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Many issues await the attention of the new universities minister

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 .

Storm clouds are gathering over UK universities

The past week’s events and news are a sign of turbulent times for UK universities, warns Nicola Owen, Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) at Lancaster University.

The UK must look after its global talent

Mike Ratcliffe, academic registrar at Nottingham Trent University, reflects on issues emerging from a packed week of higher education news.

Student complaints rise by nearly 21% in a year

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for higher education has reported almost a 21 per cent rise in the number of complaints it received from students last year – rising to their highest ever level at 2,371.

MPs most interested in what universities can do for the UK economy

MPs and prospective MPs are more interested in what universities can do for the UK’s economy than in the teaching they provide for 2.5 million students a year, a survey has shown.

A poll of MPs and politicians hoping to win a seat in the forthcoming general election commissioned by Universities UK found that they were most interested in hearing about universities’ engagement with business and enterprise and the employability of their graduates.

Very few – just 14 per cent of MPs and 16 per cent of “future MPs” – wanted information about one of the core purposes of universities: providing good teaching and a high quality learning environment for their students.

The proportion of those polled who wanted to know about where universities stand on immigration – a hot topic for institutions ahead of the election – was also relatively low (16 per cent among MPs and 13 per cent among would-be MPs).

The survey conducted by ComRes found that by contract 43 per cent of MPs were interested in universities’ engagement with business and 42 per cent in graduate employability. Prospective MPs were equally interested in graduate employability (48 per cent) and what universities were doing to widen participation in HE and boost social mobility.

Asked what they thought universities are good at, the most popular answer among respondents was conducting world class research – supported by 78 per cent of MPs and 75 per cent of prospective MPs. Most also thought British universities were strong on competing internationally with other HE sectors, producing highly skilled and employable graduates, and contributing to local employment and local economies.

But there was far less confidence in universities using their funding efficiently – with just 38 per cent of MPs and 30 per cent of future MPs thinking this was the case.

The area where respondents felt universities were weakest, though, was in engaging with MPs and other policymakers. Only just under a quarter of MPs and 13 per cent of future MPs thought universities were strong in this area.

Source: Universities UK
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