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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.
University mergers across Europe are on the rise, a new report has revealed.
A study by the European University Association (EUA) has found that there were 92 merger cases across 20 countries between 2000 and 2015, with 38 recorded since 2012.
France had the highest number, at 16, as it pursues a policy of “university communities” – HE federations being developed in 2014/2015 - at the same time as introducing the Excellence Initiative aimed at generating world-class universities and research centres.
The number of higher education institutions in Estonia also saw a substantial decrease over the period from 41 to 29.
In the UK, 11 mergers were recorded, including the Victoria University of Manchester and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology which formed the University of Manchester in 2004.
The EUA report looked at the three merger cases in Wales between 2010 and 2013, describing them as “very significant in relation to the size of the system”.
“Whilst the broad objective of reducing the number of universities in Wales was eventually achieved, resulting in the establishment of the University of South Wales and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, repeated attempts by the public authorities to direct Cardiff Metropolitan University to merge proved unsuccessful,” it said.
Researchers said there was no political agenda in England and Scotland for mergers, although “public authorities, funding bodies and the sector itself are seeking to enhance collaboration”.
In Finland and Sweden several mergers having taken place in the last decade and more are planned.
Greece’s “Athena Plan”, introduced in 2012 in the wake of the economic crisis, is under way with a series of mergers, closures and a general rationalisation of the HE system, including the absorption of smaller institutions or departments by bigger HEIs.
The report said mergers were motivated by a variety of different drivers, including cost-saving.
It also said there was an underestimation of the disruption and cost of transition and a general lack of evaluation of how successful mergers were.
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