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Public Policy|Southampton

Higher Education Digest June 2018


Highlights from June 2018


1. The 2018 results for the TEF (the Teaching Excellence Framework) were published on 6 June. As (most) 2017 TEF ratings last for three years, 181 HEIs chose to keep the award they had, and 31 who had a valid award from 2017 reapplied. There were also 49 providers (usually new providers with a short track record of data) who had provisional or short term awards in 2017 who reapplied, and 33 new applicants. The methodology was different between 2017 and 2018.

2. Taking into account both TEF 2017 and TEF 2018, there are now 269 HE providers with a full TEF Award – 27% rated Gold, 20% rated Silver and 23% rated Bronze. The University of Southampton received a Silver TEF Award in 2018.

3. Separately, UCAS published analysis of a survey of 85,000 applicants who submitted university applicants before the 15 January 2018 deadline. The survey data show:

QS World Rankings

4. The 2019 QS World Rankings were published in June. The top five Universities in the ranking are MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Caltech and Oxford. The top 5 UK universities are Oxford (5th) Cambridge (6th), Imperial (8th), UCL (10th) and Edinburgh (18th). The University of Southampton was placed 96th, up 6 places from last year, and 17th in the list of UK Universities.

Value for Money and Graduate Earnings

5. The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) released its annual Student Academic Experience Survey on 7 June. The data included:

6. Also on 7 June, Universities Minister Sam Giymah delivered a speech at the HEPI Annual Conference, which focussed on value for money issues, including differential rates of graduate earnings.

7. On 21 June, the DfE released more data on the Longitudinal Earnings Outcomes (LEO) of students 1, 3 and 5 years after graduation, for the 2015/16 tax year. With similar results from the previous year, it shows highest median earnings for graduates of medicine & dentistry, and the lowest median earnings for creative arts & design graduates.

Research into policy

8. The Institute for Government published a report in June on how government can work with academia. Recommendations include:

9. Separately, the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences published Evidence Synthesis for Policy, which sets out four principles for good evidence synthesis for policy: inclusive, rigorous, accessible and transparent. It also notes three proposals:

Higher Education Leavers Statistics

10. HESA has published its annual High Education Leavers Statistics (previously called Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education, DLHE). The data show that overall, 71% of leavers were in work, 15% were in further study and 5% were unemployed. The statistics are broken down by gender, person characteristics and subject. Median salaries were £24,000/£22,000 (male/female) for those in professional jobs and £17,000/£16,500 (male/female) for those in non-professional jobs.

Financial Concerns of Students

11. On 20 June, Universities UK published the results of a survey into the financial concerns of students. Key findings included:

Parliamentary Reports

12. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has published a report following its inquiry on the Higher Education Market. The report concluded that although HE was treated as a market by the Department for Education, it was not a market that was working in the interests of students or taxpayers. It made further recommendations on careers advice, widening participation activities, and the need for students to be able to shift courses or institutions more easily.

13. Meanwhile, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee have published a report on the Economics of Post-School Education. The report suggests that the UK is oversupplied with workers with undergraduate degrees, and undersupplied with those of technical and other qualifications. It finds three main reasons for this -

University Mental Health Charter

14. On 28th June, Universities Minister Sam Gyimah announced that a new University Mental Health Charter will be developed in partnership with charities and higher education bodies. The charter will outline standards to promote student and staff mental health and wellbeing.

Data on student suicide

15. The Office for National Statistics has published an analysis on suicides among HE students. In the 12 months to July 2017, there were 95 student suicides, equating to 4.7 deaths per 100,000 students. This rate is higher than in previous years, although it is less than the rate in the population as a whole. The rate of suicide for males is higher than for females (in both students and in the population as a whole).

16. Where to go for help: If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans on 116 123 (UK and Ireland), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of the nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Grade Inflation – report by Reform

17. The think tank Reform has published an investigation into grade inflation in universities. The report notes that the proportion of Firsts nearly doubled from 7% to 13% between 1997 and 2009, and has doubled again from 13% to 26% between 2009 and 2017. The proportion of 2:1s has also risen from 40% to 49% over the same period. The report notes that universities’ degree algorithms have been changed in recent years, and also that academics are under pressure from senior managers to lower standards. Other factors include league tables, competition between universities and a greater consumerist attitude amongst students.

18. The report recommends that HE providers may only teach courses which are recognised by a Designated Assessment Body (DAB), external to the university, to set course standards. Each DAB would design a single national assessment for all final year students studying the course, the results of which would determine what percentage of each degree level the HE provider could award. There would be a national proportion of classifications fixed at 10%/40%/40%/10% for First/2:1/2:2/Third degrees.

Changes to visas

19. The Government has announced that from 6 July 2018, eleven additional countries will be added to the list of nations from which citizens are considered “low risk applicants”, for which a lower level of documentary evidence is needed for a Tier 4 student visa. The most important of these countries for student recruitment is China.

20. The Government has also announced that doctors and nurses will be exempt from the Tier 2 visa cap.

Post Qualifications Admission

21. The University and Colleges Union (UCU) have published a report on post qualifications admission. It notes that the pre-qualification admissions system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is an outlier compared with the global norm of post-qualification admissions (PQA). It explores how PQA works in other countries and could work in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It argues that PQA can work in larger systems and could enable more equitable access to higher education.

Vice-Chancellor and senior salary remuneration

22. The Committee of University Chairs (CUC) released a new HE Senior Staff Remuneration Code. This is based on three elements of: a fair, appropriate and justifiable level of remuneration; procedural fairness; and transparency and accountability.

23. Shortly after this, the Office for Students released regulatory advice on preparing financial statements, with a new requirement to publish and justify the total remuneration packages of vice-chancellors.

Student’s use of illegal drugs

24.  A survey of students about the use of illegal drugs has found:

Gavin Costigan


Director of Public Policy|Southampton

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