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Good morning. A cross-sector effort to tackle violence against women, harassment and hate crime on UK campuses has come to fruition with wide-ranging recommendations that should herald a sea-change in universities' approach to these difficult and under-debated issues. Internal battles in the government over international students sent us on a rollercoaster over the last week, with more turmoil likely to follow. Meanwhile, we ask who in the sector is most exposed if the government cracks down even further?

Have a good week.

Mark Leach, Editor

Getting serious about violence, harassment and hate crime

On Friday, the Universities UK taskforce examining violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students issued its final report. The group was set up a year ago at the behest of Sajid Javid in response to emerging evidence about the extent of sthe problem within universities.

Such evidence has become an unavoidable concern for universities. 54% of 18 to 24-year-old female students report having experienced sexual harassment on nights out, and 15% of male students. One NUS study from 2010 found that up to a quarter of female students had been victims of sexual assault while studying, and a Telegraph study in 2014 found that half of female undergraduates know someone who has suffered sexual assault or unwanted advances.

Critics of the sector's approach to these issues have argued that the 1994 guidance on Student Disciplinary Procedures, otherwise known as the Zellick guidelines, are out-of-date and unsuitable for today’s campus environment. Zellick’s recommendations have been criticised for prioritising the protection of institutions over the needs to protect victims of potentially criminal student behaviour.

Zellick recommended that no internal disciplinary procedures should be invoked when a victim of sexual violence comes forward until the complaint is reported to the police and criminal prosecutions have been concluded. This can take a very long time, and campaigners have argued that the arduousness of both criminal and university proceedings can be a barrier to victims reporting incidents; it is estimated that 82% of rapes are never reported to the police. Campaigners have also argued that universities are often poor at dealing with complaints and that many students are left unclear about how internal disciplinary procedures function.

Accompanying UUK’s report is new legal and procedural guidance, compiled by Nicola Bradfield of Pinsent Masons, about how to deal with student conduct that may also be a criminal offence. The recommendations effectively abandon Zellick and should help universities update and amend their disciplinary procedures and codes of conduct.

The Taskforce report also deals with the broader remit of bullying, discrimination, and hate crime. It found evidence showing 20% of LGBT+ students have experienced at least one form of bullying or harassment on campus, and also evidence of the rate of antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents on university campuses. The report recommends that NUS and UUK work with Jisc to explore ways of tackling online bullying and harassment, reports about which have become more common in recent years. You can read the report and new guidelines here.

Read more on Wonkhe:

Universities and Schools: Selection, Sponsorship and Social Mobility

Friday 25th November, Coventry University London
Join us for a one-day conference to explore the government's new agenda for education. Confirmed speakers include Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access; Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI; Chris Millward, Director (Policy), HEFCE. Book now.

BrHExit Watch - You've got a friend in Phil

From despair to the brink of triumph, and back to despair again. It’s become a cliché to say that 'a week is a long time in politics', but on international students’ policy, just a couple of days last week were long enough.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, a well-known advocate of removing students from the net migration target, made something of a stand on the issue by dropping strong hints of a change in policy to the Treasury Select Committee on Wednesday. Hammond may well be aware that Boris Johnson has previously criticised international students’ inclusion as immigrants, and was perhaps trying to drive a wedge between the Brexiteers in the cabinet who have been briefing against him in recent weeks. 

With Amber Rudd also revealed to be on the same side of the issue, it was beginning to look like the sector’s great chance. Early on Thursday afternoon, the Guardian’s Rowena Mason reported that the Prime Minister’s deputy spokesperson twice declined to restate Theresa May’s opposition to removing students from the net migration figures, stressing instead that the matter was under review.

And then only a few hours later, Downing Street officially weighed in, making it clear in an unambiguous statement that there was no such review, and no prospect of a change in policy. The Chancellor was made to look foolish and hopes were dashed, once again. 

The future of international student recruitment, which is of such massive importance to the sector’s financial well-being and global standing, is now in the hands of what historian Maurice Cowling calls “the high politics of the politicians that matter” - the web of personal relationships and messy compromises at the apex of political power. These relationships are already beginning to strain as Brexit pulls the key players in different directions. 

The conservative journalist and Leave supporter Iain Martin has expressed concern about what the episode has revealed about the relationship between Number 10 and Number 11 Downing Street, suggesting that “the government is deep in Chinese whispers and double bluff territory, where tired people who do not yet know how to run the country are making basic mistakes”. Policy on international students is proving to be only one of a growing list of examples of ministers making speculative announcements before being resoundingly slapped down by Downing Street - and so we can probably expect it to happen again. 

Read more on Wonkhe:

Choice lessons for the sector

'Student choice' has been a central driver of higher education policy over the last five years being a core theme of the two last White Papers. Last Thursday, HEFCE published an interesting analysis of graduates’ happiness with their university choices, and the extent to which they wish they had done something different. The analysis used data from the Longitudinal DLHE survey conducted 40 months after graduation.

One in five graduates say that they would be likely or very likely to choose “something completely different” if they were to enter HE today. There are substantial variations between ethnic groups, with Black African, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi students much more likely to say they would now do something different to their original choice.

A report commissioned by HEFCE in 2014 argued that students’ methods of choosing their university and course could influence their likelihood of satisfaction. ‘Maximisers’, who characteristically have high standards for their options and look thoroughly at all the available possibilities, are much more likely to be dissatisfied with their choice after they have made it. They are the opposite to ‘satisficers’, who will make their choice once a set of predefined criteria have been met and are less likely to make an effort to optimise their choice.

The government’s drive to increase the breadth of choices available in HE may be suited to maximising decision making, but might also leave more students likely to be dissatisfied with their choices. HEFCE’s analysis and research suggest there is a reputational risk for the sector if large numbers of students wish they had made different decisions, and this may be influenced as much by the range of options available as the quality of choice actually made. This ‘bounded rationality’ might ultimately frustrate the government’s ambitions to make choice the catalyst for higher quality and happier students and graduates. Needless to say, this is a pattern that will be watched closely over coming years. You can read HEFCE’s analysis of the longitudinal DLHE here.

An unfair race?

In another interesting analysis of DLHE data, this morning The Complete University Guide has released research showing that male graduates’ average starting salaries are £1,400 more than women’s. Of fifty-seven academic subjects looked at, male graduates earned a higher starting salary in thirty-two. There are only eight subjects in which women earn more than men, and only three in which they do so by more than £1,000: general engineering, mechanical engineering, and materials technology.

The findings suggest that there are substantial challenges for both universities and graduate recruiters when it comes to narrowing the gender pay gap. They come in spite of women being more likely to get a 2:1 for first-class degrees than men, and suggest that earnings have little link to students’ academic performance. It is also notable that the few subjects where women outearn men are in STEM, where women are typically a small proportion of the student body. You can read the full analysis here.

Stay ahead of the hectic UK HE policy and news agenda

We send the Wonkhe Daily email briefing every morning before work to thousands of HE professionals. The Daily sets the sector's agenda for the day ahead, analyses the latest policy developments, what's in the news, and everything going on in UK politics that you need to know about.

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You might also have missed on Wonkhe

There was consensus and conflict within the sector over how to best measure graduate outcomes. HESA’s Rachel Hewitt takes us through the highlights of the new DLHE consultation responses.

The sector is waking up to the problem of poor student mental health and relatively low levels of wellbeing. Wonkhe’s own Pooja Kawa analyses a series of recent research and insight.

The social mobility debate must move on from getting a small number of students into ‘selective’ institutions and think more about opening up higher learning through more flexible funding and credit accumulation. Daisy Hooper of University Alliance makes the case.

Also on this week's higher education agenda

Monday 24th October

MEETING: HESA - New DLHE working group
MEETING: Russell Group - roundtable with SNP ministers on the EU

Tuesday 25th October

MEETING: HESA - New DLHE working group
MEETING: APPG University Group - ‘Brexit and next steps for the university sector’. (House of Lords, 6.30pm-7:30pm)
PARLIAMENTARY: Lords Science and Technology Committee to discuss EU Membership and Science Research. Jo Johnson in attendance. (10.05am)
PARLIAMENTARY: Commons Education Select Committee - Oral Evidence Session on Financial Management of the Department for Education (9.45am)
EVENT: NUS HE and FE Conference (day 1)

Wednesday 26th October

EVENT: Education Policy Institute - Educating Young People for the Modern Economy: Employment and Skills Conference
EVENT: NUS HE and FE Conference (day 2)
EVENT: Association of UK Administrators  - ‘Brexit and Implications for the HE Sector’
PARLIAMENTARY: Commons Education Select Committee - Oral Evidence Session on area reviews for post-16 education (9.30am)
PARLIAMENTARY: Commons Science and Technology Select Committee -  Oral Evidence Session on Leaving the EU: Implications and opportunities for science and research (1.45pm)

Thursday 27th October

EVENT: CGHE Seminar 32 - ‘The regional factor in global higher education’
EVENT: JISC - UK Medical Heritage Library symposium
REPORT: UCAS - Data release on application figures for the 2017 cycle so far
EVENT: HEFCE - New Forms of Funding: Considerations for future strategies
ANNOUNCEMENT: HEFCE - Launch of National Mixed Methodology Learning Gain Project
EVENT: NUS - Welfare, Society & Citizenship, and Union Development Conference (day 1)
REPORT: University Alliance/AHRC - Project to map out knowledge exchange between universities and the creative industries
EVENT: University Alliance - Annual dinner and board meeting

Friday 28th October

EVENT: NUS - Welfare, Society & Citizenship, and Union Development Conference (day 2)
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