Andy Westwood

The legacy of David Willetts

by Andy Westwood July 17, 2014

As longstanding higher education and science minister David Willetts steps down from his government post, and from politics in general, Andy Westwood looks back at his time with the brief – from 2005 when in opposition to today. What will be his legacy? Is it too soon to judge? With mixed feelings in the sector, the ultimate legacy of David Willetts may take quite some time to fully understand. In the mean time, there’s much to learn from the last nine years with David Willetts.

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RAB and the wizardry of student finance

by Andy Westwood March 25, 2014

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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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.

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