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The University of Southampton
Public Policy|Southampton

Higher Education Digest October 2018


Highlights from October 2018

Undergraduate Fees

1. In the Budget, the Chancellor confirmed that the maximum undergraduate tuition fee in England will be frozen at £9,250 for 2019/20. The assumption in the budget is that tuition fees will continue to be frozen at that level for the next few years. However, separate media reports suggest that the current review of tertiary education funding (chaired by Philip Augur) may recommend a reduction of tuition fees to around £6,500, or possibly a lower fee at that level for non-STEM subjects and a higher fee (around £13,000) for STEM subjects.

Research Funding

2. The Budget also allocated £1.6B of (previously announced) R&D funding. £1.1B is for the next instalment of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. There is a further £120M to extend the Strength in Places Fund until 2021/22, and an additional £115M for the digital and medicines discovery catapults.

Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)

3. On 22 October, the Office for Students made several announcements about TEF, and the Government published the outcome to the consultation on subject-level TEF. The key points are:

Brexit - EU27 Staff in UK universities

4. From 15 November to 21 December, the pilot Settlement Scheme for EU citizens post-Brexit will be opened up to staff at UK universities.

Part-time students - UUK

5. Universities UK and the CBI have released findings and recommendations from a review of part time study in the UK. The report finds that the top three reasons for not choosing to enrol in part-time study were not being able to afford tuition fees (44%), not being able to afford the cost of living while studying (42%) and the course not being flexible enough to fit alongside other life commitments (26%). Recommendations include:

USS – calculation of deficit

6. During the month, an analysis was published by Dr Sam Marsh, suggesting that the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) had made a mistake in its calculations for the USS 2017 valuation. According to Dr Marsh, with this error corrected, USS would not be in deficit and so no reforms of pensions would be required. The USS published a response explaining why the analysis did not adequately take account of future risks.

UCAS – early applications for 2019 entry

7. UCAS have published data for students applying for courses for which there is an early (October 15th) application deadline, which include medicine, veterinary science, dentistry, and all courses in Cambridge and Oxford. The data show a 9% increase in UK applications for these courses, no change in the rate of applications from the EU27, and a 6% increase in non-EU applications.

Mental Health – OfS

8. During October, the Office for Students has continued to emphasise the importance of student mental health. There is a blog on this from the OfS chief Executive, Nicola Dandridge.

Survey results

9. The 2018/19 version of What do graduates do? was published by Prospects in October. This annual publication highlights the result of a survey of recent graduates. The data from those who responded show:

10. Meanwhile, Advance HE published the results of the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) 2018. Finding included:

Value of a degree – ONS Human Capital

11. The Office for National Statistics has released its annual report on the value of UK Human Capital. The data show that whilst those with a degree continue to earn more than those without, the pay premium for “first and other degrees” has declined from 41% in 2004 to 24% in 2017. The pay premium for masters and doctorate level degrees has fallen from 69% to 48% in the same period. The ONS reflect that this may be due to the large increase in the numbers of people obtaining degrees.

OfS Analysis of Degree Apprenticeships

12. In October, the Office for Students published an analysis of Degree Apprenticeships, based on the academic year 2016/17. Key findings included:

Universities in financial difficulties

13. Media reports at the end of October suggest that three English universities are near bankruptcy, one in the north of England and two on the south coast.  

Jazz Hands

14.  One of the biggest HE media stories of the month was coverage the decision of the University of Manchester to encourage British Sign Language clapping (or “jazz hands”) and some events. Wrongly portrayed as a “ban on clapping”, it made headlines around the world.

Gavin Costigan


Director of Public Policy|Southampton

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