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Review of Post-18 Education Augar Review, PQA consultation and TEF Outcomes as more education reforms announced

Philip Augar

As a part of the Skills For Jobs White Paper launched earlier today, DfE have also their Interim Conclusion of the Review of Post18 Education and Funding / often referred to as the Augar review, this also includes a PQA consultation and Dame Shirley Pearce’s independent review of the TEF. 

A busy news announcement day!  Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) review contains the outcomes and recommendations of the independent review of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF). The review was lead by Dame Shirley Pearce with the support of an advisory group. 

Sector Response to Interim Conclusion of the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding, PQA consultation and TEF 

Nick Hillman100x100Nick Hillman, Director, HEPI, said:

“I have rarely used the word ‘slew’ before, but it is the right term to describe today’s dump of documents by the Department for Education. They are a disparate bunch of papers, united primarily by the fact that they are nearly all overdue…

“So one key question today is how will learners respond to the new policies? Given that 97% of mothers hope their children will make it to university, time will tell if the Department for Education have done enough to shift people’s choices about their own lives.”

Tim Bradshaw 100x100Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said:

“Education is key to our country’s prosperity and integral to our recovery from Covid-19. The Government must be ambitious for both further and higher education, putting quality first so whichever path they choose students will gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

“The proposed increases in the university teaching grant for skilled, specialist subjects in England are welcome and will help support high-cost medical, dental and STEM degrees that have been significantly underfunded over many years. We hope this move to increase investment will now be echoed across the devolved nations. However, it is disappointing the uplift comes at the cost of London weighting. This loss will have a significant negative impact on world-class higher education in the city, where costs are not only higher but where many areas are just as disadvantaged as those the Government wants to help elsewhere with its levelling-up agenda.”

Post-18 Education and funding (Augar review)

Measures to limit access to higher education would impact disproportionately on young people from the most disadvantaged areas, say Universities UK. Because of attainment gaps that are evident from an early age, there is a 19.3-month gap in attainment levels between students from the least and most affluent backgrounds by the end of secondary school.

If the government were to introduce minimum entry tariffs (a way of restricting access) this would effectively write-off some students from disadvantaged backgrounds despite evidence which shows they go on to succeed at university. For example, 67% of entrants with grades below CCD achieve a first or upper second once at university and have similar levels of earnings five years after graduation to those just above this threshold.

Julia Buckingham 100x100Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK, said:

“It is encouraging to see government’s commitment to making lifelong learning opportunities more accessible to all. Universities UK has long called for a more flexible student finance system which allows everyone to retrain throughout their lives, helping to meet the country’s skills needs and rebuild the economy and our public services. It also positive to see planned reforms of the Teaching Excellence Framework in line with ambitions to reduce bureaucracy, and we welcome the future consultation on post qualification admissions.   

“To better support students, government should provide maintenance grants for those who need them the most, including those considering studying shorter courses on a modular basis. Maintaining funding for foundation years will also be essential in supporting disadvantaged students and a withdrawal of funding could lead to a shortage of students in strategically important subjects such as engineering and reduce the opportunities for talented underprivileged students. 

“It is essential for students and communities that universities do not see a reduction in funding. Our universities, staff, graduates and students have been front and centre in the fight against coronavirus. Sufficient funding is needed to ensure universities can play a central role in driving the post pandemic recovery of the economy and communities, as well as providing a high quality university experience for students and meeting local skills needs.”

nicola dandridge100x100Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said: 

“An increased focus on lifelong learning will help develop the highly skilled graduate workforce needed to support our economy, nationally, regionally and locally. The OfS plans to work with students, the sector and employers to explore how higher education can be made more attractive and responsive to mature learners, and ensure that mature students are aware of the breadth of options available to them in both further and higher education.

“The focus on quality and the need to tackle poor quality provision is a strategic priority for the OfS as we consult on new proposals to enable us to anticipate and respond to poor quality, while ensuring that our approach is proportionate and targeted where it is needed.’

On the Department for Education’s statutory guidance for the OfS’s approach to funding, Nicola Dandridge said:

‘Distributing funding is an important part of our regulatory work. Our annual grant funding for universities and colleges plays a critical role in ensuring the availability to students of high quality, cost-effective higher education across the country. We intend to consult on the government’s proposed changes to how we distribute this funding, and have written today to universities outlining our proposals for consultations and a revised schedule for distributing next year’s grant allocations.’

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, NUS Vice President for Higher Education, said:

“Today’s announcement has not shed much light on the long-term changes that are to come in the higher education sector.

“The pandemic has exposed students’ need for significantly higher, non-repayable maintenance funding. Reinstating maintenance grants was a key recommendation of the Review, and I am disappointed not to see this highlighted here.

“It is vital that all students have the chance to realise their potential and their aspirations. I am concerned that the idea of setting a minimum entry requirement to higher education will be a significant barrier to students’ choices and their potentials. We must ensure that our funding and admissions system makes higher education accessible to all.”

The University and College Union (UCU) said the Augar Review response was a missed opportunity to change the current, toxic higher education funding system and tackle the weaknesses that have been exposed by the current pandemic.  UCU said that the interim report failed to deal with underfunding in further education and instead kicked the issue into the long grass until the Spring Spending Review.

Jo Grady 100x100UCU general secretary Jo Grady, said:

“The previous prime minister commissioned the Augar review because the higher education funding system was so politically toxic. Sadly this interim response confirms that there will not be a radical change to the current system. The Westminster government is wasting an opportunity to make a real difference for students and institutions. 

“Covid has exposed many of the weaknesses of the tuition fee system. We need  a different approach to HE funding which provides long-term security, doesn’t leave institutions exposed to major market shocks and puts the interests of students and staff first.  In further education, the government needs to deal with the glaring problem of the chronic underinvestment which the sector has suffered. It’s not good enough to kick the issue into the long grass until the Spring Spending Review. 

Dame Shirley Pearce’s independent review of the TEF and the government’s response

As UUK has previously argued, subject level TEF would not have been in the interest of students and would have created further administrative burdens at an already challenging time.

17% of all entrants to Engineering degrees enter through foundation years. More than 40% of university courses have a technical, professional or vocational focus, and increasing the number of part-time and flexible learning opportunities will mean universities are better equipped to help grow the UK’s essential industries, supporting students for a career in important public sector professions, such as nursing, to meet increasing demand.

Julia Buckingham 100x100Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK, said:

“It is encouraging to see government’s commitment to making lifelong learning opportunities more accessible to all. Universities UK has long called for a more flexible student finance system which allows everyone to retrain throughout their lives, helping to meet the country’s skills needs and rebuild the economy and our public services. It also positive to see planned reforms of the Teaching Excellence Framework in line with ambitions to reduce bureaucracy, and we welcome the future consultation on post qualification admissions.”

nicola dandridge100x100Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said:

“Students invest a significant amount of time and money in higher education and should expect a high-quality academic experience. The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) plays an important role in driving up the quality of provision in universities and colleges – we welcome the publication of Dame Shirley Pearce’s review and the recommendations she has identified for developing the scheme further.

“We are committed to raising the bar on quality and standards across the English higher education system. As we refine our overall approach to regulation, the TEF will continue to incentivise improvement in areas that students care deeply about: the quality of teaching and learning, and how well their courses set them up for success after their studies.

“We will develop proposals on how best to take forward the independent review recommendations and the government response to these, as well as evidence from our own subject-level pilots. We expect to consult on proposals for the future TEF in the spring, aligned to more detailed proposals on how we regulate quality and standards through conditions of registration.”

Nick Hillman100x100Nick Hillman, Director, HEPI, said:

“The Government’s response to the review of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) sets a path for reducing bureaucracy and means the end of subject-level TEF. These changes will be widely welcomed, even if an institutional-level TEF can only ever tell you so much.”

 

Tim Bradshaw 100x100Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said:

“On TEF, the Government has listened to the sector by halting plans for an unwieldy subject-level exercise. We are also pleased to see a commitment to review TEF so it continues to incentivise enhancement to benefit students while minimising the burden of bureaucracy on universities, freeing them up to do what they do best.

“Looking ahead, we urge the Government to ensure it is funding higher education in a long term and sustainable way, closing the ever-widening gap in funding versus cost for undergraduate courses, and investing in the broad spectrum of high-level skills that are critical to economic prosperity and levelling up opportunity across the country.”

PQA Consultation

Michelle Donelan 100x100Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan said:

“It has never been more important to level the playing field to ensure young people of all backgrounds have the very best opportunities to succeed for the future.

“We know the current system of using predicted grades for university admissions can let down pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and limit aspirations.

“That is why we are consulting and working with the sector to explore how to achieve a system which works better to propel students into promising opportunities, and allows schools, colleges and universities to support them to reach their full potential.”

Julia Buckingham 100x100Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK, said:

“To better support students, government should provide maintenance grants for those who need them the most, including those considering studying shorter courses on a modular basis. Maintaining funding for foundation years will also be essential in supporting disadvantaged students and a withdrawal of funding could lead to a shortage of students in strategically important subjects such as engineering and reduce the opportunities for talented underprivileged students. 

“It is essential for students and communities that universities do not see a reduction in funding. Our universities, staff, graduates and students have been front and centre in the fight against coronavirus. Sufficient funding is needed to ensure universities can play a central role in driving the post pandemic recovery of the economy and communities, as well as providing a high quality university experience for students and meeting local skills needs.”

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, NUS Vice President for Higher Education, said:

“We are glad that the government has decided to abandon the roll-out of subject-level TEF but we wait to see what long-term changes they will adopt at the Comprehensive Spending Review.

“NUS has consistently campaigned for an admissions system that puts students’ needs at the heart of it, and we look forward to engaging with the new consultation on PQA to ensure it works for students.”

Calling for TEF to be scrapped, The University and College Union (UCU) said that with staff facing burnout and increased stress levels now was not the time to increase their administrative workloads with dubious metrics and box-ticking exercises.

Jo Grady 100x100UCU general secretary Jo Grady, said:

“We are disappointed that the government is pushing ahead with the TEF. Everybody agrees that teaching, alongside high-quality research, should be at the heart of higher education and our high standards are one of the reasons so many overseas students continue to choose to study here. The TEF’s metrics were already an extremely poor proxy for quality but will be of even less use in light of the impact of Covid on employment and student feedback.’ 

“We have consistently called for the TEF to be scrapped, but the need to do so is more urgent than ever given the current pandemic. Many staff are already facing burnout and heightened stress and don’t need more pointless box-ticking bureaucracy.” 

Nick Hillman100x100Nick Hillman, Director, HEPI, said:

“Among the other documents out today, the consultation on a new university admissions system is the least interesting. It provides a useful summary of the existing evidence but doesn’t include a clear statement about which model the Government prefers.”

Employer demand for graduates remains high as employers look to fulfill future skills needs.

  • The Resolution Foundation Report showed that 90% of net increase in employment between 2008 and 2018 was in professional roles which are significant recruiters of graduates.
  • The UK Commission for Employment and Skills “Working Futures” report shows that with such an ageing population, we will still see a significant demand for graduate level occupations in the medium to long-term. Most other developed economies are seeking to grow the number of highly skilled graduates.
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