About Nick Hillman

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Nick Hillman has created 350 entries.
10 05, 2018

Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director of Fair Access and Participation

10 May, 2018|Publications|0 Comments|

The new regulatory regime for higher education in England incorporates a new approach to access and participation. A new Director of Fair Access and Participation (Chris Millward) will encourage universities to make further and faster progress than ever before.

HEPI and Brightside jointly asked 35 leading thinkers for their views on the right priorities for the new Director of Fair Access and Participation. The contributors include practitioners, students, politicians, think tanks and academics, all with different interests and expertise.

The ideas in these short essays are as diverse as the voices. But all offer ideas to unlock higher education for everyone.

8 05, 2018

Higher Education in the front line: universities, the media and the wider community

8 May, 2018|Blog|1 Comment|

This guest blog has been kindly provided by Jack Grimston, formerly Education Correspondent and then Deputy Political Editor of the Sunday Times. It is based on a talk he gave at HEPI’s recent Policy Briefing Forum.

As only an occasional visitor to the world of higher education, I thought I should try to get myself up to speed with the latest issues in the university world if I was going to hold my own before a HEPI audience.

In a moment of brain-freeze brought on by the Department for Education’s accounting treatment of student interest receivable, I put this plan aside.

It is too easy to lose sight of the obvious reason universities are in the media all the time. It is not because of the admittedly critical issues of fees, widening participation or even teaching students.

The reason is that academics do extraordinarily interesting work, pushing knowledge forward and finding out the things people want to hear about.

Institutions and academics are doing better and better at taking that research and expertise out to the wider world. The quality and comprehensibility of academic interviews and press releases are increasingly impressive and improving all the time.

I think of what Ocean Science at places such as Exeter has contributed to changing public behaviour over plastic in the seas. Then I think of what Mary Beard has done to promote the cause of classical scholarship.

I started to register only after I finished covering education at the Sunday Times just how much journalists in other spheres – whether health, business, environment or crime — speak to academics. In politics, the area I moved on to covering, if you ask a journalist about Strathclyde, they think of Professor Sir John Curtice. Those incidental […]

3 05, 2018

Six points about free speech at universities

3 May, 2018|Blog|0 Comments|

There is considerable media coverage today of the Government’s plans to alter the protection of free speech within higher education institutions. Here are six points about free speech, which were delivered by HEPI Director, Nick Hillman, to a meeting at Trinity College, Cambridge, on the evening of 2 May 2018.

1. For me, the law seems to be in about the right place on free speech issues.

This University has published a particularly good robust defence of free speech, but it ends by noting the rare instances where it can be legitimately limited, such as:

where people may be drawn into terrorism;
where the aim is inciting violence;
where there is a risk to the safety of other humans.

Others may take a less centrist positions, wanting either purer or more restricted free speech, but I am comfortable with the law as it is as it balances out some important things, including the safety of staff and students.

2. If you can’t debate issues freely at universities – which have the expertise, the time and resources to do it properly – where can you?

Sadly, a small minority of students in Cambridge have sometimes got it wrong. I spent a decade working for David Willetts, including during his time as the Minister for Universities, when tuition fees were raised to £9,000.

Many students disliked that policy. But I can think of only one university in the whole country where David Willetts was shouted down and unable to deliver a prepared speech: the University of Cambridge.

If your mind is so closed that you are unable to debate with a democratically-elected MP representing the biggest party in Parliament, then – quite frankly – you should probably not be at university at all.

3. The […]

30 04, 2018

HEPI calls for an urgent reinvigoration of part-time learning before Brexit, more support for students’ living costs and a co-ordinated strategy for fighting ignorance about university life among those applying for higher education

30 April, 2018|News|0 Comments|

In line with this week’s Call for Evidence deadline, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) is today publishing its response to the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding, entitled Post-18 Review: 10 Points-of-Note on fixing the broken parts of our education and training system.

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI and the author of the report, said:
We welcome the Post-18 Review as an opportunity to fix the broken parts of our education and training system.

There is an urgent need to reinvigorate part-time learning. Perhaps the only certainty about Brexit is that it will become harder to recruit skilled people from abroad. This makes it doubly important that we put the right regime in place to improve the skills of people already in the UK. Any new support should cover bite-size learning for those not yet ready to embark on a full degree.

The most broken part of the funding system for full-time students is support for living costs. So there is a strong case for the return of maintenance grants. We also call on Ministers to start telling parents how much they are expected to fund students’ living costs, so that families can prepare for this huge financial hit in advance. There is not a single good reason to keep parents in the dark.

In addition, it is time that students got more information about where their fees go and schools, universities and government should act together to tackle the shocking naivety among university applicants about higher education. Most of those applying to university do not realise rent will be their biggest cost apart from fees, around two-thirds think they will get more contact time at university than they’ve had at school, which is rarely the case, and […]

30 04, 2018

Post-18 Review: 10 Points-of-Note on fixing the broken parts of our education and training system based on recent HEPI output

30 April, 2018|Publications|0 Comments|

HEPI’s response to the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding covers the following 10 areas:

Part-time learners
Differential fees
Maintenance grants
Mixed funding model
Uses of tuition fees
Misunderstanding among applicants
Outreach versus spending on bursaries
Accounting treatment of student loans
Level 4 and Level 5 qualifications
Student number controls


25 04, 2018

Are universities in loco parentis? The good old days or the bad old days?

25 April, 2018|Blog|1 Comment|

In a recent speech to the Office for Students conference, Sam Gyimah the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation and the self-styled Minister for Students, said:
When these students arrive, for some this will be the first time they are away from home, the ‘uni experience’ can be disorientating and demanding, as it should be. But, in this the universities need to act in loco parentis, that is to be there for students offering all the support they need to get the most from their time on campus.
The Latin phrase in loco parentis (in place of parents) suggests an intense duty of care that extends way beyond the academic aspects of university life. The Minister’s use of the term went down badly with lots of people who are worth listening to on higher education – you can see a Twitter thread including some of the great and the good of the higher education commentariat here. One of those commentating, David Malcolm of the National Union of Students (NUS), went on to write an excellent article about it for Wonkhe.

The term in loco parentis is, these days, more common in conversations about schooling than it is in conversations about higher education. Indeed, its rarity in discussions about higher education helps to explain why Sam Gyimah’s remark has been interpreted as signalling such a seismic shift.

This is because there are huge challenges in thinking that higher education institutions have a duty to act like parents, even if only for the early days of a full-time young undergraduate’s time in higher education.

Universities and other higher education institutions have a diverse range of missions, educate adults rather than children and are too big to keep close tabs […]

12 04, 2018

When should academics speak out, and when should we listen? Thoughts prompted by Michael Ignatieff

12 April, 2018|Blog|0 Comments|

Yesterday, Michael Ignatieff, President of the Central European University in Budapest gave a fantastic address and took part in a lively Q&A at the Centre for Global Higher Education conference at UCL’s Institute of Education.

Most of what he said, some of which we have flagged on our Twitter account at @HEPI_News, would almost certainly resonate with the majority of UK academics. For example, he powerfully outlined the threats to academic freedom around the world and how to counter them.

But there is never much point focusing only on areas of widespread agreement. To me, his most interesting comments were the ones that may sound counter-intuitive. For example, despite his loud defence of academic freedom, he sounded sceptical on the benefits of academic tenure.

Moreover, despite his pleas for universities to be less quiescent, he was scathing about those academics who, in his words, talk down to people about their own lives. He cited the example of academics seeking to explain why Sunderland voted Leave in the EU referendum.

I took this not as a reference to, say, political scientists whose specialism is regional voting trends. Rather, he seemed to be criticising academics who assume they should be listened to on any issue because they happen to be an expert in one particular – often wildly different – field.

It is difficult to argue that academics should never feel constrained in what they say and, concurrently, that they should avoid speaking out when straying on to certain areas beyond their academic specialism. At the very least, there is tension between these two positions.

But, surely, Michael Ignatieff has a point? If, as a sector, we believe people should learn from ‘experts’, then is there not a duty to ensure listeners […]

5 04, 2018

Benchmarking widening participation: how should we measure and report progress?

5 April, 2018|Publications|2 Comments|

In this new Policy Note, Professor Iain Martin, Vice Chancellor at Anglia Ruskin University, looks at each university’s success in widening participation and ensuring access to people from all backgrounds.

Professor Martin proposes a new measure of equity in participation, which demonstrates graphically the most equal – and most unequal – HE institutions in the UK.

5 04, 2018

Let’s hear it for the VC! Why we must start listening to vice-chancellors on the big policy questions

5 April, 2018|Blog|0 Comments|

We are today publishing an important new analysis of widening participation data by the Vice-Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University. The paper, and accompanying press notice, speak for themselves. But, for people unfamiliar with higher education statistics, there are two important things to understand.

First, the analysis is based on POLAR data, which divides the country into small areas which are then placed in one of five groups according to the proportion of young people making it to higher education. So, an area that sends very few of its young people to higher education is in ‘quintile 1’ and an area that sends a lot is in ‘quintile 5’. The other areas are split between groups 2, 3 and 4 depending on how they do.

HEPI is an Oxford-based institution. So, to give an Oxford example, much of prosperous north Oxford, where lots of local people make it to university, is in quintile 5. Conversely, parts of Blackbird Leys, which is a more deprived part of the city, is in quintile 1 as far fewer local residents reach university.

The second thing to understand is the Gini coefficient, which is an old tool used by social scientists to show how equal any society is using a single number. In a society where one person has all the money and no one else has any, the number would be 1. In a society where everyone has the same amount of money, the number would be 0.

When countries are ranked like this, Brazil does badly because income is unevenly distributed while Sweden does well because income is much more even.

Professor Martin’s research takes these two tools to invent a new measure that resembles the Gini coefficient but which shows how […]

5 04, 2018

Upending the rankings: Benchmarking widening participation in universities

5 April, 2018|News|2 Comments|

HEPI is today publishing a new Policy Note, Benchmarking widening participation: how should we measure and report progress?, written by Professor Iain Martin, Vice-Chancellor at Anglia Ruskin University, which looks at each university’s success in widening participation and ensuring access to people from all backgrounds.

The paper puts forward a new measure of equity in participation, which demonstrates graphically the most equal – and most unequal – HE institutions in the UK.

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said:
This analysis reveals which universities reflect wider society best, and those which have further to travel. It remains surprisingly controversial with some people to suggest that our oldest universities should mirror our society more closely.

Yet everyone benefits when there is the best possible fit between individuals and institutions. For example, learning outcomes are better when students from diverse backgrounds study alongside each other. On these sorts of issues, policymaking on schools can sometimes seem ahead of what goes on in the university sector.

Tackling the challenge is fraught with problems. The biggest obstacle is probably a fear among parts of society that have historically dominated our most selective universities that they could be squeezed out. That is one reason why the best way to deliver fairer access to selective institutions is the same as the best way to deliver widening participation overall, which is to provide more places.
Iain Martin, Vice Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University and the author of the report, said:
Widening participation and ensuring that students from all backgrounds are provided opportunities to study at a university that matches their talents and aspirations has been a pivotal part of English higher education policy and strategy for many years.

While much has been achieved, it remains that we do not have […]