Skip to main content

BUzz of the day

Daily BUzz

Green Paper Summary, Monday 7 November 2015

Today’s Buzz is a summary of the HE Green Paper released last week.

The government’s Green Paper, Fulfilling Our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice’ sets out proposals to reshape the higher education landscape by focusing on Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice. The highlight of the Plan is to develop an approach for better ‘Value for Money’ for students, employers and taxpayers. Before drafting a potential White Paper and bill, it has been released for consultation until 15 January 2016 for plans which aim to: introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF); widen participation from disadvantaged and under-represented groups; create a new single entrance for all providers to drive opening up the sector to new competition; and merge HEFCE and OFFA into a single new regulatory body, the Office for Students.

The document is made up of five parts:

PART A: Teaching Excellence, Quality and Social Mobility PART B: The Higher Education Sector PART C: Simplifying the higher education architecture PART D: Reducing complexity and bureaucracy in research funding

Together these Parts target six main challenges: productivity, transparency, teaching standards, social mobility, fairness for new providers, and simplicity of the HE landscape and funding.

The Productivity Challenge recognises that productivity drives the economy, and within that process improving skills is essential. The Plan states that Higher Education plays a vital role in productivity, however – using research from HESA, HEPI, HEA, BIS and UKCES among others – there is a shortage of skills and mismatch of graduate qualification and suitable employment. It suggests that both employers and learned societies representing professions should be involved in the designing of relevant curriculum.

The Transparency Challenge is based on the view that there is a lack of information on teaching quality, course content and graduation outcomes available to students. It claims a dissatisfaction of students who are increasingly concerned about value for money, and also suggests that employers do not know what they are getting in terms of particular universities reflecting quality of education. The Plan highlights grade inflation as a concern which providers need to address, and that the current degree classification system in ‘no longer capable of providing the recognition of hardworking students and the information employers require’. As such, the inclusion of the Grade Point Average system in degree outcomes is proposed.

The next challenge, to drive up teaching standards, argues that there is no mechanism in place to award teaching, and that this results in research dominating HE, and in sidelining the importance of high quality student experience. The aim of TEF is to recognise and award high quality teaching through the teaching quality, learning environment, and student outcomes and learning gain – however criteria to assess these need further development (p 32-33). The Plan sets proposals for design, fee increases, assessment, criteria and metrics as well as incentives. There are blurry lines in terms of what amounts to successful assessment, which will play a decisive role in which HE providers are allowed to increase their fees in line with inflation by 2017/18. In Part A (Chapter 1), the Plan proposes that the TEF will change providers’ behaviour, and therefore the HE culture. The investment in quality teaching will attract students, but also result in lower quality providers ‘withdrawing from the sector’ (p 19). Meanwhile, financial incentives will be set up, whereby providers can raise fees according to which TEF level they are allocated.

The Plan states that ‘the criteria and metrics used for the TEF will develop over time’ (p 23), however at present the proposal is that the TEF will have four levels. ‘Institutions will automatically achieve TEF level 1 by holding a recent successful quality assessment (QA) review’ (p 23), and this will be reviewed every three years within the first two years, and then potentially five years afterwards. The use of ‘common metrics’ will inform applications for higher TEF awards, initially built from already existing data collections (p 33) from: the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education Surveys (to measure employment/destination); the UK Performance Indicators by HESA (to measure retention/continuation); and the National Student Survey (to measure student satisfaction indicators). As of February 2016, which will be the most recent review undertaken by the QAA, providers will be TEF Level 1 eligible. Year 2 will introduce higher levels of awards.

Chapter 2 of Part A outlines the assessment process, outcomes and incentives proposed for TEF. Applications for higher TEF awards will be assessed by an Independent Panel, comprised of ‘academic experts in learning and teaching, student representatives, and employer/professional representatives’ (p 28). Three suggested pre-conditions (p 27) are that the provider will need:

An Access Agreement for widening participation

Show compliance with the Competition and Market’s Authority

To state whether they use the GPA system or not (although it will not be a pre-requisite for higher awards).

Rather than applications being made on an ongoing basis, the model proposed is a rolling cycle of TEF assessments (p 28). The idea to create a non-bureaucratic and simplistic approach to be able to differentiate and compare between and within institutions, and for the assessments to work at a disciplinary/subject level.

The Social Mobility Challenge will continue to work towards access, retention and progression of disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, with the 2020 aim to double the percentage of disadvantaged groups and raise BME groups by 20%. The Plan suggests creating more information on student origin and their background, application and learning outcomes. It also proposes to use TEF for the inclusion of widening participation metrics, by measuring retention and completion rates for example. The TEF proposal suggests that obtaining higher TEF levels requires fulfilling widening participation expectations as a pre-condition. Interestingly, the Plan recognises that students from disadvantaged backgrounds ‘tend not to perform as well as other students’ (p 31): this information will be used in consideration with other metrics so that providers with high proportions of such students will not be penalised. Further action includes issuing new guidance to the Director of Fair Access, having UCAS adopt a ‘name blind’ recruitment system, using TEF to measure access and success, and developing the Degree Apprenticeship programme launched in March 2015.

The Fairness for New Providers Challenge in linked with the concept that more choice can provide better value for money (Part B). It is quite controversial with its market-economy approach to higher education, however the aim is to improve efficiency and remove what is conceived to be ‘unnecessary barriers’ to create a ‘level playing field’ (p 42) with a ‘risk-based approach that safeguards quality’ (p 50). The Plan also suggests that more choice will provide the opportunity to attract communities and groups that are ‘hard-to-reach’ and not ‘well-served’.

The proposal is that the Office for Students acts as the single body which providers submit their information for the application process. Other key features would be that providers receive quicker access to student funding, no cap on student numbers, earlier application for degree awarding powers, and the ability to secure university title earlier (p 45-48). Further opportunities on how to streamline the process – with or without legislation – are being considered. This includes possibly removing the role of the Privy Council in making decisions about degree awarding powers (p 48).

The last Challenge is based on transforming and simplifying the ‘outdated’ regulatory landscape by amalgamating existing bodies (HEFCE and OFFA) into the new regulator and student champion, the Office for Students (OfS) (p 57). The proposal is to bring together access agreements, teaching funding, TEF, and quality assurance into a single body to help reduce bureaucracy, increase transparency and save money. The OfS’s duties would be to (p 58):

Operate the entry gateway

Assure baseline quality

Run the TEF - Collect and provide information

Widen access and success for disadvantaged students

Allocate grant funding

Ensure student protection

Promote the student interest

Ensure value for money for students and the taxpayer

Assure financial sustainability, management and good governance

As for the last section focusing on research, Part D, proposals are pending based on future conclusions provided by the Nurse Report, which would ‘affect the future design of the research system’ (p 70). The main suggestion is to reduce cost and bureaucracy, hence future exploration into options to ‘streamline and reduce burdens in the design of a future REF’.

The common thread throughout the Plan is to create improved student experience through ensuring that they are offered value for money.

This month

Friday 6 November 2015

How is the #HEGreenPaper shaping the future of UK #HigherEd?

Today at 8:40, the world of twitter received a text:


‘I’m publishing our higher education green paper today, Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility & Student Choice

The Green Paper can be downloaded here.

Universities UK has already responded, announcing that they welcome the Green Paper’s emphasis on protecting the interests of students, competition and choice, as well as widening participation.  They do, however, point out that while there is much more to be done, universities have worked on these issues and continue to progress in these areas, and that any assessments of these efforts should not become an additional burden to universities and their staff.

They also state that they will look over the paper and carefully consider its content.

Meanwhile, HEFCE ‘s response somewhat avoided directly commenting on the restructuring of the HE regulatory landscape, and rather commented that they will ‘continue to perform [their] current role and functions to [their] usual high standards throughout this period of deliberation and transition’. 

University Alliance has responded with a less neutral position than others, directly drawing attention to Government’s intentions of cutting financial support (to be further detailed in the Comprehensive Spending Review coming out on the 25th Nov) and stating that if efforts outlined in the Green Paper are not appropriately supported, they are just ‘empty words’.   

The Royal Society has tweeted that it will hold a Panel discussion on the 8th December on ‘Teaching excellence: Can one size fit all?’, stating that ‘higher education is an enormously diverse sector’ and that it should be recognised that different institutions attract different students and motivations.   

The Russell Group also commented on the publication, somewhat defending current university efforts to address concerns and improve HE, but also emphasising the importance of university ‘autonomy’ for success, and that ‘it is vital that any regulation is risk-based and proportionate and does not add to the current burden or stifle innovation’. 

UCU’s voiced concerns to the HE Green Paper by stating that the Government failed to ‘clearly set out how its plans would improve the student experience’, and that rather than the TEF being a ‘series of measures to rank teaching’, more was required in terms of ‘proper appraisal’.  They further commented that more had to be done to ensure for-profit companies did not access the HE landscape easily, which they claim harms academic quality.  UCU also raised decent working conditions for staff as an important issue to ‘tackle widespread job insecurity’, which consequently negatively impacts the HE sector. 

Should you be interested in deeper analysis of various sections of the Green Paper, Wonkhe has already featured a range of blogs and analysis covering changes, TEF, the level playing field, and other highlights of the paper.  Times Higher Education has also highlighted main themes from the paper.  Undoubtedly there will be more to come in the coming days for a while longer.  

Thursday 5 November

The green paper is coming – get ready for another numbers game
The Guardian

‘The green paper is coming…and Universities are bracing themselves for some of the most disruptive changes to higher education for more than 20 years’!  Many of us in the HE sector have our ears glued to the ground waiting for a tremor signing the news of change.  What quangos will be buried? How will we fund research? Who will our new competitors be?  There are endless questions, and plenty of uncertainties. 

Are we, ironically, as hubs of innovation, research and vision, scared of change? Are we the old fossils, too inflexible, to cope with necessary change to sustain relevance in the 21st century?  The Guardian’s article is interesting because it asks one simple question: what are we (or they?) trying to fix?  And who is responsible of fixing it? What, in short, is the change for?

Another article published today is from Julie Vassilatos of Chicago, and presents a view which might indirectly answer whether we are scared of change, or not.  She mentions change coming to schools, ‘…from people who may not know the least little thing about education, or pedagogy, or teachers, or children, but who bring expertise in disruption, cost-cutting, and complex financial deals…’  Perhaps those of us in HE are concerned that these structural and institutional changes are driven by financial concerns, rather than informed decisions that have the sector’s health, capability and efficiency at heart.  Jo Johnson suggesting that those who are resistant to change are those that want to retain some sort of privileged comfort blanket, simultaneously disregards those resistant to change because they want to retain some sort of HE values and principles. 

Yesterday we saw thousands of students are supporters on the streets of London standing up for their belief in free education.  While most services in a market-based economy need to generate financial sustenance, there are some – such as HE – which need to ensure profit is not their primary objective.  Higher Education is for the public good, but also contributes incredibly to the UK society and economy.  Perhaps the HE community – rather than being resistant to change – is resistant to these principles being forgotten in the writings of change.     

Wednesday 4 November

New data reveals which top universities' research is favoured by civil service

We start off today’s Daily Buzz in recognition of the thousands of students and supporters marching through London at the national demonstration for free education. Each year policies shift Higher Education further into the neoliberal marketplace - which seems inevitable – yet year in and year out, thousands of people take to the streets standing up for their values, understanding the importance of Higher Education.

The other news which we found particularly interesting is the publication of a recent survey by Dods Research. The survey itself does not appear anywhere online, yet, however its findings are very relevant in terms of reputation, impact and influence.

The survey explores how research and information published by universities is being used by policymakers, and which universities tend to be the main source for information. For example, LSE, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and UCL ‘appear to have the largest impact on civil servants’ day-to-day work’.

It would be interesting to keep an learn more about how the survey was conducted, questions asked, and more detail regarding the findings.

Tuesday 3 November

Can generalist Whitehall match specialist HEFCE?

In the cloud of questions towards HEFCE’s future, another story emerges as to their ‘disturbing blunder’ in a report that compared results of graduates from public and private schools.  False results by public bodies are always serious – not only because it leads to a jaded reputation, but also because it influences the decisions made by others who rely on the validity of the information.

The report’s error was spotted by the University of Buckingham’s Centre for Education and Employment Research on 8 October 2015, and subsequently changed by HEFCE. 

It is a sad case that this headline was dormant for one month, only to come to the media’s attention as HEFCE’s demise seems evermore inevitable.  HEFCE’s overall contribution to the HE sector is well worth considering. 

The axing of over two hundred quangos – known as the ‘bonfire of the quangos’ – is a very significant and critical reform to the UK, which should spark debate as to whether the public bodies now responsible for the public services have the knowledge, experience, institutional memory, resources and values to deliver the services effectively and in best practice.  Quangos deliver ‘public services, give advice or regulate behaviour’ at arms length from government, and play a critical to governance as they provide expert, independent insight to influence policy. 

There are real concerns that the welfare of particular industries and sectors are overshadowed by financial trade-offs, but the primary question should be ‘at what cost to the standards of living and prosperity that the UK has achieved over the generations?'

Monday 2 November

Student protest over free education expected to draw thousands
The Guardian

This Wednesday, students will take to the streets in another demonstration against tuition fees. This time, however, organisers speculate a huge turnout as we see students becoming increasingly involved in politics. Due to Government policies directly impacting a huge spectrum of the population, from international students to those dependent on grants, organisers suggest there is a ‘resurgent movement of student protest’, further invigorated by Corbyn’s leadership and backing of free education.

What is labelled as a ‘new generation of students’ will help ‘rejuvenate student politics’, said Deborah Hermanns from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. Equally exciting is that students are once again waking up to the fact that they can make a difference to their local, national and global environment, whether that difference is to education or other important issues.

The demonstration demands ‘free education funded through progressive taxation, and an end to the scapegoating and deportation of international students’.

Friday 30 October

The last Friday of the month, and what a busy day it is! To start, we see lots of coverage to the Hepi publication, It’s the finance, stupid! The decline of part-time higher education and what to do about it, published yesterday. The collection of essays come from a range of organisations involved in HE, and offers both causes and solutions to what is considered ‘the single biggest problem facing higher education at the moment’. Universities UK has welcomed Hepi’s publication, as their previous submission to the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review on 7 September 2015 also calls for government to address the collapse in part-time education. We also see support of Hepi’s publication in news coverage as the BBC, the Guardian,, ITV News and other news media warn government how the falling numbers in part-time education is harming the economy. Also in the news is an equally important and concerning announcement from Theresa May that Universities may be sanctioned for having high rates of students overstaying their visas. ‘Exit checks’ data linking over-stayers to universities could be available by next year, and may include the removal of a University’s right to recruit non-EU students. Theresa May also reiterates that she does not ‘care what the university lobbyists say’, and is failing to see that once a contractual relationship with student and university ends, there are further contracts that can be built through encouraging graduates to stay and contribute to the UK economy through employment, or even self-employment. For example, according to a 2013 report by Duedil, the number of entrepreneurs below age 35 in the UK grew from 145,104 to 247,049 between 2006 and 2013. Chinese news suggests that ‘more young Chinese graduates are setting up businesses in the UK’. Graduates are a tremendous contribution to society, whether they are full-time or part-time, or whether they earn above or below £20,800 per annum. As we have seen recently through the Lords parliamentary clash over tax credits, policy matters have to be understood beyond financial or immigration targets and must include other very relevant concerns. At this point, university lobbyists do matter, and Government could do well to listen to those who understand the values of HE and its students.

Thursday 29 October 2015

The spending review is just the start of a battle for UK research
The Guardian

With November 25th approaching, how the Comprehensive Spending Review will change the future of higher education and research has caused concern. The leaked BIS 2020 document hinted reductions to more than half of their partner organisations, cuts in operating costs, and reducing BIS sites by over 90% into ‘centres of excellence’. Added to this is the awaited Green Paper, proposing further changes such as the regulatory landscape and teaching framework.

As with other proposed policies and cuts across government departments, criticism as to whether reforms are being pushed through Parliament as financial measures rather than public policy matters may be justified. At the same time, we may find solace that the Green Paper is now in the process of Government ‘write round’, which means that all ministers will get to comment on the paper. Nevertheless, there is still a sense that ‘current perturbations are motivated less by evidence, or the lessons of international experience, and more by a desire to curb spending’.

Following Science is Vital’s rhetoric, there is a need for unity across the HE community, who also need to continue conducting evidence-informed research on the impact of emerging policies.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

India Matters
British Council

“India will be one of the most important nations throughout the 21st century” says a British Council report launched at the India Forum yesterday.

Whilst pointing to a potential disconnect between Indian and British young people’s experience and knowledge of each other’s countries, the report makes the case for the many opportunities to strengthen cultural and educational collaboration and as such, nurture UK-India futures.

Opportunities to support India in skilling up the large, young and growing #GlobalTalent population which will be the engine for India’s economic development have also been acknowledged by the British Council report.

In addition, the report introduces a number of strategic-level recommendations on the future for cultural, educational and research collaboration between India and the UK: • To set out a 2050 vision for the UK–India relationship; • Understanding and support for India’s agenda to ensure it remains relevant to the UK; • To launch a UK–India Young Leaders/Next Generation Forum for young people between the ages of 15 and 35; • The need to explore further opportunities for UK organisations, companies and institutions to collaborate more with each other in their engagement with India within and across sectors.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

3 things millennials want from work
World Economic Forum Agenda

According to a recent survey published by the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers community, millennials are transforming the concept of work by shifting the focus from career progression to making a difference in their society.

65% of the surveyed millennials, who live in 285 global cities felt that the opportunity to make a difference to their societies, cities and countries is the top thing they would look for in an employer. 

Monday 26 October 2015

David Cameron: 'name-blind' Ucas forms will address race bias
Times Higher Education

PM David Cameron announced 2017 change to 'extend social mobility' across the UK HE sector. He said the move was part of a key set of goals for “a modern, compassionate Conservative party that wants to extend social mobility”.

Name-blind Ucas applications would ensure that “those assessing applications will not be able to see the person’s name, so the ethnic or religious background it might imply cannot influence their prospects.” 

Friday 23 October 2015

Universities in mainland Europe go head-to-head with the UK
Times Higher Education

Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2015-16 gives us a good overview of the rise of mainland Europe universities in global rankings.

Carly Minsky, Student Content Editor at THE, tells us that a number of universities in Germany, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands are now going head-to-head with their UK counterparts.

The proportion of international students at UK universities may still be considerably higher when compared with those in mainland Europe, but “with immigration conditions in the UK likely to become even stricter, this could soon change.”

Thursday 22 October 2015

India moots inbound campaign, foreign provider bill
The PIE News

Indian PM Narendra Modi is ramping up efforts to promote India as a global study destination. Modi’s proposal involves the launch of a ‘Study in India’ campaign, which promises to invite foreign HE providers to set up branch campuses in the country. This will add to the 631 foreign HE institutions already operating in India. Eldho Mathews, Head of Internationalising Higher Education (South India), British Council said that the Indian government is anticipating that a ‘Study in India’ campaign will raise the quality of India’s education offering whilst also attract more international students to India HE institutions.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Visa refusal fears ‘force UK universities out of international markets’
Times Higher Education

While international students coming to the UK to study from certain regions of the world, such as India, are in decline, the Westminster Higher Education Forum gives us yet another perspective as to why this might be happening.

The Forum suggests that UK universities have been forced to stop recruiting international students from parts of the world that the Home Office considers to be ‘high risk for immigration offences’. In line with this, applicants from certain areas of Nigeria, Pakistan and India were considered to be a particular risk.

NUS International Students Officer, Mostafa Rajaai has responded that rejecting visa applications because previous students from the same area had failed to go home at the end of their studies, was “very unfair”.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

CityLab London 2015: What Is The Biggest Thing Global Cities Need Change In The Next Five Years?
Huffington Post

Today in London, mayors from all around the world come together to discuss the challenges facing cities. Topics include inequality, safety, mobility, infrastructure and other urban dynamics. Goals to improve quality of life, access to education and employment, city transformation through innovative ideas and research, and collective communication and information exchange are targets in which Higher Education can significantly contribute to. Mayor of California Sam Liccardo says, ‘Cities have historically provided the infrastructure – free schools, open libraries, access to jobs, public universities, and public transit – to enable the economic mobility for generations. It’s time to revive that commitment’. To revive that commitment, there is a clear recognition for increased partnerships between different sectors and for new efforts towards multilevel governance.

Monday 19 October 2015

Policy Exchange Report: Higher, Further, Faster, More – Improving higher level professional and technical education
University World News

Today’s new kid on the block is a report published by Policy Exchange suggesting that more money is put into Further Education…at the expense of Higher Education. Universities UK has responded by saying that funding should not be ‘seen as an “either-or” choice’. University Alliance has said that while Further Education should be protected and supported, the report has overestimated the scale of university reserves, but also, the approach needed is for HEIs and FEIs to work in partnership, rather than advantaging one over the other. The report’s date of publication is strategically a month before the CSR, which may take the report’s recommendations into consideration.

Friday 16 October 2015

OECD to launch university outcomes benchmark system
University World News

As we all wait for the Green Paper that was promised yesterday, Global BU turns its attention to the OECD’s decision to replace the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes [AHELO]. The new approach to benchmark higher education systems performance/learning outcomes not only aims to help students ‘make rational informed choices’, but also aims to better advise future policy. Similar to the UK’s focus on balancing teaching quality with research as demonstrated by the TEF, the aim of the OECD’s new project is to ‘give learning outcomes equal status with research’. The OECD Deputy Secretary-Gernal Kapferer says: ‘A key aim of this project is to facilitate the sharing of higher education policy developments across countries and learning from each other’s experiences about how to tackle some of the common challenges higher education systems are facing’. The ultimate challenge, however, is whether learning outcomes can be internationally comparable, and how to insure the indicators are not biased by particular cultural mindsets.

Thursday 15 October 15 

Strategies for Measuring Talent Gaps Globally

This is a good article that effectively rationalises why global perspectives are essential for business, and extends to introducing potential measurement techniques for recognising talent gaps. The key highlight is that organisations need to use objective and universal methods that can dictate towards a single standard without representing any one culture completely. The hybridisation of blending both local and global are recognised as important when operating internationally.

Wednesday 14 October 15 

Has Hefce had its chips?
The Guardian

While the UK HE community await the publication of the Green Paper tomorrow, Wonkhe’s Mark Leach questions the role that Hefce has played as a quango, and whether its demise would be a loss to UK HE. Of significant importance is Hefce being ‘one of the biggest, if not the biggest, commissioner of research into higher education in the UK’, which ultimately shapes policy. A key point to take home is that while resisting the rapid and profound changes ahead may not be a feasible option, protecting critical principles that have underpinned the values of UK HE should remain a requirement.

Tuesday 13 October 15 

Ten sure ways countries can turn away international students
The Conversation UK

“More than 4.5m students cross borders every year for educational purposes, mostly entering English-speaking countries, Western Europe, China, Japan and Russia. The great majority of these students return home when their education ends, though some become skilled migrants to the country of education, or other countries. Nations compete for international students…”

The Conversation UK’s article presents a list of ten unwelcoming attitudes to guarantee a nation will become uncompetitive in the global HE landscape.

These include:

Long, complicated and pricey visa applications

High tuition fees

Extra security checks and discriminatory policies for particular countries

Media propaganda spurring social concerns towards international students being agents of national and cultural destruction

Restrictions to employment during and after studies, and scare tactics on employers allowing international students to work extra hours

Difficulties for international students to find accommodation, open bank accounts and access health services

The UK has checked off the list and more – save perhaps a healthy debate in the media which has proven many sectors are against the Government’s position on international students. With no sign of Government backing down, the HE community need to persist putting pressure on current policy and practice; rethink current unwelcoming attitudes towards international students; draw the line between mass migration and skilled migration; and ensure that they facilitate the process and integration of international students as best they can.

Monday 12 October 15 

Why are universities increasingly taking a more market-led approach to their core business?
HEFCE blog

The Innovation in the Market Assurance of New Programmes (i-MAP) published a follow-up study in September this year to explore the sustainability of new university programmes. The results point to new programmes needing to be assessed early on using both financial and market data. The study also explores responses to the previous i-MAP Project and Guidance document, first published in 2012. The underlying suggestion is that new programmes are launched as HEIs engage within an increasingly competitive HE environment. Yet, new programmes are not always successful – the 2015 study suggests that only 30% of new programmes have recruited a viable first cohort of students. The Study already hints that programmes likely to close are the social sciences and the arts – which may ultimately impact the landscape, funding and rankings of HEIs as more choose to specialise in particular programmes. The project is funded by HEFCE.

Friday 9 October 15 

Research reveals how study abroad helps graduates get good jobs
Expat Forum

The Expat Forum aims to be one of the biggest communities for expatriates, and has pulled together various reports, such as the 2014 Erasmus Impact Study the UK Higher Education International Unit report, and another 2012 graduate study report which conclude mobility is directly linked to increased employability, alongside other social skills and abilities such as building confidence. Data even supported benefits to graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds, who had been mobile during their studies. More work needs to be done on gathering quality data on experiences related to mobility. Experiences of Immigrant Professors is a recent publication that talks of the pressures, emotional costs and challenges faced by those who decide to work abroad – all of which may be eased if introduced to cultural differences earlier on in life.

Thursday 8 October 15 

Odds are good for HE legislation, but don't count your chickens
Times Higher Education

Nick Hillman’s article in the Times Higher Education is encouraging, in that it reminds us that the processes of a representative democracy mean that the eagerly-awaited Green Paper due to come out this month will be subject to healthy debate. He reminds us of the White Paper promised in 2010, which ultimately saw its death in 2012. The Green Paper promises to invite 'responses from the sector'. With HE under the BIS department, it is up to the HEI community to ensure the range of powerful reports and data we are producing at a phenomenal pace provide a clear message of our values, principles and insights of the sector.

Wednesday 7 October 15 

Theresa May 'vilifying' immigrants and peddling 'nonsense myths' says business group
The Independent

Also see:

Theresa May's Full Speech


Universities UK's response

Today we saw business groups, universities, the NHS sector and NGOs come together to voice their shock at Theresa May’s controversial speech at the Conservative Conference in Manchester. Her attack on immigration, claiming that they were part of the problem of our fragmented society, was only the start to a long announcement as to how and why immigration should be strictly controlled. What was most disturbing in the speech was her comment biting back at many of us who have been providing informed reports on the value of foreign global talent, by stating ‘I don’t care what the university lobbyists say…’. Universities UK has responded, noting that universities take student visa compliance quite seriously, and that it is unjustified to assume they do not. The complicated discussion surrounding international students status, their contributions, and whether they are skilled or not, has brought various opinions and statements to the fore, opinions predominantly backed by valid and reliable data. For the Home Secretary to publicly announce that she does not care about the points raised – and data provided - by the business sector, universities, the public service sectors and other parts of the general public, is a very grave situation for the future of the UK.

Tuesday 6 October 15 

How to Win the Global War for Talent
Foreign Policy (blog)

This is an absolutely fantastic read about the US’s approach to gaining economic strength and capturing the world’s brain power – or global talent – through providing international students long-term opportunities to secure visas and work for extended periods of time. The author presents reports that conclude ‘foreign students and immigrants made up more than half the scientific researchers’ in the US, accounting for 25% of all patents. There is a clear recognition towards the contribution that foreign students provide to the US economy, and the clear necessity to attract and keep such global talent. The article addresses immigration issues and challenges, and what is key is that it refrains from approaching international students as students, but rather approaches the discussion from a more holistic angle by seeing the US’s strong position in the world and its need to seize all opportunities in attracting all forms of global talent.

Monday 5 October

UK planning tougher test to cut international students
Hindustan Times

This week’s Daily BUzz starts with an article presenting yet another obstacle the UK Government has thrown at international students: a tougher language test to cut student numbers. The article continues by recounting the stance Government has taken towards international students. However, what is so critical about this article is that the source is Hindustan Times, one of the largest newspapers in circulation in India. The sad reality is that the UK Government’s unwelcoming policies are becoming known worldwide, discouraging prospective students consideration of the UK for HE, and further damaging ‘Brand Britain’ in times when our key competitors demonstrate a far more welcoming attitude towards international students in an effort to tap into global talent.

Friday 2 October 

Sajid Javid's blueprint for BIS heightens fears for research funding
The Guardian

Following on from Jo Johnson’s speech at the UUK’s annual conference in which he had said he wanted to see a ‘simpler system’ for allocating resources, a leaked internal consultation document entitled ‘BIS 2020: What-Why-When-How’ has now confirmed what a ‘simpler system’ may mean. In two weeks we will see the publication of the Green Paper, which will outline the future of higher education through radical reforms and on-going cuts; we now expect a ‘radical overhaul of the research funding system’. Author James Wilsdon, chair of the Campaign for Social Science, calls on colleagues from the national sciences and engineering to stand together, however we at Global BU take this one step further and call for all those involved in Higher Education to recognise the combination of streamlining and cutting to the point of critical mass will only cause damage for HE, negatively impacting further afield.

Thursday 1 October 

55 world leaders educated in the UK

HEPI undertook desk research looking into the education of leaders from 51 countries, and found that 55 leaders had attended Higher Education in the UK. Of course, there are various angles to understand these results, such as when these leaders attended University and whether restricting international students will have any impact on the future number of world leaders. However, one point is certain: the UK’s soft powers and influence on the world is predominantly driven by education, whether this is the development of international schools abroad, or whether this is the attraction that UK Higher Education has on prospective students. There is little doubt that we are slipping in ranks to competitors around the world, and our unwelcoming approach to international students is simply increasing our disadvantages.


Wednesday 30 September 

Cambridge academic calls on government to use 'big data' to improve education policy
Cambridge News

While the UK HE community focus on the Labour Conference and their education policy this week
we at Global BU turn our attention to support Prof Vignoles’ call for Government to make use of the vast quantity of ‘big data’ available to inform national education policy. The ongoing appeals for Government to reconsider their stance on immigration and international students, for example, are of primary importance, as more and more industries and sectors
stand up and voice the negative impact they are witnessing.

Tuesday 29 September 

UK’s visa crisis ‘only going to get worse’

The impact of Cameron’s pledge to cut net migration is felt by our UK industries, who have started to question whether they should ‘scale back [their] investment and commitment to the UK’. With hundreds of visa applications being rejected, ‘the current immigration policy and visa rules are getting in the way of bringing in world-class talent’, says founder of London Tech Advocates. This situation has left industries feeling that they cannot plan ahead, while also bearing the administrative and financial costs of the consequences. To add salt to the wound, the restriction of opportunities for overseas students has also contributed to the genuine skill shortage we are witnessing in the UK. The near future will see HE and industry join together in speaking up to the government on immigration policy.

Monday 28 September 

The Labour Party Conference takes place this week in Brighton, where Gordon Marsden MP will discuss Higher Education, covered in detail here

Tuesday 22 September 

Controversy continues as HEA director leaves post
Times Higher Education

An article on a controversial issue in the HE sector which has led to responses and reactions from dozens of academics and various organisations.  It highlights issues concerning roles, leadership, academic freedoms, and personal versus organisational relationships.

Monday 21 September

International students: cash cows or agents for change?

The future of HE is intrinsically tied to the push towards internationalisation.  A main component of internationalisation is the export of HE, which involves securing contracts for the UK’s education providers overseas, as well as strategies to attract overseas students to study at our UK institutions. 

One of the main questions concerning many European welfare states is whether international students should pay tuition fees, or whether the Government should continue bearing the cost of their education.  The debate is rooted in the value we believe international students bring to our universities and countries.  Alongside contributions such as providing diversity and international perspectives, or advancing cultural and global competences in our students, there is their unquestionable economic contribution to the national economy. 

France, for example, has recognised that international students bring €4.5bn annually, which remains a net positive of €1.5bn after government costs of covering their tuition fees are subtracted.  In the UK, international students pay a substantial fee for the privilege of a UK education, and equally contribute significantly to the UK economy.  Over the past months, we have heard from many significant departments, organisations and individuals who have commented in support of the huge economical, social, cultural or innovative benefits these individuals bring to the UK.  However, our Government continues to damage the UK’s reputation within the global HE marketplace by introducing unwelcoming policies and practices.  

While the question is not whether the UK should consider funding international students, the discussion opened by European welfare countries allows us to revisit how important international students are, without immediately putting a price-tag on them.   

Friday 18 September

Building a New Global Higher Education Model
Huffington Post

Three University executives from California, Hong Kong and Italy come together to author this article which emphasises the importance of globalised perspectives and international mindsets in business success.  They further propose that ‘cultural immersion’ and ‘hands-on experience in diverse environments’ can be honed in Higher Education, using the success of their World Bachelor in Business programme as a model for the internationalisation of academia.  

Thursday 17 September


For more comments, read

UK HE 'undermined' by work regulations, PSW, survey finds
The PIE News

Hobsons Solution recently released a report presenting the views of more than 45,000 prospective international students from over 200 countries, to understand the value they place on an international education.  The start of the report signposts us to previous research which highlights that international students cannot be pigeon-holed into one homogenous group, but rather have significant differences in their motivations and expectations. 

The intention of the report, however, is to provide a set of recommendations for the UK to successfully compete within the global HE marketplace.  Results reveal that prospective students ranked five criteria as most important in choosing a country to study: quality and recognition; affordability; post-study options; and safety and hospitality.  In fact, the lack of post-study work options is the leading factor at 36.3% of why students do not choose to study in the UK (p  39).  Employability and how institutions invest in employability opportunities is a particularly favourable attribute.  The report actually advises UK institutions to send a strong and clear message to government regarding post-study work rights, stating that failure for government to address the economic benefits will result in years of damage.   

Communication and directly engaging with prospective students are also viewed as important factors.  The report suggests that institutions make more effort to understand the environment - i.e. family, friends and culture - as strong influencers in shaping the decisions of students.  To address this area, investing more time and energy in one-to-one communication is important.

Wednesday 16 September

Do international research posts improve your academic job prospects?
Times Higher Education

Times Higher Education has published a fascinating article highlighting potential concerns for individuals wishing to study or work abroad.  It presents results from an EU-commissioned survey which found that a significant percentage of researchers who have worked abroad felt it harmed their career progression.  While more universities push towards internationalisation and increasing mobility amongst staff and students, it is worth noting that universities must develop ‘excellent policies to welcome and support incoming and returning scholars’ allowing for their reintegration into the professional environment.

Tuesday 15 September

Glasgow welcomes the European Association for International Education’s 27th Annual Conference.  Over the next three days, #EAIE2015 will present 152 sessions and 21 workshops.  The theme this year is ‘A Wealth of Nations’, coined by influential economist and Enlightenment thinker Adam Smith.  The EAIE programme for the week focuses on theory and strategy in promoting global collaborative efforts. 

Monday 14 September

The week starts off quietly in HE news, despite this month being one of the busiest times for universities as they prepare for the new academic year.  Also under preparation is Labour’s education policy, now that Corbyn has secured leadership.  One of the central policies of the Islington North MP’s campaign for leadership was to scrap tuition fees and reintroduce maintenance grants, however the practicality of reverting to the UK’s 1990s funding model has been criticised by many.

Thursday 10 September

The competitiveness of UK universities is being put at risk by Teresa May's stringent student visa laws
The Independent

In light of Universities Minister Jo Johnson’s speech at the UUK annual conference yesterday, for all who followed the event with us on @GlobalBU, it would have be apparent that the big elephant in the room was internationalisation and international students.  While tomorrow’s Weekly Focus concentrates on the conference, today our stance serves to explicitly recognise the subject and reinforce it should not have been ignored in Johnson’s speech.  As the article above suggests, the opinions of the Home Secretary and policies of current Government towards international students are putting UK HE’s competitiveness at risk.  The author, Edward Byrne of King’s College, calls for reflection using Australia’s similar prohibitive policies in previous years as a comparison, and urges Government to consider a more healthy approach to international students.       

Wednesday 9 September

Today at the University UK’s annual conference held in Surrey, themed ‘The Sustainability of the UK higher education system in the context of the evolving relationships between universities and government’, we will hear Dame Julia Goodfellow make her first speech as the newly appointed President of UUK.  She is expected to ask Government to support universities to become stronger in the international landscape, and will also address the issue of including international students in Government’s net migration target.  Amongst the audience will be Universities Minister Jo Johnson, who will also be speaking at the event.   

Tuesday 8 September

Universities UK submission to the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review
Universities UK

UUK’s Comprehensive Spending Review outlines recommendations and proposals supported by relevant research and studies, and clearly reports that the UK cannot economically grow, support innovation, or be a strong competitor in the global knowledge economy through the heavy cuts to the public sector seen by the Chancellor’s summer Budget.  The review highlights the importance of HE in boosting the economy and tackling skills shortages, and calls for government investment in human capital, infrastructure and research for clear national benefits.  

Monday 7 September

Business Secretary calls on universities to tackle violence against women on campus

Theme: HE Policy

As part of the Higher education participation and Violence against women and girls Government agendas, and amid growing concerns on University campuses, BIS and University Minister Jo Johnson have requested Universities UK set up a taskforce to guarantee student safety through tackling ‘lad culture’, and efficiently handing sexual harassment and violence.  The taskforce will work with the HE sector, engage with Crime Prevention Officers, and will add to already existing strategies led by the Home Office.