HE policy blog w/e 10th March 2017

Budget: There was very little about HE in the budget this time, as expected, apart from the announcement of the outcomes of the consultations on PG doctoral loans and part-time maintenance loans (see below). The announcement of a £300m fund for brightest and best research talent, including for 1,000 new PhD places and fellowships focused on STEM subjects has been widely welcomed across the sector. There were lots of announcements about technical education

  • T-levels will be introduced, with 15 clear routes into employment
  • There will be an increase of over 50 per cent in number of hours training for 16-19 technical students including a high quality three month work placement, this will result in a £500m a year investment in 16-19 year olds
  • Maintenance loans for those who undertake higher level technical qualifications at the new institutes for technology and national colleges
  • Up to £40m investment in pilots to test the effectiveness of different approaches to lifelong learning
  • Up to £40m investment in pilots to test the effectiveness of different approaches to lifelong learning

Postgraduate doctoral loans: the government response has been published to the consultation which took place earlier in the year. BU responded to this consultation.

  • The new doctoral loan will provide a contribution of up to £25,000 to the costs of study rather than covering the full fees and living costs of a student. It will be paid directly to the student rather than to the student’s institution.
  • The proposal to cap the number of people who could receive loans at each institution was not supported and so this has been dropped – it will be available to all eligible students for all eligible programmes – including all Level 8 programmes, up to 8 years long. Students receiving other government funding, such as through the NHS or a Research Council grant, will not be eligible.
  • Repayment arrangements will be the same as for the existing masters loan.

Part time maintenance loans: The government has issued their response to the consultation earlier this year. BU responded to this consultation.

  • Part-time students will be eligible for maintenance loans from the academic year 2018/19
  • Students undertaking distance learning courses and Level 4 and 5 HE qualifications are likely to be eligible from academic year 2019/20 (this is subject to the passing of the HE and Research Bill – it will only happen when the Office for Students has been established and has put in place the new regulatory framework for providers)
  • The new loan arrangements will be reviewed after five years
  • Loan amounts each year will be based on the intensity of study. We had some concerns about this because it may make it harder for students to stretch the funding over the whole course
  • Maintenance loans for students undertaking distance learning courses will come in later as the Government needs to ensure a robust system of controls is in place
  • Part-time maintenance loans will be means tested
  • Repayment terms will mirror the process for part-time fee loans and the full-time undergraduate student finance system

Non-continuation: HESA have issued a summary of the 2015/16 non-continuation ratesOFFA have responded to the indicators expressing disappointment at the higher non-continuation rates for young students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and earmarking this for attention in the Fair Access Agreements due for submission in April.

Higher Education and Research Bill and the TEF: the House of Lords have used the third reading of the TEF to make a number of amendments to the HE and Research Bill against the government. The Vice-Chancellor has blogged on the BU Research blog about what this means for the TEF. It is not at all clear what will happen next – if the amendments are not reversed, then TEF will go back to the drawing board in terms of what the OfS would do with it– but that would not affect the HEFCE- run year 2 process that has already started.   Other amendments include one that requires universities to ensure that students are registered to vote as part of student registration. The debates in the Lords on the bill continue next week – more amendments are to come including more on migration and loans (including Sharia compliant finance), cheating, Prevent and UKRI.

New DLHE: HESA have responded to the enormous consultation on the DLHE last summer (over 130 questions) with a second one, which sets out their proposals for the new version of DLHE and asks for responses by 7th April  – this one is much shorter (only 6 questions plus a space for more comments).  We’ll be preparing an institutional response. Data will not be available until 2020.

  • DLHE will be centralised. The survey will be delivered both online and through telephone interviews, in order to achieve an overall response rate of at least 70% per provider
  • Survey at 15 months – replacing the 6 month and the longitudinal one (that was not used in league tables or the TEF)
  • It will also ask about previous and planned activity (to get away from problems associated with a “snapshot”
  • Linked to HMRC data on earnings and self-employment and other HESA study information including placements (from 19/20)
  • New question on entrepreneurship and three new ‘graduate voice’ measures of outcomes from the perspective of the respondent. These will measure the extent to which the graduate’s current activity reflects on three distinct areas of development:
    • Utilisation of what has been learned
    • Orientation toward their future goals
    • A sense of meaningfulness or importance.
  • Optional question banks including research student experiences, subjective wellbeing, Net promoter score, graduate choice, impact of HE. HE providers will be able to add their own questions to the end of the survey.

Brexit

Caroline Lucas MP asked a question in Parliament this week: Whether it is his policy to seek for the UK to remain a member of the Bologna Process after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU; and whether he plans that UK university degrees will be considered compatible with degrees in EU member states under the Bologna Process following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. [66647]

Jo Johnson MP replied “The Bologna Process, which created the European Higher Education Area in 2010, is an intergovernmental agreement among 28 countries in the European region. It is not an EU body and therefore UK membership will not be affected by the UK’s departure from the EU.”

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