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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.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England has announced a new £60 million per year programme to increase participation in higher education across England.
Under the National Collaborative Outreach Programme, 29 local consortia will receive funding to deliver activity from January 2017.
HEFCE said the programme will drive a step change in the progression into higher education of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, including members of ethnic minority groups and young men.
Following a competitive process, the HEFCE Board approved funding for local consortia involving higher education providers, schools, colleges and other organisations such as charities and local agencies involved in education, careers and skills. The programme will deliver collaborative outreach in specific local areas where participation in higher education is both low overall and lower than expected given GCSE attainment levels.
A total of 260 higher education providers in England are involved in the programme. The planned collaborations will ensure all 997 of the local wards identified in a HEFCE analysis of need will be covered.
Consortia will deliver "tested approaches" to outreach through schools and local communities, as well as developing innovative ways to meet specific challenges in different areas. These activities will build upon and provide a boost to existing outreach work taking place across England.
A large-scale evaluation programme will measure the impact of the programme from the start, using a range of methodologies at local and national level, including national data analysis, longitudinal tracking, qualitative research and randomised control trials. The aim will be to build a powerful evidence base to ensure that investment is concentrated in activity that is shown to be the most effective.
Commenting on the new Programme, Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: "We are seeing record numbers of disadvantaged young people going to university and benefitting from the real opportunities that our world class universities can offer.
"This funding and the schemes that have been developed by universities will make a real difference to young people in key areas. In addition to this, we are legislating for a new transparency duty which will place a clear requirement on all universities to release more information about their admissions process and real incentives on all institutions to go further and faster to promote social mobility."
HEFCE Director of Policy Chris Millward commented: "NCOP represents a significant investment by HEFCE in improving the life chances of young people in some of our most disadvantaged communities. Our evidence has shown that there are young people in these areas who are achieving the qualifications they need to benefit from higher education, but are not currently doing so. The programme will ensure that they are better equipped to make the right choice for them by exposing the range of higher education options available and the careers they make possible."
Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, said: “Improving attainment and aspiration are key to encouraging more young people to engage in higher education and meeting the Prime Minister's ambition to improve social mobility. Modern Universities, which have been leaders in opening up opportunities to students who are the 'first in family' to study at university, have focused on geographic areas in which young people were less likely to think that higher education was for them.
“The National Collaborative Outreach Programme builds on this tradition and we welcome the announcement that 29 consortia are being funded. In many cases modern universities, in partnership with colleges, are leading these consortia and their experience will be crucial to their success.”
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