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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.

Whatuni award winners announced

Loughborough University has been named University of the Year for the second time in three years in the latest Whatuni Student Choice Awards .

UUK calls for government and universities to prepare for “no deal” Brexit

In the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, the Government must unilaterally secure EU citizens rights and strengthen its pledge to underwrite UK participation in EU research programmes, according to new guidance from Universities UK.

In a paper, the organisation sets out the range of implications and mitigations for universities associated with a possible ‘no deal’ Brexit outcome, while making it clear that such a scenario is “highly undesirable”.

A ‘no-deal’ situation would create immediate uncertainty for EU nationals in UK universities, prospective students and staff from across the EU, and for those participating in any of the Horizon 2020, Structural Funds or Erasmus+ programmes.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of UUK, said: "A 'no deal' Brexit would have huge implications for universities in all corners of the UK, and prove enormously damaging for regional jobs, growth and skills. EU staff and students at British universities, and UK staff and students at European universities, would be left facing huge uncertainty."

Universities UK has called on the government to build on the “stability measures” it has already put in place to minimise disruption.

This includes government guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights, making no substantive changes to rules governing EU migration until 1 January 2021, strengthening and clarifying its existing pledge to underwrite participation in EU programmes and establishing back-up structures to mirror Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ where required.

The paper also sets out the challenges that universities will face if the Brexit negotiations end without a deal in place.

Reaching the March 2019 exit date without an agreement would mean the residency and work rights of EU nationals already working in universities would be unclear and EU nationals entering the UK could be treated as third country nationals, subject to non-EEA immigration rules and requirements.

The UK’s ability to participate in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ could cease, because there would be no legal obligation for the UK to pay any financial settlement on exit, while the continued mutual recognition of professional qualifications covered by the current EU Directive would be uncertain.

UUK has called on the government to ensure that any substantive changes to rules governing EU migration are preceded by a period of two years to allow universities and prospective staff and students to prepare for any new system.

The Government should also set out its contingency plans for replacing access to single beneficiary Horizon 2020 funds and access to Erasmus+.

Universities are also advised to take certain actions, including encouraging EU staff to secure pre-settled or settled status under the current pilot of the settlement scheme which runs from 15th November until 21st December 2018.

Institutions need to be mindful of how courses are described to prospective students in terms of fee/loan status and qualifications recognition and think about their communication to this group around the publication of the EU Settlement Scheme, the paper says.

Liaising with European partners regularly to share understanding of the impact of no deal and collaboratively plan for such an outcome, is also suggested.

Other issues that universities bear must in mind around the exit date include travel arrangements between the UK and EU; health insurance for students and staff; energy / participation in Euratom and other programmes; trade /customs arrangements; as well as procurement and contracts held by universities.

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