Everything going on in UK higher education
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Good morning, HESA's consultation on the future of the DLHE is due out, Super Thursday election results are digested for HE, phoney rankings hysteria in the press and the HE minister gains a new nickname.

Final destination

On Wednesday, HESA will introduce their consultation on the future of destinations and outcomes data for leavers from HE. Currently, the DLHE survey is the key way we're able to understand graduate destinations and the future of the survey has taken on new significance given that it is expected to be a key metric used in the TEF. Furthermore, the recent publication of the IFS study into graduate earnings and confirmation in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act that educational data will be linked to tax records have left a lot of room for discussion about how graduate outcomes and success are measured. The game appears to be in solidifying those links between the earnings of graduates and their educational outcomes which will likely to produce more robust data than a survey ever could. The Green Paper talked about such data helping to inform student choice, but there's widespread nervousness about the other ways such data could be used, such as creating a system of variable tuition fees based on graduate earnings. At least that's the controversial suggestion of Dean Machin on the site last week. Intriguingly, the DLHE consultation is expected to go back to first principals with little ruled in or out from the outset, which will make for a fascinating next stage for this debate. 

Super Thursday

The UK’s own ‘Super Thursday’ of elections was last week, though quite how the drab elections for police and crime commissioners can be dubbed ‘super’ escapes us here at Wonkhe. Nonetheless, assembly and parliament elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were more interesting, and the results have thrown up some interesting possibilities for HE in the devolved nations. In Wales, Labour held on to more seats than expected but fell short of an overall majority - the party plans to govern in the minority which could make passing key pieces of legislation more difficult. With HE policy bounced to after the final Diamond review of Welsh HE, the new Welsh Government could face an uphill battle in the Assembly if it chooses to take forward controversial changes - particularly on fees and funding.

Despite the SNP missing out on a majority, in Scotland, we can expect continuity in HE policy although the new Tory opposition may subject the party's policy of free tuition fees to increased scrutiny. In Northern Ireland, there was little change. David Morris has provided a full analysis of the election results and their implications for universities here.

Manufactured rankings hysteria 

Last week, several right-wing papers carried stories about UK universities slipping down the THE World Reputation Rankings, with Cambridge and Oxford falling to a mere fourth and fifth place. The Mail, Express and Telegraph all jumped on a single unsubstantiated quote from Alan Smithers at the University of Buckingham that said this was due to "Government interference" and "Government demands to increase the proportions entering and graduating from state schools, ethnic minorities and postcodes from which, in the past, few students have come". Other commentators like Katie Hopkins gleefully jumped on the opportunity to decry the focus on diversity that is supposedly damaging UK HE. The hysteria over this issue last week should serve as grim reminder that the enemies of the sector don't need much to manufacture moral panic. Perhaps it's also a preview of some of the debates that are about to follow as the press turns up the heat on HE issues like WP flowing out of a White Paper and Bill. Adopt brace positions now. In the meantime, University of Sheffield VC Keith Burnett has responded in The Telegraph to some of the dubious claims going around about why UK universities may be falling down league tables.

What else is going on

It's just 9 days until the Queen's Speech in which an HE Bill is expected to be announced. It's looking likely that the HE White Paper will be published at the same time, probably with a technical consultation on the TEF2. If all that materialises, next week could be one of the most important moments for HE in policy in some time. We will be covering it all in depth on the site but in the meantime, keep your eyes peeled this week for leaks and briefings in the press starting to appear as we get much closer to the public launch of the next phase of this government's big HE push. 

At 11.15am this morning the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee will be conducting an oral evidence session on the impact of the EU referendum on Scotland. Witnesses include the vice chancellor of the University of Dundee. More details here.

At 2.30pm today in Parliament, there will be a backbench debate on the closure of the BIS Sheffield Office for which the department has come under a lot of scrutiny. You can follow the debate here.

On Thursday, OFFA will be publishing their monitoring outcomes for access agreements from the 2014-15 academic year. The projected trend is for a continued shift away from financial support and towards outreach and student support expenditure. You can read the most recent monitoring outcomes report, for 2013-14, here.

Last week...

HEFCE announced their funding allocations for 2016-17 on Friday. Some interesting changes included an increase of £20 million for mainstream QR research, and also a doubling in funding for disabled students support to respond to rising numbers of students reporting mental health difficulties. There's a funding boost for some small and specialist institutions and a new targeted fund for collaborative outreach activity. You can read the details here.

There was startled silence on Tuesday in Parliament when Business Secretary Sajid Javid revealed that on the matter of NERC's new polar research vessel "the final decision will be made by my Right Honourable Friend the Minister for Science or, as we like to call him, Joey McJoface." Joey McJoface (a name now immortalised by Hansard) did, in fact, deliver his decision which was that the ship would be named after Sir David Attenborough, but its underwater remote-controlled vehicle will be called Boaty McBoatface in honour of the public vote (and one of the more bizarre stories of the year). It remains to be seen whether the 'Joey McJoface' nickname will catch on outside the ministerial offices of 1 Victoria Street... 

HE in the news

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis launched a scathing attack on universities -  and vice-chancellors in particular, - for turning a blind eye to "Jew hatred" on campuses. 

David Willetts has written for Conservative Home about intergenerational justice and conservatism.

It appears it is not only the HE sector that is feeling shut out of BIS policy development. FE Week reports on the apprenticeship levy being developed ‘in a darkened room’.

Wales Online profile Leighton Andrews, the former education minister who lost his Rhondda seat to Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood last week.

The Scottish Herald reports that, despite free tuition policy, Scottish universities are increasingly reliant on fees for their income, and warn of a ‘two-tier system’ being created.

Try as one might it is impossible to avoid Donald Trump, who is being sued for fraud over the failed 'Trump University' venture. Several sources report that he will have to testify in a trial after the US Presidential Election in November.

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The rest of the week's HE agenda
Monday 9th May

PARLIAMENTARY: Backbench business House of Commons, BIS Sheffield proposal and Government offices outside London from 2.30pm.
PARLIAMENTARY: House of Commons Scottish Affairs select committee will debate EU referendum's impact on Scotland 11.15am

Tuesday 10th May

MEETING: Social Mobility Working Group, UUK  
PARLIAMENTARY: House of Commons science and technology committee will take evidence for its science communication inquiry, witnesses are Duncan Wingham chief exec of NERC, and NERC's communications director Julia Maddock, 2.15pm

Wednesday 11th May 

REPORT: HESA publish consultation on graduate outcomes and future of DLHE
PARLIAMENTARY: House of Commons women and equalities select committee session on employment opportunities for Muslims in the UK, 10.30am
EVENT: HEA webinar - a guide to the UKPSF for doctoral supervisors
EVENT: HEA PVC Network event, London (until 12th)
EVENT: JISC webinar on digital responsibility, the third in the Essential Skills Wales series
EVENT: The Resolution Foundation: Finding the right path for non-graduate careers, London 5-6pm

Thursday 12th May

REPORT: OFFA is publishing monitoring outcomes for 2014-15 access agreements
REPORT: HEPI publish report on boys in higher education
MEETING: GuildHE Members annual meeting and dinner
STATS: HESA Estates Management Record - Environmental 2014/15
EVENT: UCEA Reward practitioner workshops: Total reward and the future of the HE ‘deal, central London
EVENT: SEDA Spring Conference Day 1, Edinburgh.
EVENT: Centre for Global Higher Education seminar on performance assessment in science and academia, effects of the RAE/REF on academic life 

Friday 13th May

EVENT: UCU/NUS The role of educational institutions in tackling climate change, Aston
EVENT: ECU workshop, introduction to the Race Equality Charter, Manchester University
EVENT: HEA workshop on gamification in higher education biosciences, University of Derby
EVENT: SEDA Spring Conference Day 2, Edinburgh
EVENT: ESRC-seminar at UCL Institute of Education on higher vocational education

Have a great week,



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