Send us your views on the student fees and loans system – Prof Sir Christopher Snowden

As more people begin to suggest changes to England’s student loan system ­– as seen again this week with reports that government officials are considering a plan to let universities buy debt – Professor Sir Christopher Snowden outlines how the new Student Funding Panel would like to hear about more such ideas and from a range of people and organisations.

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden

Have the reforms to higher education in England improved the quality of the student experience? What impact will lifting the cap on student numbers have on the sustainability of the public finances? Does the reformed system encourage universities to widen access?

These are all questions on which the Student Funding Panel, launched by Universities UK in April this year, is considering and seeking views. Continue reading

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Why economic growth plans are (sort of) like travel guides

The concept of a local economic plan is an interesting one: distilling the priorities, problems, hopes and future of an area into a hundred page document, and creating a vision of where you want to be in six years’ time (and, ideally, at each annual reporting deadline within that period). It is important, however, to frame these plans in the wider policy context. Continue reading

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Leading visual effects company on importance of university links

Universities UK is currently working with the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) to examine how universities are working with employers to develop alternative and innovative pathways to high level skills. In this blog, Amy Smith from Framestore, a world leader in visual effects and the company behind the images in the Oscar-winning film Gravity, shares her thoughts on how universities are working with fast-paced creative and digital industries to meet their skills needs and how we can strengthen these partnerships.

Ten years ago, the team at Framestore identified a need to collaborate more closely with higher education institutions to help to work better with the creative sector. Our efforts have taken on many forms over the years, including providing guest lecturers, career guidance and coaching; attending events and job fairs; sitting on course advisory boards; offering internships and providing hardware. Continue reading

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Translating the potential of open data into practice

“Data is the next oil. Data is the new capital of the 21st century. Data will spur innovation and drive growth.” We’ve all heard statements like these over the last few years. And in many ways they’re true. As the volume and richness of data rapidly increases, so does the demand for insight into strategies that can be implemented to harness its full value.

Open data democratises this evolving market. Open data sets are proliferating, with over 8 million data sets available through Quandl and and nearly 20,000 through According to McKinsey, open data has a potential global value of $3 trillion. Lateral Economics estimates that open data – including open access research – could contribute $13 trillion to G20 economies cumulatively over the next five years. The assessment carried out for the 2013 Shakespeare Review estimated that the direct economic impact of public sector information in 2011 was over £7 billion. Continue reading

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Creating value from open data


Open data, the principle and practice of making data available for anyone to use, for any purpose, at no cost has the potential to make a major impact on the world around us. Given these prospects, the UK higher education sector is already starting to get on board. A number of universities (Southampton, Oxford, and the Open University, to name a few) have taken on the agenda, and are rapidly developing tools and practices. Sector agencies and bodies such as JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency), the Research Councils, and the Royal Society are also working in the same direction. Continue reading

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Increased fees and higher expectations – how universities are responding

UK universities have a world-class reputation for the quality of their teaching and research. They also have very high student satisfaction levels.

Nine in 10 students in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are happy with their course, according to the 2014 HEPI-HEA Student Academic Experience Survey. Across the four parts of the UK, there is little variation, despite different finance systems.

However, the shift in England from public funding to increased fees means that students are understandably, and rightly, demanding more from their university courses. Continue reading

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Funding changes and the impact on university research – new report

Universities Week 2014 is a fantastic opportunity to showcase and celebrate the various ways in which university research makes a difference in our daily lives. It also offers an ideal platform to discuss the role of public funding in making the benefits of university research possible and widely shared across the UK economy and society. A new report published today by Universities UK aims to make a contribution to this discussion by examining recent changes in public research and postgraduate training funding and their potential implications for universities.

This is the second report in a series by Universities UK on the theme of the funding environment for universities, launched on 29 May, with the release of our report on postgraduate taught funding. Continue reading

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Postgraduate taught education: the funding challenge

Postgraduate education has received increasing attention in recent years and the limited availability of funding for students on many postgraduate taught courses has emerged as a key issue. More recently, the government has stated it will investigate options to support increasing participation in postgraduate studies and will put forward its ideas at Autumn Statement 2014. A new report published today by Universities UK looks at the issues and calls on the Government to consider the evidence presented as it analyses options to support an increase in postgraduate participation.

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