News

Office for Students: universities must eliminate equality gaps

13 December 2018

The Office for Students (OfS), the higher education regulator, has today challenged all universities to eliminate the gaps in access and student success within 20 years. Following a consultation process, the OfS has set itself ambitious targets to achieve equality of opportunity in higher education, and will now expect universities, colleges and other higher education providers to set their own individual plans and targets to work towards these during the next five years

Universities urged to boost support for students with mental health problems

4 December 2018

Universities must do more to safeguard students’ mental health by contacting the families of those experiencing problems, Education Secretary Damian Hinds has said. Mr Hinds wrote to Professor Julia Buckingham, who chairs a Universities UK (UUK) round table on mental health, urging her to “explore the issue and identify a clear way forward”. On Tuesday UUK, which represents 137 universities in the UK, is bringing together university leaders, mental health experts and students to discuss the circumstances in which a family member or emergency contact might be told when a student is suffering with poor mental health.

More to widening access to HE than just financial aid

1 December 2018

Widening access and participation is not enough to tackle social exclusion in the world’s universities, an international conference marking the first World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED) heard from representatives from all corners of the globe. “You also need to offer psychological support to students coming through the access route because they can struggle with many problems during their time at university,” a Latin American vice rector told the Beyond Borders conference hosted by Aston University in the United Kingdom.

Unconditional offers used to ‘get people through door’

29 November 2018

Some universities are recruiting students with unconditional offers during the application process, says the university admissions service Ucas.

They are telling students that A-level grade requirements will be dropped completely if they put the university down as their first choice.

It comes as new Ucas figures show one-third of applicants aged 18 received an unconditional offer last year.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said the proportion was “disturbing”.

He added: “The systematic use of unconditional offers is not in the interest of students and they should not be used just to get people through the door.

“I expect universities to use them responsibly and where institutions cannot justify the rising numbers being offered, I have made clear to the Office for Students that they should use the full range of powers at their disposal to take action.”

WAHED: The Equity Policy Map

28 November 2018

The Global Equity Policy Map represents a first attempt to build an international database on national equity policies in higher education. The first report looking at these policies “All around the world – Higher education equity policies across the globe” contains information on each country obtained by consulting official websites, official documents, academic publications and the advice of government officials or academics.

Poorer pupils’ access to elite universities slows

28 November 2018

Elite universities are all but failing to increase access for disadvantaged pupils, according to a study published by the public services thinktank Reform. In the past five years, the average annual increase in the proportion of disadvantaged students at each of 29 elite universities has been less than 1 per cent. “According to Ucas, more 18-year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are entering higher education than ever before, with an increase of 78 per cent since 2006 for the most disadvantaged,” the report states. “Since 2014, however, universities have made little progress in narrowing the gap between those most likely and least likely to enter higher education.”

Current Vacancies at The University of Nottingham: Data and Evaluation Manager- Applications close Sunday 9th December 2018

23 November 2018

Our partner, The University of Nottingham, are pleased to be able to advertise a full-time post of Data and Evaluation manger. The role will help the Widening Participation team ensure that all students from all backgrounds are supported to access higher education. The post requires strong statistical analysis and data management skills alongside experience of reporting, data analysis and […]

Cutting tuition fees would penalise poor students by reducing access grants

22 November 2018

A reduction in tuition fees would make it harder for disadvantaged students to go to university, according to a group of funding charities. A post-18 education commission, set up by Theresa May, is reported to be considering recommending fees be cut to £6,500 from the current £9,250. At the moment universities are required to set aside part of their income to help students from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds enter higher education. That works out at about £860m for this year. But six charities that help with university funding say that money would be reduced if fees are cut.

Too many students left with debts for ‘too little payback’

6 November 2018

Too many graduates in England are being left with big debts for too little payback, MPs are warning.

Nearly half of recent graduates were not working in graduate roles in 2017, the Commons education committee says.

Education spending now ‘skewed’ to poor following ‘remarkable shift’

1 November 2018

There has been a “remarkable shift” in poorer children now receiving a bigger share of education spending in England, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The independent financial researchers say in previous generations children from richer families were the main beneficiaries, as they were likely to stay longer in education. But this pattern has been reversed by policies deliberately “skewed” to give more funding towards the deprived and with more poorer youngsters going to sixth form and university, it says. The analysis reveals that poorer pupils who took their GCSEs in 2010 had almost £10,000 more spent on them during their school years than their richer counterparts.

Part-time students ‘down by more than half

26 October 2018

Employers and universities are calling for major changes to student funding in England, to reverse the collapse in part-time student numbers. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says university should not only be for young people, and adults need to be able to re-train for new skills. Part-time undergraduate numbers have fallen by more than 50% since 2010. The CBI and Universities UK want more support for students to take short, flexible part-time courses. A joint statement warns of a generation of “lost learners” who might previously have gone back to study for part-time degrees or other qualifications.

The (Knowledge) Bank of Mum and Dad: new research shows how students turn to parents in making university choices

19 October 2018

Prospective university students turn to parents and friends as much as teachers for advice on their options, new polling for the Office for Students shows. The poll, by YouthSight, comes as a new report from CFE Research calls for a more tailored approach to information provision that reflects individual students’ needs, backgrounds and preferences. The poll sought the views of over 2,000 current, prospective, and previous higher education students. It found that 71 per cent per cent of prospective students who responded say that parents are their first port of call for advice, alongside teachers (68 per cent), friends and peers (67 per cent) and ahead of websites (60 per cent).

We need to reach children before they decide university isn’t for them

18 October 2018

Traditionally, universities looking to widen access have focused on secondary aged children preparing to take their next step in education. This is certainly an important moment in a young person’s life, but in many cases it may be too late to shape their decision-making. Universities are looking to solve problems which can become entrenched far earlier in a child’s education.

In 2016, a Ucas survey pointed out that children who know they want to enter higher education by age 10 or earlier are 2.6 times more likely to end up at a more competitive university than someone who decided in their late teens. This is why universities need to do more work in primary schools.

The students who fear for their ambitions amid college cuts

17 October 2018

These six young people are ambitious and determined.

They are an aspiring teacher, a future social worker, a would-be accountant, a budding cardiologist, a wannabe pilot and a veterinary surgeon of tomorrow.

But they fear their dreams, and those of young people like them, may be thwarted by further education funding pressures.

They are all students at New City College in east London, which is closing the doors to its six campuses on Wednesday so staff can join a march against the cuts.

The aspirations of these students are as high as the office blocks of the international banks that provide the backdrop to the Poplar campus where they are based.

How the Co-op tackled a school with terrible truancy

14 October 2018

How does a school go from having one of the worst truancy records in the country to having one of the best attendance records?

“No nonsense and no excuses.”

That’s the message that you keep hearing from staff at Co-op Academy Manchester.

There is also a very direct approach from the school’s attendance team.

Even if a parent rings to say their child is poorly, there could still be a knock on the door to check out the story.

Jenny Robey, the school’s attendance manager, says she might be halfway up the stairs of a house where a child is supposedly off sick when the parent will admit that “she’s really in Tenerife”.

Ofsted inspectors to stop using exam results as key mark of success

11 October 2018

Ofsted plans to overhaul the way it inspects schools in England, downgrading the influence of exam results in favour of a closer look at pupil behaviour and at the breadth of subjects being taught.

Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, outlined details of the new inspection regime, with the current category of “outcomes for pupils” that includes exam performance to be dropped in Ofsted’s inspection reports.

“For a long time, our inspections have looked hardest at outcomes, placing too much weight on test and exam results when we consider the overall effectiveness of schools,” Spielman said in a speech to school leaders in Newcastle.

Education secretary demands action on low number of ‘white British disadvantaged boys’ going to university

8 October 2018

The education secretary will say that the UK’s schooling system must be challenged over why “white British disadvantaged boys” are the least likely of any ethnic group to make it to university.

Officials said Damian Hinds would push university and business leaders to take action over the issue at a meeting on Monday, as he also announces £24m to boost standards in the northeast of England.

The Independent reported earlier this year how the number of white people accepted at universities has dropped despite an overall rise in UK students.

Pupils aren’t being told about lucrative university scholarships and grants

5 October 2018

A new app, called GrantFairy, has been created to find scholarships that students are eligible to apply for based on their personal profile.

Developers say that, so far, users are typically matched with at least £85,000 in funding opportunities, which they say prospective students are often missing out on because they aren’t told about the cash.

DFE school funding claims face watchdog investigation

4 October 2018

School spending claims by the Department for Education are being investigated by the UK’s statistics watchdog.

It follows BBC News reports which showed figures quoted by education ministers defending their record on state school spending included the money spent by university students on tuition fees and parents on private school fees.

Universities are admitting students whose A-level results are up to five grades below offer, head warns

4 October 2018

Chris Ramsey, head of the £37,860-a-year Whitgift School in south London, said that Russell Group institutions are increasingly giving places to 18-year-olds regardless of whether they meet their offers or not.

Mr Ramsey, who chairs the universities committee at the Headmasters’ and Headmistress’ Conference (HMC), said that there is growing concern among schools about the practise.

New data shows profile of degree apprentices

4 October 2018

The Office for Students has called for universities and employers to improve degree apprenticeship opportunities so they are available to all who could benefit from them. This follows research which shows that degree apprenticeships are providing opportunities in parts of the country that are under-represented in other forms of higher education and for students who want to learn whilst they are in work later in life. Degree apprenticeships are on the increase, as more employers, colleges and universities, students and parents realise their advantages. There are nearly 6,000 apprentices at levels 6 and 7, many of these are degree apprentices.

Not for them: Why aren’t teenagers applying for apprenticeships?

3 October 2018

A new study, by education marketing consultancy GK and Partners, claims three-quarters (75%) of sixth-formers would consider an apprenticeship more seriously if degree apprenticeships were offered in their chosen career. Almost two-thirds (63%) of the 1,051 young people interviewed also say that they would be more likely to apply for an apprenticeship if a UCAS-style format was available. At present, would be apprentices must apply to individual companies. The findings – from the first study to look specifically at Year 12 and 13 student views of apprenticeships – make grim reading for those championing the alternative post-school career path. Only one in six (16%) 16-18 year-olds is currently thinking of applying for an apprenticeship, compared to 96% considering university.

DfE ‘should fund GCSEs and A levels for adults’

23 August 2018

The government should fund colleges to offer GCSE and A levels for all learners, regardless of age, to help plug the country’s skills gap, a new report suggests. In its Filling in the biggest skills gap report, the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) identifies that there are major skills shortages at levels 4 and 5 and suggests that a reason for this is a shortfall of learners progressing from levels 2 and 3. A government review of provision at level 4 and 5 is currently ongoing. The report says that the number of young learners who do not proceed from level 2 to level 3 is 36.4 per cent and a further 20.9 per cent of all learners do not progress from level 3. This means that almost one in six working-age adults has not successfully progressed to level 4 or beyond.

An educational system not fit for purpose

19 August 2018

Government reforms to the curriculum and exam assessment are out of kilter with good educational practice and the wider skills and competencies that employers’ organisations like the CBI have identified as being a desirable outcome of the education system (We need an alternative to universities, 17 August). To this list can be added the fragmentation of the school system, an obsession with academies and grammar schools, school performance indicators fixed to favour progression to a limited number of universities and the Ebacc, which has undermined the study of art, design and other creative subjects in schools.

Universities’ GCSE demands favour private school pupils

17 August 2018

Universities are asking for relatively lower grades under the international GCSE than they are for the reformed GCSE, Tes can reveal. With independent schools allowed to take the IGCSE but state schools barred from doing so, the entry requirements favour some privately educated pupils over their state sector peers. The news comes on top of renewed speculation that the IGCSE may be an ‘easier’ course than the reformed GCSE. ‘IGCSE’ is a term used as shorthand for a family of alternative key stage 4 qualifications that are provided by a number of exam boards.

Is degree apprenticeship a viable alternative to university?

16 August 2018

There’s been a lot of talk of degree apprenticeships as a great alternative to university. Just this morning, education secretary Damian Hinds tweeted that there is a “huge range of opportunity” for students collecting results today, “whether it’s university, college, starting an apprenticeship or entering the world of work”. With degree apprenticeships typically paying salaries of £15,000 – £20,000, compared to annual tuition fees of £9,000, the finances make sense. Plus, you get to work in your chosen field for three to five years, become proficient on the job, receive time off for training and study and still come out with a degree.

Importance of uni for pupils at a six-year low

16 August 2018

The proportion of young people who think it’s important to go to university has hit a six-year low, according to a new poll. In 2013, 86 per cent of 11- to 16-year-olds surveyed by the social mobility charity the Sutton Trust thought it was important to go to university to do well – this year, those agreeing had fallen to 75 per cent. The survey results were published as students pick up their A-level results today and will learn whether or not they have got into the university course they wanted.

A-level results: should universities lower entry grades for disadvantaged students?

15 August 2018

Students from less advantaged backgrounds are grossly underrepresented in Britain’s top universities. This under-representation of certain groups is particularly pronounced in highly competitive courses such as medicine. In England, for example, 80% of medical students come from just 20% of the country’s secondary schools. This leads to a profession dominated by certain demographic groups. This imbalance isn’t just an issue of “fairness” or social equality. It is well established that UK trained doctors from affluent backgrounds are less likely to choose to work in rural or deprived areas. This is especially true in less desirable specialisms such as general practice and psychiatry.

EMWPREP On The Move

6 August 2018

From today (Monday 6th August 2018) EMWPREP will have a new office at Loughborough University. We can be found in: Hazlerigg Building, Rm 201.0.05 Loughborough University LE11 3TU

Universities should pitch to parents as well as pupils

29 July 2018

Good schools know how important it is for parents and carers to support their child’s education at home and want to involve them in discussions about careers and future plans. However, for parents, especially those with low educational attainment or poor levels of literacy and numeracy, can be reluctant or fearful of getting involved in discussions about higher education. Tackling this issue is not easy, but universities do have a role to play in helping schools. They could, for example, support families with practical interventions that ensure no family feels university is for ‘other people’s children’.

Unleashing parent power

24 July 2018

Almost all young people say that their parents influenced their education and career choices, yet our latest research, published with Kings College London last week, reveals that many universities fail to plan their outreach activities around parents. Why might that be? We found that problems start early, many schools struggle to engage parents, yet in many cases, universities rely on schools in order to access parents. As one interviewee put it: “Teachers are always acting as the gatekeepers so if parents aren’t engaging with the school, it’s really unlikely that they are going to engage with the university and the ones that aren’t engaged are probably the ones you want to engage the most”

Unconditional offers are letting students down

16 July 2018

University is life-changing for many people, not just in terms of their employment opportunities, but in their outlook and confidence. It certainly changed mine. However, there are some practices, such as unconditional offers, which are letting students down. The increase in unconditional offers has been swift and significant, with fewer than 3,000 recorded in 2013, rising to more than 50,000 in 2017. Ucas’ annual report identifies that the number of unconditional offers from selective universities for high-performing A-level students has increased but not at the same rate as that of recruiting universities for Btec students, a group which is flagged as more likely to drop out and less likely to achieve a first or 2.1 if they do complete.

Give more places to disadvantaged students, watchdog urges universities

10 July 2018

The new higher education watchdog, the Office for Students (OfS), is urging universities to pay more attention to socio-economic and school background, rather than just A-level grades, when deciding to award a place to a student. It wants institutions to be more ambitious on what are known as “contextual admissions”, offering places to students who have the potential to study at the highest level, but may be at a disadvantage because of background and school. Most universities already use contextual data in their admissions process as part of efforts to widen access to their courses, but while lower- and middle-tier universities have made advances, leading institutions have been criticised for their “incredibly slow” progress on recruiting from the most disadvantaged groups. The OfS intervention increases the pressure – particularly on the most selective institutions – to significantly improve equality of opportunity in higher education and to do it quickly.

British universities offering free tutoring for disadvantaged school children

9 July 2018

Universities across the UK are offering free tutoring for disadvantaged school children in order to improve diversity in higher education. 35 higher education institutions, including Leeds, Birmingham, Worcester and Hertfordshire universities, are using part their budget from widening participation to pay online tuition for GCSE and A-level students. Some A-level students will have received offers from universities already, and the extra tuition helps to ensure they make the grades. Universities hope that extra tuition will assist GCSE students in having higher aspirations and attainment, so that pupils can better progress to higher education. MyTutor, an online tutoring service, will be providing the tuition. James Grant, co-founder of the site, said that the number of universities that are now paying for school children’s tuition represents a shift in their approach to widen access to higher education.

Engaging and retaining students through video capture

6 July 2018

The last 10 years have seen a growing emphasis on widening participation and access to higher education across the world. Yet there are so many significant changes taking place, affecting everything from international student mobility to recruitment trends to regional and global graduate employability that it is hard to predict with much accuracy what the future of higher education holds or to be sure that your institution is primed to be responsive. In the midst of all this confusion, universities that want to remain competitive have to pay close attention to how they can attract, retain and create successful outcomes for students from a wide mix of different backgrounds, nationalities and age groups. Due to the current lack of enrolment restrictions, new routes have opened to higher education. As student bodies become increasingly diverse, universities cannot rest on their laurels when it comes to making sure that all students’ needs are being equally met. Could lecture-capture be the key to personalising learning and widening participation for all?

Tackling the geographical disparities in higher education

5 July 2018

It’s no secret that, in higher education, where you come from has a major impact on where you end up. There are wide gaps in access depending on which part of the country you come from, with young people from some areas still over twice as likely to enter higher education as those from the lowest participation neighbourhoods, and more than five times as likely to enter the universities with the highest entry requirements.

Students can now see new average earnings data on Unistats

5 July 2018

From today, students can see data on the average earnings by subject for each higher education provider on the Unistats website. This is the first time detailed subject level data has been made available publicly. This means that we are showing data for French specifically, for example, rather than grouping together earnings for all language subjects.

‘I worry about life choices based on a set of exams taken at 16’

3 July 2018

Colleges take chances on young people and adults every day to offer them opportunities to progress, writes Kirsti Lord. I was recently at an event for colleagues at universities working to widen access to higher education. It was inspiring to see hundreds of people committed to engaging those least likely to apply for university, coming together to share case studies, best practice and research on how to increase the number of first-generation scholars.

Keeping it local: why widening participation is a community issue

2 July 2018

IntoUniversity started in a West London community that people across the world now know all too well for the worst of reasons: the Lancaster West Estate, home to Grenfell Tower. There can be few local communities in history that have been subject to so much national attention, or so many questions about the relationship between place, poverty and social mobility. Fifteen years before the fire, we launched IntoUniversity in response to the alarming number of young people from Lancaster West who were leaving school aged 16 with few qualifications or prospects. What shocked us was that this outcome was routine: young people expected nothing else. Not going to university was just normal.

OfS Blog: Listening to local needs is key to good outreach, says NCOP consortium Higher Horizons+

7 June 2018

Tailoring outreach activity to the learners’ specific needs is only possible through close collaboration with schools and students themselves. Higher Horizons+ explain how they’re working to achieve this.

Universities minister issues ‘bums on seats’ warning over cheap degree courses

7 June 2018

Universities must not put “bums on seats” ahead of providing high-quality degrees that offer students value for money and good earning potential, the Universities Minister has said. In a stark warning, Sam Gyimah said institutions need to take responsibility and “police themselves” to ensure they are not offering “threadbare” and “cheap” courses. He argued that there is variability between courses and institutions in potential future income that is a cause for concern.

OfS funded local networks inspire young people to enter higher education- Year 1 Report

31 May 2018

The Office for Students (OfS) has today published a report on the first year of the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP). The report showcases how 29 consortia – funded by the OfS – are working collaboratively with local schools, colleges, universities and businesses to creatively develop outreach opportunities for young people in specific areas where higher education participation has been identified as lower than expected given the GCSE results of the young people living there.

A-level attainment, or high-level aspiration?

30 May 2018

The biggest questions being asked right now in higher education are about money. How much should universities charge? Should they be free? Should they be funded? Where is all their money going? But, for applicants at least, finance is not a barrier to higher education in the UK right now. The ability to pay university fees doesn’t disenfranchise qualified applicants in the UK, as it does in so many other parts of the world. However, for some critics of the system, issues of money mask a bigger question: who should be able to go to university in the first place? As the Government introduces its post-18 funding review, it seems time for the sector to prepare a clear argument for the value of higher education – and how it can be accessed fairly.

Scottish Funding Council report: fall in university students from poorest areas

30 May 2018

Fewer students from the most deprived parts of Scotland are entering university, according to the latest Scottish Funding Council report on widening access. The figures show 13.8 per cent of entrants from the poorest 20 per cent of areas in Scotland started full-time degrees. Although this is only a small decrease from 14 per cent in the previous year, universities have been told by the Scottish Government to accelerate widening access to meet its targets. The target set by the Commission for Widening Access is for students from the poorest backgrounds to make up 20 per cent of entrants by 2030.

‘A new technical education route is needed post-18’

28 May 2018

A new route would achieve fairness in our society through offering flexibility, writes Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes. There are lots of strongly held views about the current state of the apprenticeship programme in England. The range is wide, with some setting out how disastrous the reforms have been and others applauding the success despite the collapse in starts. I have my own views, of course, but more than anything I think there needs to be more analysis of the changes by sector, by age, by level and by geography before we can get a full prognosis. Any overall assessment will miss the wide variations which in part help explain why views differ so greatly about how things are going at the moment.

Disparities in university education come as no real surprise

28 May 2018

According to a variety of studies, wealthy, white students not only get into university at disproportionate rates but also perform better once in tertiary education. With the recent spate of articles and research papers that have come to light on this issue, one might think we are undergoing a collective awakening about the inequalities rampant in our higher education system. However, for any with eyes and ears, the problem has been clear for quite some time. If the issue were confined to universities, it might be easier to solve, but we cannot put them in a vacuum. The problem is with our academic system as a whole. It is an anachronism, and one that has the power to arbitrarily damage or enhance a student’s future prospects.

T levels: Rollout of some courses will be delayed

27 May 2018

The Department for Education has published its long-awaited response to the T level implementation consultation including, the first 52 colleges and providers to teach the new qualifications. The government has also addressed concerns about the speed of the implementation of the T level rollout, by announcing that the start date of some programmes will be delayed. The move comes just days after the education secretary rejected calls from the DfE’s permanent secretary for a one-year delay to the implementation of the new T-level qualifications for fear that the rollout was being rushed.

‘What is the educational justification for GCSEs?’

27 May 2018

Surely we could design a less intrusive but reliable way of reporting on pupils’ achievements at 16, says Kevin Stannard. Last week neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore tweeted, “Why do we even have GCSEs now that young people have to be in full-time education until 18?” In asking this question in May, she broke the long-standing convention that we should wait until results day before laying into the exam system. But the existential GCSE question keeps coming up, and it deserves a considered response.

EMWPREP and GDPR

22 May 2018

As you will be aware on the 25 May 2018, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force. Although this is European legislation, the Government has confirmed that GDPR will be implemented in the UK regardless of the fact that it is likely to be leaving the EU shortly after. GDPR is […]

The ‘value’ of a degree is academic and vocational

22 May 2018

As the Government’s review of Post-18 Tertiary Education moves forward, we continue to deliberate about the value, the benefit and the returns from higher education. The level of tuition fees have, in particular, thrown this matter into sharp relief. There are, of course, many measures that can be used to assess value, benefit or return. But an important one for prospective students is what happens next to those who successfully graduate. If graduates from one course do well, applicants to it will follow in their footsteps. Or so it goes. Understanding the destinations of university graduates (and how much they earn) has become a business in its own right.

More students taking up postgraduate masters’ degrees

18 May 2018

New data from the Office for Students shows an increase in postgraduate masters’ student numbers since the introduction of the postgraduate masters’ loan. The new data is published alongside data from the Intentions After Graduation Survey, which shows that the proportion of students who state their intention to continue their studies and end up going into postgraduate education has increased. 

More BTEC students progress to university

15 May 2018

The numbers of students starting university courses after studying BTECs is rising. However, these students are less likely to graduate with a top degree than their peers who took A levels, according to a new study. The report argues that there are still misconceptions about the abilities and qualifications of those who choose to study alternatives to A levels. The University of Sheffield, which carried out the research, said it is “crucial” that these misconceptions are challenged to ensure that higher education is open to all.

White working-class boys in England ‘need more help’ to go to university

11 May 2018

‘Thinktank calls for changes to help widen participation of ‘most under-represented group in higher education’. Helping white, working-class boys in England to go on to higher education should be a top priority for policymakers, according to a manifesto to widen access to universities that identifies more than 30 gaps and weaknesses in policy. The document, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), includes proposals to appoint a national commissioner for student mental health, to change the timing of university applications so they take place after A-level results have been published, and even to open new Oxbridge colleges to boost the numbers of students from under-represented groups.Among the proposals aimed at the new Office for Students are several designed to encourage students coming from communities that have not benefited from the surge in participation seen in other parts of the country.

What it’s like growing up as a working-class girl in the UK

1 May 2018

Research into aspirations of working class girls in social mobility cold spots finds many lack reliable advice on education & careers.The UK has one of the widest attainment gaps in education within the developed world. This effectively means that if you are born in the UK to a family living in disadvantaged circumstances, you are much less likely to achieve your potential than your peers. And research shows it may take another 50 years to close this gap. Many young people who grow up in an area that is considered a “cold spot” of social mobility – like many of the UK’s seaside towns and former coal mining communities – are caught up in cycles of deprivation. This affects their aspirations, academic self-confidence and adult life choices.

Parents claim education system is failing ‘lost generation’ of special needs children

30 April 2018

Parents across the East have spoken out against the education system – claiming it is failing a ‘lost generation’ of children with special educational needs. It’s after a poll by the National Education Union revealed more than 40% of children over the age of four are not in full time school. It also found that half of parents aren’t happy about provision and nearly three-quarters believe they aren’t given adequate support to help their child. Michelle White’s son Alex was 13 before his needs were met in the classroom, despite being diagnosed when he was six. She had to fight and win a tribunal to secure a place in a specialist school.

Doubling in boarding school bursaries for disadvantaged pupils

30 April 2018

One thousand children from disadvantaged backgrounds will attend boarding school for free by 2023 under plans revealed by a charity today. The number represents a doubling of pupils receiving bursaries from the Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation to attend state and independent boarding schools. Ian Davenport, chief executive of Royal SpringBoard, is set to announce the new target at the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) conference, starting tomorrow, in Brighton.

Widening university participation needs a global network

30 April 2018

It is often argued that higher education moves slowly, and that is never more true than where widening access is concerned. Policy-makers in individual countries are increasingly recognising that boosting participation in higher education means extending participation to hitherto under-represented groups and that those from all social backgrounds need to complete and succeed when they enter. But this recognition is too often not backed up by action, and while higher education institutions may be at last beginning to realise that inequality is something higher education is contributing to rather than solving, millions of people across the world are missing out on a higher education experience.

To widen access, you need to engage teachers

24 April 2018

Back in the summer of 1997, Helena Kennedy proclaimed that the case for widening participation to higher and further education was “irresistible”. National strategies were drawn up, Whitehall circulars issued, and, two years later, Tony Blair stood before the Labour conference and pledged that 50 per cent of young people should go to university by 2010. Things seemed simpler then. While progress has been made in the overall rate of young people going to higher education in universities and FE colleges, there remain troubling gaps in the progression of poorer and part-time students. As a generation of policymakers and practitioners have discovered, supporting students from disadvantaged groups to enter higher education is no easy matter.

Student loan repayment threshold rises

6 April 2018

Former students will be able to earn more before they have to start paying back their tuition fee loans. English and Welsh students who took out loans from September 2012 onwards – when fees in England rose to up to £9,000 a year – will now start to pay back when they earn £25,000 a year instead of £21,000. The government says the move could save graduates up to £360 a year.

My university journey: how it changed my life by Ruth Carlson

3 April 2018

Since joining the Office for Students’ (OfS) Board and Student Panel, I have often been asked about my motivations and my route to higher education. For me, it was simple. I knew I wanted to learn a skill and gain a profession; the one that suited my talents was civil engineering. I have been privileged with the opportunities of higher education and a wealth of experience at university. I am the youngest of six children and the first in my family to go to university. My parents always instilled a ‘can do’ attitude. Nothing was ever too big. I plucked a few strings of a guitar when I was 10 so my mum pushed me to get guitar lessons. I was similarly supported by many key people in my route to university.

A continuation of trends

15 March 2018

Latest data shows an increase in the number of degree students leaving higher education in, during or after their first year of study. What factors may be affecting this trend? Recent HESA performance indicator data has shown another increase in the proportion of degree students who are no longer in higher education a year after starting. The figure now stands at 7.5 per cent of UK domiciled full-time first degree entrants. This is the fourth successive year that this increase has occurred from its lowest level of 6.6 per cent in 2011-12. So what does the data tell us about what could be causing this increase?

Tuition fee value for money: ‘I feel ripped off’

14 March 2018

“I feel ripped off. They do the bare minimum and I honestly don’t see where my money is going.”

“I am in nearly £40,000 worth of debt and often wonder why I went to uni.”

These students, asked by the new Office for Students if university tuition fees represent good value, are among a significant majority – 62% – who say they don’t think it’s worth it.

The OfS finds only 38% of students in England think the tuition fees for their course are good value for money.

Course subject is a major factor which influences students’ perception of tuition fees, with computer science students, those doing physical sciences and law students the most likely to say that the tuition fees represented good value for money.

Those doing historical and philosophical studies, languages and creative arts and design are least satisfied with the value they have received.

‘Wasted potential’ of mature students

14 March 2018

A university group says that the government’s review of tuition fees in England should make a priority of finding ways to attract more mature and part-time students.

The Million Plus group says there is a “huge pool of untapped potential” among adults who missed out on university.

After fees increased in 2012, mature student numbers fell by 20%.

Les Ebdon, head of the university access watchdog, backed calls to reverse this “very worrying trend”.

Mature students – counted as people starting courses at the age of 21 or over – were among the most likely to be deterred by the raising of tuition fees to £9,000 in 2012, which have since risen again to £9,250.

Review shows that OFFA’s approach to evidence has driven change in access

14 March 2018

The Office for Fair Access’s approach to research and evidence has been successful in helping universities and colleges to improve higher education access and participation by working in more effective ways, an impact review published today has found.

The review, conducted by the consultancy Nursaw Associates as OFFA prepares to close at the end of this month, investigated how far OFFA’s Evidence and Effective Practice activities have met its objective to ‘support and challenge the sector to continually improve outcomes through the generation of and learning from robust evaluation, research and analysis’.

It determined that the higher education sector considers the research produced and commissioned by OFFA as
•highly valuable
•credible
•robust

and that support for the sector to develop good practice is seen as critical to securing further progress in access and participation.

The research included surveys and interviews with staff from universities, colleges and third sector organisations, and analysis of access agreements.

Geography should not determine social mobility

14 March 2018

Parental occupation, family income, early years education, “social capital” (ie who you know)… these are the sorts of things we traditionally look at when considering what shapes a child’s ability to do well at school and beyond.

Yet, these days, there’s a new and growing influence on the life chances of children across the country: geography. Last year, two reports published by the Social Market Foundation think tank laid out the painful truth. Where someone lives can determine their social mobility almost as much as their family background. Regional disparities in the UK are wider than any other western European nation.

Degrees courses to be rated gold, silver and bronze

12 March 2018

Degree courses are to be rated for quality, subject by subject, under a new pilot scheme which ministers say leaves universities “no place to hide”.

Individual subjects at different universities will be graded gold, silver or bronze by a new tool feeding in official data on teaching quality.

But students will not be able to use the rankings to choose their courses until 2020, when the tool goes live. Universities say the assessment of subjects must be effective.

The new system to rate teaching is part of the government’s attempt to get tough on universities, which charge students nearly £30,000 for a three-year degree, and have come under fire for paying their senior managers very high salaries.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said: “Prospective students deserve to know which courses deliver great teaching and great outcomes – and which ones are lagging behind.

“In the age of the student, universities will no longer be able to hide if their teaching quality is not up to the world-class standard that we expect.”

Forgotten, isolated and ignored: the rise of the commuter student

12 March 2018

Universities are failing to meet the needs of commuter students across the UK even though the number of students choosing to live at home is increasing.

A study conducted by social mobility charity the Sutton Trust in February 2018 highlighted that about 55.8 per cent of students under the age of 20 attend a university less than 57 miles from home, while only one in 10 students attends a university more than 150 miles away.

The report further highlighted that in 2014-15 (the first year of £9,000 fees), “over three quarters of the student body at the University of the West of Scotland (77.5 per cent) and Newman University (76.2 per cent) in Birmingham come from less than 91 km away and also live in their parental home”.

More than 50 per cent of undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Wolverhampton, Glasgow Caledonian University and City, University of London also commute to university, claimed the study.

In contrast to the aforementioned universities, however, “only 2 per cent of the student body at the Universities of Bath, Bristol, York and Exeter” live in their parental homes, while there are no reports of students “of this sort” who attended either the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge, the Sutton Trust report reveals.

University drop-out rates in UK rise for third successive year

12 March 2018

Drop-out rates among university students who give up their studies within 12 months have gone up for the third year in a row, according to official statistics.

Figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that 26,000 students in England who began studying for their first degree in 2015 did not make it beyond the first year.

Rates vary widely across the higher education sector, with almost one in five undergraduates quitting by the end of their first year at the worst affected institutions, while at the other end of the scale fewer than 1% dropped out from Cambridge University.

The figures, which are the most recent available, reveal that in 2015-16 6.4% of home students starting a full-time first degree course in England quit before starting their second year, continuing an upward year-on-year trend from 5.7% in 2011-12

University offers science degree online for £5,650 per year

12 March 2018

The University of London is to announce a fully fledged undergraduate degree course completely taught online for £5,650 per year over three years.It is aimed at encouraging more part-time, working students, following a fall in their numbers after the increase in tuition fees in England.

There are plans for 3,000 students to take the computer science course.

It comes as the prime minister’s review of tuition fees aims to encourage more flexible and cheaper ways to study. The review follows concerns about the high cost of university, with average graduate debts of more than £50,000.

Mum’s the word for bridging the disadvantage gap

12 March 2018

One academic’s innovative idea for helping a deprived community? Ask parents what they need to raise their own aspirations – and then work with them to deliver it

Trisha Bennett has lived in Whitley for nearly four decades, so she knows it better than most. She has had a front-row seat for all the outside attempts to ‘save’ the people that live there. And there have been many, many attempts: the community development consultant says that the area has been “initiatived to death”.

“Whitley’s one of those places where if you saw it on paper, you’d see it’s this, it’s that, it has a reputation and all of that, but actually it’s a really strong community and people look out for each other,” she says. “You get that quite a lot in a deprived community – they might go and rob somebody the other side of town, but they’ll look after their next-door neighbour. It’s a rough diamond.”

On paper, the statistics are bleak. In the most deprived area of Whitley, employment and health are both ranked first. Not too bad, you might think. But this is on a local government scale of one to 98, where one represents the most deprived, and 98 the least. Males born in Whitley have a life expectancy that is 2.3 years less than the national average. For women, the gap rises to 3.9 years.

Poorer students three times more likely to live at home while at university, study says

12 March 2018

Disadvantaged students are more than three times as likely to live at home while attending university than their wealthier peers, a new study has found.

Moving long distances to study for a degree is largely the preserve of “white, middle class, privately educated young people,” the report from social mobility Sutton Trust suggests.

The study found that more than half (55.8 per cent) of young people n 2014/15 stayed local for university, attending institutions that were less than around 55 miles away from their home address.

PM to give speech on education to mark launch of post-18 education and funding review

18 February 2018

Theresa May will urge people to “throw away” the “outdated attitude” that university is the only desirable route for young people and that going into vocational training “is something for other people’s children”. In a speech in Derbyshire to launch a wide-ranging review into post-18 education, the Prime Minister will call for a parity of esteem between academic and technical options so we can “create a system of tertiary education that works for all our young people”

Job Opportunity- NEON Training and Events Officer

2 February 2018

NEON are seeking a Training and Events Officer to support our National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) are seeking a Training and Events Officer to support their national Access Academy training programme, national conference and our range of other seminars and summits. The role will involve extensive liaison with our members and senior stakeholders from across […]

Commuter students: locked out, left out and growing in number

30 January 2018

With soaring debt, and no maintenance grants, more than 50% of students at some universities now live at home. They are locked out of lectures or reprimanded by staff for being late when public transport lets them down. They are excluded from freshers’ week functions ticketed in halls and, if they do go on a night out, they are constantly checking their phones for the last train. Commuter students, living with their families, are not having an easy time in a system geared to the residential experience. But given the soaring costs of halls, staying at home can seem an attractive option. There is mounting evidence, however, that these students are missing out.

Number of white people accepted at universities drops despite overall rise in UK students

15 January 2018

Experts have called for a national debate about “culture and ambition in white working class families” after it emerged that the number of young white people going to university has declined over the past three years, despite an overall increase in admissions.

New figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)​ show the number of white students has fallen by more than 34,000 since 2013/14 – a decrease of 2 per cent – while in total enrolments rose by 1 per cent in the same period.

Other ethnic groups, meanwhile, saw significant increases, with the number of black students up by 11 per cent, Asian students by 12 per cent and those from other or mixed ethnic backgrounds by 18 per cent.

Justine Greening unveils new drive to improve child literacy in England

6 January 2018

Education secretary says schemes aim to ensure that ‘every child will get the best literacy teaching’. It is hoped a £5.7m investment will help boost literacy and numeracy skills in 469 schools around the country. Phonics roadshows and English hubs are among a range of measures announced by the government in an attempt to improve child literacy. The programmes will form part of the drive to tackle inequality and ensure “every child will get the best literacy teaching”, the education secretary, Justine Greening, has said.

University entrance rates for school leavers at a record high and four other key points from new Ucas research

11 December 2017

Ucas stats show how the pattern of young people going to university varies widely across the UK. A geographic breakdown of the entry rates of 18-year-olds into higher education in 2017 is revealed in new data released by Ucas, the universities admissions body, today.

Wellbeing stronger in higher education graduates

29 November 2017

HEFCE has published a report that shows graduates in the UK have a greater sense of personal wellbeing and life satisfaction than those without a higher education qualification. The findings show that individuals are more likely to feel that their life is worthwhile when they have completed a higher education qualification. Graduates also tend to measure their lives higher in terms of overall happiness than non-graduates.

Students with BTECs do worse at university – here’s how we close the gap

29 November 2017

Every so often a new study tells us privately-schooled pupils perform worse at university than their state-schooled peers, or that there are huge gaps in attainment across measures of disadvantage, gender and ethnicity. Perhaps the most significant gulf, however, lies between students who arrive holding A-levels and those who have graduated with BTECs. Using data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency research shows that, over the past 10 years, 6% of students arrived at university exclusively with BTEC qualifications, accepted on the basis of their tariff score. This is meant to signify equivalent prior educational performance, regardless of the qualifications through which it was obtained. But student outcomes suggest otherwise.

Disadvantaged children face worse outcomes in some rich areas – report

28 November 2017

Children from deprived backgrounds face the worst prospects in some of the richest parts of the country, according to a damning new study that lays bare deep geographical divisions across Britain.

An annual report by the government’s own social mobility watchdog warns that while London and its suburbs are pulling away, rural, coastal and former industrial areas are being left behind.

Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, highlighted how the Brexit vote made the geographical divisions clear, but said the monumental task of leaving the EU had left the government with little capacity to tackle the underlying causes.

Why Evaluate?

21 November 2017

In the lead up to the “Why Evaluate? A widening participation symposium” run by OFFA and the University of Sheffield’s Widening Participation Research and Evaluation Unit (WPREU), EMWPREP were asked to write a blog in response to the question ‘Why Evaluate?’

Lessons from London: what it means to have a diverse student body

6 November 2017

Universities have been actively trying to increase the diversity of their student body for some time. At one end of the scale lies Oxford, where it was recently revealed that one in three colleges failed to admit a single black student in 2015. At the other end are many institutions in London, which collectively educate the majority of BAME students. Enrolled in the city’s universities are twice as many pupils who were eligible for free school meals as the next best-performing region, the highest number of mature students, and above-average participation by disabled students. But the capital’s success has also contributed to one of its failures: it has the highest drop out rates in the country.

A recent report from the Social Market Foundation observed that nearly one in 10 students in London drop out during their first year of study. It came only weeks after the first teaching excellence framework results, which include a retention measure, showed a clustering of London institutions in the bronze award category. While there has been much debate around how other regions can replicate London’s success in getting students from all backgrounds into university, it is essential that universities elsewhere learn from institutions in the capital about the challenges of keeping them there.

Can living abroad close the attainment gap for disadvantaged students?

3 November 2017

hen Fatima Afzal was offered a chemical engineering job in the US, she worried what it would be like to transfer to a country where people might never have seen a British Muslim before. She moved, and found her suspicions confirmed in an environment dominated by “very big alpha males”. It was challenging, but she coped. She credits her confidence to a placement year spent abroad, in Malaysia, during her undergraduate degree at Aston University: “If I hadn’t taken that first step I would be closing doors because of my own fear.”

It’s students like Fatima who are being targeted by a new campaign to double the proportion of students at UK universities undertaking placements abroad by 2020, to reach 13% of the student body. The campaign, run by Universities UK International, is particularly focused on getting universities to make international experience accessible for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, since they’re the least likely to study abroad.

David Lammy misses the point: to get to Oxbridge, you have to apply first

23 October 2017

David Lammy’s revelation about Oxbridge’s “apartheid” raises many pertinent issues, but yet fundamentally misses the point. As a current third-year student at Keble College of ethnic minority and state school background, I would argue that while the statistics presented are shocking, Oxford is not solely to blame.

Seven years have changed nothing at Oxbridge. In fact, diversity is even worse

David Lammy

Read more

Statistics are the basis of Lammy’s argument but he often approaches them in the wrong way. “There are more offers made to students from one school – Eton – than students on free school meals across the whole country,” he says. However, the issue is not about how many students from Eton are at Oxford, it’s about how many students from Eton applied to go to Oxford; it’s not about how many students from ethnic minority backgrounds are at Oxford, it’s about how many of these students applied.

Number of colleges charging £9K tuition fees on the rise

20 October 2017

Rising tuition fees for college higher education could deter ‘debt averse’ students from signing up

Given the fury that greeted the government’s decision to triple higher education tuition fees, it took a surprisingly short time for £9,000 a year to be accepted as the going rate for universities.

But Labour’s general election campaign pledge to axe fees completely has dragged the issue back into the spotlight.

The move proved popular among younger voters and appears to have bounced the Conservatives into revisiting the issue, with prime minister Theresa May pledging to undertake a “major review of university funding and student financing” at the party’s conference this month.

For now, at least, the maximum fee has been frozen at £9,250 per year for 2018-19. But while colleges have increasingly been seen as a more affordable source of higher education, new research by Tes has found that a growing number of FE colleges are looking to charge fees on a par with leading universities.

According to data from the Office for Fair Access (Offa), 13 further education colleges will be permitted to charge a maximum fee of £9,250 for 2018-19. A further 13 plan to charge £9,000 per year for at least some of their HE provision. In 2015-16, nine colleges charged £9,000 – the maximum allowed at the time.

Institutions charging more than £6,000 for courses have to establish an access agreement with Offa. The most recent figures show that 85 FE institutions have such an agreement for 2017-18 – an increase from 62 in 2016-17.

GCSE shake-up leaves many schools missing national progress targets

12 October 2017

The introduction of new GCSEs this summer means nearly one in eight secondary schools in England is likely to fall below the government’s floor for pupil progress, according to the latest national figures. The Department for Education’s provisional data for key stage four results reveal a messy picture caused by reformed GCSEs in English and maths taken for the first time this year, including a large jump in schools struggling to meet national progress targets.

‘It’s easier if you’re middle class’: first-generation students on going to uni

6 October 2017

Is higher education still the preserve of the middle classes or have tuition fees opened up access? What are the challenges of being the first in your family to go to university – and how does it shape your academic experience?

We asked four first-generation students about their experiences. From struggling to pay for books and scrambling for a rental guarantor to not wanting to let your family down, here’s what they said.

Dalal Barahman, 21, first year medical student at Manchester University

I’m one of seven and none of my six older siblings went to uni. I feel that perhaps they followed each other and this seemed like the safer option. A lot of people were telling me to go for something else – not in a malicious way, but because they didn’t want me to be rejected. They thought it’d be easier to get an apprenticeship or a job.

Money was an issue, but I was part of the Manchester Access Programme for students who come from low socio-economic backgrounds. They guide you through the application and the costs, and mentally prepared me for it all.

Two-year degrees: the solution to the drop in mature student numbers?

4 October 2017

Accelerated two-year degrees have caused a serious stir among universities. Many institutions – especially the more traditional – are concerned about set-up costs, including investment in facilities and additional staff required for teaching and admissions. Some have questioned the value of two-year degrees more broadly. It’s clear that they’re not for everyone – but that doesn’t mean they’re a bad idea.

Introducing two-year degrees in February, universities minister, Jo Johnson, said they would offer students greater levels of flexibility in learning. After his announcement, the Department for Education responded with a consultation. It elicited mixed views. While there were signs of demand from students and employers, traditional universities argued that the complexity of each year’s learning material in the three-year degree corresponds to the growing maturity of students over those years, and that this system can’t be adapted.

It is true that offering accelerated degrees is complicated. But for institutions unencumbered by these restrictions, these courses will provide a real opportunity to offer higher education to groups that could have been excluded.

How to improve the school results: not extra maths but music, loads of it

4 October 2017

Abiha Nasir, aged nine, walks quietly into the small classroom, takes a seat, adjusts her hijab and picks up the drumsticks. A shy smile spreads across her face as she begins to play.

She was just five when she turned up at Feversham primary academy’s after-school clubs, leaving teachers astounded by her musical ability and how her confidence grew with an instrument in hand. Last year, Abiha successfully auditioned for Bradford’s gifted and talented music programme for primary school children, the first Muslim girl to do so. The assessor recorded only one word in her notes: “Wow!”

Abiha’s teachers say her talent might have gone unspotted in many schools, where subjects such as music and art are being squeezed out by pressure to reach Sats targets and climb league tables.

Record gender gap in university places

4 October 2017

“I was never really put off by the fees,” says Maya Little. She is part of a surging number of young women beginning university this autumn, while the number of men going into higher education seems to have stalled.

When fees increased in England in 2012 to £9,000, demand for places carried on rising for women, but not for men.

The latest official figures show 55% of women entering higher education by the age of 30 compared with 43% of men. The proportion of women pursuing degrees has risen from 47% in 2012 – an annual increase of 18,000 more individual female students. But there are fewer male students starting this year than in 2011 – with the gender gap now at its widest ever point.

Tuition fee repayment earnings threshold to rise to £25,000

4 October 2017

Low-earning graduates will benefit from a delay in their student loan repayments under a Conservative scheme designed to defuse the political damage over tuition fees and attempt to woo younger voters.

Speaking at the start of the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Theresa May announced plans to raise the income level that triggers student loan repayments for recent graduates in England from £21,000 to £25,000 a year.

The change is likely to apply only to those graduates who took out the higher rate of student loans introduced in 2012, which perversely means that earlier graduates will have higher loan repayments even if they are on the same income level as later graduates with much higher debts.

Social capital: the new frontier in widening participation at universities

2 October 2017

UK universities have made progress with widening access to higher education in recent years. But while there are further advances to be made, there is an increasing realisation that focusing on entry to university is not enough. The combination of the opportunity to study and academic achievement doesn’t guarantee a good job. Evidence at Queen Mary University of London suggests that our graduates do not always succeed personally, nor make a societal contribution, to the extent that their talents and educational qualifications should enable.

QMUL is a Russell Group member based in the east end of London. Over half of our UK undergraduate students are local, 90% come from state schools, 60% are from an ethnic minority, half are in receipt of direct financial support from QMUL, and 27% come from households where the annual taxable income is £10,000 or less.

Tuition fee repayment earnings threshold to rise to £25,000

2 October 2017

Low-earning graduates will benefit from a delay in their student loan repayments under a Conservative scheme designed to defuse the political damage over tuition fees and attempt to woo younger voters.

Speaking at the start of the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Theresa May announced plans to raise the income level that triggers student loan repayments for recent graduates in England from £21,000 to £25,000 a year.

The change is likely to apply only to those graduates who took out the higher rate of student loans introduced in 2012, which perversely means that earlier graduates will have higher loan repayments even if they are on the same income level as later graduates with much higher debts.

Graduate employment tracking set to be rolled out across Europe

2 October 2017

European Union states will be encouraged to produce comparable data on graduate employment to ensure that degrees remain relevant to the labour market.

While the vast majority of the EU’s involvement in higher education is now focused on either funding research and innovation through the Horizon 2020 programme or mobility through Erasmus+, there are signs that the next multi-year funding framework will seek to tackle other issues.

Speaking at the European University Association’s first forum on learning and teaching at Pierre and Marie Curie University, Sarah Lynch, head of sector (higher education) at the European Commission’s directorate-general for education, youth, sports and culture, said that improving tertiary education had risen as a policy priority for the commission in recent months.

Almost half of all young people in England go on to higher education

2 October 2017

Tony Blair’s pledge that half of all young people should go on to higher education is within a whisker of becoming true as official figures revealed that 49% of those in England are expected to have entered advanced studies by the age of 30.

The government’s measure of higher education participation has reached its highest level since the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees in 2012, equalling the previous record of 49% since the annual estimates were first produced in 2006.

The figures show that the participation rate rose by 1.4 percentage points last year, thanks to a 10,000 rise in the number of those aged 17-30 going to university for the first time in 2015-16, including full-time and part-time learners.

New EEF report: Good literacy skills crucial to closing attainment gap in Science

22 September 2017

Testing theories through experiments and trials is crucial for pupils to learn science and could improve results for disadvantaged pupils in primary and secondary schools, according to a new report published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Royal Society today.

Researchers from the Department of Education at the University of Oxford reviewed the best international research to identify the interventions and approaches for which there is evidence of a positive impact on young people’s learning outcomes, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

They found good evidence that the ability to reason scientifically – by testing hypotheses through well-controlled experiments – is a strong predictor of later success in the sciences and that programmes that allow pupils to design experiments that test the impact of one thing on another can develop this skill. Many effective programmes give teachers training to guide their pupils’ scientific reasoning by setting questions that can be investigated and getting them to design fair tests.

The researchers found that the strongest factor affecting pupils’ science scores is how well they understand written texts. According to the report, poor literacy skills can affect how well a pupil is able to understand scientific vocabulary and to prepare scientific reports. This suggests that strategies to boost disadvantaged pupils’ reading comprehension could have a positive impact on their achievement in science too.

Number of pupils taking arts subjects at GCSE falls to lowest level in a decade, report finds

22 September 2017

The number of pupils taking arts subjects at GCSE has fallen to the lowest level in a decade, as schools encourage bright students to shun “soft” subjects. The uptake of arts subjects has seen a drastic decline in recent years, according to an analysis by the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

Their report analyses the uptake of GCSEs in arts subjects – including art and design, drama and theatre, music, dance, and performing arts – over the past ten years.

Researchers from the EPI examined the impact of the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) on subject choice, which was introduced by ministers in 2010 to counter the “dumbing down” of GCSE choices and promote “core” subjects.

Historians will laugh at us when they look back at our university application system

21 September 2017

In the future we will laugh at things we currently take for granted. How we all carry around big slabs of glass as phones and then act surprised when we smash them. Or how we let people get sick, rather than using data analytics to predict illness and get in early. But a special sort of befuddlement will be retained for the future historian looking back at how we run university entry.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of young people apply to university using a system built on smoke and mirrors. They apply before they take their exams and their teachers attempt to guess what grade they might get, to help universities to select their undergraduates. These “predicted” grades are notoriously inaccurate – only one in six applicants achieve what is surmised. While most teachers are busy over-predicting, they under-predict for young people from poorer families, which leads to injustice, lost opportunity and a lack of diversity in higher education.

Five things that could happen next with tuition fees

21 September 2017

Tuition fees in England are under intense scrutiny – with a huge amount of confusion about what is going to happen next.

They’re meant to be increased even further – but there is a feeding frenzy of briefings suggesting that they are more likely to be reduced.

It’s a case of the politics of a minority government – and competing power bases – becoming more important than policy.

No one wants to be left holding an unpopular policy when the music stops – and Downing Street and the Treasury, as well as education ministers, will want a fee system that is more attractive to voters.

So what are the options?

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