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Public Policy|Southampton

Higher Education Digest | November 2017

Industrial Strategy

Highlights from November 2017

Industrial Strategy

1. On 27 November, the Government published its Industrial Strategy White Paper. This major document is significantly different from the Green Paper published in January 2017. There is a strong role for universities identified throughout. Some of the key elements of relevance to universities include:

              - HEIF to increase to £250M by 2020/21 

              - £725M for the second tranche of the Industrial Challenge

              - An increase to QR (but no details on how much)

 2.  Following publication of the Strategy, two related documents were published in the area of skills:

EU and Brexit

3. In its response to a report from the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, the Government confirmed that EU students starting in 2018/19 would be subject to home fees and eligible for loans for the duration of their course. The report also notes the importance of an early decision on fees for 2019 entrants. On international students, the response does not accept the recommendation to remove students from net migration targets, but does emphasise the review and consultation being carried out by the Migration Advisory Committee.

 4. Data was published in November on UK participation in Horizon 2020 until September 2017. The data show that the UK had secured 13.9% of the participations and 16.1% of the funding, putting it in second place for both. This is a decrease from the data up until September 2016, where the UK had secured 14.5% of participations and 16.4% of funding, and was ranked in first place for both. The September 2017 data show that  individual UK universities took the top four places in terms of money received by HEIs in H2020 (Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial).  The University of Southampton was placed 26th, the 8th highest amongst UK HEIs.

 5. The British Academy has published a report on their priorities for humanities and social sciences in the Brexit negotiations. The report calls for UK participation in FP9, the ERC, and Erasmus+. It also notes that humanities and social science disciplines receive a higher proportion of their funding from EU sources, and are therefore more at risk from losing EU research funding. The highest is archaeology, where 38% of their research funding comes from the EU.

REF – Decisions on staff and outputs

6. Following consultation, the funding bodies have published decisions on staff and outputs relating to REF 2021. The document confirms that all staff with significant responsibility for research will be returned for the REF, and then defines exactly what that means. A minimum of 1, maximum of 5 and average of 2.5 outputs per FTE will be required, with various exceptions. Outputs will be dated from the point at which they were first made publicly available. Each submission to a UoA will require one impact case study, plus one more for each 15 staff submitted.

Social Mobility Commission – 5th State of the Nation Report

 7. The Social Mobility Commission published its 5th State of the Nation Report on 28 November. The report notes the stark geographical divide, with hotspots and coldspots for social mobility prospects across the country identified via the Social Mobility Index. This includes rates of disadvantaged students going on to university, where London is has the highest rate and the Midlands the lowest. It also notes that whilst the cities of Southampton and Bristol have prestigious universities, only one in 60 disadvantaged pupils will go to such a university. Universities are recommended to play a more active role in their local community, and to work with schools on delivering more teachers. Isolated and rural areas receive less outreach and support form universities, who should work in a more joined up way with Local Authorities.

8. A few days after publication of the report, all four members of the Social Mobility Commission resigned in protest of the Government’s inaction in taking forward measures to promote greater social mobility.

Economic Impact of Universities – Russell Group

9. The Russell Group has published a report on the economic impact of its members, report, completed by London Economics. This calculates an aggregate contribution of £86.8B to the UK economy from the 24 Russell Group universities. This follows on from a similar report from Universities UK, which was published in October.

Foresight Report – Skills and Lifelong learning

10. On 27 November, Government Office for Science published a Foresight report on the future of skills and lifelong learning. Findings include:

Open University – Fixing the Broken Market in Part Time Study

11. The Open University has published (via the Higher Education Policy Institute) a report on the market in part-time study. The reports notes the benefits of part time higher education in terms of social mobility and economic growth, but also the collapse of the market since the tuition fee reforms of 2012 (a 61% fall since 2008). The report argues for actions from universities (offering more flexible options; improving pathways between FE and HE; supporting people with upfront costs of short courses; and developing a universal credit transfer system). The key recommendation for Government is for the provision of tuition fee top ups for part time students.

HEPI Report – Cross-subsidies from teaching to research

12. The Higher Education Policy Institute has published a report on cross-subsidies from teaching to research. The report explores both the reasons for cross-subsidisation, and the data. The report identified a £3.3B deficit in research costs, and a £1.3B surplus in teaching. 13% of all UK university research is funded from a surplus in teaching.

TEF – The Student Perspective

13. A consortium of student unions published a report on students’ views on TEF, gathered from a survey in summer 2017. Findings included:

UCAS – Unconscious bias in admissions

14. On 17 November, UCAS published a  progress update on its work to minimise unconscious bias in university admissions. The key finding from six pilot studies in UK universities of a name-blind admissions process was that there was no conclusive evidence of a difference in admissions outcomes.

HEFCE Report – Wellbeing of Graduates

15. HEFCE have published a report which assesses the contribution of higher education to the wellbeing of graduates in the UK. Findings include:

Gavin Costigan

Director of Public Policy | Southampton

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