15 Mar, 2018

Joint Committee for Human Rights publishes HEPI analysis of university free speech policies

15 March, 2018|By Diana Beech|News

The Joint Committee for Human Rights (JCHR) has today (15 March 2018) published on its website a report prepared by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) into the free speech policies of UK universities.

Given growing concern about the perceived suppression of free speech on campuses around the country, the report analyses a sample of policies from UK higher education institutions to determine whether they assist free speech or are likely to frustrate it.

Intended to assist the JCHR to evaluate the practicality and efficacy of existing free speech policies formulated and employed by UK universities, the report uncovers some worrying inconsistencies. It finds:

not all universities have updated their codes of practice on freedom of speech following the implementation of the Prevent Duty in August 2015, with some policies dating back to 2010;
not all universities agree on the definition of what constitutes a meeting to which policies on freedom of speech apply – some suggest they apply only to larger gatherings (like lectures or cultural events) while others say they can apply to meetings of three people or more;
free speech laws in Catholic higher education institutions may come into conflict with Canon Law in sacred spaces; and
loopholes can also occur in the law in areas where institutions deem their policies on free speech not to apply, such as during academic teaching, sporting or cultural events, trade union meetings or committee meetings.

Most strikingly, the report finds universities largely tend to see their codes of conduct as applying to students’ unions. This is in stark contrast to the advice issued by the representative group Universities UK, which argues that student unions are legally separate bodies from universities and not directly subject to the legal […]

15 Mar, 2018

New HEPI report reveals 300,000 more higher education places will be needed in England by 2030 to keep up with demand

15 March, 2018|By Diana Beech|News

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has published a major new piece of research looking at future demand for higher education places in England over the next decade.

The report, Demand for Higher Education to 2030, by Bahram Bekhradnia and Dr Diana Beech builds on HEPI’s long history of exploring demand for higher education but comes seven years after the last report on this topic.

The report examines the impact of major policy changes, demography and entry standards on participation rates. It shows:

the number of 18-year-olds in England is set to rise by 23 per cent by 2030;
if demography were the only factor, without any increase in participation, there would be an increase in demand of 50,000 full-time higher education places by 2030;
if participation also increases in the next dozen years or so at the same rate as the average of the last 15 years, then we can expect an increase in demand of 350,000 full-time higher education places by 2030;
countervailing factors that could reduce demand include Brexit, which is expected to reduce the number of places needed by around 56,000;
so the most likely outcome by the end of the next decade is a net increase in demand for full-time student places of around 300,000; and
demand for higher education places would be increased further if males were to match the participation of females during this time – although we do not predict that this will happen in the foreseeable future, if it were to do so then the extra demand could total over half a million new places.

In 2016/17, there were about 1.2 million full-time first-degree students in England, so demand for almost a third of a million additional places […]

27 Feb, 2018

In one fell swoop, the new Office for Students is about to ensure there are more unregulated than regulated higher education institutions in England

27 February, 2018|News

Comment from the HEPI Director, Nick Hillman, on the publication of the Regulatory Framework for Higher Education

‘The new Office for Students will publish their Regulatory Framework for Higher Education tomorrow. We will finally discover exactly how English higher education is to be regulated in future. In one of the worst-kept secrets of recent years, it is widely expected that the “basic” category of regulation will not happen after all.

‘This may seem welcome. At HEPI, we have long complained that the basic category would have given respectability to over a hundred higher education providers while not actually protecting their students. Basic providers had been expected to pay just £1,000 a year to the Office for Students, which would not have bought much effective regulation.

‘But simply abolishing the basic category does nothing to solve the underlying problem of effective regulation. Indeed, it is likely to make things worse. There is a common assumption that the change will boost the number of higher education providers that choose to be tightly regulated, but that is unlikely because it is a costly and bureaucratic process. It is more likely to increase the number that opt to be entirely unregulated.

‘The Higher Education and Research Act (2017) made some necessary changes. But the original intention of having new legislation was to deliver “a level playing field for higher education providers of all types”. That is one thing which is not happening and policymakers may soon need to revisit the whole question.’

Notes for Editors

The chart below shows official figures for the number of English higher education institutions that had been expected to enter each category of provider.

With the cancellation of the ‘basic’ category (shown as ‘Registered’ on the chart), it seems certain […]

22 Feb, 2018

Two-thirds of students reject differential tuition fees for different courses

22 February, 2018|News|1 Comment

The Higher Education Policy Institute ( is publishing a paper on the idea of having different tuition fees for different degrees. Differential tuition fees: Horses for courses? by Nick Hillman summarises the debate, includes the results of a survey among students about differential fees and argues that more differentiated fees are unlikely to deliver the benefits claimed by their many proponents.

The survey results reveal:

around two-thirds of students (63%) think full-time undergraduate courses should all have the same fees while one-in-three disagree (33%)
when asked to state a preference, students prefer higher fees for ‘courses that cost more to teach’ (57%) than ‘courses that lead to higher earnings’ (17%) or ‘courses at more famous universities’ (7%)
when questioned about the possibility of introducing higher fees for some subjects, more than half of students (52%) say higher fees might be justified for Medicine but just 7% think they could be justified for Arts (such as History or English) and only 6% for Modern Languages
when questioned about the possibility of introducing lower fees for some subjects, 39% say lower fees might be justified for Arts (such as History or English), but just 9% think they could be justified for Law and only 8% for Physics
most students (59 per cent) oppose lower fees for poorer students, although a substantial minority (38 per cent) back the idea

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute and the author of the report, said:
Different degrees are already meant to cost different amounts but, in England, fees have bunched up at the maximum price of £9,250 a year. Moving to a system of truly differential fees has many influential supporters. Some people seem to think having different fees for […]

19 Feb, 2018

Comment on the Prime Minister’s speech

19 February, 2018|News

Responding to the Prime Minister’s speech on education, Nick Hillman, the Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:

On funding
The review team start with enormous expectations on their shoulders. People want them to reduce tuition fees for some or all courses, lower the interest on student loans, bring back maintenance grants, help part-time and mature learners and bolster Further Education colleges.

The Government has encouraged this speculation but it will be hard to satisfy all the expectations, especially if the Treasury is not willing to allow additional public spending on post-compulsory education. So the review team have a big job to do.
On student numbers
The most important recent change to higher education was not the increase in fees to £9,000 but the removal of student number controls. Imposing greater costs on taxpayers would make the re-imposition of student number controls much more likely. That would be really bad news for social mobility.

When places are rationed, the middle classes win the race for higher education and the poorest and most under-represented groups lose out. Many of our schools are full to bursting and it is vitally important that we do not re-impose student number controls just as the number of 18-year olds starts growing again early in the next decade.
On parity between academic and technical education
It is hard to disagree with the Prime Minister’s ambition of first-class technical education to match our first-class universities. Many of her predecessors have expressed the same ambition, but it is nonetheless undeniably a good thing that further education is to be included in the review.

There are two important caveats, however. First, 97 per cent of mothers want their children to go to university and we should respect their aspirations. Secondly, the […]

1 Feb, 2018

How the rise of Asian universities is helping people move from ‘a career for life’ to ‘a lifetime of careers’

1 February, 2018|News

The Higher Education Policy Institute is publishing Major shifts in global higher education: A perspective from Asia by Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, President of the National University of Singapore (NUS) from 2008 to 2017, on Thursday, 1 February (HEPI Report 103).

This is a revised version of the most recent HEPI Annual Lecture, in which Professor Tan discussed the transformation of higher education in Asia. He focused in particular on: the ‘massification’ of higher education; the spread of liberal arts education; the expansion of the quantity of research; the importance of universities to innovation; and the need to provide the skills for the future.

Nick Hillman, HEPI Director, said:
The rise of Asian universities is, without doubt, the single most important current change happening in global higher education. It threatens the dominance of the Anglo-Saxon models in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, while also providing unrivalled opportunities for international co-operation. This HEPI Annual Lecture shows how the rapid changes occurred, considers what they mean and looks ahead to the future.
In the lecture, Professor Tan said:
In the developed economies of Asia, such as South Korea and Japan, high participation rates have been maintained. But the big story in the last decade has been the unprecedented rise in China and, to a lesser extent, India. The numbers involved are remarkable. It is estimated that, by 2020, China alone will have over 37 million students in higher education and India will have over 27 million. This is positive because many more students are having the opportunity to develop intellectually and pursue expanded career options. But it has also brought about significant challenges. The first is graduate unemployment and graduate under-employment. …

One significant trend has been […]

11 Jan, 2018

New study shows the benefits of international students are ten times greater than the costs – and are worth £310 per UK resident

11 January, 2018|News|2 Comments

The Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan International Pathways are jointly publishing a major new piece of research, The costs and benefits of international students by parliamentary constituency, undertaken by London Economics.

Unlike earlier research, this study provides a detailed analysis of the costs as well as the benefits to the UK of welcoming 231,000 new international students each year. It shows:

the gross benefits – including tuition fees, other spending and economic knock-on effects – of international students amount to £22.6 billion
these gross benefits are, on average, £87,000 for each EU student and £102,000 for each non-EU student
the public costs of hosting international students – including education, health and social security – total £2.3 billion
these public costs are, on average, £19,000 for each EU student and £7,000 for each non-EU student
the net impact (benefits minus costs) of hosting international students totals £20.3 billion
this net impact is, on average, £68,000 for each EU student and £95,000 for each non-EU student
the net impact of international students is spread throughout the UK:

students in London generate £4.64 billion;
students in the South East generate £2.44 billion;
students in the West Midlands generate £1.95 billion;
students in Scotland generate £1.94 billion;
students in the North West generate £1.91 billion;
students in Yorkshire and the Humber generate £1.59 billion;
students in the East of England generate £1.34 billion;
students in the East Midlands generate £1.28 billion;
students in the South West generate £1.21 billion;
students in the North East generate £0.98 billion;
students in Wales generate £0.90 billion; and
students in Northern Ireland generate £0.17 billion.

The net impact of international students is £31.3 million on average per parliamentary constituency:

students in Sheffield […]

8 Jan, 2018

New research suggests levels of independent study are more important than contact hours in determining how much students learn

8 January, 2018|By Tim Blackman|News

In What affects how much students learn? (HEPI Policy Note 5), Professor Tim Blackman, the Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University, undertakes new analysis of the annual Student Academic Experience Survey and shows students’ self-reported learning gain depends upon:

access to high-quality teaching;
high levels of independent study (especially over 20 hours a week);
support for students with low wellbeing;
avoiding high levels of paid work (over 17 hours a week);
location of study, with extra challenges for London-based students; and
studying at an institution with a Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework.

Professor Tim Blackman, the author of the Policy Note, said:
The Student Academic Experience Survey is a rich source of data on what matters to student learning in higher education. This Policy Note reports a statistical analysis of the inter-relationships between the many variables in the survey and how much of an independent effect these variables have on whether students report having learnt “a lot” during their studies.

High-quality teaching emerges as especially important, regardless of other factors such as students’ prior attainment. Some variables, such as students’ hours of independent study, make a bigger difference the higher their value, while others – such as wellbeing – have a threshold effect, with low wellbeing significantly increasing the likelihood of not having learnt a lot.

The results also cast doubt on accelerated two year degrees as the best way for many students to achieve their full potential.
Nick Hillman, the Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:
We do not know anything like enough about how students learn or how much they are learning. We need a more scientific approach to this issue, which our new report helps deliver.

Asking students how much they are learning and cross-referencing this with […]

4 Jan, 2018

New guide explains the mysteries of university rankings

4 January, 2018|News

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the Higher Education Strategic Planners Association (HESPA) are jointly publishing A Guide to UK League Tables in Higher Education by Sally Turnbull.

The paper looks at what goes in to making up the three main UK university rankings, which are published by The Times and Sunday Times, the Guardian and the Complete University Guide. It considers the similarities and differences between them and urges prospective students, policymakers and higher education providers to use them with caution.

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), said:
Universities are judged by their position in the league tables. Rankings determine reputation, prestige and student numbers. That is why university governing bodies hold their vice-chancellors to account for their league table positions.

But users of the league tables tend to know little about how the rankings are put together. In other words, they do not know, precisely, what it is they are holding people to account for.

The main league tables are not going to disappear any time soon because they provide comparative information and people find them useful. But they are easily and often misunderstood. My hope is that everyone who holds our universities to account will set themselves a new year’s resolution to look under the bonnet of the league tables before using them.
Sally Turnbull, the author of the report and Head of Planning and Insight at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), said:
Our new guide is aimed at building a deeper understanding of what the different UK league tables measure and what they ignore. It also points out that many valuable things done by institutions cannot be easily measured or incorporated into the rankings.

Having spent more time than is probably healthy […]

18 Dec, 2017

Over two-thirds (68%) of students now back Labour, but most of them think Labour (55%) and Jeremy Corbyn (58%) back Remain

18 December, 2017|News

The Higher Education Policy Institute and Youthsight have polled students for their current political views, voting intentions and opinions about Brexit. The results are being published in A Brexit Youthquake (HEPI Policy Note 4) by Jane Mackey, Research Manager at Youthsight, and Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

Nick Hillman said:
Students are often regarded as having a fixed place somewhere on the left of the political spectrum. But no political party can take them for granted.

Jeremy Corbyn did incredibly well among students and in university cities at this year’s general election. However, this strong support could turn out to be as soft as past student support for the Liberal Democrats. It all depends on Labour’s position in relation to Brexit for nearly all students oppose the UK leaving the EU.

While two-thirds of students back Labour, over half of them think Labour is a pro-Remain party. If their perceptions changed, then a high proportion would be less likely to support the party or to abstain from politics.
Ben Marks, Managing Director of YouthSight, said:
Our data show that students’ understanding of Labour’s position on Brexit is based more on hope and projection than understanding and reality.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party need to make their position on Brexit crystal clear if they want to retain the support of students. If they don’t, then the party could find their much-vaunted youth vote simply melts away.

Given Labour’s standing in the national polls currently, the party’s position on Brexit could be the crucial factor determining whether or not they taste victory at the next election.
Notes for Editors

This poll builds on work undertaken by both HEPI and Youthsight on students’ political impact. For example, HEPI has previously published […]