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Moving the HE landscape’s quality contours … again

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.

Government plans mark a seismic shift in higher education policy

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.

UK universities affirm 'deep commitment' to high quality TNE

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.

Cassandra calling out higher education

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.

Government should listen to employers on graduate employment

The next government should adopt policies on graduate employment that reflect a less simplistic outlook than the current regime, argues Tristram Hooley, Chief Research Officer at the Institute of Student Employers, which has just published its manifesto wish list.


Over recent years government has been keen to tell higher education providers that they should try to make students more employable. Often this message has been communicated in a simplistic way and codified into metrics and rankings that miss much of the subtlety of the graduate labour market.

Policy has tended to group graduates into broad categories (employable/unemployable/graduate level/non-graduate level) and ignored the subtleties of background, locality, occupation and sector that are critical to the way the graduate labour market actually works.

The Institute of Student Employers’ represents around 300 of Britain’s largest employers, who collectively bring tens of thousands of young people into the labour market every year. We have just released our latest manifesto to try to influence the next government’s policy in a more positive direction.

Our manifesto sets out the six key policies that a future government will need to implement to ensure that firms are able to find the talent and skills that they need and young people are able to make a smooth transition to the workplace and build productive careers:

1. Place greater emphasis on employer and university collaboration in higher education.
2. Maintain and streamline the apprenticeship system in consultation with employers.
3. Facilitate better employment outcomes for disadvantaged students.
4. Renew the Careers Strategy and extend the careers hubs that support schools across the country.
5. Invest in vocational education and engage employers in its design and implementation.
6. Design migration policies that enable businesses to access high quality global talent.  

Bringing universities together with employers

Our members are working with schools, colleges, apprenticeship providers and universities to ensure that the UK has the talent that it needs. They believe that higher education has a critical role to play in ensuring the UKs economic future. Universities are engines of economic development and higher education graduates are a key source of talent for all businesses. Because of this we are calling on the next government to design higher education policy with a clear understanding of the needs of the labour market and a commitment to bringing educators and employers together.

Supporting social mobility

We are also strongly committed to ensuring a fairer system, where an individual’s background does not determine their chance of success. Social mobility and diversity bring enormous economic benefits to our members businesses and to the country. Given this it is important that government supports businesses and educators to improve education and employment outcomes for all young people.

Ensuring skilled migration

With Brexit likely to be a key feature of politics for the foreseeable future, it is also critical that a future government considers the impact of its migration policy on the graduate labour market. Any new post Brexit migration system needs to be designed to to ensure that employers can recruit the talent that they need with the minimum of cost and bureaucracy.

Influencing policy

We hope that all political parties will attend to these policies and work with ISE and its members to build a society and economy that is fair and transparent for young workers and which supports businesses to make the most of the young talent that is available. We would encourage the higher education sector to join with employers in taking this agenda forwards through the election campaign and beyond.