News round-up: Two in five school leavers in England apply for university places this year

In England, record numbers of school leavers apply to university – and a record proportion of students are awarded first-class degrees


England university applications hit record numbers

BBC, 11/07/2019, Anon

Record numbers of 18-year-olds in England have applied for a place at university, figures from Ucas reveal.

The admissions service statistics show 236,350 school leavers – 40% in total – had applied by this year’s deadline of 30 June – 3,970 more than in 2018.


‘Grade inflation’ means 80% more top degree grades

BBC, 11/07/2019, Sean Coughlan

The proportion of students in England awarded first-class degrees continues to increase – rising by 80% since 2010-11, the university watchdog says.

The Office for Students, warning of grade inflation, says for almost three-quarters of universities such increases in top grades are “unexplained”.


Justine Greening: next PM will not adopt Augar, levy is alternative

Times Higher Education, 11/07/2019, John Morgan

Former education secretary Justine Greening believes that the model she

explored in government of funding English universities through a graduate contribution plus a “skills levy” on employers could be taken up by the next prime minister, as it is “inconceivable” that he would adopt the Augar review plans.

Ms Greening, who exited government in January 2018 as Theresa May pushed through the review, told Times Higher Education of her plan, which would abolish the system of tuition fee price tags and loans: “I suspect it’s exactly how we’ll end up reforming the system. In fact, I think it’s probably the only higher education bill that could get through Parliament.”


Chinese students’ applications to UK universities up by 30%

The Guardian, 11/07/2019, Sally Weale

Applications from Chinese students to study at UK universities have gone up 30% since last year, with numbers exceeding those from Northern Ireland for the first time, according to official statistics.

The Ucas university admissions agency revealed on Thursday it had received almost 20,000 undergraduate applications from students in China this year (19,760, up from 15,240 in 2018), compared with 18,520 from Northern Ireland. The real figure will be higher as not all Chinese applications are made via Ucas.


Pensions demands put jobs at risk, say universities

Financial Times, 11/07/2019, Josephine Cumbo

Thousands of UK university jobs would be at risk if employers are forced to meet union demands to pay an additional hundreds of millions of pounds for staff pensions, sector leaders have warned. Universities UK, which represents more than 350 higher education employers, issued the warning as institutions face the threat of a fresh wave of industrial action.

Universities UK, which represents more than 350 higher education employers, issued the warning as institutions face the threat of a fresh wave of industrial action.


Warwick University apologises to women targeted by ‘rape chat’

The Guardian, 10/07/2019, Richard Adams and David Batty

The vice-chancellor of Warwick University has apologised to the female students targeted by a male “rape chat” group after an independent report said the university needed to improve its procedures for dealing with sexual violence and misconduct.

The report by lawyer Sharon Persaud is critical of the university’s handling of the scandal, which erupted last year after the women discovered they had been the subject of violent sexual comments exchanged among a group of male undergraduates.


UK universities ‘sleepwalking into environmental disaster’

Times Higher Education, 09/07/2019, Nick Mayo

Universities “are sleepwalking into a major environmental disaster”, according to one UK vice-chancellor who is calling on her counterparts to take action.

Joy Carter, vice-chancellor of the University of Winchester, wants higher education institutions to put climate change at the top of their agendas.


Teach First recruits at record level

The Times, 08/07/2019, Rosemary Bennett

A record number of graduates have applied to become teachers this year through the recruitment charity Teach First, bucking the trend of a diminishing number of young people joining the profession.

In total 1,735 graduates from leading universities have started at the Teach First summer institute, up 38 per cent from last year. They will head into 750 of the most deprived schools in the country in September after five weeks of training.


DfE to unveil new category of higher technical qualifications

The Guardian/08/07/2019, Richard Adams

The education secretary, Damian Hinds, has said he wants to overcome the snobbery of middle-class parents towards studying advanced technical qualifications, as the government unveils a seal of approval designed to improve the status and visibility of such courses.

The Department for Education is to announce a new category of higher technical qualifications (HTQs) as a quality assurance mark for courses such as digital engineering, to cut through the profusion of certificates, diplomas and foundation degrees on offer for school-leavers.


Hertfordshire history cuts prompt fears for research beyond elite

Times Higher Education, 08/07/2019, Nick Mayo

Fears have been raised for the future of “pockets of research excellence” at non-Russell Group universities as job cuts look set to hit the University of Hertfordshire’s highly rated history department.

A quarter of the dozen academics in Hertfordshire’s history group could be axed as the institution moves to tackle falling student demand and save £250,000.


UK universities condemned for failure to tackle racism

The Guardian, 05/07/2019, David Batty

Senior academics and politicians have condemned UK universities for failing to tackle endemic racism against students and staff after a Guardian investigation found widespread evidence of discrimination in the sector.

University staff from minority backgrounds said the findings showed there was “absolute resistance” to dealing with the problem. Responses to freedom of information (FoI) requests the Guardian sent to 131 universities showed that students and staff made at least 996 formal complaints of racism over the past five years.