#IWill – Promoting youth social action

Universities UK and the National Union of Students are celebrating the 2nd anniversary of  #iwill week, the campaign for youth social action, and are calling on universities to join us. In 2014, Universities UK, in partnership with the National Union of Students, agreed to support this growing movement that aims to make involvement in social action part of life for more 10-20 year-olds around the UK.

Youth social action is defined as ‘young people taking practical action in the service of others to create positive change’ and includes activities such as campaigning, fundraising and volunteering. Working with business, education and voluntary sector partners, the campaign aims to ensure that all young people can access social action opportunities, whatever their background. The #iwill goal is to raise by 50% the number of 10-20 year-olds taking part in social action by 2020, which will mean an additional 1.5 million young people being active in their communities.

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Tackling sexual harassment and violence – New UUK taskforce

Yesterday marked the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the beginning of 16 days of global activism to end violence against women and girls around the world.

Tackling sexual harassment and violence has also been a priority for the UK government and in November 2010, the Home Office published its cross-government strategy Call to end violence against women and girls. Although the higher education sector was not cited specifically in the government’s call to action, this is an area where both universities and students’ unions take their responsibilities seriously and work hard, often together, to create an inclusive culture and a safe, tolerant and welcoming environment.

There is, however, more that needs to be done which is why harassment and violence against women are the focus of a new taskforce which has been set up by Universities UK to explore what action needs to be taken.

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The Spending Review and higher education – what we know and what we don’t

The Chancellor finally delivered his Spending Review today, ending months of frenzied speculation about the scale of cuts needed for the UK to be a ‘country that lives within its means’.

So what are the implications for higher education?

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), home to funding of higher education, research and innovation, fared relatively well, with a 17% cut in real terms by 2019–20, less than the 25% or even 40% cuts feared. Continue reading

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How can you measure the true value of a university?

What do the figures £35bn, £45bn, £59bn and £73bn have in common? They are all assessments of the economic impact of higher education on the UK – in UUK reports published in 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2014, respectively.

Each figure is based on the direct and indirect effects of university and student off-campus expenditure on UK output and GDP, jobs and export earnings.  These estimates are based on a robust, bespoke economic impact modelling system which highlights the role of higher education as a high-growth industry in its own right.

Over the years, these figures have been quoted by countless ministers and other politicians of the day, as well as policy makers and other experts. Demonstrating the impact of the higher education sector on the economy and society has therefore become an essential part of Universities UK’s work – particularly around the times of government spending rounds.

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Teacher supply – the recruitment challenge

As the Education Select Committee conducts its inquiry into teacher supply, new evidence published last Thursday on entrants to initial teacher training (ITT) programmes highlights some of the challenges within the current recruitment environment for universities and other providers across England.

In a growing economy, future demand for entry to the profession is uncertain (the number of applications across all training routes was down by 7% last year). Added to this, the IFS has estimated a need for an additional 30,000 teachers by 2020 as pupil numbers continue to rise. Continue reading

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Supporting UK research in a reformed policy and funding landscape

The green paper and the Nurse review leave no doubt that the research policy and funding landscape could undergo quite a radical overhaul in the future. This comes alongside significant uncertainty about what the Comprehensive Spending review (CSR) will hold for UK research. It also raises questions around how to best meet the objectives and aspirations set out for the research base in the three documents, without diluting those elements of the current policy and funding structures that are absolutely essential to its health and continued success.

The UK research base is one of the most effective and successful systems in the world. We have a global reputation for excellence, and – as also remarked last week in the Science and Technology committee’s inquiry into the science budget  – the policy environment, dual support funding system and the rigorous and transparent way in which investment and funding decisions are made, have been central to our status as ‘science superpower’.

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Global Indian talent: made in Britain

On the eve of PM Modi’s visit – everything Indian is on our radars. A recent British Council event reminded us that #IndiaMatters. Yet, the reality in UK HE remains uncertain.

The latest HESA Students In Higher Education 2013-14 data shows that whilst international students from China have been on the rise, those from India have declined for a third year in a row, although the rate of decline is slowing.

International students bring a huge contribution to the UK economy, but alongside this, we somehow seem to underestimate the potential long-term impact and wider benefits of attracting, training and retaining international students who are the future global talent for the UK, our universities, businesses and societies.
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Why universities are definitely not awash with cash

Recent claims that universities are ‘awash with cash’ have been disproved by research published today. HEFCE’s latest assessment of the financial health of universities in England, including forecasts up to 2017–18, shows three key findings:

  • Cash levels in universities are projected to fall markedly, with borrowing increasing, over the forecast period.
  • The role of generating a margin of income over expenditure (or ‘surplus’) is crucial to a university’s financial strategy: to withstand unanticipated changes to income or expenditure, and to reinvest back into capital (such as buildings and equipment).
  • While currently financially stable, universities need to generate larger margins to remain sustainable in the longer term.

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A crossroads for UK science and research?

It has been a busy few days in the world of higher education, with the weekend sandwiched rather nicely between the launch of the higher education Green Paper on Friday, and the publication of the Science and Technology committee inquiry into the science budget this morning (for a summary of the Green Paper and its implications, see the blog by UUK’s Director of Policy Chris Hale).

Add in to this mix the forthcoming Spending Review and Sir Paul Nurse’s eagerly anticipated recommendations on the future organisation of the Research Councils, and November starts to look like something of a crossroads for UK science and research. Continue reading

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A summary of the Higher Education Green Paper

The Higher Education Green Paper, Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, published today, signals perhaps the biggest shift in the national framework for higher education, in England, for a generation. The 1992 Further and Higher Education Act codified the approach we have today (with some gentle evolution along the way) and a lot of the landscape that has become very familiar, but this is all about to change. The Green Paper’s contents are not entirely unexpected, however. Some of this is unfinished business from proposals first mooted back in 2011 and is about transforming a sector infrastructure designed for a largely publicly funded system to one that is focused on students and teaching, and promoting competition. That’s not to say Jo Johnson hasn’t brought his own flavour to this.

The proposals for sector infrastructure are bolder than seen previously and the emphasis on teaching excellence is very clear, not least given the Green Paper sets out how the widely anticipated Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is going to work. There is also a strong political focus on social mobility, reflected in the title of the Green Paper itself. That’s not to say this is all set in stone, the emphasis in the Green Paper is very much consultation, and there are a number of big questions left quite open.

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