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Major international HE conference considers impact of the digital revolution

A major international conference considered the digital revolution and its transformation of higher education, society, and the way technology affects the creation and use of knowledge.

Rule out variable fees and minimum entry requirements, says new report

The government should rule out variable fees and restricting university access for lower grade students, according to a new report.

UK universities' fundraising success helps sooth financial uncertainty

Fundraising added more than £1 billion to the coffers of universities in the UK and Ireland last year, new research shows. Sue Cunningham, President and CEO of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) argues that the findings point to the growing importance of philanthropy for the future health and vitality of the sector.

Conceptions of what is excellent in higher education are starting to change

Professor Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, outlines strategies adopted by NTU that are boosting social mobility and which helped it win the inaugural Guardian University of the Year award, a gong he believes shows how notions of excellence in HE are changing.

Employer-sponsored degrees deserve more support, says report

Employer-sponsored degrees should be given the same support as higher-level apprenticeships according to a new report.

The Higher Education Policy Institute says this kind of study has great benefits for employers, the country’s economy and for individuals – who “earn as they learn” and gain a degree without getting into debt.

But the report's author, Professor Dave Phoenix, Vice-Chancellor of London South Bank University and Chair of the Million+ group, has also warned that if employer-sponsored degrees are not supported by the new £3 billion-a-year apprenticeship levy, there is a risk employers will switch their support from degrees to apprenticeships.

One in ten students in higher education is currently sponsored by an employer. Typically, someone doing such a degree will study one-day a week and work for the rest of it, while also receiving on-the-job training.

The report argues that degree and higher-level apprenticeships enjoy substantial subsidies from the government, and that the playing field between these and employer-sponsored degrees should be levelled.

It says employer-sponsored degrees are around six times cheaper for taxpayers than a typical three-year undergraduate degree – a figure based on new analysis by London Economics for this report.

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said more people could benefit from being sponsored to do a degree.

“Employer sponsored degrees are a great way to provide job-ready skills alongside an academic qualification. They deliver higher productivity for employers and higher wages for individuals. They are nearly six times cheaper than regular degrees for taxpayers and the students can emerge with no debt.”

The report calls for parity between the way that apprenticeships and employer sponsored degrees are funded, “allowing the schemes to compete on an equal footing” and for employer sponsored degrees to be promoted in schools and through the media.

It also says the government should look at the impact of policy in this area on social mobility and consider bringing in a “Higher Education Salary Sacrifice Scheme”.  This would involve an employer paying universities upfront and the student paying the employer back through their before-tax salary.

Professor Phoenix (whose own university, London South Bank, has nearly 7,000 sponsored students), said he supported the government’s new degree apprenticeships, as a “welcome addition to professional and technical education”.

But he added: “Ministers must ensure they complement rather than disrupt existing employer  sponsored degrees. This report shines a light on the huge value of employer-sponsored degrees and shows how a good policy could become a great one.”

 

 

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