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Public Policy|Southampton

Higher Education Digest | August/September 2017

REF 2021
REF 2021

Highlights from August/September 2017

Student Tuition Fees and graduate repayments

1. In her speech to the Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister announced that student tuition fees will be frozen at £9,250 for 2018-19. They will remain frozen during the course of a “major review of university funding and student financing” which was also announced in the speech.

2. The announcement came after a debate in Parliament about the decision to raise fees for 2017-18 from £9,000 to £9,250. There was a vote at the end of the debate which the Government lost, although the vote was non-binding and tuition fees for 2017-18 remain at £9,250.

3. The Prime Minister also announced that the repayment threshold for post-2012 student loans will be increased to £25,000.

4. At the Labour Party Conference, the Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner announced Labour’s plans for a National Education Service (NES) in her speech. In parallel, the party issued a ten point charter which included the commitment that “The National Education Service shall provide education that is free at the point of use, available universally and throughout life.” It also notes that education is for the public good and all providers of education will be bound by the principles of the charter.

5. The Liberal Democrats announced plans to develop proposals for a graduate tax at their party conference.

REF 2021 – Initial Decisions

6. On 1 September, HEFCE published a paper on Initial Decisions on REF 2021, following the consultation over the summer. Some of the decisions included in this detailed document include:

7. The paper also noted that more consultation is needed on staff submission rates and portability of outputs.

Changes to the Teaching Excellence Framework

8. Changes to the Teaching Excellence Framework were announced by Jo Johnson in his speech to the UUK annual Conference, with further details provided by a lessons learned paper published by DfE. The main changes will be:

DExEU – Science and Innovation Partnership paper

9. The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) has been issuing a series of papers on how it sees the future partnership between the UK and the EU following Brexit. On 6 September, they released the Partnership Paper on Science and Innovation. The paper emphasises the excellence of UK science and the importance of collaboration between the UK and other EU countries. It proposes a science and innovation agreement with the EU, with the UK having some kind of associate member status of the Framework Programme. It also looks for continued collaboration in the space programmes, nuclear programmes (via Euratom) and Defence R&D. The document also discusses UK collaboration with EU science and innovation agencies and other bodies.

HEA Postgraduate Experience Survey

10. The Higher Education Academy published its annual Postgraduate Research Experience Survey on 12 September. The findings include:

HEC Report – Challenges Facing the Office for Students

11. The Higher Education Committee published a report in September entitled One Size Won't Fit All: The Challenges Facing the Office for Students. This work focuses around the diversity of provision in HE. Specific findings include:

THE World University Rankings

12. On 5 September, the Times Higher Education announced its 2018 World Universities Rankings. The top five universities were Oxford, Cambridge, Caltech, Stanford and MIT. The top five UK universities were Oxford (1st), Cambridge (2nd), Imperial (8th), UCL (16th) and LSE (=25th). The University of Southampton was =126th (15th amongst UK universities).

Vice-Chancellor’s Pay

13. Following a number of news items about Vice-Chancellor’s pay in August, Jo Johnson announced in his speech to the UUK Annual Conference some new requirements:

UK-US Science and Technology Agreement

14. On 20 September, Jo Johnson signed a new UK-US Science and Technology Agreement. The first major project under the agreement is UK investment in the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), for which the government has confirmed £65 million funding.

ONS report on International student visas

15. On 24 August, the Office for National Statistics published a report on the migration of international students. The report looks at exit checks at airports, a different and more reliable source of information than the International Passenger Survey. The two main conclusions from the report are:

UUK – Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework

16. Universities UK have published Step Change – a new framework for mental health and wellbeing.

HE participation statistics

17. The Department of Education has published statistics on the participation rate in HE. The data show that the Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (the estimate of the likelihood of a young person participating in Higher Education by age 30), has risen to 49%. The gender gap has widened, with females 12% more likely to enter HE than males. 

QS Graduate Employability Rankings

18. QS have published their 2018 Graduate Employability Rankings. The top five universities were Stanford, UCLA, Harvard, Sydney and MIT. The top 5 UK universities were Cambridge (6th), Oxford (7th), UCL (17th), Imperial (29th) and Manchester (33rd). The University of Southampton was in the bracket 131st – 140th (=16th amongst UK universities).

HEPI – Positive and Mindful University

19. The Higher Education Policy Institute has published a report on the Positive and Mindful University, which proposes a number of ways to tackle the growing problem of mental health issues among students and also staff.

Gavin Costigan

Director of Public Policy | Southampton

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