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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.

Study finds fewer Muslim students gain First or 2:1 degrees

A study has found substantial differences in degree attainment by students' religion or belief.

A report on the findings from Advance HE is the first of its kind to examine this area. Religion and belief became one of nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010, yet there has been little research done into the impact of this on students since then.

The research was made possible by new requirements from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, introduced in the 2017-18 academic year, which made the return of data about students' religion and belief mandatory. The report uses data collected from over two million HE students.

It shows that while overall, 76.3 per cent of students received a first or 2:1 degree, only 64.9 per cent of Muslim students received this level of award.

At institutions with over 12 per cent of students identifying as Muslim, the attainment gap was eight percentage points, compared to 19 percentage points at institutions with fewer than 3.5 per cent of Muslim students.

HESA statistics show around half of all students reported having a religion or belief. The majority of these were Christian (65.5 per cent), followed by Muslim students (17.8 per cent).

The figures show that while men are underrepresented in UK HE, with overall 57 per cent of students being women, this split was not present in all religious groups. For Hindu and Muslim students, the gender split of people in HE was close to 50:50. In contrast, over two-thirds of students identifying as Spiritual were women.

A gender attainment gap was present within all religious groups, however, with women graduating with a first or 2:1 degree in higher numbers than men.

Gary Loke, Director of Knowledge, Innovation and Delivery at Advance HE, said: "This first-of-its-kind report fills a massive gap in research into student equality in higher education and is a positive step forward for the sector.

"With this report, institutions are now better able to take evidence-informed steps to address inequalities, target initiatives at underrepresented groups more effectively and go further down the path towards equity of student outcomes.

"Advance HE will continue to work with the sector to improve outcomes for students, regardless of their gender, religion, ethnicity or identity."

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