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New year presents HE sector with fresh challenges

Professor Malcolm Todd, Deputy Vice-Chancellor/Provost (academic and student experience) at the University of Derby, comments on what he sees as the most significant higher education news and opinions making headlines in the first week of 2020.

Universities UK International calls on employers to back study abroad campaign

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, introduces the launch of Year Three of UUKi's Go International: Stand Out campaign, calling on employers to promote the value of international experience.

University leaders commit to pension talks as strikes begin

University leaders have written to the University and College Union to formally outline their commitment to continuing to work with UCU to deliver long-term reform of the Universities Superannuation Scheme. The move comes as UCU members at 60 universities begin strike action in disputes over both pensions and pay.

Gateway to university expertise now provides 'smart match' with business

A platform providing a single access point for businesses to university expertise and funding opportunities has been further developed by the National Centre for Universities and Business, Research England, and UK Research and Innovation, to help 'smart match' business and industry with higher education institutions, in a bid to boost R&D collaboration. Shivaun Meehan, Head of Communications at the NCUB, outlines the latest features of Konfer.

Survey pinpoints ways to make postgraduates even more satisfied

Eight out of 10 postgraduate students taking a taught course in the UK report continued satisfaction with the experience over a five-year period.But a survey of more than 70,000 postgraduates across 85 higher education institutions who responded to the Advance HE Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) highlights for the first time areas where institutions could do better still to boost satisfaction levels.

Allow universities to charge £27k for 2-year degrees, says CMA

Universities should be allowed to charge up to £27,000 for two-year “accelerated” undergraduate degrees, the UK’s competition watchdog has suggested.

Currently, fees for two-year courses would have to be capped at £18,000 because of the annual fee limit of £9,000, but the Competition and Markets Authority says this does not give enough incentive for universities to provide shorter degree courses for students who want them.

It says universities should be given flexibility and have the same aggregate fee cap for accelerated courses as they do for standard ones (£27,000).

The recommendation is one of three made by the CMA in a letter about the Higher Education and Research Bill to the Universities Minister Jo Johnson.

The CMA’s acting chief executive Andrea Coscelli writes: “One of the main barriers to the development of accelerated courses is the annual structure of the fee cap which means that institutions are not able to charge an appropriate fee for the same course delivered over a shorter period of time.”

The CMA says providers would have an incentive to compete on price below any new cap, adding that there might be a need for “safeguards” to ensure accelerated courses were of a similar quality to standard ones.

The watchdog says as a whole, the government’s plan for HE has “the potential to improve competition and choice, thereby helping to improve the quality of HE provision”.

Another recommendation is that any link between the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and tuition fees should be at discipline level rather than institutional level, to give would-be students a better indication of course quality.

Universities which “meet expectations” are allowed to raise fees in line with inflation, and proposals in the Bill are that in year four of the TEF (2019-20), assessments are made at disciplinary rather than university level.

The letter from the CMA says although government officials say there are “practical difficulties” with caps at discipline level, there are “significant benefits” from doing so, and these should be overcome “so that the TEF can reach its full potential as an aid to student choice and an indicator of excellence”.

The third recommendation is that the new Office for Students proposed in the HE bill would be responsible for giving “approved status” to providers which want universities to validate their courses.

The CMA says some institutions are put off from such arrangements because of the regulatory risk – of their being held responsible if the organisation they validate fails.

“In many cases the validating partner has regulatory responsibility for the validated institution, but often without commensurate powers to impose changes on it,” the letter says.

The CMA also backs the government’s view that it should not usually bail out failing institutions, and that there should be safeguards for students affected.

 

 

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