News round-up: demand for higher education is set to grow

Demand for university places is going to grow by 300,000, but the rise in tuition fees means fewer people are choosing to study part-time


More than 40,000 fewer part-time students go to university due to tuition fees hike, study suggests

The Independent online, 15/03/2018, Eleanor Busby

More than 40,000 fewer part-time students are going to university because of the hike in tuition fees in England, a new study suggests. The Government’s introduction of higher tuition fees exacerbated the decline of part-time students in England, preventing many ‘second chance routes’ to social mobility, the report from the Sutton Trust charity states.

There were more than 40,000 fewer part-time students in 2015 than five years before – when tuition fees had not yet risen to £9,250 a year for full-time undergraduates, it reveals.

The number of part-time students in England declined by 51 per cent between 2010 and 2015 – and researchers say part of the fall was caused by higher tuition fees in 2012.


University place demand to grow by 300,000 by 2030

BBC News online, 15/03/2018, Hannah Richardson

About 300,000 new places will be needed at universities over the next 12 years, experts predict, making the higher education funding model unsustainable. A rise in the number of 18-year-olds by 2030 will push demand up by 50,000, the Higher Education Policy Institute says.

A further 350,000 places will be needed to keep pace with the existing growing participation rate, it adds, but other factors may reduce that by 50,000.

The Hepi report examines the impact of policy changes on university entrant rates, feeding a number of scenarios into the calculations to arrive at the 300,000 figure. The 18-year-old population has been declining steadily for a number of years, but from 2020 it will increase again, rising by nearly 23% by 2030, says Hepi. And if participation continues to increase at the current rate, about 350,000 extra places will be needed on top. Countervailing factors such as Brexit, are likely to reduce that total by about 50,000, the research says.


Bad universities should be allowed to go bust

The Times, 15/03/2018, Emma Duncan

Comment piece about the university lecturers’ strike and how it relates to university funding and the value of higher education to the economy and society: ‘If we know that students benefit from university education, and we’re not sure whether or not society does, then we’re right to treat it largely as a private good. It follows then that most of the costs should be paid by the students, and the sector should be governed more by private-sector discipline than by public-sector fiat. So rather than having a vast ill-governed pension fund for the sector as a whole, universities should be in charge of their own pensions, and negotiate with their academics. Universities that overpay their bosses, mismanage their affairs and fail to attract enough students should be allowed to go bust.’


Tuition fee value for money: ‘I feel ripped off’

BBC News online, 14/03/2018, Katherine Sellgren

A new survey by the Office for Students has found only 38% of students in England think the tuition fees for their course are good value for money.

Course subject is a major factor which influences students’ perception of tuition fees, with computer science students, those doing physical sciences and law students the most likely to say that the tuition fees represented good value for money. Those doing historical and philosophical studies, languages and creative arts and design are least satisfied with the value they have received.

The OfS spoke to 5,685 current higher education students in England and 534 recent graduates. When asked whether their overall investment in higher education was good value for money, the majority (54%) agreed, a quarter said they were undecided while 21% disagreed.

In terms of nationality, UK students are the least likely to consider their investment as good value for money (49%), compared to 61% of the students from other EU countries and 66% of those from non-EU countries.


‘Wasted potential’ of mature students

BBC News online, 14/03/2018, Sean Coughlan

A university group says that the government’s review of tuition fees in England should make a priority of finding ways to attract more mature and part-time students.

The Million Plus group says there is a ‘huge pool of untapped potential’ among adults who missed out on university.

After fees increased in 2012, mature student numbers fell by 20%. Les Ebdon, head of the university access watchdog, backed calls to reverse this ‘very worrying trend’.

Part-time students also saw a significant drop in numbers – and this often overlaps with older students, who might be working and unable to study full-time.


Student loans sale faces Audit Office probe

The Sunday Times, 11/03/2018, Sabah Meddings

The government spending watchdog is to investigate the sale of a £1.7bn student loans book that has reportedly led to an £800m loss for taxpayers. It was the first of a four-year sell-off of loans made to students before 2012.

The first clutch of debt, which had a face value of £3.7bn, was sold to specialist investors including pension funds and hedge funds via a securitisation process — where assets are packaged together and sold as bonds. Now the transaction is subject to a probe by the National Audit Office (NAO), which will consider whether the government ‘achieved value for money from this sale’.


MPs call for action on fraud and malpractice at alternative ‘university’ providers

The Independent, 06/03/2018, Eleanor Busby

The government has not done enough to prevent alternative providers of higher education from ‘playing the system’, MPs argue. A damning report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee says the current system offers a ‘chancer’s charter’, which saw around £10m paid out to individuals and providers not eligible for student loan funding from 2014 to 2016.

Serious allegations of fraudulent practices at alternative providers – which include agents helping ineligible students with fake applications so they can claim loans – shows more could be done.

So far, the Student Loans Company has only been able to recover a quarter of the £45m of ineligible payments made in the six years to 2016, the report highlights.


UK universities rely on casual staff ‘for up to half of teaching’

Times Higher Education online, 06/03/2018, Sophie Inge

Some UK universities rely on casual, hourly paid staff to do as much as half of all their teaching, new analysis suggests. The University and College Union sent freedom of information requests to 135 higher education institutions, asking them to provide the number of hours of scheduled learning and teaching activities delivered during the academic year 2015-16. Universities were then asked to state the number of those hours that had been delivered by hourly paid lecturing staff.

Just 38 institutions returned usable information, but with caveats about its accuracy. Based on these data, the union estimates that most universities use hourly paid teachers for between 15 and 40% of their teaching, with an average of 27%.



300,000 more university places needed to keep up with demand for degrees, study says

The Independent, 15/03/2018, Eleanor Busby


Demand for 300K new university places ‘threatens uncapped system’

Times Higher Education online, 15/03/2018, Simon Baker


Baby boom caused by immigration fuels need for 300,000 more places at university by 2030

Mail Online UK, 15/03/2018, Eleanor Harding


Universities will need to find 300,000 more places to cope with soaring student population over next decade

The Sun online, 15/03/2018, Lynn Davidson


‘Debt for life’: only 38% of students say tuition fees are good value

The Guardian, 13/03/2018, Sally Weale


Only the truly ignorant would rank universities according to graduate earnings

The Guardian, 13/03/2018, Suzanne Moore

Comment on government plans to rate university courses by looking at graduate earnings.