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Welcome to the higher education rollercoaster

UK higher education had more than its fair share of ups and downs over the past week. Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence at Prospects, charts the highs and lows.

Universities must re-think recruitment strategies as rules change on unconditional offers

As the Office for Students places a moratorium on ‘conditional unconditional offers’, Jon Scott, HE consultant and former Pro Vice-Chancellor (student experience) at the University of Leicester, reviews the context of the decision and considers its implications.

HEi-know Good Practice Briefing: UK universities describe "amazing" shift to online delivery

Universities across the UK have rapidly moved their learning, teaching and assessment online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The unprecedented overhaul of traditional teaching practices has presented a major challenge to institutions, staff and students. In this Good Practice Briefing, HEi-know shows how some universities have responded to the situation.

World events highlight stark inequalities in HE

Sutton Trust associate director of media and communications Hilary Cornwell and research and policy assistant Maariyah Dawood comment on equality and widening access issues that have emerged in a week of higher education news.

Government and employers must match HE’s positive moves on equality

Reviewing a week of higher education news, Action on Access Director Andrew Rawson celebrates positive action on equality and social inclusivity taken in the HE sector and calls for matching support from the government and employers.

Removal of statues is “censoring the past”, warns universities minister

The universities minister has strongly criticised the renaming of university buildings and the removal of statues prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement as “short sighted” and an attempt to censor the past.

Universities struggle to 'keep all the balls in the air'

As domestic students make their final decisions about which universities to go to, universities are endeavouring to reassure them that campus life would be back to ‘near normal’ by September. Meanwhile international student numbers are looking shaky, while higher education is being sucked into debates around the Black Lives Matter campaign. Tristram Hooley, Chief Research Officer of the Institute of Student Employers explains why he doesn’t envy Vice Chancellors right now.

Government rejects call for Brexit “no deal” contingency plan for HE

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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