Sandra Booth

Policy Briefing – December, 2018

Sam Gyimah Resigns

Sam Gyimah fought hard to deepen understanding in Government of how damaging a cut to university funding would be. At the time of publishing no announcements of who will replace him have been made. A new Minister will mean we have had five different Ministers within five years during a period of unprecedented change for the sector.

Good News

New @DCMS statistics reveal a major increase in the growth value of the UK’s creative industries from £94.8 billion in 2016 to £101.5 billion in 2017.
The Industrial Strategy continues to take shape with Investment Plans becoming more concrete, Regional and Local Industrial Strategy Development and the launch of AHRC £80m Creative Clusters Programme. Sector Deals call for closer relationships between regional policymakers and industry, more accurate regional data, and the development of partnership-led regional place-based industrial economic strategies.

The Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre PEC has arrived.

PEC will support Creative Industries Clusters based in Bristol, Leeds, London, York, Cardiff, Belfast, Dundee and Edinburgh will bring together creative hubs with researchers and businesses to boost their world-leading status.

Autumn budget headlines

Greater investment in new technologies and innovation, including £1.6bn for Research and Development, an increase in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund by £1.1bn, and confirmation of £115m to extend funding for the Digital Catapult. Greater investment in the regions, including an additional £8.5m to support Coventry’s plans to showcase the city when it hosts the UK City of Culture in 2021, £5m for University Enterprise Zones, and £675m for a new Future High Streets Fund to improve high streets across England.

Access the full Clusters Programme here

Augur fees review may have to wait until the ONS reaches its decision.

The Office for National Statistics will decide on 17 December 2018 whether the public reporting of the cost of student finance has to be overhauled. Under the current arrangements, money lent to students for tuition fees and living costs is ‘off the books’ and does not show up as a negative in the public finances, whilst the interest is classed as income thus reducing the deficit. This ‘fiscal illusion’ has led to hard-hitting cross-party reports from MPs and peers calling for proper scrutiny and reporting of student finance. How student loans appear in the national accounts could lead to less funding per student, stricter repayment terms and tougher times for HE.
The new student funding regime in Wales is progressive and could herald a change in the accounting rules and policy all over the UK.

The UCAS End of Cycle Report for 2018 is now available. This concentrates on entry, offers and acceptances but for the first time, includes details on the growing issue of unconditional offers. Whilst the UC has been adopted in performing and visual arts for some time there is a growing backlash, particularly from Headteachers, that the rise of UCs is purely down to short term recruitment tactics, marketisation and competition across HE.

Subject Level TEF review and Graduate Earnings

DfE publishes terms of reference for TEF Review whilst debates about the value of degrees – and whether graduates and society are benefitting from higher education – are now almost a daily occurrence in the media.
The statutory independent review of TEF has begun by announcing that Shirley Pearce, Chair of Governors at LSE, will chair the review panel.
The review was one of a handful of concessions designed to get the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 through a House of Lords that had significant concerns and reservations about what is now the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework. Performing arts is now a separate category within the Arts+Humanities subject group.
Main Arts Panel Report

Value for Money.

Office for Students may crackdown on universities whose graduates earn less than their non-graduate peers, universities minister Sam Gyimah has warned, after a government-commissioned study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, based on LEO, found that 15 per cent of students could find themselves not earning a graduate premium. Access the full IFS Report here. Creative Arts does not fare well on metrics that measure raw earnings. However, in order to counter being classed as a ‘low returning subject’, support came from many sources, including the Daily Mail, deriding the reductive and unhelpful limitations of solely using salary data to draw conclusions about the value of higher education. Furthermore, in a similar vein, QAA are launching an inquiry into Degree Classifications following the rise in Firsts and 2.1s.

Are we heading for KEF Gold, Silver and Bronze?

The Knowledge Exchange Framework will seek to establish ways to benchmark KE activity on a ‘clusters’ basis. Alongside a summary of KEF call for evidence responses which can be found here, Research England published three documents to help institutions prepare for the consultation later this year on the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF). One summarises responses to the December 2017 call for evidence about what data is relevant and appropriate, one outlines which UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) existing data will (and won’t) be used to develop KEF, and the third proposes initial clusters of institutions with similar characteristics which will be benchmarked against each other. Details are still to be finalised.

The Government has a target of spending 2.4% of GDP on research and innovation, which is an increase (roughly 50% ) on what UK has previously achieved. Whilst this would bring us into line with other countries, reaching that target will need concerted effort, a clear strategy and public funding to unlock more private funding. KE policy is likely to be linked to this target.

See the latest KEF metrics guidance here

Pending policy

The long-delayed immigration white paper – which will point the way to immigration policy post Brexit (crucially including international students) will be out in early December.

The Office for Students has said that it will require some providers to revise their “student protection plans” amid concerns that they do not sufficiently protect undergraduates from the impact of a university closure. The OfS intends to issue further guidance about protection plans later this year.

Higher Education Policy Institute have published a series of reports calling for greater transparency on cross subsidies, breakdown of how tuition fees are spent and are calling for fairer funding via a Graduate Levy.

Where does my £9000 tuition fee go? finds that nearly half – 44% – of fees go towards staff, research and teaching, one fifth – 21% – goes to study resources, while a quarter – 25% – goes to student support and campus services. The report suggests we rename Tuition Fee to ‘University Fee’.

Whilst none of this has passed as policy yet, don’t be surprised if we see a requirement for all Institutions to publish a more visible detailed breakdown of exactly where £9,250 is spent (Falmouth University was cited as a good example) alongside interventions to clamp down on purely tactical unconditional offers (figures show that 1 in 3 applicants received an unconditional offer) and the emergence of valid approaches such as Bath Spa University’s £750 incentive as a reward for achieving predicted grades.

And finally, headlines about University finances, no bailouts, differential fees, accelerated degrees.

The BBC revealed that the Office for Students had to make an emergency loan of around £900,000 to a UK university to keep it afloat through liquidity issues. The money has been repaid and the OfS says the university, a small, modern institution, is now financially stable. The revelation comes despite a strong message from OfS chair Sir Michael Barber at Wonkfest and on the Today programme that the regulator would “not bail out providers in financial difficulty”. Three unnamed Institutions have been rumoured to be in difficulty.

Leaks from the Augar Review of post-18 education fuelled growing speculation that a cut in university fees is being discussed, alongside plans to reintroduce a cap on student numbers and indicating planned cuts to fee levels for creative (and humanities) courses based on cost of delivery but also graduate salaries. This would be likely to cut the income of small arts institutions by up to 30%. Differential fees with headline figures £6,500 for arts and humanities and £13,000 for STEM have appeared in the press alongside plans to to re-incentivise universities to offer two-year degrees. The government has announced that the cost of one year of an accelerated degree is likely to rise from £9,250 to £11,100 in England.

Looking forward to 2019, a new Minister and a Brexit outcome!

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