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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.

A report from the ratings agency's Public Sector Europe arm, says the current freeze on the cap for undergraduate tuition fees limits universities' ability to offset rising costs with revenue increases. In addition, industrial action over pensions and increased scrutiny on senior staff remuneration pose reputational risks.

"UK universities' staff costs will continue to grow as they hire additional staff to accommodate student growth and award inflationary pay increases to retain talent," said Jeanne Harrison, a Moody's Vice President - Senior Analyst and the report's co-author. "The lack of index-linked tuition fees for home undergraduates will continue to restrict universities' ability to mitigate these rising costs."

In the 2018 fiscal year, staff costs accounted for the largest share (54 per cent) of the sector's total spending and represented a median of 52 per cent of turnover for rated universities. Moody's expects the median to increase to 55 per cent by the 2021 fiscal year.

The universities that Moody's rates expect the number of full-time equivalent staff to continue to increase by around 1 per cent each year between 2019 and 2023 as they increase student intakes.

Although pension liabilities remain manageable given universities' generally strong balance sheets, pensions costs are set to increase over the next two years as contribution rates rise.

Despite ongoing uncertainty around post-Brexit immigration policy, international (non-EU) student applications increased 9 per cent year-on-year for the 2019-20 academic year. Rated universities will continue to rely on strong demand from uncapped international students in order to boost income in the face of rising staff costs, the report says.

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