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Moving the HE landscape’s quality contours … again

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.

Government plans mark a seismic shift in higher education policy

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.

UK universities affirm 'deep commitment' to high quality TNE

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.

Cassandra calling out higher education

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.

State school pupils DO achieve more at university, study finds

State school students achieve better degrees than their privately educated peers, a new study has concluded.

The research by Cambridge Assessment, a department of the University of Cambridge, draws the same conclusions as a report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England which controversially was forced to admit this week that it had got its figures wrong.

HEFCE has drawn fire from academics and independent school heads after stating that while figures in its report suggesting state school students outperform those that went to private school were the wrong way around, the overall conclusion was the same.

The latest study, which has just been published in the Oxford Review of Education Research by Cambridge Assessment, confirms that state school pupils are likely to do better at university than independent school pupils with similar A Level results.

Researchers Carmen Vidal Rodeiro and Nadir Zanini were investigating how effective the A* grade at A Level is as a predictor of university performance. A finding confirmed previous studies about the divide between the performance of state and independent school students at university.

Dr Vidal Rodeiro said: “In both Russell and non-Russell Group universities, students from independent schools were less likely to achieve either a first class degree or at least an upper second class degree than students from comprehensive schools with similar prior attainment”.

The researchers note how previous research has suggested two reasons for the finding - private school students may have lower incentives to perform well at university and therefore may invest more effort in social life rather than academic work; or they may have been ‘coached’ at school and subsequently struggle when they get to university.

The main focus of the research was into how effective the A* at A Level is as a predictor of university performance. The researchers found that the number of A* grades is a good predictor of achieving a First or at least an Upper Second degree in both Russell and non-Russell Group universities. They also found that the A* was a good predictor of success in specific degree subjects. An A* in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths at A Level was a good predictor of success not only in science-orientated degrees but also in other degrees such as social sciences or creative arts.

The researchers say their work highlights the importance of a grading system that allows greater differentiation among students, as it can be beneficial for effective and fair Higher Education (HE) admissions, particularly on the most oversubscribed courses. A pilot of a Grade Point Average overseen by the Higher Education Academy is currently being adopted by a range of universities across the sector.

On November 18 the Cambridge Assessment Network will host a seminar on the effectiveness of the HE admissions system in England by Richard Partington, Senior Tutor of Churchill College, Cambridge.

He said: “We now know that the achievement of A* grades at A Level indicates high potential for university success right across the UK Higher Education sector, not just Cambridge University. This information will be of great value to admissions tutors everywhere, emphasising once again that university entry is valid when it is conditional upon achieved exam results.”

 

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