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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 passage of the Higher Education and Research Bill through parliament should be paused and its proposals re-considered in light of the impact of Brexit on the sector, the chair of the House of Commons Business Innovation and Skills Committee has said.
Concerns over how the referendum result will affect UK higher education are so great that the BIS Committee is launching an inquiry into it.
The Committee’s chair Iain Wright, the MP for Hartlepool, warned that universities business models will face significant challenges in the run up to Brexit.
With the second reading of the Higher Education and Research Bill currently postponed, it is time to “pause and reflect on whether the proposals contained in the Bill address the post-Brexit challenges Britain’s universities face”, he said.
Writing for the Politics Home website, Wright pointed out that UK universities are already being excluded from some pan-European bids for research funding.
“With this uncertainty, the government needs to act clearly and decisively, providing as much clarity as possible to ensure universities do not miss out on research funding,” he said.
There is also “huge uncertainty” over whether staff and students from the EU can continue to work and study in Britain.
The government should “send out an early and clear signal that the openness and quality of our higher education sector will not be compromised by any restrictions in the freedom of movement”.
He added that ministers should also take the opportunity to take international students out of net migration targets, and revisit post-study visa arrangements to make it easier for overseas students to work in the UK for a period after graduating.
Concerns over the uncertain status of EU staff and students have also been expressed by Cambridge University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, who has has called for clarity from the government, after Home Secretary and Conservative leader candidate Theresa May raised questions over the right of EU citizen workers and students to stay in Britain following Brexit.
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