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Public Policy|Southampton

Higher Education Digest | December 2017

December 2017

Highlights from December 2017



Department for Education - Social Mobility and universities

1.  The Department for Education has published Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential, a plan for improving social mobility through education. There are four “ambitions” set out in the document, the third of which is “High quality post-16 education choices for all young people” (the others cover early years, schools, and careers). The report discusses both improving technical education, and improving access to high quality higher education. In the case of HE, the report commits the Government to:

2. The DfE has also published a Single Departmental Plan, which lists the same four “ambitions” as their social mobility plan. In the Single Department Plan, they list specific actions they will be undertaking to achieve their aims. For the aim of “ensuring high quality Higher Education” they list:

UCAS End of Cycle report

3. On 14 December, UCAS published the final data from their 2017 End of Cycle report. The data show:

Vice-Chancellor pay

4.  Vice-Chancellor pay was in the news over December. After the Vice-Chancellor of Bath stepped down in November, a number of other Vice-Chancellor salaries and stories have been highlighted, including that of the VC of Bath Spa who has also resigned with a significant payment for compensation for loss of office.

5. Universities Minister Jo Johnson met representatives from the sector and released a note of his expectations on this issue. These include a fully transparent senior staff remuneration procedure; VCs not being members of the remuneration committee which decides their pay;  such committees constituted of members independent of the provider; publication of a clear and accurate pay ratio; and full disclosure of all senior staff benefits.

6. The Committee of University Chairs submitted evidence to the House of Commons Education Committee in December. In this evidence, the CUC identifies potential issues to be addressed, but rejects the idea of a specific pay cap, and note comparisons with both the private sector and VCs in other countries. 

7. The CUC is due to publish new guidelines on VC pay in January 2018.


8. The agreement on Phase 1 of Brexit talks in December would see the UK contributing its full contribution to the EU budget until the end of December 2020. This would mean UK participation in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ until the end of those programmes.

9. On 5 December, Universities UK launched a campaign called “Brightest Minds”, highlighting the research and stories of EU27 academic staff working in UK universities. 17% of academic and 6% of professional service staff in UK universities come from the EU27.

10.  A number of health charities, HE representative groups and science campaign groups have also called for a post-Brexit visa regime which will continue to allow the recruitment of highly trained technical staff from EU27 countries. This is a particular concern as under existing non-EEA immigration rules, many technicians are in roles which are not classified as skilled enough to be eligible for working visas.

Open Access

11.  On 5 December, Universities UK published a report on Monitoring the Transition to Open Access. Key findings from the report include:

HE Sector Consultations

12. During December, a number of HE related consultations were launched. These included:

13. Several key HE consultations had a deadline in December, including:

14. University of Southampton responses to HE consultations are available here.

Sector Deal life sciences

15.  On 6 December, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy published a Sector Deal for life sciences. This is the first of what will be a sequence of sector deals published as part of the Industrial Strategy, which was published in November. The Sector Deal sees co-investment by businesses, government, universities, charities, and the NHS. Specific actions include:

NAO report – HE market

16.  In December, the National Audit Office published a report on the Higher Education Market. The report notes that only 32% of students consider their course offers value for money, and that competition between providers to drive improvements on price and quality have yet to be effective. Its recommendations include

OfS - Appointments to the Board

17. The Office for Students came into legal force on 1 January 2018. The Department for Education published a list of the final six appointments to the OfS Board. The newly announced Board members are:

18.  Previously announced Board members are Sir Michael Barber (Chair), Martin Coleman (Deputy Chair), Nicola Dandridge (CEO), Chris Millward (DfAP), Gurpreet Dehal, Kate Lander, Prof Carl Lygo, David Palfreyman, and Prof Steve West.


Gavin Costigan


Director of Public Policy | Southampton

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