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Behind the HE headlines is one key question – the purpose of universities

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 .

30 VCs sign new Civic University Agreement

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.

How to improve the student experience -- ask the students themselves

Jenny Shaw , Student Experience Director at Unite Students, draws lessons on the higher education sector's efforts to improve the student experience from a week of HE news and views.

HEi-think: Why universities should support two year degrees

From this September, students will be able to opt to study an accelerated two year degree, as opposed to a traditional three year course. Professor Malcolm Todd, Provost (Academic) at the University of Derby, discusses why universities should consider the change in legislation and look to offer accelerated degrees.

Erasmus+ students face potential "no deal" Brexit upheaval, UUK warns

Thousands of students could be denied government funding to study abroad if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, Universities UK has warned.

A new government technical notice says that British students currently in Europe on Erasmus+ placements should continue to receive funding for the duration of their time abroad. However, excluding the grants that have already been agreed, the UK government has not committed to providing any further funding for students planning to study in Europe in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

In 2016-17, 16,561 British students studied on Erasmus+ placements, and a similar number is expected to be planning to be aiming for placements this coming year. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds would suffer particularly if grants are axed as they are less likely to be able to find an alternative form of funding to help pay their living and travel costs while in Europe, UUK said.

As part of its no-deal Brexit contingency planning, UUK is updating its guidance to universities on the impact of no-deal, to help them minimise the impact on students.

Alistair Jarvis, UUK Chief Executive, said the government must urgently reconsider its position: "Today's news from government provides welcome clarity for British students currently in Europe on Erasmus+ placements, as they should continue to receive funding for the duration of their time abroad. However, excluding any grants that may have already been agreed, government has not committed to new funding for study abroad placements beyond this.

"This means thousands of British students could miss out on the life-changing opportunity to take on placements at European universities on the Erasmus+ scheme. Students find themselves caught up in this political turmoil through no fault of their own. In particular, this decision will affect students from poorer backgrounds and disabled students, many of whom rely on financial help to meet the extra costs of studying abroad.

"As a matter of urgency, the UK government must reconsider its decision and commit to fund 2019/20 study abroad placements in the event of no deal. Research shows that studying abroad boosts academic performance, and helps students from a range of backgrounds develop the skills and global networks they need to secure jobs in a successful global trading nation," he said.

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