Making the cut

by Alistair Jarvis January 27, 2014

At the start of the week that we expect the HEFCE grant letter, Alistair Jarvis looks at the scale of the hole in BIS’ budget and assesses the options that the Government now faces as it decides where to cut and how far to go – decisions that could have drastic long-term consequences.

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Expanding the debate

by Jim Dickinson January 6, 2014

Cheered on by the right-wing press, it is a widely-held belief that there are “too many graduates”. So what does HE expansion look like in that context and what form should it take? Not pulling the ladder up, but moving and positioning it, ensuring that the expansion of the future offers transformation and returns appropriate to the age, not build on outdated ideas and prejudices. Jim Dickinson reflects on the wider debate and the ideologies and politics that drive it.

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Learning to love the student loan book

by Emran Mian December 16, 2013

There are two ways to argue for more student places in higher education. The first is easy, just remove the word ‘higher’. So the question is: shall we have some more education? The second is harder – we have to explain why the cost-benefit ratio for more public spending on higher education is greater than competing spending pressures. While higher education detractors from both pick over the government’s recent move to expand higher education, Emran Mian attempts to reframe the debate.

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Placing Borrowing at the Heart of the System

by Martin McQuillan December 13, 2013

A few days after the Autumn Statement, Martin McQuillan considers the Osborne plan to expand student numbers based on questionable finances that the IFS have labelled ‘economic nonsense’ and have slowly started to unravel. This short-termist policy may have big implications in years to come as BIS will have to make up any further shortfall in the HE budget – a budget already under extreme pressure. With so many risks ahead, the HE sector needs to take a long and detailed look at this scheme.

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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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Selling the loan book

by Emran Mian December 4, 2013

The Government has said today that it will make £20bn of asset sales between 2014 and 2020. £12bn of the total is to come from the student loan book. That’s about a third of the total book. Emran Mian takes a look at the logic and risks of selling these loans – and what we might expect to come.

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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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Debating the future of research

by Mark Leach November 25, 2013

The REF submission deadline has finally arrived. But it’s only the beginning for researchers, departments and universities that have gambled big and need a good result. The results will make or break many universities’ ambitions and long-term strategic plans. The REF’s importance to the sector, or the impact on it cannot be overstated. But it’s not just the REF looming large on policymaker’s minds. With severe pressure on the whole of the BIS budget and many outstanding issues to resolve, will the next Parliament afford the opportunity for a far-reaching debate to help shape the next long term settlement for research and science in the UK?

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Remembering Robbins

by Tom Bailey October 25, 2013

This week sees the 50th anniversary of the Robbins Report. Appointed by the Government in February 1961, a committee led by Lord Robbins was instructed to review higher education and, “in the light of national needs and resources”, to advise “on what principles its long-term development should be based”. Peter Scott once described the resulting report as “the constitution of modern British higher education.” How and why do we remember Robbins? Tom Bailey takes the long view.

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Protecting students through regulation

by Jess Bridgman October 21, 2013

On the blog last week, Jim Dickinson criticised the Higher Education Commission’s recent report in to HE regulation for not including enough protection for students. Now Jess Bridgman, a researcher to the Commission, responds to the charge that the report failed students and shows why its recommendations are underpinned by a need to provide good regulation for the benefit of students.

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Regulation for all (apart from students)

by Jim Dickinson October 15, 2013

Another week, another report is published on the gaps in regulation left by the Government’s interesting new take on consumer-focused reforms; triple fees, publish a white paper offering protections, fail miserably to implement them – in that order. Jim Dickinson takes a look at the HE Commission’s report on regulation and finds little new protection for students.

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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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