Everything going on in UK higher education
View email in browser

Good morning. An HE white paper and bill is advancing quickly through the Whitehall sausage factory. The fallout from NUS conference continues, as does the battle over BIS Sheffield. Sector pay negotiations advance this week. And the government tries to bury a damning judgement against the Home Office over international students.

And some good news if you like email briefings - we have launched a daily briefing service for those that really need to stay ahead of the HE beat. Find out more here.

You spin me write round (again)

The higher education White Paper is now circulating Whitehall for the 'write round' process in which government departments get to weigh in on the plans. And so the season of leaks, briefings and rumours has begun. Thanks to details in a long-lens snap of a briefing document held by an official entering Downing Street last week, we can now be fairly certain that the White Paper will be published to coincide with the Queen's Speech on 18th May and be followed shortly afterwards by a Bill, which will be announced by the Queen. The snapped briefing memo reported by the Daily Telegraph was highly revealing and pointed to concerns inside government about BIS' plans. The memo says "BIS are trying to solve real problems of quality and regulation. But it is not clear they have figured out how and there is a risk that the bodies and rules they will establish in legislation will not solve teaching quality". Expect that line to be repeated back to the government in the coming debates.

Reading like a briefing from the No.10 policy unit, the memo also warns that the government is unlikely to meet its 2020 target to double the proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in HE: “BIS think we will never achieve this from the established sector alone (probably because of a combination of high entry requirements and reluctance to expand too fast) – and the extra boost in access could come from growth by alternative providers." A growth in alternative providers that the author thinks may lead to "creating poor quality provision for marginal students." The document also raises concerns about fees and quality: "some in the Russell Group…do not offer the quality and intensity of teaching we expect for £9k". The write round process will also kick up other concerns in Whitehall. The Home Office is said to have concerns about a weakening of the regulatory regime, particularly if QAA were to depart the scene in HEFCE's shakeup of quality. The Sunday Times had a separate story yesterday about the coming White Paper, which focussed on plans to allow technology and publishing companies such as Apple, Google, and Pearson to offer low-cost online degrees at £6,000 - although there's little detail about how these might work. 

There's just over three weeks until the Queen's Speech - a long time for politics - and so much about the White Paper could change - but over the coming weeks we can expect more and more of these nuggets of information about the plans to find their way into the public domain through official (or otherwise) channels.

The Wonkhe Daily
The what, when, where and why of UK HE
Stay ahead of the hectic HE policy and news agenda with our new daily briefing service.

Find out more here.

What next for NUS?

The election of Malia Bouattia as the next President of NUS has been all over the papers over the last few days. The new President is dividing opinion sharply, and some students' unions are considering disaffiliating from NUS in response to her election. But the bar to disaffiliate remains high, and it's unclear how organised the movement to leave really are. On the site this morning, Debbie McVitty looks at the implications of the coming Bouattia presidency for NUS and students' unions - particularly her tactics which could result in a diminished role for NUS in negotiating with the sector and government at a critical time for policymaking. Read the analysis in full here.

Ruling against the Home Office buried

Last month, two students won a landmark battle with the Home Office after a judge ruled that the Home Secretary's claim the students had fraudulently gained English language qualifications was based on hearsay. Now an absolutely astonishing investigation by Ian Dunt at has discovered that the Government's reporting committee has not reported the case, which means the ruling can not be cited in any future cases. Tens of thousands of students who were deported using the same discredited evidence were hoping to use the ruling to help support their own appeal. There's more than a whiff of cover-up to a story that gets curiouser and curiouser - since the original investigation, the ruling appeared before vanishing again, and lawyers for the affected students are asking if Home Office had quietly intervened to protect themselves from further embarrassing judgements. The investigation poses lots of unanswered questions and Ian Dunt's important work on the issue deserves as wide attention as possible: you can read his articles here.

The Tragedy of Dave, Prince of Europe

Continuing his monthly series on higher education policy and politics, Martin McQuillian this morning argues that David Cameron's future now rests on the votes of young people in the EU referendum - the very same people who have been so disenfranchised by the Cameron project. An entirely avoidable tragic drama, authored by No.10. Read it in full here.

Battle over BIS job cuts

Many documents about the cuts and reorganisation of BIS have been leaked over the last few months and now a recent collection of slides 'BIS 2020 - Finance and headcount outline' is doing the rounds, and gives fresh insight into the scale of the changes about to hit the department. To make savings in operating costs of £350m by 2019-20, BIS and its partner bodies will lose 1,516 roles over the next four years. From this, research councils would lose 265 out of 1,641 roles and HEFCE would lose 47 out of its 274 roles. The slides also suggest that bigger reductions are also being modelled in case the Secretary of State decides to make even more radical changes to the department. 

Last week, Iain Wright and Meg Hillier, chairs of the Business and Public Accounts Committees, wrote to BIS regarding the closure of the Sheffield office accusing the department of not releasing enough information about their plans. In a strongly worded letter, the two Labour MPs said that the information BIS has provided on the issue has been “wholly unsatisfactory” and “obfuscatory, if not misleading.” They also claimed that BIS Permanent Secretary Martin Donnelly was deliberately undermining their job of scrutinising BIS. The new slides address the already announced closure of BIS Sheffield which will make savings of around £15m. Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, who has been campaigning against the closure of the Sheffield office last week highlighted the lower cost of employing staff there compared to London where more roles will be based in the future. In a written answer to Blomfield on 19th April, Jo Johnson confirmed that the annual cost for an employee at the office in Sheffield was £3,190, compared with £9,750 at the headquarters on Victoria Street in London.

Martin Donnelly will be questioned about the BIS reorganisation at this Wednesday’s Public Accounts Committee session on science capital spending. Donnelly will appear at PAC alongside BIS DG Gareth Davies, Hilary Reynolds from Research Councils UK and Madeleine Atkins of HEFCE.

What else is going on?

- Sector pay negotiations ramp up a gear this week. On Tuesday, the employers association UCEA meet to agree a new offer ahead of a negotiation meeting with the unions on Thursday. The opening offer of 1% was rejected. However, UCU are already balloting for industrial action to try and improve the offer and (probably) to be able to time any action to disrupt exam season. UCU's education committee meets on Friday to consider the outcomes of Thursday's negotiations and the ballot runs until 4th May. 
- The Complete University Guide 2017 is published today kicking off the spring ranking season. The top 10 is largely unchanged with Surrey and Exeter dropping out and being replaced by Loughborough and UCL. CUG also publish a new ranking of universities performance in resolving student complaints. Registrarism continues his regular review of rankings this morning by taking a look at today's tables.
- Today Universities UK will announce the outcomes of four places elections to its board. The elections are always interesting for us HE sector kremlinologists in our hunt for clues about who's up and who's down in the game of thrones.

Have a great week,

The rest of the week's HE agenda:

Monday 25th April

REPORT: The Complete University Guide 2017
EVENT: HEA Making Magical MOOCs with the University of Derby
EVENT: HEFCE The future of evaluation and evidence across the student lifecycle
EVENT: Learning analytics and knowledge conference 2016, University of Edinburgh

Tuesday 26th April

REPORT: ROSS-CASE Giving to Excellence: Generating Philanthropic Support for UK HE
PARLIAMENTRY: Evidence session for HoC science and tech committee graphene inquiry
EVENT: ECU Scotland conference, Glasgow
EVENT: Northern Universities Consortium (NUCCAT) seminar, Leeds

Wednesday 27th April

PARLIAMENTRY: 9.30am Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy, Careers advice, information and guidance
PARLIAMENTARY: 2.30pm Public Accounts Committee Inquiry into science capital spend
EVENT: UCEA - Current developments in employment law, London
EVENT: LFHE Aurora Alumni Conference
EVENT: UCU Anti-casualisation committee meeting
EVENT: JISC Digital student: skills sector consultation workshops, Manchester
EVENT: UUK - Universities, Cities and Innovation - Powering the knowledge economy

Thursday 28th April

RELEASE: HESA Finances of Higher Education Providers 2014/15
MEETING: Pay negotiations meeting with sector and unions
MEETING: Wonkhe Editorial Group
EVENT: Learning on Screen Awards 2016, BUFVC
EVENT: The Go International Conference 2016: impact of outward student mobility, London
EVENT: Vitae - Leadership in researcher development (Glasgow)
EVENT: Thur 28 April Research Launch: Leadership, Evidence, Impact: New Perspectives
EVENT: David Willetts speaking at Kings Policy Institute: 100 years of government science policy

Friday 29th April

DEADLINE: House of Commons Science and Technology Committee inquiry into science communication
MEETING: UCU Higher Education Committee

Click here to subscribe to the Monday Morning Briefing

This email was delivered to

Tip-offs, news, events, gossip, feedback, pitches for articles, anything else - all welcome.

We publish the Monday Morning Briefing in good faith and endeavour to ensure that all information is accurate at time of sending.

Copyright © 2016 Wonkhe, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list