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The Office for Students (OfS) has just released this week its Data strategy 2018 to 2021 . It may not seem to be very exciting as an event on the surface, but look closer and you will see that it is of paramount importance. This is because it sets put how it will gather, as a statutory requirement, the data required to effectively regulate the whole HE sector. This is a critical requirement to making informed changes. It also sets out the first three years of what will probably become of a rolling policy of unifying various data sources. The warning is there for all to see. “Responsibility for data quality assurance rests with a provider’s governing body. Poor-quality data returns are unacceptable, and risk putting a provider in breach of conditions F3 and F4 of our regulatory framework.” The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has produced a very useful summary HE Data: Friend or foe? . The first thing noticeable is that there is considerable evidence of efforts to
UPDATE A report by Johnny Rich FAIRER FUNDING The case for a graduate levy published today by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has caused quite a stir in the media. Its central thesis is that student fees can be abolished and replaced directly by a levy on employers that hire graduates. Instead of students repaying loans “A ‘graduate levy’ means the graduate no longer pays. Rather than the current repayments being collected alongside the employee’s National Insurance Contributions, the levy would be paid alongside the employer’s contributions.” The HEPI offering is a shorter version of a full proposal that is published on the Johnny Rich Blog. It adds some more useful detail and should be read in its entirety. On the surface, it appears as an attractive proposal and has generated a considerable amount of debate. Although not discussed, it adds a potential option for the Labour Party to consider for their bold National Education Service plans. Abolishing student
Earlier this year on the 5th of May, a first year student of English at Bristol University, Ben Murray, tragically died. His suicide was reported in the Bristol Post as the tenth such tragic death at the university in eighteen months and the third in a three week period. Last week the Bristol Post again had the sad duty to report the death of yet another student, Bertie Crawford, who was ‘thought to have taken his own life’. Not widely reported was the coincidence of both Ben Murray and Bertie Crawford studying in the same department at Bristol University as first year students last year. They must surely have known each other at some point in the year. Bertie Crawford appears to have engaged fully with the student life and was writing for the University of Bristol Student Newspaper, ‘The Tab’ . In the spirit of press freedom, The Tab had reported extensively on the recent student deaths and raised many valid concerns. It was therefore a terrible thing for them to have to report
UPDATE: Today the Universities minister Sam Gyimah, announced that universities would be given the 'opportunity' to offer degrees compressed into two years. Higher fees per year could be charged, but the overall cost of a degree would go down. However, parliament would have to ratify charging higher fees. This move appears to have a number of interesting features including lower overall costs for government and apparent 'efficiency' savings. However, with regard to efficiencies, the numbers seem superficial and do not add up. The efficiencies can only be delivered, without severe effects on research efforts, through a combination of working some staff harder and hiring low paid teaching staff on short-term contracts. Neither will look attractive as a career. Not so clear is that it might be part of a post-BREXIT plan as the UK prepares to diverge from EU norms. Divergence from the Bologna Process is one of the likely serious dangers as noted be
Three events took place this week that exemplified the fundamental differences between the ‘debaters’ of government policies and the ‘doers’. The Annual WONKHE Conference produced some surprises and aired more concerns about the Higher Education sector than was comfortable for most of those present. There was inevitably much debate, but ideas about how to solve serious fundamental problems were thin on the ground. Many of the attendees work hard in their own institutions to make things better but they seem to be swimming against the tide of government confusion and a lack of resources to help students in need. This event was followed by others from the more direct ‘doer’ community. The Stand Alone annual conference celebrated its success in offering practical help for students estranged from their families. Unlike the WONKHE conference, this was accompanied by the refreshing help of students on hand to demonstrate their more down to earth needs. The mentoring charity Brightside
This week saw the Government’s Budget  announced and this was followed closely by gloomy reports about the viability of some of our universities . Neither event inspired much confidence in anyone expecting things to get better. Indeed, it added to a sense of loss of control by the government as they issued diametrically conflicted statements regarding the need for a further 'Brexit induced' budget next year. The old Labour slogan ‘Things can only get better’ is now reduced to an empty and hollow echo from 20 years ago. But we should not forget that the current situation in universities is entirely down to government decisions. The government now seems to have resorted to patching things up in a piecemeal fashion whilst waiting for the Augar Review on Post-18 education and the Brexit deal. UPDATE: The Augar Review leaks. It seems that the 'leaking' game started as soon as this article was posted. Leaks emerged that indicated the Augar report is ser