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UK universities face challenges and opportunities on student intakes

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.

Buckingham University names new Chancellor

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.

Higher education is not broken - it just needs to fix its diversity problem

Reviewing the past week's higher education news, Rachel Hewitt, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute, takes issue with claims that UK higher education is "broken" and sees encouraging signs that it is addressing issues over diversity.

New year presents HE sector with fresh challenges

Professor Malcolm Todd, Deputy Vice-Chancellor/Provost (academic and student experience) at the University of Derby, comments on what he sees as the most significant higher education news and opinions making headlines in the first week of 2020.

Growth in degree apprenticeships should be a priority, MPs say

A big expansion of degree apprenticeships “is crucial” to create a high-quality system that can plug the skills gap, according to MPs.

The government should make clear to the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA), the body tasked with helping employers develop apprenticeships and overseeing quality, that the growth of higher degrees is a strategic priority, according to a new report from the House of Commons Education Committee.

Degree apprenticeships are essential for apprentices to progress and “to create a cascade of prestige for apprenticeships and address our skill deficit”, says the report, The apprenticeships ladder of opportunity: quality not quantity.

It warns that a much stronger focus on progression through the various levels is needed, and calls for a UCAS-style portal for technical education to be launched to simplify the application process and encourage further training at higher levels.

Universities have raised concerns that delays in the approval of degree level standards, and the lack of consistency in the advice provided by the IfA, have led to some universities questioning whether they should risk investing in supporting employers to develop a programme.

In its evidence to the committee, the University Alliance said there was a “lack of understanding” on the part of the IfA about existing HE quality mechanisms, and the incorporation of these procedures into IfA processes.

More generally the report warns that too many apprentices are not getting the high-quality training they deserve and that disadvantaged young people in particular do not receive the support they need to pursue an apprenticeship. 

While it recognises the good work being done by many FE colleges and independent training providers, it calls for clearer oversight of apprenticeship training and assessment and a tougher approach to poor quality training.

MPs also say “the opaque world of subcontracting” in apprenticeship provision needs to be given far greater scrutiny. Amid a tripling in the number of approved providers, the report recommends an expanded role for Ofsted inspections and a cap on the amount of training that new providers can offer until they have proved their provision is of sufficient quality.

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