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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.

HEi-think: Universities must listen to their students in response to the green paper

The green paper offers HE institutions to opportunity to keep social mobility and other key issues high on the government's agenda. But they should listen closely to their students before submitting a response, argues Ross Renton, Pro Vice-Chancellor Students at the University of Worcester.

 

The long awaited higher education green paper finally arrived last Friday. It has been feverishly read in great detail by sector commentators, journalists and leadership in universities. Already there has been a range of briefings and initial responses released from sector bodies. We are all in agreement this is the greenest of green papers, there are lots of unanswered questions.

The paper is peppered with questions, for example ‘Do you agree with the proposals to further improve access and success for students from disadvantaged backgrounds?’ How could you disagree? Social mobility and widening participation is a key pillar of the new proposals and it seems to be a genuine commitment from the Government. I am told the Prime Minister has taken a personal interest and we know he set many of the targets in this area. It is now the role of the sector to help the Secretary of State deliver a white paper that will bring about sustained widening participation to HE.

Most Universities will take up the invitation to respond. For many, this will be crafted by ‘policy wonks’ and leadership teams. My plea is for institutions to work in partnership with their staff, students and Students’ Union to send a response that is rich with evidence. Students will have already had an email from the National Union of Students (NUS) outlining what these changes will mean for students and academics. What have institutions said to their students? Students will be able to give their perspective on what excellent teaching looks like. What do black and minority ethnic (BME) students think will make a difference in attracting and ensuring the success of BME students in HE?

The green paper also omits a number of issues that are of concern to the sector. There is little or no mention of part-time, postgraduate and mature students. Will there be a Student Opportunity fund? Will UCAS be compelled to provide institutions with more data? The proposals have only a passing reference to the needs of a locality/region. Are the new providers going to be encouraged to open in areas with inadequate HE provision? If not, we could end up with the only real growth being in London or our largest cities.

I see the green paper as an opportunity to ensure the government’s laudable ambitions for social mobility are deliverable and sustainable. We need to ensure that our responses make clear what works and highlight where central funding or co-ordination will make a significant difference. At last social mobility is high on the agenda - lets keep it up there.

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