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Public Policy|Southampton

Higher Education Digest | March 2017

HE Digest march

Highlights from this month's Higher Education Digest include:

Spring Budget 2017

1. The Chancellor delivered the Spring Budget on 8 March. There were a few specific announcements of relevance to Universities, many of which confirmed previous Government statements. These included:

Higher Education & Research Bill

2. Having completed the Committee Stage of the House of Lords on 30 January, the Higher Education & Research Bill completed its Report Stage in March. The Bill sets up the Office for Students (OfS) and UK Research & Innovation (UKRI). It also introduces regulations to make it easier for new entrants to teach degrees and become universities. The Government introduced some amendments in February, hoping to ensure a smoother ride for the Bill in the Lords. However, several important amendments were made by peers in the Report Stage, including:

3. The Bill will have its Third Reading on 4 April before returning after Easter to the Commons, who will need to debate the Lords amendments.

Science Priorities for Brexit – P&SC

4.  The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee have published Science Priorities for Brexit , both policy recommendations and an evidence report. Recommendations include providing certainty and stability for EU researchers working in UK HE, ensure that there is no decline in public funding for R&D and seek the “closest possible association” with EU research programmes, maintain access to world-class research facilities, and optimise the UK’s current regulatory processes to ensure that these support cutting-edge science and trade.

UK Participation in Horizon 2020

5. On 31st March, the Government released data on UK participation in the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme , up to 28 February 2017. The data show that the UK is first in terms of number of participations and second in terms of funding for EU grants under Horizon 2020. The data also show the top UK HEIs by funding received from Horizon 2020. The top 4 were Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial, who were also the top 4 across the EU as a whole. The University of Southampton was ranked 8th in the UK and 20th across the EU.

Department of Health – Expansion of Undergraduate Medical Education

6. On 14th March, the Department of Health published a consultation on the Expansion of Undergraduate Medical Education . The Government has decided to expand medical school places by 1500. The first 500 places will be directly allocated to medical schools, and the remaining 1000 allocated via a competitive bidding process. The consultation concerns the nature of this bidding process. The deadline for response is 2 June.

THE Student Experience Survey

7. On 23 March, the Times Higher Education (THE) released its annual Student Experience Survey for UK universities. The top five universities in the list were Harper Adams, Loughborough, Sheffield, Leeds and Surrey. Southampton was placed 42nd=.

Commons Science and Technology Committee – Science Communication

8. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has published a report on its inquiry into Science Communication and Engagement . Amongst other things, the Committee:

New DLHE Model – second and final consultation

9. HESA have been developing a replacement for the Destinations for Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey since 2015. After a major consultation in 2016, on 6th March they launched their second and final consultation , outlining the final model for NewDLHE. The model includes detail of the survey design, the management of the survey and an implementation plan, along with a document explaining the rationale. The consultation closes on 7 April.

Letter from Jo Johnson – Student Electoral Registration

10. Universities Minister has written a letter to HEFCE about the importance of student electoral registration, asking for their help in encouraging universities to share and adopt good practice in this area.

DfE Review – Encouraging people into university

11. On 29th March, the Department for Education published a research report, Encouraging People into University . The report notes that there is established evidence young people from less advantaged backgrounds are less likely to apply to university, and apply to less selective universities, than more advantaged young people with the same grades or ability. It then reports the results of a randomised control trial where letters written by university students from a similar background were sent to high achieving young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, encouraging them to aim higher in life. The data show that whilst there is no statistically significant effect on students’ likelihood to apply to universities overall, receiving the letters increases the chance of pupils both applying to, and receiving and accepting an offer from, Russel Group universities.

UUK Report – Degree Apprenticeships

12. Universities UK has published a report on Degree Apprenticeships in England. Findgins from the report include:

Adam Smith Institute Report

13. The Adam Smith Institute published a report in which they find that individuals with left-wing and liberal views are overrepresented in British academia. The report states that this skew cannot be primarily explained by intelligence, but may be partly explained by openness to experience. Other plausible explanations for left-liberal overrepresentation, according to the report, include social homophily and political typing, individual conformity, status inconsistency, and discrimination.

HEPI report – Universities and the media

14. The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) published a report on 30 March, with an account by an experienced journalist on how Universities have worked successfully, and unsuccessfully, with the media.


15. The 2017 U-Multirank university rankings were published in March.

Gavin Costigan

Director of Public Policy|Southampton

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