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New norms highlight the value of scientific experts and research collaboration

The current crisis has underlined the critical role played by the UK’s experts and researchers and the institutions supporting them, as well as the need for collaboration between them, says Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business.

Online Learning Summit supports shift to remote teaching and learning

As a growing number of universities move teaching and assessment online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Derby is holding a virtual conference which aims to support staff in making the transition.

OfS cuts back regulatory demands in face of Covid-19 crisis

The Office for Students is leaving it up to universities to decide on particular approaches to the Coronavirus pandemic rather than issuing specific guidance, and has promised to minimises its regulatory demands on the sector in response to the crisis.

Study finds fewer Muslim students gain First or 2:1 degrees

A study has found substantial differences in degree attainment by students' religion or belief.

Silver linings for HE in an otherwise sombre week

Amid a further week of gloomy developments relating to the Coronavirus pandemic, Gary Loke, Director of Knowledge, Innovation and Delivery for Advance HE, finds some more uplifting news for UK higher education.

Many issues await the attention of the new universities minister

The new universities minister Michelle Donelan

In a week when the government reshuffled its cabinet, HE issues that made headlines gave the newly-appointed universities minister a taste of things to come, says Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Institute of Student Employers.


If the cabinet represented the country, 20 of the 22 politicians at the top of government would have gone to a state school. In Boris’s new cabinet the number is seven. Perhaps the Office for Students should regulate Boris.

None of our universities’ metrics are quite as bad. But the latest widening participation report card from HESA shows they could do a lot better. Oxford’s two universities caught the headlines because although Oxford Brookes performs better than the University of Oxford in absolute terms - 68 per cent state schooled versus 61 per cent - Brookes has the higher performance benchmark, (91 per cent compared to 73 per cent for Oxford). For a thorough interrogation of the data read David Kernohan’s piece on WonkHE.

The revolving door into the universities minister’s office has spun yet again. For the first time in ten years a non-Oxbridge alumnus has been appointed. A former whip and member of the education select committee, this is Michelle Donelan’s first ministerial post. Although still to be confirmed, it looks like the science brief is going elsewhere and Donelan will pick up the skills and FE brief. Quite what this means for the ongoing arguments around vocational vs academic routes and HE funding vs FE funding, who knows.

The minister's first photo-op in her new job was opening a new agri-tech building at Wiltshire College and Universities Centre. I wonder if she was asked about Gavin Williamson’s announcement earlier in the week (he kept his job as Secretary of State by the way), culling 5,000 post-GCSE qualifications to make way for T-Levels? Funding is not something the Department for Education can ignore for long. In a recent blog I explained to employers why they may be facing an increase in their Apprentice Levy bill. Universities need to take note of these arguments, both as levy payers, and institutions that are rightly or wrongly perceived to get more than their fair share of money.

Writing this over the weekend, it felt like two Horsemen of the Apocalypse had broken free as storm Dennis rampaged across the country and the Coronavirus continued to spread alarm across the globe. The virus, renamed Covid-19, highlights HE’s increased exposure to global forces. In the early noughties, when the SARS epidemic killed 774 people worldwide, there were 47,740 Chinese students in the UK. Now there are 120,385. With a comparable increase in world trade, Covid-19 could have a lasting impact on many economies. Universities have warned government that the sector will take a financial hit if Chinese students are deterred from coming to the UK. The implications of Covid-19 for universities and their students and how they might respond is explored by John Gill, editor of THE.

Our universities have global reputations to protect. How they balance managing their reputations with the freedom of students and staff to express concerns publicly were highlighted by two stories last week. The BBC reported that universities are using NDAs, or gagging orders, to stop students going public about complaints of sexual harassment, bullying or poor teaching. And a Guardian article exposed how institutions are attempting to silence academics from discussing work-place issues on social media.

In our first month outside the European Union, ministers’ red boxes and vice chancellors’ inboxes remain crammed with global, national and local headaches that have few obvious antidotes.