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In a week when the government reshuffled its cabinet, HE issues that made headlines gave the newly-appointed universities minister a taste of things to come, says Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Institute of Student Employers .
The past week’s events and news are a sign of turbulent times for UK universities, warns Nicola Owen, Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) at Lancaster University.
Mike Ratcliffe, academic registrar at Nottingham Trent University, reflects on issues emerging from a packed week of higher education news.
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for higher education has reported almost a 21 per cent rise in the number of complaints it received from students last year – rising to their highest ever level at 2,371.
Professor Cam Donaldson, Pro Vice Chancellor and Vice Principal (Research) and Yunus Chair in Social Business & Health at Glasgow Caledonian University, explains how his institution has put into practice a research strategy led by Sustainability Development Goals.
Reviewing a week of HE news, Ross Renton, Pro Vice-Chancellor Students at the University of Worcester, identifies challenges and opportunities for UK universities over enrolment of both international and home students.
The University of Buckingham has appointed Dame Mary Archer as its new Chancellor. Dame Mary will be joining the University from 24 February, succeeding Lady Tessa Keswick, who has been in the role since 2014.
The government has rejected MPs demands that it publish a “contingency plan for higher education” to prepare for a “no deal” situation in the Brexit negotiations.
It has also reiterated its intention to continue to include international students in the net migration targets, despite acknowledging new evidence that the numbers of over-stayers has been overestimated.
The government’s response to the House of Commons Education Committee’s report Exiting the EU: challenges and opportunities for higher education, has been published, seven months after the original inquiry report.
It turns down the committee’s request that it publish its “no-deal” Brexit plan for higher education, saying it “would not be appropriate while negotiations are ongoing”.
The government also refused to budge on the controversial policy of counting international students in net migration figures. It argued that as international students “consume public services”, local authorities need to know the numbers “so that they can accurately plan their resources”.
The report adds: “Including students in the net migration target does not act to students’ detriment or to the detriment of the education sector.”
This is despite the report noting the findings of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) research, that the International Passenger Survey may be undercounting emigration after study, as well as the evidence provided by exit checks data. It concludes that while work is ongoing to better understand and improve the data, “the International Passenger Survey continues to be the most robust estimate of overall net migration”.
On the status of EU students, the government outlined previous announcements that EU nationals and their family members who are starting higher education courses in the 2018/19 academic year will continue to be eligible for home fee status and for undergraduate, master’s, postgraduate and advanced learner financial support for the duration of their course.
It also highlighted its request to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to assess the impact that EU and non-EU students have on the UK. The report, to be published in September next year, will look at the impact of tuition fees and other spending by international students on the national, regional, and local economy and on the education sector, in addition to the impact their recruitment has on the provision and quality of education provided to domestic students.
In response to MPs demands that the status of EU higher education staff be guaranteed, unilaterally if necessary, the government said a “reciprocal agreement on EU citizen” would be reached as soon as possible.
It pointed out recently announced arrangements for EU citizens who have been continuously resident in the UK for five years, to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’ and other arrangements.
On immigration arrangements post-Brexit, the government suggested that current rules for non-EU university employees could apply.
“Immigration reforms for non-EU nationals since 2010 have explicitly taken account of the needs of the academic and research sectors, even while tightening controls on migration in other spheres.
“The Government has consistently protected and enhanced the treatment of these sectors in the immigration system,” the response report said.
Science and innovation has been identified as one of the Prime Minister’s 12 key objectives for the negotiations with the EU.
In response to a demand from the committee that contingency plans are made for investing the same level of funding that the UK received from the EU in a scenario where access cannot be negotiated, the government reiterated its commitment to underwrite the payment of Horizon 2020 and other EU funds, even when specific projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.
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