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Research England launches £4m fund to boost international collaboration

Research England has launched a new, competitive, £4 million fund designed to help higher education institutions (HEIs) expand their existing research collaborations with universities and research organisations outside of the UK.

Public positive about universities but question graduate work skills and value for money

A national poll of the public on their perceptions of universities has produced mixed results.

HE experts' views on the decade's most influential HE reports

HEi-know asked 12 higher education experts to name what they see as the most influential HE reports of the past decade. Here are their views.

Browne review is the most influential HE report of the last decade, say experts

The votes are in and the result is unequivocal. The most influential higher education report of the last decade is the October 2010 Browne report: higher education funding and student finance , according to a range of experts.

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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