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Public Policy|Southampton

Higher Education Digest | December 2016

HED December 2017

Highlights from this month's Higher Education Digest include:


Higher Education and Research Bill

1. The Higher Education and Research Bill is currently being debated by Parliament. 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. Having completed its passage through the House of Commons in November, with only minor amendments, the Bill entered the Lords and had its Second Reading in December. This was the first opportunity for peers to debate the Bill, and a large number of them spoke in the debate which lasted over 7 hours. Major concerns were expressed over the marketization of the HE system, the TEF and the role of UKRI. The Committee Stage (where amendments may be proposed) will begin in January, and it is expected that the House of Lords will suggest significant amendments to the Bill.

EU Research Students starting in 2017-18

2. The Government announced on 1 December that Research Council studentships will continue to be available to students from the rest of the EU who begin their studies in 2017-18, and the funding will continue for the duration of their course, even if this is after the UK has left the EU. This brings research students in line with undergraduate and masters students.

UCAS – End of Cycle data

3. On 14 December, UCAS published its End of Cycle Report for students entering undergraduate education in 2016. Some of the key findings from the report include:

• Total applications remained the same as 2015 but acceptances were up by 0.5%, so 535,000 students (the highest ever) were placed in HE.

• 65,000 students (another record) were placed through Clearing

• Increases in acceptances of 18/19 year olds; decreases for older students

• 7.0% increase in acceptances from students from the rest of the EU.

• 2.3% decrease in acceptances from outside the EU.

• Lowest quintile entry rates are 13.6%, up 0.1%

• Highest quintile entry rates are 52.1%, up 1.2%

• Entry rates for lowest income quintile rises to 16.1% (highest ever)

• Women are 32% more likely than men to enter higher tariff providers

Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) Data

4. On 1 December, the Government published the second in a series of Longitudinal Education Outcomes data releases, which combine data on study with data on earnings. It looks at those people who graduated with an undergraduate degree from an English HEI in 2008/09, and measures outcomes one, three and five years after graduation. This data is broken down by institution. As a pilot, the report also looks at a breakdown of employment outcomes by institution for one specific subject – Law – in advance of a full breakdown across all subjects in Spring 2017. Some of the key findings include:

• There is little variation across subjects of the numbers in further education, sustained employment or both after 5 years.

• Five years after graduation, medicine and dentistry graduates had the highest median income (£45,600); creative arts & design graduates the lowest (£20,000)

• For Law graduates, there is a substantial variation after 5 years in both the proportion of graduates in further education, sustained employment or both (59% to 96%) and in median income (£17,500 to £61,500). The figures for the University of Southampton are 82% in further education, sustained employment or both, with median earnings after 5 years of £33,000. Note – none of these figures include those who are self-employed.

Consultation on REF 2021

5. In December, HEFCE and the other HE funding bodies launched a consultation on REF 2021. This follows the Stern Review of the REF which was published in July 2016, and which the Government has already indicated that it broadly accepted. The consultation looks at all aspects of operating the next REF, and specifically consults on some of the key recommendations from the Stern Review (e.g. all research staff to be submitted; outputs not to be “portable” when staff move from one institution to another; widening the definition of “impact”). The deadline for responding to the consultation is 17 March 2017.

Government Response to Dowling Review

6. The Government published its response to the Dowling Review on 20 December. This follows the original review which was published in July 2015, with commentary in different sections following the main Dowling conclusions:

• Public support for the innovation system is too complex.

• People are central to successful collaborations.

• Effective brokerage is crucial, especially for SMEs, and continued support is needed for activities that help seed collaborations.

• Pump prime funding would stimulate the development of high quality research collaborations with critical mass and sustainability.

• Technology transfer offices need to prioritise knowledge exchange over short term income generation, and further work is needed to improve approaches to contracts and IP agreements.

• Government strategy on innovation needs to be better coordinated and have greater visibility.

7. The ICURE pilot programme, delivered by the SETSquared Partnership (including the University of Southampton), is mentioned in the Government Response as an example of good practice in supporting academics to commercialise their research.

Consultation on registration fees for the Office for Students

8. Under the proposals in the Higher Education and Research Bill (see above), HEFCE and the Office for Fair Access will be replaced with the new Office for Students (OfS). The proposal from Government is that OfS is funded from the higher education sector, in the same way as regulators from other regulated industries, and the Government has published a consultation on the registration fees that HE providers will have to pay. The consultation focuses on the principles for the registration fee model, and key elements include:

• Three registration categories

• “Registered – Basic” - no access to government funding and no international students

• “Approved” - £6,000 fees, no Access Agreement, international students

• “Approved (fee cap)” - £9,000 fees, Access Agreement, international students

• Fee variation by size, based on student numbers

• Specific ongoing registration conditions on individual providers

• Possibility of other fees for specific one-off or time-limited services

• Possibility of Government funding to contribute to OfS costs

9. The consultation closes on 14 March 2017. Following this consultation on principles, there will be a technical consultation in 2017 on the details and specific fee levels.

Intentions After Graduation Survey

10. HEFCE published the results of its annual Intentions After Graduation Survey on 15 December, and also compared what people were intending to do after graduation with what they actually did. Key findings included:

• Black and Asian graduates were less likely than white graduates to fulfil their intentions to go on to postgraduate study.

• Fewer students from disadvantaged backgrounds who said they would do postgraduate study actually did.

• Over two-thirds of all respondents to IAGS in 2016 said that they would be likely or very likely to study at postgraduate level if a postgraduate loan of around £10,000 was introduced.

• The factors most likely to deter students from continuing to postgraduate study were course fees and the overall cost of living. These concerns were greatest among students from the most disadvantaged areas, and these students were especially likely to say that postgraduate loans would encourage them to study further.

Science and Technology Committee Report – Setting up UK Research & Innovation

11. The House of Commons Select Committee for Science and Technology published a report on Setting up UK Research & Innovation. Recommendations include:

• Disaggregating spending on the two branches of dual support

• CST to be charged with monitoring linkages between UKRI’s innovation and research work

• Use of metrics to monitor the success of UKRI

HEPI report – University League Tables

12. The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) published a report on 15 December about International University Rankings. The report highlights that the large majority of metrics for international rankings are based around research quality. It also explores weaknesses in the data itself, in particular reputation surveys. It recommends that ranking bodies should audit and validate data from universities, that reputation surveys should be dropped and that the criteria should go beyond metrics for research. The report also notes the disproportionate effect that rankings have on the behaviour of institutions and the policies of governments, given the weaknesses of the data, and suggests that they should be used with more care.

National Collaborative Outreach Programme

13. HEFCE announced the formation of the National Collaborative Outreach Programme on 7 December. This initiative sees 29 local consortia deliver collaborative outreach in specific local areas where participation in higher education is both low overall and lower than expected given GCSE attainment levels. The University of Southampton is part of the Southern Universities Network consortium, covering Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight.


Gavin Costigan

Director of Public Policy|Southampton



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