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The UK's only independent think tank devoted to higher education.

HEPI Election Briefing: How and why this election matters for students, staff and higher education institutions

  • 20 November 2019

The Higher Education Policy Institute (www.hepi.ac.uk) has issued an Election Briefing document, which discusses and summarises five higher education issues that are linked to the 2019 general election.

They are:

  1. Student voters;
  2. Undergraduate fees and funding;
  3. Participation and access;
  4. Research and development; and
  5. Internationalisation.

The Policy Note takes a look at some of the biggest issues that will affect institutions in years to come and raises a series of important questions that any future government will need to answer. It is aimed at general readers and specialists alike.

Nick Hillman, the Director of HEPI and a co-author of the report, said:

Every election matters for higher education institutions but this one matters more than most. The main political parties are offering radically different proposals on student fees, loans and grants for English students, and they would all have knock-on consequences throughout the UK.

Politicians across the political spectrum have backed more research and development spending, a high proportion of which is spent in universities. But the UK continues to lag far behind our main competitors and the election could determine if, and how, we raise our game. In particular, there are big unanswered questions on how any extra R&D spending will be distributed.

The future vitality of our higher education sector relies not only on positive new commitments but also on policymakers limiting the fallout from any unwise election promises.

Rachel Hewitt, HEPI’s Director of Policy and Advocacy at HEPI and the other co-author, said:

Recent political uncertainty has led to an ever-changing environment for universities. While this may be the “Brexit election”, it is important that the outcome clarifies the fog on higher education policy.

Prospective students need certainty on the fees they will pay and the support available to them. In a post-Brexit world, staff need to know how they can research across borders and how universities will recruit international students.

For the general public, it is important this election provides some certainty about the role universities will continue to play in society.’

Some of the issues covered by the report are listed below.

  1. Student voters: students’ latest voting preferences; the electoral registration of students; the likely impact of student voters on the election results; and the issues that matter to student voters.
  2. Undergraduate fees and funding: the future make-up of student funding in England; the knock-on consequences of changes in England for the rest of the UK; and students’ perceptions of value for money and demands for greater transparency.
  3. Participation and access: the increase in participation among young full-time students and the decline among older part-time students; the expected growth in demand for higher education to 2030; and proposals to rejuvenate adult learning.
  4. Research and development (R&D): recent trends in UK R&D spending; unanswered issues about the distribution of future public spending; proposals for research investment post-Brexit; cross-subsidies from international student fees to research.
  5. Internationalisation: the reliance of UK institutions on cross-border flows of students and staff and research spending; post-study work changes; the potential impact on universities of geo-political factors, such as any changes to the UK/China relationship; and the treatment of students from EU countries after Brexit.

Notes for Editors

The Higher Education Policy Institute was established in 2002 to shape the higher education policy debate through evidence. It is the UK’s only independent think tank devoted to higher education. HEPI is a non-partisan charity funded mainly by organisations and universities that wish to see a vibrant higher education debate.

Some of our other work relating to the 2019 election is listed below:

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