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Good morning. We're back after taking a week off to re-tool ahead of some exciting changes at Wonkhe (watch this space). The long-awaited IFS Human Capital study of graduate earnings by Anna Vignoles and Neil Shephard will be published on Wednesday. Responses to the REF review are being digested and analysed, the Remain campaign brings the EU referendum to a campus near you and universities have a new Independent Adjudicator from today.

Das human capital

On Wednesday, the Institute for Fiscal studies will publish the long-awaited report by Anna Vignoles and Neil Shephard on graduate human capital. The researchers have for the first time been able to analyse longer-term graduate earning outcomes by institution type and subject, drawing on Student Loans Company and real-world PAYE data from HMRC. The research is unprecedented, as data from HMRC has never been allowed to be used in this way. To understand graduate destinations up to now, we've only had the DLHE survey which asks students about their career six months after graduation - arguably too soon for valid conclusions to be drawn and ultimately limited by methodology. The report will be big and, among other things, likely to demonstrate worse than previously assumed earnings for some students, courses and institutions. It's also likely to be the biggest moment for HE policy this week by far.

The research will mark the continuation of work to release this type of data, made possible through a clause in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act passed in the final weeks of the Coalition government. It’s all unavoidably controversial - not least because of how the data could be put to work by policymakers in the (not so distant) future. For example, it could be used to create department level RAB charges, feed into the TEF and new system of fee caps - either of which could incentivise universities to make dramatically different calculations about their offer of courses or which students are recruited. But, as pointed out in an article by Charlie Ball (and interesting conversation underneath), it won’t necessarily remove the need for the DLHE. A consultation on the future of DLHE will also be launched by HESA very soon - possibly as early as this week.

Remains of the day

With ten weeks to go before the poll, Friday marks the official beginning of the EU referendum period. If you were getting bored of coverage of the campaign already then you're in for a treat as both sides are about ratchet things up substantially. Over at Remain HQ, someone has taken notice of several recent polling studies which show that young people (who are more likely to be pro-EU) could tip the balance in favour of staying. But they need to turnout to vote in large numbers. And so senior politicians are being dispatched to university campuses across the land to drum up support amongst students. David Cameron launched the new effort at the University of Exeter last week and lots of more of that sort of thing is planned: cabinet ministers and senior Labour MPs will be touring universities over the next few weeks. On Friday, university ministers all the way back to Ken Clarke put their names to a letter in The Times about the importance of EU membership for UK universities. Also on Friday, UUK published research showing the economic benefits of EU students. This Thursday, the Science Council are staging a debate titled "UK science doesn't need the EU".  

Consensus and conflict in REF consultation response

For the higher education sector, the past six months have seen policy proposals emerge so thick and fast that a degree of consultation fatigue is setting in. The most recent process, which closed in late March, was for Lord Stern’s review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF). And with a white paper lying just around the corner, the machinery of consultation will soon be cranking up again.

As a service to the Wonkhe community (and to reassure the response-drafters among you that you have at least a few devoted readers), James Wilsdon has spent the past couple of days digesting all the submissions to the Stern Review of the REF that he could lay his hands on - almost thirty in total – most of them publicly available – from a mix of HEIs, mission groups, learned societies and lobby groups.

Taken together, what do these responses tell us about the likely direction of the Stern Review? And what hints do they offer about the possible design of the next REF? Nothing is certain, as Lord Stern and his panel could still head off in their own direction. But based on the responses we’ve seen, there are four points on which there is widespread agreement, and four where positions diverge. 

Four areas of consensus:

  1. The centrality of peer review
  2. There’s only limited scope for metrics
  3. Impact is a valued part of the exercise
  4. The balance of units of assessment is about right

Four areas of disagreement:

  1. The purposes of the REF
  2. The appropriate level of assessment (individual, unit or institutional)
  3. Selection or inclusion of all staff
  4. The scale of reform required
Look out for the full article on the site this week. We're also collecting responses to publish ourselves, similar to the Green Paper collection. If you'd be happy for yours to be featured, please send it to us.

What else is going on?

- In a written answer on students' unions on 30th March, BIS minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe indicated that by way of a response to the Green Paper, the Government plans to publish an HE White Paper in the "Spring". This may not come as a surprise to Wonkhe readers, but it is the first time that the intention to take forward the Green Paper's proposals in this way has been officially confirmed. An HE Bill is expected to be announced in the Queen's Speech on 18th May.  
- Following the announcement that bursaries for student nurses were being replaced with loans, the Department of Health has now published a consultation on this and wider changes to health education which will run to 30th June. On the site, Tom Frostick asks some unanswered questions about the changes and is well worth a read.
- From today the sector has a new Independent Adjudicator - Judy Clements starts work at OIA this morning, replacing Rob Behrens. Clements was previously the Adjudicator for HMRC, the Valuation Office Agency and the Insolvency Service
- The Immigration Bill has its third reading on Tuesday. It contains provisions for the immigration skills levy, which after sector lobbying, now has exemptions for academics and researchers, plus universities will pay a reduced rate for other non-EU staff.

Featured Job

Public Affairs and Policy Officer at the University of Portsmouth

Details here.

You might have missed on Wonkhe

The debate about HEFCE's new Quality Assessment system has been continuing under the #Quality tag. Andrew McGettigan has new analysis about the potentially overlapping (or not) gateways now proposed by HEFCE and BIS. Gordon McKenzie of GuildHE critiques the new system in Quality assessment - through the looking glass. Paul Greatrix on Registarism gives the new system a very thorough fisking in his essay High-rise challenge

Jim Dickinson responds to Jonathan Haidt in yesterday's Observer who argued that students are shutting down free speech on US and UK campuses - It's the children who are wrong.

Elsewhere, Eric Bohms asks if the sector is at risk of snooping on students? Edward Peck argues that the TEF is going to disrupt our narrative about the shape of the sector. Gareth Rees writes about the Diamond Review of Welsh HE and its implications for postgraduate provision. Maddalaine Ansell of University Alliance argues that social mobility policy needs to recongise talent wherever it's found

Simon Thorpe on Stacks writes about the problem with having a surname beginning with a letter towards the end of the alphabet - and crunches the numbers about HE leaders and their surnames to draw surprising conclusions about leadership in the sector today.

Registrarism had an Easter edition of True Crime on Campus - not to be missed. He also unearthed the (musical) bands in higher education somehow lost in time and policy. 

And on April 1st, you may have noticed our story that we'd found pages of the forthcoming HE White Paper in a Westminster pub...

The rest of the week's HE agenda:

Monday 11th April

EVENT: Leadership Foundation: Leadership programme for senior women in HE
EVENT: SRHE - Undertaking a Literature Review

Tuesday 12th April

MEETING: Universities APPG meeting on part time learning

PARLIAMENTARY: Immigration Bill Third Reading

PARLIAMENTARY: HoC Science & Tech Committee on forensic science strategy

EVENT: NUS Scotland women's conference
EVENT: APPG Flexible Pathways seminar, London

EVENT: Leadership Foundation: Shaping the agenda in Wales

Wednesday 13th April

MEETING: HEA Board Meeting

REPORT: IFS Human Capital of Graduates
EVENT: QAA Annual Conference 2016, Birmingham (until Thursday)
EVENT: Universities for Europe event, Sussex
EVENT: NUS Scotland LGBT+ conference
EVENT: UCEA - The fundamentals of employment law, London

EVENT: HEA Workshop: a fresh look at anatomy teaching for healthcare professionals

Thursday 14th April

REPORT: UCU casualisation in the sector

EVENT: CGHE seminar – UK student visa policy since 2009: the impact in UK HE
EVENT: NUS Scotland black students' conference

EVENT: Jisc Digital student: skills sector consultation workshops

EVENT: Science Council debate, London, "Science doesn't need the EU"

EVENT: LFHE GDP: Shaping the agenda in Wales workshop, Wales

EVENT: Westminster Forum demand for a STEM-skilled workforce, London
EVENT: HEFCE Collaboration and development opportunities for alternative providers

Friday 15th April

Start of referendum period

EVENT: NUS Scotland disabled students conference

Have a great week,
mark@wonkhe dot com

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