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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.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson has sought to reassure the higher education sector over the implications of Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union.
The government “is determined to ensure that the UK continues to play a leading role in European and international research”, he said in a statement.
The minister said the many questions about how the vote would affect higher education and research would “need to be considered as part of wider discussions about the UK’s future relationship with the EU”.
But he added: “The UK remains a member of the EU, and we continue to meet our obligations and receive relevant funding.”
As the UK university sector weighs up the likely impact of the vote, the message from Mr Johnson was that although there was much to be decided, it was also business as usual.
The government would continue, he said, to “take forward” the Higher Education and Research Bill and its programme would carry on.
The minister – who is the brother of chief Brexiteer Boris Johnson – said in a speech to scientists in Westminster that it was even more important that the government worked with the HE community on the Bill.
The statement echoed the announcement made yesterday that EU students currently studying in the UK or those due to begin courses this autumn would keep their entitlement to tuition fee loans for the duration of their courses.
It also says there will be “no immediate changes” for students and staff from the EU here, nor for Britons in other EU states.
On the Erasmus programme, Mr Johnson says: “The referendum result does not affect students studying in the EU, beneficiaries of Erasmus+ or those considering applying in 2017.”
But he added that the UK’s future access to the Erasmus+ programme would “be determined as a part of wider discussions with the EU”.
With £1.2 billion a year at stake in EU research grants, the issue of funding looms large for British universities, together with that of international collaborations. In the run-up to the referendum, “Leave” campaigners had said that those receiving money from the EU “would continue to do so”, with funding being covered by the government.
In terms of future direct funding from the EU though, experts are suggesting that access to this would depend on the government agreeing to free movement of EU citizens.
Mr Johnson said the referendum result would have “no immediate effect on those applying to or participating in Horizon 2020” and that “the future of UK access to European science funding will be a matter for future discussions”.
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