Research, lifelong learning entitlement and good governance

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Industrial Action

UCU members back marking boycott in pension dispute. The decision to also escalate the pension dispute to a marking boycott was made by delegates at a meeting of UCU's special higher education sector conference (SHESC) on Wednesday 26 April. A formal timetable for the marking and assessment boycott in both the pensions and pay and working conditions disputes will be communicated with members on Friday 6 May.

Parliamentary affairs

The House of Commons Education Committee has published a transcript from an evidence session on the future of post-16 qualifications on 27 April during which Lord Blunkett, Lord Willetts, and Charlie Mayfield, chairman of QA Ltd. gave evidence


UKRI has launched a new website bringing together content from the seven research councils, Innovate UK, and Research England into one place.

The House of Commons Library has published a research briefing on the research and development funding landscape. In 2019, the total private and public spending on R&D came to £38.5 billion. However, public spending only totalled 1.74 percent of GDP – lower than other comparable countries. The briefing explores the government’s aim to have 2.4 percent of GDP spent on research by 2027, the introduction of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), and the UK’s R&D position in the international arena – including the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe

Following the conclusion of a highly competitive recruitment round, eight members have been appointed to the new UK Committee on Research Integrity (UK CORI). UKRI announced the committee members on its website.

The British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust has announced the nine latest academics to be awarded Senior Research Fellowships.

Some of the UK’s top mathematical bodies say that mid-career female academics whose research is disrupted by motherhood or other caring commitments should be eligible for a bespoke grant scheme to help revive their professorial aspirations. THE covers the story.


The British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG) has released a new guide to UK universities and tax which includes sections on UK tax, international tax, and possible upcoming challenges for institutions.


Ofqual will explore moving to digital examinations and incorporating adaptive exams as well as oversee the reintroduction of public exams, according to its newly published corporate plan for 2022-25. The regulator will also stop differentiating its priorities between vocational and technical qualifications and general qualifications to allow fairness and quality regardless of the combination of qualifications a student may be taking.

Investment and flexibility

The average deficit per UK undergraduate taught is set to more than double from £1,750 in 2021-22 to around £4,000 in 2024-25, with deficits across all subjects, according to the Russell Group. Its response to the government’s higher education reform consultation argues that a decline in per-student funding will impact on class sizes, staff-student ratio, and module choices, which in the long term could jeopardise the UK’s response to workforce skills gaps, and economic growth. The Guardian covers the story.

Also in the Guardian, Sonia Sodha argues that the amount of government investment in higher education entrenches privilege and that the balance of funding should be shifted back towards those who choose not to go to university

Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE) consultation

As part of the DfE’s consultation on the introduction of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement as announced by the Prime Minister in his Skills speech in September 2020, a number of groups have published responses;

On Monday Universities UK published its response to the consultation. UUK felt the proposals have the potential to “unlock opportunities for learners and deliver on the country’s skills needs”, and reported that university leaders are committed to making the changes necessary to ensure the programme’s success.

Recommendations from the University Alliance include a more versatile admissions system so that work experience can qualify as an entry requirement, the removal of equivalent or lower qualification rules for access to student finance, new sector metrics to assess the quality of flexible and modular provision, a new credit framework to recognise standalone modules, and a National Learner Record System so that providers and employers can see the learning and qualifications students have already acquired.

Meanwhile, GuildHE warns against using student number controls and outright rejects the government’s proposals on minimum eligibility requirements (MERs) or linking student loan eligibility to Access HE courses or diplomas. MillionPlus disagrees with any situation in which maintenance is not offered, and notes that the current B3 conditions would not fit well with a modular system.

The consultation closes today (6 May).

International students

Universities UK has published statistics, based on HESA data, on international student recruitment. In 2020-21 there were 605,130 at British institutions, with just over one third coming from the EU. Enrolments from China dropped for the first time – according to the HESA record – by 4.9 percent, while students arriving from India continued to grow. There were also 432,279 study visas granted, with applicants (including the Child Study Visa). Of the 142,925 international candidates who applied through UCAS, 70,005 were accepted, equating to a one percent increase.

Consultancy Oliver Wyman has also published a report arguing that universities need to make changes to their academic offerings and use of technology in order to continue to benefit from international tertiary education

OIA and student complaints

The OIA received a record 2,763 previously unresolved complaints in 2021, according to its annual report published on Wednesday. Complaints relating to issues arising from the pandemic accounted for 37 percent of the caseload - including complaints relating to the earlier stages of the pandemic as well as to students’ more recent experiences. It made formal recommendations for financial remedies totalling £792,504, and students received £511,875 through settlement agreements that OIA reached. The highest single amount of financial compensation was just over £68,000. BBC News covers the story.

The OIA’s Felicity Mitchell and Ben Elger reflect on the year of complaints in Wonkhe.


In April, Dr Adeela ahmed Shafi MBE, Associate Professor in Education (University of Gloucestershire) presented her paper, Striving for Diversity of Leadership: Governance in Higher Education Institutions at the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Conference in Minneapolis, USA. The presentation was based on the work funded by Advance HE and Perrett Laver on the development of the HE Board Diversity Toolkit.

Shefaly Yogendra, governance, growth, risk, and decision-making specialist, describes how governance is a contact sport that requires boards to understand the connective tissue of an organisation in their blog post.

The EY Global Integrity Report 2022 reveals how a focus on governance can help reimagine corporate integrity. The report reveals that more companies than ever value corporate integrity, however, the pandemic has made it harder for businesses to act with integrity.

Mental health and wellbeing

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy - Universities and Colleges division (BACP-UC) and University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) have published Information sharing and student suicide, a report calling for universities to develop clearer policies on information sharing about students mental health, drawing on evidence from a survey of UMHAN and BACP-UC members. The report recommends clear information sharing principles and a decision-making framework, clarity about interaction with the NHS, training and support for staff, and a common code of practice across the sector.

Sexual misconduct

Ministers have told the OfS that universities should be sanctioned if they fail to take action on sexual misconduct, including potentially losing their official status. The Independent covers the story.

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