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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.
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.
Alison Johns, Chief Executive of Advance HE, reviews another week in which higher education found itself in the spotlight, even when a royal funeral dominated the headlines.
Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence for Prospects at Jisc, reviews a week of higher education news which felt much like every other since lockdown, as new research on graduate earnings and university admissions was published.
Research by Pickle Jar Communications has found that while most prospective students in the UK are still planning to go to university, many do not feel they are being provided with Information they need to address their concerns. Robert Perry, Pickle Jar's head of research and insight, outlines the findings.
Universities are places of tradition. They follow an accepted annual cycle – the academic year, the admissions process, Clearing, welcome weeks, everything else… and although we experience changes to the cycle every now and again, these changes rarely happen in so drastic or immediate a way as happened with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s an overused cliché to say that we’re in an unprecedented situation, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not true. And while we in higher education rapidly adapted (or, at least, tried to adapt) to life under lockdown, the lifeblood of our sector – the students themselves – are also finding their way in extremely unfamiliar territory.
There have been plenty of surveys and polls of students that have attempted to gauge their likely intentions for 2020, and they’re an extremely useful indicator of potential behaviour. But we wanted to find out more about what students were feeling about their situation and what was driving these choices.
Our new report – The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students preparing for university in 2020 – is the first part of that work. There are a few things that stand out as important:
All of this adds up to a cohort of students who are struggling to make decisions with the little information available to them, and having to wait what they believe to be an unfair length of time before they find out what will happen to them next. It’s not surprising under those circumstances that many would consider deferring their decision to a time when there’s more certainty about what their university experience will look like.
There’s an opportunity here for universities to treat students like the people they are, to help them make a choice that’s right for them. Although the financial pressures on HEIs will be immense this year, that doesn’t mean that students should be persuaded to take up a course that won’t work for them. Honesty – as much as possible – will be key. Communicating the work that’s being done to make online teaching effective, talking about social distancing measures, showing the digital communities that students have already created to keep in touch during lockdown – all of these things will demonstrate that applicants’ concerns are being addressed, and that university can still be a positive experience for them.
That way, when they make their choice, they’ll do it in an informed way – and they’ll remember the honesty and humanity of the universities helped them to make it.
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