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Public Policy|Southampton

Higher Education Digest | October 2017


Highlights from October 2017

Higher Education Regulation

1. On 19 October, the Department for Education released a major suite of consultation documents on regulation of the HE sector. These documents set out in detail proposals for the new regulatory environment enabled by the Higher Education and Research Act which was passed earlier this year. The consultation is split into five parts:

2. Most of the proposals set out details already known from the Higher Education & Research Act, such as the ability of OfS to grant university title and degree awarding powers, award teaching grant funds, and become the market regulator of all approved HE institutions. Some new proposals include:

3. The closing date for all the consultations is 22 December 2017.

Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF)

4. At the HEFCE Conference on 12 October, Universities Minister Jo Johnson announced in a speech the creation of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF). There were few details – the KEF should sit alongside the REF and TEF and evaluate the extent of knowledge exchange, engagement, collaboration and commercialisation from universities. Research England, within UKRI, have been asked to develop proposals for the KEF.

Sutton Trust Report

5. On 26 October, the Sutton Trust issued a report Admissions in Context, about the use of contextual information in the UK’s most selective universities. The widely reported headline finding was that if the most selective universities were to lower their admission requirements by 2 A-level grades to students previously eligible for free school meals (from ABB to BBC), a 50% increase in such students could go to those universities. The also report found that whilst many of these universities used contextual information, there was a lack of transparency as to what they used and how, which is a barrier to access as students don’t apply. The report found little evidence of differences in dropout rates, degree completion rates or degree results amongst students admitted via contextualised admissions processes. The report’s recommendations include greater use of individual-level contextual data in its admissions process, the provision of additional support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and greater transparency on how contextual data is used.

UUK Report – Economic Impact of UK Universities

6. Universities UK have published a report on the Economic Impact of UK Universities. Key findings from the report include:

          - 404,000 people employed directly by UK universities

          - 430,000 jobs from goods/services bought by universities and consumer spending by their staff

          - 111,000 jobs supported by spending from international students and their families

Financial Health of the HE Sector

 7. HEFCE have published their annual report of the Financial Health of the HE Sector. As universities submitted data to HEFCE before the announcement of the fee cap at £9250, most HEFCE assumed a fee increase and HEFCE have modelled the data assuming a flat fee over the next two years. The overall conclusion is that the sector is financially stable overall, with significant uncertainty arising from Brexit, increasing global competition, the changing policy agenda, and cost pressures. The report projects sector surpluses of 1.8% in 2018/19 and 2.4% in 2019/20, a downward trend from the 5.2% in 2015/16. It also shows a widening gap between the financial performance of highest and lowest performers. Sector borrowing is due to rise to £11.7B by 2019-20 (35% of total income). The report finds that student number predictions from 2016 were optimistic, but even with reduced plans, universities are still predicting student number growth which may be difficult to realise.

HEBCI Survey Report

8. In October, HEFCE published the annual report of the Higher Education – Business and Communication Interaction (HEBCI) Survey, for the academic year 2015-16. The report shows an increase of 1% from the previous year in knowledge exchange income, with contract research and consultancy both up 3% and IP income up 13%.

Migration Advisory Committee – Consultation on International Students

9. On 4 October, the Migration Advisory Committee launched a Call for Evidence on the economic and social impacts of international students. The deadline for response is 26 January 2018.

HEPI – Lessons from TEF Provider Submissions

10. The Higher Education Research Institute (HEPI) has published a report analysing provider submissions from the first full year of the TEF, to help identify how those submissions enabled universities to change initial, metrics-based TEF judgements. Around one quarter of universities moved up or down from the initial judgement according to the written evidence they provided. There are ten recommendations for Universities’ TEF submissions:

Centre for policy studies report

11. The Centre for Policy Studies think tank published a report in October entitled Tuition Fees: A Fairer Formula. The report notes the significant amount of student debt which will need to be written off in future generations (perhaps 60%). It proposes cutting fees to £5,000 (or £7,500), and cutting the interest on loans from RPI+3% to RPI flat.

Review of Level 4 & 5 Technical Education

12. On 31 October, the Department for Education announced a review of Level 4 & 5 technical education. The review will consider how learners can progress from the new T levels into employment, as well as their use in upskilling and retraining.

TEF – change of name

13. With the inclusion of longitudinal graduate income data into new iterations of the TEF, its name has been officially changed to the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework, although the acronym will remain TEF.

UCAS October Deadline Statistics

14. UCAS have published statistics of the applications for study beginning in 2018/19 which have an early application date of 15 October (medicine, veterinary, dentistry, and all Oxbridge courses). The data show a 7% increase on October 2016 applications.

Prospects – What do Graduates do?

15. The annual report by on graduate destinations by Prospects entitled “What do graduates do?” was published in October, using data from the DLHE survey for students six months after graduating in summer 2016. Overall data in the report include:

16. The report goes on to give similar breakdowns and analysis across the various different degree subjects which graduates have studied.

OFFA – Whole Institution Approach to Widening Participation

The Office for Fair Access has published a report it commissioned from Professor Liz Thomas about a whole institution approach to widening participation. The report identified core features of a whole institution approach, including a whole lifecycle approach, staff involved from across the institution and with WP embedded into all roles, institutional commitment, working with a wide range of WP target groups, and the use of data and evidence to inform all stages.


Gavin Costigan
Director of Public Policy | Southampton

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