News round-up: A delay to the review of university finance – Brexit gets the blame

The long-awaited review of university tuition fees might not now be published until May – and vice-chancellors make some robust criticisms of the potential cost of subject-level TEF


£7,500 tuition fees plan faces Brexit delay

BBC, 01/03/2019, Sean Coughlan

The review of university tuition fees in England has been caught in a Brexit gridlock – and might be delayed until May or later, according to sources.

The government-commissioned review of student finance is expected to call for a cut in fees, with the figure of £7,500 now being floated.


Tuition fees not university deterrent, says Hinds

BBC, 28/02/2019, Sean Coughlan

There is no evidence higher tuition fees have deterred young people in England from applying to university, says Education Secretary Damian Hinds.

He said applications, including from disadvantaged youngsters, had risen despite fees rising to £9,250 per year.


New push to help disadvantaged students in higher education

Financial Times, 28/02/2019, Robert Wright

The watchdog for English higher education is launching a new centre to bolster efforts to increase the number of disadvantaged students in higher education. Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, said the setting up of the Evidence and Impact Exchange marked the start of a “new, more strategic approach” to improving access and participation at universities in England. It is due to start operating in April.


Oxford and Cambridge universities fail to raise UK student numbers

The Guardian, 27/02/2019, Richard Adams and Sally Weale

Oxford and Cambridge universities are teaching nearly 1,000 fewer British undergraduates than they were five years ago, despite spending millions of pounds on programmes designed to widen participation and improve access for disadvantaged UK applicants.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency have shown that Oxford and Cambridge are almost alone among the competitive British universities in failing to expand their intake of domestic undergraduates while slowly increasing the proportion of sought-after places going to EU and international students.


Dons revolt against Oxford’s new ‘university-run’ college

Times Higher Education, 26/02/2019, Anna McKie

Academics have criticised plans for the University of Oxford’s new graduate college, which they say is a push from central management to diminish the collegiate system.

Earlier this month, the university announced that the college, which has been given the temporary name Parks College, would have an initial intake of 50 graduate students in 2020, growing to 200 by 2022.


V-cs want rethink over ‘£38 million bill’ for subject-level TEF

Times Higher Education, 25/02/2019, Anna McKie

English vice-chancellors have called on ministers to reconsider whether to push ahead with the subject-level version of the teaching excellence framework, amid warnings that it could push the cost of the exercise as high as £37.6 million – equivalent to £246,000 per provider.

As it made its submission to the independent review of the TEF being led by Dame Shirley Pearce, Universities UK said that the cost of the current assessment, which makes judgements at institutional level, was around £4.1 million.


Fifth suspension in Swansea University inquiry

BBC, 25/02/2019, Brian Meechan

A fifth member of staff has been suspended by Swansea University as part of an inquiry.

BBC Wales has seen documents which indicate Paul Roberts has raised a grievance with the university.


Locals replace foreign students on some English campuses

Times Higher Education, 25/02/2019, Simon Baker

Student cohorts at a number of English universities located in smaller cities and towns appear to be shifting towards domestic students, new analysis suggests.

Changes to full-time enrolments since 2014-15, analysed by Times Higher Education, show that about 30 institutions saw their UK student numbers grow while international enrolments (from within and outside the European Union) fell by an average of 17 per cent.


UK union members vote to strike over pay but turnout falls short

Times Higher Education, 22/02/2019, Chris Havergal

Seventy per cent of union members who participated in a fresh ballot for a strike over the pay offer to staff in UK universities backed walking out, but the turnout fell short of the threshold required for industrial action.

Eighty-one per cent of voting University and College Union members also backed action short of a strike in the dispute with employers, but the turnout in the vote was 41 per cent, shy of the 50 per cent minimum introduced by the government in 2017.


Hundreds of university students attempt to block Jewish Society

Daily Telegraph, 220/02/2019, Camilla Turner

Hundreds of students voted against the creation of a Jewish Society, after a member of the university’s Amnesty International group urged students to oppose it on the basis that it is too “political”.

More than 200 Essex University students answered ‘no’ to the question “Should there be a Jewish society?”


Essex suspends staff member in antisemitism row

Times Higher Education, 22/02/2019, Rachael Pells

A member of staff at the University of Essex has been suspended following a row over proposals for a Jewish society on campus.

More than 200 students are said to have voted against the creation of a new Jewish society at the university, citing their objections after the proposal was opened up to them in a poll.


Labour sceptical of ‘electoral inducement’ tuition fee cut

Times Higher Education, 22/02/2019, John Morgan

Labour’s Lifelong Learning Commission will look at longer-term collaborative and connected structures across education in the UK, while the party is “minded” to vote against any lowering of tuition fees arising from the government’s review but has not made a final decision.

Gordon Marsden, Labour’s shadow higher education minister, spoke after party leader Jeremy Corbyn announced the launch of the commission on 19 February.


Top universities will need to accept fewer middle class students to meet diversity targets, regulator admits

Daily Telegraph, 21/02/2019, Camilla Turner

Top universities will need to accept fewer middle class students in order to meet diversity targets, the Office for Students has admitted.

Russell Group institutions must “eliminate” the gap in admissions between wealthier students and their less well-off peers within 20 years, according to targets published by the universities watchdog.

But in order to achieve this, they will need to “considerably reduce” the number of students they admit from well-off backgrounds, according to the regulator’s analysis.