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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.
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.
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.
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.
As radicalisation on campus hits the headlines again with news of the identity and university education of Islamic State executioner "Jihadi John", the Reverend Dr Paul Fitzpatrick, chaplain and Prevent co-ordinator at Cardiff Metropolitan University, outlines protocols developed by his institution to tackle radicalisation that have been approved by the Home Office and are to be rolled out to universities across the UK.
Even before the publication of the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, there were at least seven - often contradictory - legislative requirements placed on universities for tackling extremism on campus.
At Cardiff Met, we quickly realised that there was little current research that directly helped us design and implement our own Prevent agenda and policies. So we as a team would need to conduct our own research, particularly exploring how vulnerable students were groomed and radicalised.
From our research we have developed a Prevent policy that will be run out across Wales, and then templated by the Home Office for England. It is the result of a realistic understanding of the individual risk to our universities.
The process and policies in the framework we have produced have to encompass the mundane as well as the difficult.
This week, for instance, I met a Muslim student to talk about her project on terrorist risk management within public events. Using the protocols set out in our Prevent policy, I guided her through the process of applying for ethical approval and registered her work with our ‘Security Sensitive Databased” to ensure her safety and the reputational security of the university.
In another example of the Prevent policy in action, I recently asked the International Office Welfare Team to review the list of students from conflict zones. Students from such areas are regarded as particularly vulnerable to potential radicalisation and manipulation.
One of the team had just got back from visiting the flat of a group of Ukrainian and Russian students who have deliberately chosen to live together to express their mutual respect and their support for peace keeping efforts in the region. She reported that all was well.
To give staff the tools to deal with these kinds of situations, we have developed a very broad and evidenced based training package for all staff. Underpinned by an e-module, the training is lecture based and includes the grooming process, risk assessment, radical ideology and a Police briefing on risk assessment. Staff are encouraged to engage fully with the process and initial feedback has been very positive.
It is a comfortable option to quote ‘free speech’ or moral/ethical complexity to justify none engagement with this agenda, and whilst acknowledging the real difficulties these dilemmas present, we have clearly chosen a different approach. Our response has been governed by what we consider to be our lead responsibility; the protection of our students and staff from those who would hurt them.
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