Andy Westwood

The last week has seen a political and media frenzy as it has come clear that the RAB charge is now coming very close to the point where the new HE funding system costs around the same as when fees were just above £3k. With the wider public understandably not engaged in the wizardry of public accounting and a sector avoiding an opportunity for self-reflection, Andy Westwood attempts to unpick the dark arts at play, the rows that overlay them and attempts to drill just a little bit deeper.

Apprenticeships or university – a false choice

by Andy Westwood March 7, 2014

As we mark the end of Apprenticeships Week, Andy Westwood looks at how politicians and the media talk about apprenticeships and the false choice they continually present between them and higher education. There are good reasons to expand higher level apprenticeships, but this needs to happen in a better way – in collaboration with universities and learning from examples abroad.

Read the full post →

The narcissism of minor differences

by Andy Westwood February 11, 2014

They finally arrived yesterday. BIS published both the HEFCE grant letter and the SFA’s Skills Funding Statement. One was 6 pages and the other 60 but they both delivered roughly the same amount of cash to the FE and HE sectors. They also delivered more or less what had been set out in the Autumn Statement – i.e. some quite significant cuts to both sectors but not too much more on top of what George Osborne delivered in December. Andy Westwood gives some early thoughts on the letters and the scramble over funding that will come.

Read the full post →

A statement that we didn’t expect?

by Andy Westwood December 5, 2013

Like everyone else I thought this year’s Autumn Statement was going to focus on the cost of living, energy and fuel prices. For all I know it might have done but I haven’t yet got past the announcement of 30,000 extra university places next year and the abolition of all number controls in 2015-16. That on top of 20,000 new high level apprenticeships and money for new science facilities across the UK. Andy Westwood takes an early look at the implications of the Autumn Statement.

Read the full post →

Black holes and revelations

by Andy Westwood November 27, 2013

It’s perhaps fitting that it was the week of Dr Who’s 50th anniversary when a ‘black hole’ reportedly emerged in the BIS higher education budget. Over recruitment of HNDs and HNCs at private colleges has been reported by the Guardian as the cause of this serious financial problem.

Already there are reports of immediate pressures to BIS, SLC and HEFCE and possibly even to Research Council budgets as a result. According to the Guardian, BIS must find £900m of savings by 2015/16 – the first £600m of that in 2014-15, the final year of this Parliament and Spending Review period. Andy Westwood takes us on a tour of the negotiations that will now be taking place inside government and explores what might be cut in light of these latest revelations.

Read the full post →

Economic vs social conservatism?

by Andy Westwood September 27, 2013

On the face of it, the Conservatives should be looking forward to discussing higher education at their party conference in Manchester next week. As we will no doubt hear, the numbers of full time students starting this year look to have bounced back to somewhere close to 2010 levels. The controversial reforms to tuition fees look a lot less problematic today – and unlike other areas of public sector reform (Universal Credit, the NHS) the political narrative appears (for the conservatives at least) to have a happy ending. But ideological tensions in the Conservative Party over these issues are becoming ever-more exposed. Andy Westwood attempts to pick them apart as the party begins to gather in Manchester, in the final instalment of his series on this year’s party conferences.

Read the full post →

(It’s) Hard Labour?

by Andy Westwood September 20, 2013

Labour’s 2015 position on higher education policy – of all the three main political parties – is still probably the hardest to predict. But this is not necessarily because of the affordability of a £6k or even a £5k fee (the IPPR costed it at nearly £2billion up front – even more for a graduate tax – an awful lot to spend in a cash constrained election). Andy Westwood continues his series marking party conference season and takes a look at the state of Labour’s HE policy.

Read the full post →

Whither (or wither) the Lib Dems?

by Andy Westwood September 12, 2013

The Liberal Democrats kick off the party conference season in Glasgow next week. Will they develop a firm (and different?) position on higher education as the 2015 General Election approaches? Even after a policy review headed up by Baroness Brinton and a business department led by Vince Cable, their position is still very hard to predict. In a first of a series covering each main party’s annual conference, Andy Westwood looks at the state of the Lib Dems through an HE lens.

Read the full post →

Austerity, the Spending Review and a crisis in human capital

by Andy Westwood May 7, 2013

We thought the last Spending Review in 2010 was bad enough. But this one – covering 2015-16 and then 2016-2018 is beginning to look a whole lot worse. Alongside this is a growing attack on the knowledge economy and the idea of human capital in the media and by policy makers. What might this mean for the future of further and higher education in the UK? Andy Westwood gives his take.

Read the full post →

The postgraduate problem?

by Andy Westwood January 25, 2013

There is little doubt that we have a problem or two in postgraduate policy. Fifty vice chancellors recently wrote to the Observer to say so. BIS ministers have been asking for imaginative suggestions and are clear that they are very open to considering any new or ingenious ideas. Well here’s one: don’t do anything (or at least don’t do anything rash).

Read the full post →

The Social Mobility Trap and why politicians fall into it

by Andy Westwood October 26, 2012

Alan Milburn’s recent report into social mobility and higher education says little that is really controversial or particularly surprising. He has outlined the data that shows up the unequal admissions across universities and surveyed the policies that have aimed to address it – from the National Scholarship Programme to Aimhigher. But his central question too easily repeats the widespread assertion that social mobility in the UK has at best stalled or at worst is in decline. And that this has largely happened since the 1990s. But he is at least partly wrong.

Read the full post →