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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.
Higher education leaders are expected to welcome the appointment of Europhile Jo Johnson as the new universities and science minister.
Johnson, brother of London Mayor Boris and former head of the Downing Street Policy Unit, is considered to be supportive of Britain staying in the European Union -- making him a potential ally on the side of Universities UK's pro EU campaign.
Vice-chancellors will also be encouraged by the fact that he has spoken out in the past in favour of taking overseas students out of the government's net migration target.
The Orpington MP studied modern history at Balliol College, Oxford, and was first elected to parliament in 2010. Before entering parliament, he was an investment banker and a journalist on the Financial Times.
Johnson succeeds Greg Clark, who has been promoted to Secretary of State in the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Like the newly appointed Business Secretary Sajid Javid, Johnson is believed to have close links with Chancellor George Osborne.
Mr Javid has served as the MP for Bromsgrove since 2010 and was appointed secretary of state for culture, media and sport in 2014. Before entering politics he was a senior managing director with Deutsche Bank AG, having started his career with Chase Manhattan Bank in New York.
Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of the universities think tank million+ said:
“We warmly welcome the appointment of Jo Johnson as the new Minister for Universities and Science. His work in finance and his knowledge of Europe and postings in Asia chime well with the global agenda in which all universities are engaged. He will be a key player in the Department of Business Innovation and Skills which has the added advantage of a new Ministerial team.
“The election of a majority government provides new opportunities to develop a more coherent approach which was not always possible under the former Coalition.
“Universities play a crucial role in areas such as health, education and regional growth and can provide solutions to the wider ambitions of government. We are looking forward to working on a cross-departmental basis with the new Ministerial teams but we also expect Ministers themselves to take full advantage of the more holistic approach to government which will be possible in the future.”
Commenting on the appointment of Business Secretary Sajid Javid, Director General and Chief Executive of the Russell Group, Dr Wendy Piatt, said:
“The new Government must ensure our universities have sufficient funding to carry out cutting edge research and provide excellent teaching to students. It is also important that we can continue to attract the very best students and academics from around the world.
“We look forward to working with the Secretary of State to maintain our place as a global leader in research and higher education.”
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