9 Nov, 2017

New report shows each international student pays £8,000 towards filling gaps in UK R&D spending and calls on Philip Hammond to invest a further £1 billion in the Budget

9 November, 2017|News

A new HEPI report How much is too much? Cross-subsidies from teaching to research in British universities (HEPI Report 100) by Vicky Olive considers the scale and sustainability of university cross-subsidies and calls on Philip Hammond to boost research and development funding in the Budget.

The report finds:

a research deficit of £3.3 billion – 37% of research income
a surplus from fees of £1.3 billion (28% of non-publicly-funded teaching income)
the surplus from teaching funds 13% of UK university research (around £1 in £7)
each international student contributes (on average) £8,000 to British research
unless research funding increases, the UK’s regional capacity will suffer badly
the Conservatives’ target of spending 3% of GDP on R&D needs £24.8 billion more

The paper ends with three policy recommendations:

an increase of £1 billion in research spending in this year’s Budget
setting aside some of the extra public support for university / charity collaborations
new roadmap for meeting the Government’s commitments on R&D spending

Vicky Olive, the author of the report and an Economics postgraduate student at the University of Oxford, said:
The cross-subsidies from teaching to research are a float keeping UK universities world-class, but they are under threat like never before. The Government has frozen fees for home students, students are demanding to know more about where their money goes and international student numbers are perpetually under threat.

There is nothing morally wrong with cross-subsidising research from teaching, particularly if students see the benefits in their lectures and seminars. But it is right to investigate the scale of the subsidies and where they go, so that we can debate whether they are defensible, sustainable and valuable.

I started this project with no hidden agenda. I have ended it with a firm […]

19 Oct, 2017

New HEPI report cracks the code for TEF success – press release

19 October, 2017|By Diana Beech|News

A new HEPI report Going for Gold: Lessons from the TEF provider submissions by Diana Beech, HEPI Director of Policy & Advocacy, provides the first detailed analysis of the information submitted by universities for the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

The TEF ranks universities on teaching quality using data and 15-page ‘provider submissions’. In 2017, 46 leading higher education institutions achieved a Gold award, 67 secured Silver and 25 only managed Bronze. One-quarter moved up or down according to the evidence they submitted.

HEPI Director, Nick Hillman, said:
‘When the Teaching Excellence Framework was announced, the Government promised it would not be “big, bossy or bureaucratic”. It has become all three because universities don’t want to be measured on data alone.

‘Most institutions submitted a wealth of information, although a handful did not engage properly, with one submitting just four sentences out of a maximum 15 pages. It was worth engaging properly because many institutions jumped a category and one leapt from Bronze to Gold during the process. The best prepared submissions delivered success comparable with the famous “incremental gains” of the British Olympic Cycling team.

‘Jo Johnson, the Universities Minister, wants the TEF to be his legacy and it is not going to disappear any time soon. So this analysis is essential reading for any university seeking to move up our world-class higher education sector.’
Diana Beech, HEPI’s Director of Policy and Advocacy and the author of the report, said:
‘The TEF was especially challenging this year – its first full year – because institutions were not able to learn from earlier rounds. Although it is a constantly moving beast, the provider submissions are set to remain constant. So it is vital higher education institutions understand what worked this year if they […]

21 Sep, 2017

Helping students and staff by creating positive and mindful universities

21 September, 2017|News

Leading educationalist Sir Anthony Seldon and the University of Buckingham’s Dean of Psychology Alan Martin have drawn up a 10-point plan for the creation of a ‘positive university’ based on the approaches used by positive psychology and mindfulness.

Sir Anthony launched the country’s first positive university at Buckingham, where he is Vice-Chancellor, earlier this year, and has now jointly written a blueprint for other higher education institutions in the UK and around the world in a pamphlet published by HEPI.

The publication, HEPI Occasional Paper (18) The Positive and Mindful University, proposes a number of ways to tackle the growing problem of mental health issues among students and also staff.

Pioneering ideas include educating not just the intellect but the emotions to try to improve resilience; and aiming to create lifelong benefits – not just academic – during the period students are at university.
There is an emphasis on educating everyone who works and studies at the university – academics, students, the leadership team and all the support staff – in the ways of the ‘positive university’. Measures for students include a wide range of initiatives from educating them about self-harm and financial literacy to sessions on mindfulness and well-being for all first years.
The authors argue there should be more support from the moment students accept an offer to start university. The report advocates the appointment of personal mentors and the creation of a standing student/university transition body.
A matriculation ceremony at the start could mirror graduation ceremonies at the end. Students should also receive records of achievement, citing a wide range of skills both academic and non-academic, as well as a graduation certificate.
Alternative activities should be offered to those who do not want to take part […]

14 Sep, 2017

Always look on the bright side of life? Universities after Brexit

14 September, 2017|News

This is a speech that Nick Hillman, the Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute made this afternoon to an academic conference in central London.


I have been asked to speak on ‘Brexit: How it will affect universities’. Of course, Brexit has not happened yet and, if there is one thing that all the recent political upheavals have proved, it is that it is more difficult to predict the political weather than it is the actual weather.

So let me start with how universities behaved during the referendum campaign because there are some important things we could potentially learn from it.

The referendum

Almost without exception, universities were caught out on 23rd June 2016. Our own data – and that of others – showed the overwhelming majority of staff and students backed Remain. I only know of one person who was a vice-chancellor at the time who admits to voting Brexit – and he was in charge of an alternative provider rather than a traditional university.

Collectively, the university sector ran a big campaign in favour of Remain but, to my mind, it had three major flaws.

First and most problematically, it was inward-looking. As I have already noted, the majority of people on university campuses were firmly determined to vote Remain. Moreover, our data showed the tiny minority who voted Leave had truculent views so were not open to persuasion. Running a campaign aimed at getting people in the higher education sector to support Remain was therefore never likely to make much difference – and, by the way, I made these sorts of points before the referendum so am not just being wise after the event.

Admittedly, a more outward-focused campaign by universities could not, on its own, have convinced 635,000 people who […]

7 Sep, 2017

New HEPI paper warns of crisis in UK creative arts education

7 September, 2017|News

The UK’s pipeline of creative talent is fracturing because Art, Media and Design are being downgraded in schools, according to a new report – A crisis in the creative arts in the UK? – from the Higher Education Policy Institute by Professor John Last, Vice-Chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts (NUA).

Research conducted among local schools shows the Government’s decision to leave the Arts out of the ‘core’ subjects in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is leading to lower pupil attainment, less funding and more teacher recruitment challenges.

Research by NUA in Norfolk’s secondary schools shows:

72 per cent of teachers report a decline in attainment in Art and Design on entry to secondary school, with a growing number of pupils lacking basic drawing and painting skills;
over half of teachers report a decline in Art and Design (57%) or Design and Technology (59%) at Key Stage Four (GCSE level); and
73 per cent of teachers fear a decline in ‘creative stamina and resilience’ among pupils, with a growing fear that Art and Design take too much time and effort to achieve top grades compared to other subjects.

Professor Last said:

‘The aim of education in the past was to offer a balanced curriculum of arts, humanities and sciences. But the introduction of the English Baccalaureate in 2010 set us on a path where creativity falls outside the “core” of our children’s education.

‘The consequences of this downgrading of creative subjects are already being felt – in the choices pupils make about their GCSE options, in the practical creative skills they develop during their education and in the difficult decisions headteachers are making about funding and resources.

‘The economic value of the arts has been put at £84 billion a year but is […]

14 Aug, 2017

Where next for widening participation and fair access? New insights from leading thinkers – press release

14 August, 2017|By Nick Hillman|News

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the social mobility charity Brightside are jointly publishing a collection of essays by senior higher education figures entitled Where next for widening participation and fair access? New insights from leading thinkers.

Contributors include: Kirsty Williams AM, the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Welsh Government; Vonnie Sandlan, the former President of NUS Scotland; and Peter Horrocks, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University. Les Ebdon, the Director for Fair Access, has contributed a Foreword.

The policies put forward in the chapters include: much bolder contextualised admissions policies for highly-selective universities (with AAA+ offers typically being reduced to CCC), more support for people in care with the potential to benefit from higher education and new Personalised Learning Accounts to meet demand for more flexible lifelong learning.

The Director of HEPI, Nick Hillman, who wrote the Introduction to the collection, said:
Despite the progress in opening up universities to people from under-represented groups, we have miles left to go. The current changes to higher education, including the closure of the Office for Fair Access, mean we could be in for a bumpy period. It is time to take stock by learning from all those working with disadvantaged people inside and beyond universities, being willing to change tack when initiatives are ineffective and incorporating new insights from areas like behavioural economics.
Anand Shukla, the Chief Executive of Brightside, said:
If we are serious as a country about having a higher education system that unlocks everyone’s potential rather than just helping a privileged minority, then bold proposals like radically reducing entry requirements for disadvantaged students will need to be embraced by universities and government.
In his Foreword, Les Ebdon, writes:
While we celebrate improvements in access for disadvantaged young people, we must […]

5 Aug, 2017

UK is (just) number 1 for educating the world’s leaders

5 August, 2017|By Nick Hillman|News|1 Comment

A new study by the Higher Education Policy Institute ( reveals the UK’s higher education sector has educated more of the world’s leaders than any other.

Among 377 serving heads of state and heads of government, 58 attended universities and colleges in the UK. This places the UK just ahead of the United States (57) but far ahead of all other countries. France is in third place, with 33 world leaders, ahead of Russia (9) and Australia (8).

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said:
These results show the UK punches massively above its weight in educating the leaders of the world. This is of huge benefit to British influence, and could be especially useful as we negotiate Brexit.

Not only do these leaders have a British qualification that helped them reach the top, they have also spent time here creating a strong sense of loyalty to the UK. It’s a source of real soft power, and a fantastic testament to the quality of our universities.

The 2017 Conservative election manifesto promised a new crackdown on international students. This survey proves that would be catastrophic to our influence around the world. It is one higher education promise that almost everyone wants to see broken.
Leaders educated in the UK include: Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who took degrees at Oxford and SOAS during the 1960s and 1980s; recently-elected Gambian President Adama Barrow, who worked as an Argos security guard while studying property management in London; and the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Tunbull, who studied at the University of Oxford.

All of the leaders in the analysis came to study in the UK before the current migration target came in and, like the majority of international students, they returned to […]

20 Jul, 2017

New report calls for comprehensive universities to improve social mobility

20 July, 2017|News|5 Comments

HEPI is today publishing The Comprehensive University (Occasional Paper 17) by Professor Tim Blackman, the Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University. The report argues the comprehensive ideal is the best way to fix how the UK’s class-based university system is holding back social mobility.

The paper’s recommendations include:

measures to ‘desegregate’ and diversify universities, including quotas for the proportion of student places that can be subject to academic selection;
targets for universities to re-balance their skewed social class intakes, driven by levies on the most selective universities; and
a funding system that reflects the benefits of higher education to both the individual student and wider society.

Professor Blackman said:
The UK’s higher education system is said to be one of the best in the world, but it is failing to make the contributions to tackling social inequality and poor economic productivity that our universities could make if regulated in a different way. The root of these problems is academic selection, which has created a sector based on social class advantages rather than recruitment and teaching practices that equalise opportunities.

The narrative of “leading” and “top” universities has marginalised the transformational potential of higher education, which lies in adopting comprehensive principles. Mixing students of different backgrounds and abilities and teaching them together would force more universities to develop their teaching expertise, but there are many added benefits.

Evidence shows that less selection and greater diversity would create a better learning environment for all students, and it is much the best and most cost-effective way to widen access.
In a Foreword to the report, Matthew Taylor (a former head of the Number 10 Policy Unit and author of the recent report Good work: the Taylor review of modern working practices), says:
Tim Blackman’s case for comprehensive […]

4 Jul, 2017

University applicants set for shock to the system

4 July, 2017|News|1 Comment

New report says more can be done to prepare young people for university.

The first major survey of its kind, Reality Check: A report on university applicants’ attitudes and perceptions, produced by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Unite Students, shows a significant gap between what university applicants think higher education is like and the realities of student life.

The research shows that applicants prepare for university in a state of mixed emotions. While 81% are excited about the prospect, 61% are anxious, with 58% having had trouble sleeping and 27% reporting panic attacks in the past year. The report highlights a number of specific areas where applicants’ expectations are out of step with the reality.

The key findings include:

60% of university applicants expect to spend more time in lectures than they do in school lessons, yet only 19% of students find this happens.
Only 37% of applicants with a mental health condition have declared, or intend to declare it, with their prospective university.
While most applicants (62%) believe they have a good grip on money matters, only 43% are confident about paying a bill and only 41% feel they understand student finances, with many under-estimating essential expenses.
Almost half (47%) of all applicants feel unprepared for living with people they have never met before, with gay, lesbian, bisexual and other sexuality applicants less confident about making friends (58%) than heterosexual applicants (74%).

While most applicants (67%) are confident they will find the right support for any mental health issues, friends emerged as the first line of support for most applicants (85%). Half (50%) anticipate turning to academic staff, ahead of university counselling services (47%) or their GP (43%).

The research, which surveyed over 2,000 applicants, also provides early insight into […]

22 Jun, 2017

Mary Curnock Cook: How to improve technical education to deliver higher skills and better productivity

22 June, 2017|News|2 Comments

In a new report for the Higher Education Policy Institute (, Mary Curnock Cook, the former Chief Executive of UCAS, says the Government must address six big gaps in technical education policy to raise skills and productivity.

Mary Curnock Cook, the author of Misunderstanding Technical and Professional Education: Six Category Mistakes (HEPI Policy Note 1), said:

‘The success of the British economy, particularly after Brexit, will depend in large part on the quality of technical and professional education. In the past, this has generally been ignored, underpowered and underfunded.

‘Before the recent general election, skills policy was – rightly – placed at the heart of a new industrial strategy. Technical education is now being reorganised into 15 routes matching the main industrial sectors and new technical qualifications, called T-Levels, are being introduced.

‘I’d love to see this new attempt succeed because students and employers would welcome it. But there are some fundamental design flaws that need to be ironed out up front.’

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:

‘The Conservative manifesto promised to make British technical education “as prestigious as our world- leading higher education system”. That challenge has proved a particularly big conundrum for British policymakers, bedevilling past administrations.

‘Recent changes provide hope that we can raise our game, but they will not succeed without further improvements. In particular, if the new T-Levels are to be respected by students and employers, they need to be clarified, tweaked and explained.’

Notes for Editors

HEPI Policy Note 1, Misunderstanding Technical and Professional Education: Six Category Mistakes, considers six areas:

Parity of esteem: The new T-Levels are supposed to give technical education the same status as academic education. But they have a different purpose and structure to A-Levels. So they will […]