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HEi-think: Why overseas students deserve a more welcoming UK visa policy

Following encouraging comments from universities minister Sam Gyimah on Universities UK's call for the re-introduction of a post-study work visa, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, the outgoing President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield who co-founded the #WeAreInternational campaign with the President of the Sheffield Students' Union in 2012, argues that now is the time for the government to back up its welcoming words for international students with a welcoming policy change.

HEi-think: UUK annual conference -- thoughts from HE leaders

University UK's annual conference, held at Sheffield Hallam University, kicked off the academic year with speeches and debates on a wide range of burning issues, including Brexit, fees and funding, overseas students, public perceptions of HE, value for money, freedom of speech, and student mental health. HEi-know asked Higher Education Policy Institute Director Nick Hillman, Staffordshire University Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes, and Lancaster University Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark Smith, to give their personal perspectives on the event and its themes.

Universities improve class sizes and facilities with fees rise

UK universities have boosted spending on facilities while in England class sizes have improved since the introduction of higher fees, analysis by the Complete University Guide has found.

The findings coincide with the publication of The Guide’s annual university league table, which is the first to use the latest data on research quality.

The top of the table in this year's rankings is unchanged from last year, with Cambridge, Oxford and the London School of Economics occupying the top three spots. Lancaster and Surrey have moved into the top ten, and Imperial College London has risen two places to fourth.

Other climbers are Ulster (up 17 to 67th), Sussex (up 17 to 21st), De Montfort (up 17 to 54th), Bradford (up 15 to 62nd) Liverpool John Moores (up 14 to 67th), Leeds Trinity (up 12 to 101st), Bournemouth (up 11 to 54th), and Gloucestershire (up 11 to 80th).

Eleven universities fell ten places or more: Winchester (27 places), Chester (15), Falmouth (15), Hertfordshire (14), Arts, London (14), Newman (14), Glyndwr (13), Leeds Beckett (12), Salford (12), Glasgow Caledonian (11), and Plymouth (11).

A review of the data for the league table since 2010 shows an initial worsening in student:staff ratios followed by an improvement across the whole of the United Kingdom that began with the introduction of fees of up to £9,000 a year in England.

The exception is Wales where the ratio worsened slightly between 2012 and 2013 before a reduction last year. But Welsh universities still have the highest student:staff ratios of any in the UK.

Spending on facilities increased steadily over the full five year period.

The growth in the number of “good” honours degrees - graduates achieving first or upper second class honours - also increased, as did student satisfaction.

A sustained rise in the percentage of graduates in professional employment or engaged in further study six months after graduation reflects the continued recovery from the financial crisis, according to the Guide. Recovery was already apparent before the coalition came to power and graduate employment levels have since returned to pre-crisis levels in every part of the UK, although the improvement in Wales has been less marked. In contrast, Scotland has consistently achieved the highest rate in every year reviewed.

Dr Bernard Kingston, principal author of TheCompleteUniversityGuide.co.uk, said: “UK students seem to be getting a better deal for their higher tuition fees in almost every area. It remains to be seen how far this trend can continue but in the short term at least, students are benefitting from spending on facilities that affect them directly.

“It is probable that the improvement in student:staff ratios has been influenced in part by universities recruiting for the Research Excellence Framework exercise.

“And the graduate employment market has recovered more quickly from the financial crisis than might have been predicted, offering increased chances of professional-level work or further study after graduation.

“There is significant evidence that universities’ efforts to develop employability skills has had a knock-on effect on graduate prospects. This is crucial for the first cohort of students from English universities to pay tuition fees of up to £9,000, who graduate this summer.”

Dr Kingston added: “There is a considerable degree of stability at the upper end of the league table this year, suggesting that the transition from the previous assessment of research quality to this year’s Research Excellence Framework has not made a significant difference.”

 

Complete University Guide Top 40

andresr / 123RF

Rank 2016

Previous Rank

Movement

Institution

 

 

 

 

1

(1)

0

  Cambridge

2

(2)

0

  Oxford

3

(3)

0

  London School of Economics

4

(6)

2

  Imperial College London

5

(5)

0

  Durham

5

(4)

-1

  St Andrews

7

(7)

0

  Warwick

8

(12)

4

  Surrey

9

(11)

2

  Lancaster

10

(9)

-1

  University College London

11

(10)

-1

  Exeter

12

(8)

-4

  Bath

13

(13)

0

  Loughborough

14

(16)

2

  Southampton

15

(18)

3

  Bristol

16

(15)

-1

  East Anglia

17

(14)

-3

  York

18

(17)

-1

  Birmingham

19

(23)

4

  Leeds

20

(21)

1

  Edinburgh

21

(38)

17

  Sussex

22

(22)

0

  Kent

23

(28)

5

  King's College London

24

(19)

-5

  Leicester

25

(23)

-2

  Nottingham

26

(20)

-6

  Newcastle

27

(26)

-1

  Sheffield

27

(28)

1

  Manchester

29

(37)

8

  Reading

30

(30)

0

  Glasgow

31

(23)

-8

  Cardiff

32

(27)

-5

  Aston

33

(36)

3

  Queen Mary, University of London

34

(33)

-1

  Royal Holloway, University of London

34

(39)

5

  Essex

36

(31)

-5

  Queen's, Belfast

37

(33)

-4

  Heriot-Watt

38

(41)

3

  Strathclyde

39

(31)

-8

  Liverpool

40

(44)

4

  Aberdeen

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