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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.
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.
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.
Universities awarded funding as part of a large-scale programme to tackle hate crime and sexual harassmenton campus have made good progress, an evaluation of the scheme has concluded.
The evaluation, carried out by Advance HE, looked at the impact of 108 projects awarded a total of £4.4 million since 2016 to tackle hate crime and sexual violence and harassment at a total of 84 universities and colleges.
The programme was launched after surveys found a high proportion of students had experienced harassment or threats. Data from the National Union of Student's No Place for Hate report showed that 18 per cent of black, Asian, Chinese and mixed-raced students had experience of at least one racial hate incident during their studies; while a poll of over 5,000 students for the sexual health charity Brook and the Dig-In database published earlier this year found that 56 per cent of students experienced unwanted sexual behaviour at university.
The evaluation praises those projects which have actively engaged students, with 90 per cent of those universities and other higher education providers who received funding agreeing that student involvement had helped improve the projects. It also showed:
Speaking ahead of a national conference on protecting students from hate crime and harassment, Yvonne Hawkins, director of teaching excellence and student experience at the Office for Students, said:
"Students should be able to concentrate on their studies and enjoy their higher education experience free from the fear of harassment or assault. Shocking statistics show that, while many students have a positive experience of higher education, others are experiencing incidents of harassment or assault. This is simply unacceptable.
"This evaluation shows that welcome progress is being made, which must now be built upon. There are signs that students are more willing to report incidents, that specialist staff are in post to support students, and that students are being actively involved in the creation of initiatives to tackle these problems. This funding has made a real and lasting difference, and the Office for Students will continue to work with universities and colleges, student unions and others to ensure that all students from all backgrounds can be – and feel – safe on campus."
Alison Johns, Chief Executive at Advance HE said: "All students deserve to feel safe on or off campus, which is why we are pleased to be involved with Catalyst-funded projects as the independent evaluator. "We welcome the findings of the report which help to address sexual misconduct, hate crime and online harassment. There is a clear need for continued senior leadership and governance to protect students and tackle this unacceptable anti-social behaviour both within higher education institutions and the sector as a whole."
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