The government needs to support part-time study

I’m getting really exercised about what’s happening to part-time study in higher education. Whereas we have seen applications from 18-year-olds hold up in spite of the introduction of £9k fees, there has been a huge fall in the numbers of part-time students: 143,000 fewer entrants to part-time undergraduate study in 2013–14 compared to 2010–11. And the decline continues. Recent figures show that between 2013–14 and 2014–15 there was a further fall of 10%, bringing the total fall to 55% on 2010–11 numbers. Across the board, further education colleges and universities are pulling out of providing part-time courses.

Therefore it is great to see the #LovePartTime campaign taking place on social media this month. The campaign has been encouraging current and former part-time students to tell the world why they love part-time study – what it has done for them and what it has enabled them to do. I hope any readers of this blog with experience of part-time study will lend their support.

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Boosting British business with universities

As organisations make submissions to the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review 2015, Lord Karan Bilimoria offers his thoughts on the position of UK universities in the world and the funding challenges they face.

Last week’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings place 34 British universities in the top 200. This is an outstanding achievement; it is a testament to the intellectual power and potential of the UK and a key part of making Britain the best place in the world to live, work and do business.

The UK must expect excellence, for the standards it upholds are the main reason why the world’s most trusted and powerful people, including many former and present heads of state, are graduates of UK universities.

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The Home Secretary’s speech – the implications for international students

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, made her keynote speech to the Conservative Party Conference yesterday and UUK was listening with keen interest. The speech was expectedly tough on abuse within the immigration system overall. From the universities’ perspective, we agree with the Home Secretary that care must be taken to ensure that students are genuine and that there must be mechanisms in place to prevent overstaying.

Home Office analysis suggests that levels of student visa abuse in the university sector are very low. A report from 2011 estimated that no more than 2% of students enrolled at UK universities were ‘potentially non-compliant’. The level of abuse is likely to be even lower now, given the significant investment that has taken place in universities in recent years into immigration compliance. Universities were estimated to have spent a total £67 million in this area in 2012–13.

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Putting students at the heart of quality assessment

Universities UK has submitted our response to the review of quality assessment in higher education that has been run by the national funding councils of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This review also comes at a time when government is focusing on the academic experience of students as it develops proposals for a teaching excellence framework.

We believe that this is a significant opportunity to reform the system so that it can focus on what matters – helping students and the public ensure that the provision it supports is delivering the quality and outcomes that should rightly be expected.

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The value of university-business collaborations to UK economy

As organisations make submissions to the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review 2015, Director for Employment & Skills at CBI, Neil Carberry, outlines the case for investment in universities.

The UK economy is in remarkably good shape compared with many others, but nevertheless is faced with some serious threats to sustained growth. Two of the greatest challenges are a worsening skills crisis and persistently low levels of productivity. This is where universities and their graduates – and their relationship with UK business – come in. As the government carries out its Spending Review, there is no better time to be talking about the value of university-business collaborations – both to individual universities and businesses, and to the UK economy as a whole.

The latest CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey, Inspiring Growth, illustrates the magnitude of the skills emergency. Two out of three businesses surveyed expect their need for staff with higher level skills to grow in the years ahead, but more than half of them fear that they will not be able to access enough workers with the required skills. Even more disturbingly, it is the high-growth, high-value, high-potential sectors which are under most pressure – including construction, manufacturing, science, engineering and technology.

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Access all areas – making publicly-funded research more accessible

In recent years, universities have been on a journey towards opening up access to publicly-funded research. Open access (OA) can contribute to better research, a faster rate of social and scientific progress and, frankly, seems like the right approach given tax-payers’ money is involved.

Appropriately, OA has become a funding requirement of both the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Research Councils UK (RCUK), and the 2012 Finch recommendations on making the transition were broadly accepted and supported by the then government. Continue reading

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Continuing to champion UK universities

As organisations make submissions to the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review 2015, Chief Executive of London First, Baroness Jo Valentine, outlines the case for investment in universities.

London is the most popular city in the world for international students. We currently play host to 40,000 from continental Europe and 67,000 from the rest of the world. They enrich the city and country by sharing their cultures and becoming friends of Britain in ways that boost our diplomatic and trade links in future years.

These students – and their domestic counterparts – also play a crucial role in providing our businesses with the skills they need. Recent research from Deloitte showed more people are employed in London in high-skill, knowledge-based sectors than any other city in the world.   Continue reading

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Teaching excellence in universities – can it be defined and measured?

Following his speech today at the Universities UK Members’ Annual Conference, the Universities Minister Jo Johnson MP raised once more the issue of teaching quality in universities.

It has led many to ask, ‘what is excellent teaching and how can it be measured?’ Unsurprisingly, this raises more questions than answers.

Without a clear definition of ‘teaching excellence’, where do we stand? We might start by examining the context in which the minister has discussed the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Continue reading

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The case for investment in universities – government spending review

As organisations make submissions to the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review 2015, Universities UK’s Chief Executive Nicola Dandridge outlines the case for investment in universities.

The arguments for sustained investment in universities and university research are well rehearsed – not least on this blog – and now they are being put to the test as the government carries out its Comprehensive Spending Review. Universities UK made its submission to the review last Friday, and between now and November (when the outcomes will be announced) will be talking to the decision makers and influencers to drive home the message about the importance to our sector – and to the UK economy – of safeguarding the vital funding streams that help to maintain our excellent teaching and world-leading research base.

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Sexual violence, harassment and ‘lad culture’ on campus – how universities are tackling the issue

There has been much discussion recently about sexual violence, harassment and ‘lad culture’ on university campuses. These are serious matters where a zero tolerance approach is required: sexual violence, harassment and ‘lad cultures’ have no place on a university campus, nor anywhere else.

Much of the debate has centred around whether universities have appropriate policies in place to deal with such matters and whether students in need of help are getting proper support and guidance. Continue reading

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