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HEi News Roundup live

Live higher education news roundup

New HE agency ready to consult on its services

Advance HE, UK higher education's newly formed agency, is setting out its stall and preparing to consult with the sector on the services it provides. Its Chief Executive Alison Johns outlines its plans and aims.

Advance HE formally launched

Advance HE, the new sector agency to be formed from the merger of the Equality Challenge Unit, Higher Education Academy and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, has been formally launched after the three agencies signed the documentation to effect the merger.

HEi-think: Evidence needed from HEIs on barriers to growing UK’s HE export potential

As the Higher Education Commission gathers evidence for its inquiry into the export potential of UK HE, it is particularly keen to hear from HEIs about barriers to international growth as Brexit approaches, says Dr Mary Bishop, HE Commissioner, TEF Panellist, and JISC HE & Student Experience Expert.

HE Commission seeks evidence on inquiry into UK HE exports

Universities have been invited to submit evidence to the Higher Education Commission's sixth cross-party inquiry, examining the export potential for the UK’s higher education sector.

Faster progress needed on widening access, says OFFA

The fair access watchdog OFFA has published its latest guidelines for universities on access agreements and told universities they will have to make faster progress on widening participation to meet new government targets.

Universities in England need to draw up such agreements and have them approved by OFFA to be allowed to charge higher tuition fees up to a maximum of £9,000 a year.

The latest guidelines cover agreements for the academic year 2017-18.

In them, OFFA sets out the government’s priorities as well as progress made on widening access to universities for disadvantaged and under-represented groups.

OFFA says there has been progress, but that to meet the Prime Minister’s new goals for social mobility “it is important to accelerate the rate of progress”.

By 2020, the government wants to double the proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education from 2009 levels and increase by 20 per cent the number  from black and minority ethnic communities from 2014 levels.

The watchdog highlights the recent call from ministers for universities to tackle the under-representation of white, working-class boys and also urges institutions to consider how “to support students with mental health problems and specific learning difficulties”.

It also tells universities to encourage more people to study flexibly, part-time and as mature students, saying the slump in numbers doing this has implications for equality because “part-time learners are more likely to be from a disadvantaged background, to be women, and to be mature learners”.

It identifies some low-participation areas as “coastal areas, former industrial towns in the Midlands and the North; rural areas of the South West and East of England” and east London.

The watchdog tells universities to “maintain or increase expenditure” on widening access, but acknowledges the possible impact of planned cuts to the teaching grant and student opportunity funding.

Universities, it says, should focus on evidence and the outcomes of their activities and “consider moving resources away from financial support” for students if there is not “strong evidence” that it is having an impact.

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