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The government's announcement of a major review of the National Student Survey signals a worrying shift in the HE regulatory landscape, warns Jon Scott, higher education consultant and former Pro Vice-Chancellor (student experience) at the University of Leicester.
Statements from ministers this week have made it clear that higher education in England is facing significant reforms, re-setting its focus towards helping to plug the UK's skills gaps and rebuilding the economy. Fariba Soetan, Policy Lead for Research and Innovation at the National Centre for Universities and Business, argues that the proposed changes bring a welcome focus on graduate outcomes and supporting the careers of young people.
Universities UK and GuildHE have commissioned the Quality Assurance Agency to develop a new approach to reviewing and enhancing the quality of UK TNE. QAA will consult on a new review method later this year and will launch a programme of in-country enhancement activity in 2021.
After a week of largely disappointing news for UK higher education, Nicola Owen, Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) at Lancaster University, fears that gloomy forecasts for the future of the sector may prove to be uncomfortably accurate.
Employer-sponsored degrees should be given the same support as higher-level apprenticeships according to a new report.
The Higher Education Policy Institute says this kind of study has great benefits for employers, the country’s economy and for individuals – who “earn as they learn” and gain a degree without getting into debt.
But the report's author, Professor Dave Phoenix, Vice-Chancellor of London South Bank University and Chair of the Million+ group, has also warned that if employer-sponsored degrees are not supported by the new £3 billion-a-year apprenticeship levy, there is a risk employers will switch their support from degrees to apprenticeships.
One in ten students in higher education is currently sponsored by an employer. Typically, someone doing such a degree will study one-day a week and work for the rest of it, while also receiving on-the-job training.
The report argues that degree and higher-level apprenticeships enjoy substantial subsidies from the government, and that the playing field between these and employer-sponsored degrees should be levelled.
It says employer-sponsored degrees are around six times cheaper for taxpayers than a typical three-year undergraduate degree – a figure based on new analysis by London Economics for this report.
Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said more people could benefit from being sponsored to do a degree.
“Employer sponsored degrees are a great way to provide job-ready skills alongside an academic qualification. They deliver higher productivity for employers and higher wages for individuals. They are nearly six times cheaper than regular degrees for taxpayers and the students can emerge with no debt.”
The report calls for parity between the way that apprenticeships and employer sponsored degrees are funded, “allowing the schemes to compete on an equal footing” and for employer sponsored degrees to be promoted in schools and through the media.
It also says the government should look at the impact of policy in this area on social mobility and consider bringing in a “Higher Education Salary Sacrifice Scheme”. This would involve an employer paying universities upfront and the student paying the employer back through their before-tax salary.
Professor Phoenix (whose own university, London South Bank, has nearly 7,000 sponsored students), said he supported the government’s new degree apprenticeships, as a “welcome addition to professional and technical education”.
But he added: “Ministers must ensure they complement rather than disrupt existing employer sponsored degrees. This report shines a light on the huge value of employer-sponsored degrees and shows how a good policy could become a great one.”
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