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Emerging HE policies highlight new political landscape

Interventionism is suddenly all the rage with the Westminster Conservative government, and higher education is feeling the impact as new policies and legislation are brought to bear on the sector, writes Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of Push and of the Engineering Professors’ Council.

Rethinking universities from the outside in

Mike Boxall, an independent researcher and consultant on higher education policies and strategies, and a senior adviser to PA Consulting, considers the emerging post-COVID world and its implications for the future of universities. His blog is based on a paper published recently by PA Consulting, and co-authored with its HE lead, Ian Matthias.

Is the government missing the real 'levelling up' value of HE?

The Westminster government should wake up to the full potential of higher education to help it meet its ‘levelling up’ goals, argues Professor Martin Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Staffordshire University.

After a week of 'people power' it is time to listen to students

Jonathan Baldwin, managing director of higher education at Jisc, reflects on a week that’s felt the force of people power – and says it’s time for university leaders to respond to students’ calls for change.

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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