REF, quality and access

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As you are aware, the REF results came out this week (for anyone needing a quick refresh, here is some background on the REF or you could try this quick explainer from Wonkhe). You can watch the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research)’s message to the University on the results here.

Overall results from the REF are available here. Overall, 41% of outputs were classed as 4* (world-leading), with 43% internationally excellent (3*). When it comes to commentary you are spoiled for choice: for starters you could try THE, which lead with the significant overall increase in output ratings and suggested that the “golden triangle” of London, Oxford and Cambridge looked set to lose some of its share of funding; and Wonkhe, which has started to think about what the results might mean.


OfS has published its latest statistics on changes in graduate attainment between 2010/11 and 2020/21, and has commented on the “sustained unexplained increase in the proportion of student receiving a first or 2:1 over the past decade”. It has also set out the action it is taking to tackle grade inflation. The Minister has called for “norm-referenced grades”, with the norm set at pre-pandemic levels. The OfS position has not gone down well within the sector, as this BBC article explains.

Access and participation

The Queen’s Speech included plans for a Higher Education Bill to implement the entitlement to lifelong learning in England and – subject to consultation – introduce a minimum entry requirement and student number controls. Meanwhile, Universities UK published its response to the government consultation on these reforms, arguing that both the proposed student number controls and minimum eligibility requirements for loans would worsen existing inequalities. Similarly, the Sutton Trust, said in its response, that minimum eligibility requirements were a “blunt tool which may especially impact lower income learners”. The Minister did an interview on LBC responding to the more critical of the published responses.

Advance HE has published a briefing note on the Queen’s speech for governors in higher education.

The Leverhulme Trust has expanded the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships scheme to make specific provision for students from low-income households and black students.


The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has published details of its final pay offer, with proposed increases ranging from 3% for the highest paid to 9% for the lowest paid.

Freedom of Speech

The government has re-published the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill as part of this Session’s Queen’s Speech, and Wonkhe will tell you how the impact assessment has changed. A report from the King’s College London Policy Institute has found that 38% of UK articles about free speech mention universities, showing the continuing importance of this issue within the sector.


The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester has published a new report on air travel by academics post-pandemic, which concludes that urgent, deliberate action is needed to “decouple aeromobility from academic work” if the higher education sector is to embed more sustainable ways of working. At Bath, the Climate Action team published a blog post about how changes in travel habits can have a significant impact on carbon footprint.

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