It’s been a busy week in higher education. We’ve rounded up some of the most interesting stories, from a possible cut to tuition fees to the revelation that a diploma mill in Pakistan has been selling degrees to British nationals

Universities expect sharp drop in student applications

i, 16/01/2018, Richard Vaughan

University leaders are braced for a drop in the number of applicants as the higher education sector continues to be buffeted by shifting demographics and the impact of the Brexit vote. Students had until 6pm on Sunday to submit their UCAS application forms to secure a place at university in time for the start of the 2018/19 academic year. But institutions were concerned as early indications suggested submissions ahead of the deadline were down on last year, with some estimations showing that student recruitment was down by as much as 5%.

According to sources, the fall in applications is down to a range of factors, including a decrease in the number of 18-year-olds in the UK. Experts have also highlighted that the Brexit decision in 2016 continues to be felt by universities. The number of EU students applying to study in the UK continues to fall despite the government committing to fund places starting in September for the duration of the degree. Changes to funding for courses such as nursing have also had an impact on certain institutions.

Tuition fees cut is back on the table

The Times, 15/01/2018, p.10, Rosemary Bennett
The £9,250 cap on university tuition fees will be reviewed and could be lowered after Justine Greening resigned as education secretary. With Jo Johnson, the former universities minister, Ms Greening had argued that the system was sound in principle but the 6.1% interest rate on loans should be reduced and maintenance grants for poorer students restored immediately rather than after a lengthy review.

Mrs May’s advisers wanted to go further and use the review to challenge Labour’s appeal to young people, which hurt the Conservatives in the election. Labour says it will scrap tuition fees. Damian Hinds, the education secretary, and Sam Gyimah, the new universities minister, are understood to be more sympathetic to No 10’s ambitions for the level of fees to be reconsidered.

Tories to rethink tuition fees within months

Sunday Times, 14/01/2018, Sian Griffiths and Caroline Wheeler

Stop ‘over-obsessing’ about net migration, UK’s HE sector told

Times Higher Education online, 12/01/2018, Simon Baker
The UK higher education sector needs to stop ‘over-obsessing’ about the ‘ridiculous process argument’ of whether overseas students are included in targets on net migration, a former immigration minister has said.

Mark Harper, a minister in the Home Office from 2012 to 2014, when there was a major crackdown on what was deemed to be ‘abuse’ of the student visa system, said that it ‘served nobody’ if the numbers of people coming to the country to study were not counted.

His comments follow reports in the past few weeks that Theresa May, the prime minister, who was in charge of the Home Office when Mr Harper was immigration minister, has become increasingly isolated over her resistance to removing students from the net migration figures. The government has a longstanding target to cut net migration to the tens of thousands.

‘Staggering’ trade in fake degrees revealed

BBC News online, 16/01/2018, Helen Clifton, Matthew Chapman and Simon Cox

Thousands of UK nationals have bought fake degrees from a multi-million-pound ‘diploma mill’ in Pakistan, a BBC investigation has found.
Buyers include NHS consultants, nurses and a large defence contractor. The Department for Education said it was taking ‘decisive action to crack down on degree fraud’ that ‘cheats genuine learners’.

All the facts you need to answer tricky questions about higher education

The Guardian online, Higher Education Network, 17/01/2018, Fran Abrams
Article addressing a number of questions about higher education by looking at what the available research says. The topics include whether fewer poor students are entering higher education, whether boys outperform girls at university, and whether the graduate earning premium is a myth.

NHS doctors ‘bought fake degrees from Pakistan diploma mill’

The Times, 16/01/2018, Duncan Geddes

Thousands of people caught buying fake degrees online

Metro online, 16/01/2018, Zoe Drewett

International students boost the economy by £20.3bn – we must encourage more of them to study in Britain

Prospect Magazine, 16/01/2018, Nick Hillman
Comment: Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, writes about the impact of international students on the British economy.