor Joy Carter, University of Winchester vice-chancellor and GuildHE chair, and Professor David Green, vice-chancellor of the University of Worcester, who will be followed by GuildHE chief executive Gordon McKenzie.

    4 years ago