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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.

A house divided? Growing divisions and inequalities in HE

Mike Boxall, who has thirty years' experience as a consultant and commentator on strategic developments in higher and further education, finds evidence in recent news of growing and worrying divisions within UK higher education.

UK HE must put its house in order to maintain global excellence

News on higher education over the past week highlights an urgent need for the sector to get to grips with ethical issues that have a bearing on the way it is managed and governed, argues Sandra Booth, Director of Policy and External Relations at Council for Higher Education in Art and Design (CHEAD).

Rising staff costs putting universities under greater pressure, warns Moody's

UK universities will face greater financial pressure over the next three years due to rising staff costs as they accommodate more students, retain talent and negotiate pay rises,  Moody's has warned.

Growth in degree apprenticeships should be a priority, MPs say

A big expansion of degree apprenticeships “is crucial” to create a high-quality system that can plug the skills gap, according to MPs.

The government should make clear to the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA), the body tasked with helping employers develop apprenticeships and overseeing quality, that the growth of higher degrees is a strategic priority, according to a new report from the House of Commons Education Committee.

Degree apprenticeships are essential for apprentices to progress and “to create a cascade of prestige for apprenticeships and address our skill deficit”, says the report, The apprenticeships ladder of opportunity: quality not quantity.

It warns that a much stronger focus on progression through the various levels is needed, and calls for a UCAS-style portal for technical education to be launched to simplify the application process and encourage further training at higher levels.

Universities have raised concerns that delays in the approval of degree level standards, and the lack of consistency in the advice provided by the IfA, have led to some universities questioning whether they should risk investing in supporting employers to develop a programme.

In its evidence to the committee, the University Alliance said there was a “lack of understanding” on the part of the IfA about existing HE quality mechanisms, and the incorporation of these procedures into IfA processes.

More generally the report warns that too many apprentices are not getting the high-quality training they deserve and that disadvantaged young people in particular do not receive the support they need to pursue an apprenticeship. 

While it recognises the good work being done by many FE colleges and independent training providers, it calls for clearer oversight of apprenticeship training and assessment and a tougher approach to poor quality training.

MPs also say “the opaque world of subcontracting” in apprenticeship provision needs to be given far greater scrutiny. Amid a tripling in the number of approved providers, the report recommends an expanded role for Ofsted inspections and a cap on the amount of training that new providers can offer until they have proved their provision is of sufficient quality.

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