In the context of a challenging jobs market, now more than ever, it is vital that universities help to prepare students for the world of work. At the same time, and in the context of rising tuition fees, higher education institutions are also rightly looking at ways in which to enhance the student experience.
One of the ways in which the higher education sector is seeking to answer these complex challenges is through the provision of international work and study abroad opportunities for students.
Today sees the launch of the UK Strategy for Outward Mobility by David Willetts MP, the Minister for Universities and Science. Supported by governments across the UK, the Strategy forms a key part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ International Education Strategy, published earlier this year. As a team we have worked hard to create a strategy that speaks to the needs of the higher education sector. The result of over six months of consultation, it aims to increase the proportion of UK students who gain access to international opportunities as part of undergraduate, postgraduate and research programmes. Continue reading
What will higher education look like in 2020?
This is a question we ask ourselves regularly at the UK Higher Education International Unit. Our recent report, Horizon Scanning, identified trends, considerations and challenges faced by higher education in the next decade. One thing that we knew before commissioning the research, however, is that the future for higher education is international, whether in terms of students, operations or research. There is no longer any doubt that those institutions that embrace international opportunities are going to be the ones that not only survive, but thrive; the trick is understanding what the opportunities are, and how to go about embracing them. Continue reading
Digital networks and digital information are such core elements of the lives of organisations and private individuals that cyber threats that undermine our confidence in their security potentially risk undermining their transformative benefits. Equally, increasingly restrictive security controls in the name of security risk undermining the very value that these new technologies potentially bring. These questions are complex and are getting increasingly important as the online threat from states and criminals continues to grow.
As part of our conference looking at cyber security in higher education we are publishing a report exploring how some of these issues apply in higher education. It is not aimed at a technical audience; rather, it looks at the management steps that universities need to consider. Based on the work we have undertaken to date it is our belief that the technical expertise to implement appropriate and proportionate targeted controls is already largely available to universities. Continue reading
Last Friday (22 November 2013) Universities UK, the representative organisation for the UK’s universities, published guidance to assist universities in managing controversial external speaker events on campus. This is a complex area involving a wide range of legislation from equalities law through to criminal law and the duty to protect the safety of university staff, students and visitors.
Universities are autonomous institutions and will make decisions on each individual event independently. The guidance was published to help universities navigate their legal obligations and their practical application.
Since its publication, there has been some public debate on a small component of the guidance: a hypothetical case study (p.27) in which an external speaker on faith in the modern world requests that the audience is segregated according to gender. The case study reflects the challenges of accommodating everyone’s views, from those whose religious beliefs require them to sit separately with their own gender, to those who wish to sit with the opposite gender – hence the mixed seating alternative which is part of the solution in this case study. The issue is how to ensure that no one is unlawfully excluded from the event.
Much of the discussion has reduced our practical advice on what is a highly complex issue to a debate about the rights or wrongs of gender segregation. The guidance is not about the rights or wrongs of segregating an event by gender. Instead, it highlights the legal and other factors that universities must consider if they are addressing the particular circumstances outlined in this case study. The guidance does not promote gender segregation.
Universities have a vital role to play in securing free speech and promoting debate. This practical guidance has been developed to ensure that as many debates as possible on sensitive and emotive issues can continue to take place. By promoting free speech and open debate the rights or wrongs of gender segregation can be challenged and discussed.
Recent ONS figures demonstrate again how those with a degree are more protected from the recession than those without. The employment rate for graduates is at 87%, while it is at 83% for those whose highest qualification are A-levels and 76% for those who left school with GCSEs. Consequently, unemployment rates are lowest for those with a degree, as it can be seen in the chart below.
Employment and unemployment rates by highest qualification in the UK, April to June 2013. Source: ONS
In his reflection on the Robbins report and its legacy, David Willetts reiterated Robbins’ guiding principle for expansion: higher education should be open to all those qualified by attainment and ability who wish to go. The universities and science minister projects a 4% increase in higher education entrants in 2020 compared with 2011, and a 26% increase by 2035, based on demographic trends and the number of qualified and motivated applicants who are not accepted due to limitations on the number of places.
While Robbins revisited set out the Minister’s vision for future expansion, it stopped short of setting out how a future expansion would be funded. Universities UK’s latest publication considers the practicalities around future expansion in higher education given current funding constraints – and there are no easy solutions. Continue reading
The issue of cyber security is rapidly growing in significance as more of our personal and organisational lives move online. Higher education is no exception and as part of our work with the government on the UK cyber security strategy Universities UK is holding a conference on cyber security in higher education on 28 November 2013. The conference is an opportunity to explore risk management strategies for universities in a rapidly evolving area, and it is hoped the programme will help to engage groups beyond the network security community in this increasingly important agenda. Continue reading
Last week I chaired the morning session of the inaugural HE Expo at the Olympia exhibition centre in London. The mere fact that the higher education sector can now support a free event for 2000 delegates through business sponsorship alone is itself significant. It shows a sector rapidly maturing in commercial interest and awareness. Universities are on the cusp of major change and future Expo events will doubtless continue to reflect this.
Beyond that, I learned six things about the current state and future challenges of the sector from the day. Continue reading
It’s been a couple of years since we saw the biggest changes to how students pay for university in a generation. In 2012, it seemed we were on the brink of a crisis with the perception of increased student debt in England – and a potential huge drop in university applicants. Thankfully by focusing on 2012 starters that crisis was averted.
Widespread myths and misunderstandings are still out there and each year this remains new territory for students making the life changing decision about whether university is for them.
I’m not here to sell the system, nor the political solution behind it. What really counts for those considering university is the actual practical everyday impact on your pocket, and that isn’t nearly as harsh as many fear. Continue reading