News

3 Apr, 2017

Why we must protect university autonomy

3 April, 2017|News

HEPI Director, Nick Hillman, will today deliver a major speech on university autonomy at the inaugural meeting of the G20 – a group of Presidents from independent (or independent-minded) colleges and universities around the world – taking place at the University of Buckingham.

In his speech, he will:

note the benefits that institutional autonomy provides UK universities in terms of their global standing;
claim universities are more autonomous than they are always willing to admit;
warn against crying wolf over university autonomy too readily;
argue that recent changes in England, including tripling tuition fees and removing student number controls, have increased institutional autonomy;
show official support for new providers stems less from a desire for fully-blown marketisation and more from a desire to shape the sector indirectly;
criticise the House of Lords’s amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill (New Clause 1) defining what a university it and call on MPs to reverse it;
show the risks of pure autonomy, including uniformity and hierarchy, which the university sector must guard against;
defend external scrutiny of universities, despite their autonomy; and
call on Parliament to start debating the optimum categorisation of different sorts of higher education providers; and
predict further higher education legislation will prove necessary in the future.

Why we must protect university autonomy: Speech to the inaugural G20 meeting at the University of Buckingham

Embargo: 2.30pm, 3rd April 2017

Introduction: The University of Buckingham

Thank you inviting me. It is a great pleasure to be back here at Buckingham, particularly under its dynamic new leadership. Since it was founded 40 years ago, the University of Buckingham has occupied a unique place in British higher education. This is principally because of its exceptional level of independence, which was enshrined by the Royal Charter it secured in 1983.

This freedom has displayed itself in numerous ways, but […]

30 Mar, 2017

Getting bang-for-buck from university communications

30 March, 2017|News

On Thursday, 30th March, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) publishes a new report by Richard Garner, the UK’s longest-serving education correspondent, entitled Return on investment? How universities communicate with the outside world (Occasional Paper 16).

Drawing on over 35 years’ experience at the Independent, the Mirror and the Times Educational Supplement, the author:

recounts initiatives that worked;
reveals how universities can receive more positive coverage; and
shows how the media have changed.

Richard Garner, the author of the report, said:
Higher education is getting more space in the media and there are more outlets of different types. But there is less understanding and knowledge of universities by those who write about them. This is the biggest challenge facing those who are paid to promote the image of the sector but, given the quality of British higher education, it is far from impossible.

While universities do not always help themselves in how they approach the media, I would advise journalists to listen to them. The essence of media relations with the higher education sector is dialogue, not press releases.
Commenting on the report, Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI said:
Media coverage of higher education has exploded while the number of education journalists has shrunk. Bigger university communication teams have taken up the slack, but they could be more responsive to how the media now operate.

Half-cooked stories that don’t resonate with journalists are counter-productive and waste time and money. Yet it is possible to get a fair hearing for our fantastic universities, even on trickier topics, when the stories are interesting, the lessons are clear and the academics are accessible. Above all, not all interesting news has to be bad news.
The report provides a conservative estimate of at least 600 people working in university public relations departments across […]

1 Mar, 2017

HEPI announces a senior new team member to expand our policy analysis

1 March, 2017|News

HEPI is delighted to announce a senior new member of staff, Dr Diana Beech, who joins the think tank from the Department for Education (DfE) in a new role as the Director of Policy and Advocacy.

Previously a Programme Manager at the DfE with responsibility for establishing the Office for Students, Diana holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge (on conservative-Lutheran resistance in the Third Reich). She has also held post-doc positions at the University of British Columbia and the Technical University of Berlin, and spent three years in Cambridge managing a research project on the values behind contemporary European science policy.

Diana Beech said:
I am absolutely thrilled to be joining HEPI at such a pivotal time for the UK higher education sector. As the realities of Brexit and the Higher Education and Research Bill emerge, I look forward to working closely with the sector to help navigate the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said:
At HEPI, we have doubled our published output and more than doubled our programme of events in recent times, and we now work directly with the overwhelming majority of UK universities. This activity reflects the enormous changes affecting higher education at the moment. Our new appointment marks the next phase in our development and will allow us to do even more to shape and lead the policy debate.
Notes for Editors

In addition to her recent experience in higher education policymaking in Whitehall, Diana Beech has extensive experience of both UK and European higher education. She previously worked as a Research Consultant on the ‘OAPEN-UK’ project, gathering evidence to help stakeholders make informed decisions on the future of open access monograph publishing in the humanities and social sciences. Diana was also […]

24 Feb, 2017

Comment from HEPI Director on the new HE and Research Bill Government amendments

24 February, 2017|News

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

‘Today has proved yet again that Jo Johnson is on course to transform our higher education system. We have needed a new legal framework ever since £9,000 fees came in, but this hasn’t stopped some strong opposition against his plans. After the referendum and then again when the legislation reached the House of Lords, a cacophony of voices called for him to withdraw the Bill.

‘Today’s weighty amendments strengthen, clarify and improve the Bill in all sorts of ways. The House of Lords have done their job. But it would be wrong to see the latest changes as a u-turn because the Government’s main objectives, such as a new Office for Students and the Teaching Excellence Framework, were never really in doubt and are now even more secure.

‘Despite the progress being made, the process of reform does need to continue. The new incentives for offering two-year degrees may need to be matched by more new support for part-time study. We still need to legislate for a better regime for recouping student loans from those who move abroad. The red carpet that the Government should be rolling out for International students remains tightly rolled up.’

23 Feb, 2017

Higher education institutions could do more to help BTEC students, says new HEPI report

23 February, 2017|News

In a new HEPI paper, Reforming BTECs: Applied General qualifications as a route to higher education (HEPI report 94), Dr Scott Kelly considers the rise in the number of university students holding BTECs.

Students arriving at university with BTECs account for much of the growth in students from the lowest participation neighbourhoods and other under-represented groups over the past decade. But those with BTECs face a ‘glass ceiling’ – for example:

only 15 BTEC students were accepted at the four most selective higher education institutions in 2015; and
under 60 per cent of students with BTECs at Russell Group universities complete their course.

Although BTEC students can fall behind other students, any reform to BTECs must recognise that, if this ‘middle option’ were lost, then much of the progress made to widening participation to higher education in recent years could be lost too.

Dr Scott Kelly, the author of the report, said:
BTECs engage students that other qualifications do not reach. But, when Sports Science has been growing faster than all other STEM subjects, their rapid growth raises important some questions. Young people need better information on the options they are choosing and universities need to ensure they are giving BTEC students the support they need.

Reform of BTECs is necessary, but it mustn’t come at the cost of reversing our progress in widening participation. Instead, we should tackle the problems, including rapid grade inflation, while maintaining the distinctiveness of BTECs. Above all, we must avoid the temptation of converting BTECs in to academic-lite qualifications.
Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:
The future belongs to countries with more highly-skilled people. The growth in BTECs has unlocked access to higher education in unprecedented ways, and this progress must be maintained.

But there is evidence that not all […]

7 Feb, 2017

Michael Barber’s appointment as Chair of the Office for Students

7 February, 2017|News|2 Comments

Responding to the announcement that Michael Barber is the Government’s preferred candidate to be the Chair at the new Office for Students, Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:

‘This is an interesting appointment. He is clearly a great expert on the delivery of public services, cares about students and will be open to having a diverse higher education sector. The first Chair will help to set the tone, direction and success of the new body, so it is a critically important role.

‘But, given that he is not a former vice chancellor and the chief executive role is being advertised at a salary below the level of most vice chancellors, some people in the sector will be worried there could be no former vice chancellor at the top of the new body. That could make the future regulation of higher education very different to the past.’

6 Feb, 2017

Godot arrives: The Government WILL sell off income-contingent student loans

6 February, 2017|News

Today’s announcement on the sale of income-contingent student loans has been a long time coming. In fact it has been a decade since the Labour government passed the Sale of Student Loans Act 2008 and there have been numerous delays in the years since.

We can expect acres of newsprint and lots of protests. Other countries, notably Australia, have looked at selling off their loans but have shied away from it afterwards. The student movement have opposed any sale, as have some vice chancellors (though others have looked keen to buy their own loan book). But, as on so much else, his detractors and his fans must admit that Jo Johnson has managed to make significant progress. Despite, the rocky road the Higher Education and Research Bill is experiencing in the House of Lords, the Minister is ploughing on with other big changes alongside.

What the Government is doing may make some sense. Why should it keep the loans forever on its books? Why shouldn’t the demand of pension funds for long-term income streams be satisfied if there are no clear losers? Why shouldn’t we look for imaginative ways to reduce the national debt?

Debates about the sale of student loans have been plagued by misinformation. One particular issue is the idea that someone could buy the loans and then change the terms and conditions so graduates end up paying more. In fact, the terms and conditions have to be nailed down at the point of sale because otherwise the buyer has no idea what it is they are buying and will not part with their money. The Government have told me that the terms of the sale mean ‘investors would have no right to change any of the current loan […]

2 Feb, 2017

Time to act: UK Universities will be overtaken unless they embrace new technology

2 February, 2017|By Nick Hillman|News

In a new report, Rebooting Learning for the Digital Age, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), Paul Feldman, Sarah Davies and Joel Mullan call on university leaders to embrace new technology to meet the challenges faced by the higher education sector.

The report reviews best practice around the world to show how technology is benefiting universities and students through better teaching and learning, improved retention rates and lower costs:

in the US, curriculum redesign using technology-enhanced learning produced better student outcomes in 72 per cent of projects and average savings of 31 per cent;
the University of New England in Australia reduced student drop-out rates from 18 per cent to 12 per cent via learning analytics; and
at Nottingham Trent University, 81 per cent of first-year students increased their study time after seeing their own engagement data.

Paul Feldman, Chief Executive of Jisc said:
The Teaching Excellence Framework puts universities under pressure to improve student satisfaction, retention and employability while managing costs. Digital developments show this can be done, but only where there is strong leadership and suitably-skilled staff.

Results from the USA and Australia prove students become more engaged in their learning where technology is used well. In the UK, there are some good examples of transformational technology, but these need to become much more mainstream if we are to compete.
Sarah Davies, co-author of the report and head of higher education and student experience at Jisc, said:
The examples we reviewed for the report show how technology has become an essential component of an effective and engaging higher education experience.

Universities and course teams need to identify the approaches that work in their context and embed them into their teaching approaches. Whether this is using learning analytics to […]

23 Jan, 2017

Recreating the American Dream: Wealth Creation for the 21st Century

23 January, 2017|News|5 Comments

On the first day of the first full working week for President Trump (Monday, 23 January), the Higher Education Policy Institute is publishing a lecture by Martha Kanter, who was President Obama’s Under Secretary of Education throughout his first term in office. Dr Kanter delivered the HEPI Annual Lecture on 8 December 2016, but it has not been published in any form before and is now appearing in an updated version.

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:
We were honoured to host Dr Kanter, whose lecture is a tour de force. She shows the power of the American dream but also the obstacles in the way of delivering it. From her perspective, the election of Donald Trump looks more fearful than Brexit but she also paints a positive picture of the power of education to change hearts, minds and economies.

‘Most importantly, she explains how to deliver her goal through co-payment in which business, philanthropists and government work together to help people realise their true potential. She lays down some important challenges to higher education institutions too, urging them to be ever more transparent on what they do in return for the investment they receive.
Extracts from the speech follow.

Speech extracts 

Brexit and Trump

‘After the US presidential election, it seems there are some things far more alarming than Brexit. … I am confident that our collective genius will get us through these uncertain times, as it has since the birth of our nations. I am confident that the building of bridges will ultimately dominate the building of walls. … The true measure of a society’s prosperity is not the buildings it constructs, the technological accomplishments it achieves or the number of awards its elite members earn. It […]

12 Jan, 2017

Universities could lose students while gaining financially from Brexit, but any new restrictions on international students could cost the UK economy an additional £2 billion a year

12 January, 2017|News|2 Comments

Today (12 January), the Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan International publish the first detailed modelling on what Brexit and other global changes could mean for demand at UK universities from international students.

The research, published as The determinants of international demand for UK higher education and undertaken by London Economics, reveals a mixed picture. Some changes (e.g. higher fees for EU students) would reduce demand. Others (e.g. depreciation of sterling) would increase demand by reducing the price of studying in the UK for those from other countries.

Taken together, the changes could reduce the total number of students from overseas in the UK, thereby harming universities and their communities. At the same time, they could increase tuition fee income by £187 million (net) in the first year alone, as fees for students from EU members rise:

A 10% depreciation of sterling could increase enrolments from all other countries by around 20,000 students – an increase of 9% – in the first year, worth £227 million in fee income.
Conversely, harmonising the rules for EU and non-EU students could reduce enrolments from other EU countries by over 31,000 students (a 57% decline in EU students) – amounting to a net loss of £40 million in the first year (after accounting for higher fees from those who still study in the UK).
The oldest universities will gain the most financially, with Oxford and Cambridge standing to receive over £10 million more in fee income each year on average, while less prestigious universities stand to lose modest amounts of income (around £100,000 on average).

The modelling additionally shows that:

the removal of post-study work visas may have led to a reduction of around 20% in undergraduate enrolments by overseas […]