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Emerging HE policies highlight new political landscape

Interventionism is suddenly all the rage with the Westminster Conservative government, and higher education is feeling the impact as new policies and legislation are brought to bear on the sector, writes Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of Push and of the Engineering Professors’ Council.

Rethinking universities from the outside in

Mike Boxall, an independent researcher and consultant on higher education policies and strategies, and a senior adviser to PA Consulting, considers the emerging post-COVID world and its implications for the future of universities. His blog is based on a paper published recently by PA Consulting, and co-authored with its HE lead, Ian Matthias.

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.