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Talk: The New HE Settlement – Keele (27 April)

March 9, 2017

Keele have kindly rearranged my October talk for the end of April.

Title: The New HE Settlement: standards, excellence, value-add and finance

Date: Thursday 27 April

Time: 1-2pm (with refreshments from 12.30)

Venue: The Salvin Room, Keele Hall, Keele University.

The talk is free and a place can be booked here.


This summer’s White Paper for Higher Education, Success as a Knowledge Economy (backed up where needed by the Higher Education and Research Bill now passing through parliament) represents a new settlement for English universities and colleges; a settlement to replace that of 1992/93 when the binary divide was dissolved and the polytechnics were brought into the university funding fold.

This new settlement might be best characterised as a response to a breakdown in trust between the government (as funder) and universities as providers of undergraduate education.

The expansion of undergraduate places over the last two to three decades has not been accompanied by the predicted increase in British productivity. Government, most pertinently Treasury, faith in the generic value of a degree in human capital terms has been undermined in the last ten years. The White Paper therefore heralds an intervention in settled notions of institutional autonomy and academic freedom. In particular, Hefce, its planned replacement the Office for Students and the government have reinterpreted their powers and remit to extend to standards, not just ‘quality’.

The four-pronged justification for this reorientation would be characterised by degree inflation, student dissatisfaction, graduates in non-graduate jobs and employer complaints about graduate abilities. Lurking in the background a further dimension has become clearer – the government as investor has not seen the expected return: an increase in graduate salaries. The latest data from the new Longitudinal Education Outcomes project (LEO) indicates that one quarter of those in work ten years after graduating are earning £20,000 pa or less.

These results, opinions and findings have led to new government-commissioned research into the ‘value add’ of particular degrees and institutions, which will dovetail with the development of new metrics and measures for the later phases of the teaching excellence framework, including tests for generic learning gain.

This talk will outline these developments and the contours of the next decade of HE policy as it is motivated by the government’s economic and financial considerations and what the resulting new ‘financialised’ framework will mean for the sector.



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