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The past week’s higher education news demonstrates that there are certain expectations of universities that policymakers, HE leaders and the Augar review are expected to address, says Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of the Engineering Professors’ Council and Chief Executive of outreach organisation Push .
Leaders of thirty universities have signed a Civic University Agreement, reaffirming their institution's commitment to their local communities by pledging to put the economy and quality of life in their home towns and cities at the top of their list of priorities.
Universities have objected to plans to scrap the taught postgraduate supplement for clinical, high and intermediate-cost subjects.
Concerns have also been raised about plans to concentrate widening access funding in the new national collaborative outreach programme aimed at low participation neighbourhoods.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has published a report on responses to its consultation on arrangements for supporting widening access and successful student outcomes, including progression to taught postgraduate study.
Strong support was indicated for the proposal to give more funds to universities with high numbers of poorer students. Nearly three quarters of the 100 respondents from universities, colleges, mission groups, unions and professional bodies agreed that the full-time student premium should include a supplement with a weighting based on the recruitment of students who were at risk and from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.
While many of the other proposals received broad support, there was significant disagreement on two elements.
HEFCE plans to do away with the supplement of £1,100 for postgraduate taught students in high-cost programmes, in place since 2012, was opposed by 55 per cent of respondents.
In the event of the supplement being scrapped, there was strong support for allocating the funding according to the proportion of taught postgraduate students in each institution from the lowest participation areas or in receipt of Disabled Students Allowance.
Small and specialised institutions and further education colleges also raised fears that concentrating funding in the National collaborative Outreach programme aimed at low participation neighbourhoods could hamper their broader-based outreach efforts. As part of the proposals for the outreach programme, from 2017/18, HEFCE plans to discontinue the widening access element of the funding previously identified as the student opportunity allocation.
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