News from the Sector – October 2016 Newsletter


Jo Johnson confirms that EEA-resident students starting in 2017/2018 will still have access to student funding support

The government has announced that EEA-resident students applying to commence their studies in the 2017/18 academic year at an English university, independent provider or further education college will continue to be eligible for student loans and grants – and will remain so for the duration of their course. This timely reassurance ensures that EU students applying to study at a higher education institution in the UK will not have the terms of their funding changed if the UK leaves the European Union before the end of their course. You can read the full government press release here. The story was also reported in The Pie News and in The Guardian. The Welsh and Scottish governments subsequently confirmed that EU students applying for a place at a Welsh or Scottish university for the next academic year will also still be eligible for loans and grants.


Details of Year Two of Teaching Excellence Framework published by the Department for Education

The Department for Education has confirmed the details of how higher education providers will be rated under the second year of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The Year 2 Specification document sets out how the second trail year of the TEF will operate. Alongside this information, the responses to the TEF: Year 2 – Technical Consultation have also been published, which identify a number of specific suggestions, a number of which have been incorporated into the final Year 2 Specification. Notably, the TEF judgment categories have been renamed to Gold, Silver and Bronze to make them easier to understand and the publication sets out in more detail what each of these means and identifies how the assessment data will be defined and used in making judgments. The Specification also identifies who will be eligible to apply, how providers will be assessed and what outcomes providers can expect. The use of commendations to highlight particular areas of excellence – a feature that Independent HE argued should be used more extensively than suggested – has regrettably been postponed pending further consideration and may re-emerge in future years. Other changes include the introduction of an appeals process; better protections to ensure providers who take large numbers of socially disadvantaged students are assessed fairly; and adjustments to the list of possible examples for additional evidence, to better recognise positive outcomes such as entrepreneurship.

You can read the full government press release here and specification documents here. You can also read Jo Johnson’s letter to Independent HE Chair, Philip Wilson, on the future design of the TEF here, which asks IHE to take the lead in facilitating discussions on discipline-level TEF within the independent sector – more on which will be announced soon.

Independent HE Chief Executive, Alex Proudfoot, recently attended his first meeting of the TEF Delivery Group, the high level Government committee formed to oversee the design and development of TEF as it moves into the discipline-level, postgraduate and future stages. At this meeting and privately with officials, he has drawn their attention to the difficulty that independent providers will face in participating in TEF, due to the unavailability or experimental nature of the core data required. We continue to work with the Department for Education on these challenges.


Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) ‘key to applicants choice’ (Times Higher Education, 15.09.16)

The results of a new survey suggest that an institution’s score in the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) could overwhelmingly impact on an applicant’s choice. In a question asked by THE as part of the University Partnerships Programmes annual Student Experience Survey 2016, 84% of respondents said that a good score in the TEF ‘would’ or ‘definitely would’ make them consider choosing a particular institution.

Delegates to the Independent HE Annual Conference on 29 November 2016 will have the chance to hear from policy leads in the Department for Education and HEFCE on how the TEF will operate in Year 2 and beyond.


Universities UK taskforce publishes report on violence against women, harrassment and hate crime affecting university students

The Universities UK taskforce examining violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students has published its final report.The report summarises the evidence considered by the taskforce, which was established in 2015, and makes a series of recommendations for universities, covering both prevention activities and how universities can respond to these issues more effectively in the future. The report includes a number of case studies from individual universities as well as links to key support agencies that can assist students who have experienced violence, harassment or hate crime. It also recommends that NUS and UUK work with Jisc to explore ways of tackling online bullying and harassment, reports about which have become more common in recent years. Separately, new guidelines have also been published offering advice to universities on handling alleged student misconduct which may also constitute a criminal offence. You can read the report and new guidelines here.


List of questions that will form the National Student Survey from 2017 released by HEFCE

Following the consultation into the future of the National Student Survey in August, HEFCE has released the full list of questions that will form the NSS from 2017. The new survey will be slightly longer, with 27 questions in eight sections, with new sections on learning opportunities, learning community and student voice, while the personal development section on the old 23-question survey has been removed completely. As WonkHE reports, the most substantial change is the introduction of nine new questions looking at aspects of ‘student engagement’ – which covers a wide range of activities and behaviours, from a student’s individual engagement with their discipline to students feeling empowered to help shape their education and a community of staff and students. With student engagement increasingly being seen as a crucial part of a quality learning experience and a new focus of the NSS, institutions will have no choice but to direct greater attention to this in the coming years.

Many Independent HE members will be taking part in NSS for the first time in 2017, and we will be holding a free, members-only webinar, Essential Planning for the National Student Survey on 31 October to help you prepare, talking through some of the strategies for success in the NSS that have been developed over the past decade by high-performing universities.


The Education Select Committee launches inquiry into Brexit impact on higher education

The Education Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the impact of Brexit on UK higher education, following the expansion of the Committee’s remit to include higher education, further education and skills. The Committee aims for the inquiry to inform the public and ultimately to influence Brexit negotiations. Neil Carmichael, Chair of the Education Committee, has been a prominent voice in recent weeks for a ‘soft Brexit’ and greater parliamentary scrutiny in the negotiations for and process of leaving the EU.

The inquiry will explore the implications of the UK’s exit from the European Union for EU students who want to study in England and will consider the protections that should be given to those who are already here. The Committee will also consider the impact on EU nationals working in the HE sector, will examine the effect of Brexit on the reputation of England’s higher education providers, and will ask how they can remain competitive going forward. The Committee invites written submissions on a range of issues arising following Brexit which are listed in full here. This presents a good opportunity for the sector to air its concerns via a potentially influential body. Submissions are open until 11th November and you can respond via this page.


Universities UK Social Mobility Advisory Group publishes final report on social mobility in higher education

The Universities UK Social Mobility Advisory Group has published its final report, titled ‘Working in partnership: enabling social mobility in higher education’. A number of consistent themes have been identified from the group’s work and the report including the need for a rigorously evidence-based approach to social mobility; the need to move away from the perception that people only have one chance for university study, at the age of 18; and that sustained change can only be achieved through collaboration and partnership between universities, schools, colleges and employers. The report draws together recommendations as to the ways forward, acknowledging that there will be no simple solutions to embedded social inequality. Reacting the the report, Jo Johnson, the Universities Minster said:“We are seeing record numbers of disadvantaged young people going to university and benefiting from the real opportunities that our world-class universities can offer. But, as this report makes clear, there is still more to do. That is why I welcome this important piece of work from Universities UK and also why we are legislating for a new transparency duty which will place a clear requirement on all universities to release more information about their admissions process and real incentives on all institutions to go further and faster to promote social mobility.”

However, The Guardian reports that the study actually offered “few concrete suggestions on how to overcome the effects of disadvantage, and instead called for further data collection, analysis and sharing of best practice between institutions.” Independent HE are also doing some work on the subject of social mobility, which we hope to share with members soon.


Updated Monitoring Framework for Prevent Published

As we notified members last month, the updated monitoring framework for Prevent has been released by HEFCE (on 20 September 2016), which sets out how they will monitor and HE provider’s implementation of the statutory Prevent duty. The updated framework supersedes the previous Prevent monitoring framework published in November 2015. An Executive Summary of the framework is available online and you can also download the full monitoring framework document. You can also read more on what the newly updated framework includes in our news post. Most importantly, the framework sets out the processes and dates for submitting the first annual report to HEFCE:

  • Wednesday 1 February 2017 for alternative providers with specific course designation.
  • Monday 3 April 2017 for other providers that offer higher education to more than 250 students.


Two-fifths of businesses do not understand the apprenticeship levy, survey finds (TES, 20.09.16)

A survey by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) has found that almost 40% of business leaders have no understanding, or have not even heard of the apprenticeship levy. Marcus Mason, head of education and skills at the BCC, said: “Firms value apprenticeships as way of developing skills and increasing productivity. However…our research shows the government needs to step up its communication to business. “The government needs to ensure that businesses understand how they could benefit from the reforms.


Apprenticeships Standards: Changes to the Process for Approvals

The Department for Education and the Skills Funding Agency have released guidance on the new apprenticeship standards approvals process. The new document describes the changes that have been made to the way in which bids from employer groups to develop new apprenticeships, draft apprenticeship standards and draft apprenticeship assessment plans will be assessed and approved.

Apprenticeships and Vocational Education will be the detailed focus of one of our expert-led elective sessions at the Independent HE Annual Conference on 29 November 2016. Click here for more information.

  • On 24th October 2016