News round-up: Nearly a quarter of English universities are in deficit

In this week’s news round-up, the number of English universities with operating deficits has risen to 32 – but the economy sees a net benefit from overseas students who stay


Open University gave away £13 million in severance payments last year despite claiming they are broke, HESA figures reveal

Daily Telegraph, 22/03/2019, Camilla Turner

The Open University gave away over £13 million in severance payments last year, despite claiming they are broke.

The university paid out by far the most out of any other university in the UK on “compensation for loss of office” last year, according to data published by the Higher Education Statistical Agency .


Nearly 25% of English universities in deficit last year, figures show

The Guardian, 21/03/2019, Richard Adams

Nearly one in four universities in England were in deficit last year, according to an official compilation of data that suggests more financial difficulties could be on the way.

The number of universities in England with operating deficits in 2017-18 increased to 32, compared with 24 the year before and 10 in 2015-16. Across the UK, the number reporting deficits rose to 47, compared with 40 in 2016-17.


Foreign students who stay to work in UK pay £3.2bn in taxes – study

The Guardian, 21/03/2019, Richard Adams

International students who stay and work in the UK for a decade after graduation contribute £3.2bn in extra tax revenues, research has revealed.

The first major report into the boost overseas students give the economy found non-UK graduates do not take jobs from local residents, because they largely obtain work in highly qualified areas such as economics or science, or in sectors that suffer acute shortages, such as teaching and nursing.


Grade threshold ‘exemptions for poorest’ risk Treasury rift

Times Higher Education, 21/03/2019, John Morgan

Plans to effectively stop students with lower grades entering higher education in England could include exemptions for disadvantaged students, while moves to lower fees could see full top-up public funding recommended, but allocated by subject area according to “cost of provision”.

Sector figures believe that both elements could feature in recommendations from the independent panel of the government’s post-18 education review.


Failed Horizon 2020 bids ‘cost European universities £6 billion’

Times Higher Education, 21/03/2019, Simon Baker

European universities and research centres have spent nearly £6 billion so far on failed bids to the Horizon 2020 funding programme, according to new analysis.

The European University Association’s latest Public Funding Observatory report, published on 21 March, puts the cost of failed applications to the European Commission programme at €6.8 billion (£5.8 billion).


Hinds calls on students to report peers who use essay-writing services

The Guardian, 20/03/2019, Sally Weale

The education secretary, Damian Hinds, has called on university students to report their peers if they suspect them of cheating as part of a government crackdown on essay writing services.

Students who are found guilty should face severe consequences, he said, including being kicked off their courses. He urged universities to get their students to sign “honour codes”, making a pledge not to cheat.


See also:

PayPal urged to block essay firm cheats

BBC, 20/3/2019, Sean Coughlan


Open University forced to cancel conference following threats from the transgender lobby

Daily Telegraph, 20/3/2019, Camilla Turner

The Open University was forced to cancel a conference on prison reform following threats from the transgender lobby, it has emerged.

Over a hundred delegates had already bought tickets for the two-day event in May, which was co-organised by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS). But earlier this month, attendees and speakers were notified that the conference had been called off.


Cambridge University rescinds Jordan Peterson invitation

The Guardian, 20/03/2019, Sarah Marsh

Cambridge University has rescinded its offer of a visiting fellowship to Jordan Peterson, the self-styled “professor against political correctness”, after a backlash from faculty and students.

Peterson, a psychology professor from Toronto who has courted controversy for his views on transgender rights, gender and race, announced on Monday via his YouTube channel

that he was joining Cambridge for two months.


Erasmus scheme in chaos as UK students left in limbo

The Guardian, 19/03/2019, Anna Fazackerley

For Alice Watkins, a Manchester University student, a year in Paris, then Madrid, as part of her degree was a dream. Now, with the turmoil of Brexit, she is preparing to arrive in France this summer with nowhere to live and no idea whether the money will still be there to support her.

“It’s horrible not knowing,” Watkins says. “We’ve been told to take at least £1,200 of our own cash to cover us for the first six weeks, and that we can’t realistically sort any accommodation before we arrive. Turning up abroad with nowhere to live is a big stress.”


Thousands caught in UK universities admissions scandal

Sunday Times, 17/03/2019, Sian Griffiths

More than 4,500 applicants to UK universities were caught cheating in the admissions process last year.

The figures were disclosed as a scandal gripped elite American universities, with parents including the Desperate Housewives actress Felicity Huffman among 33 charged with conspiring to bribe, cheat on tests and fake credentials to get their children into top institutions.


Working-class students turning to loan sharks as universities charge hidden fees, National Union of Students says

Independent, 17/03/2019, Eleanor Busby

Working-class students are being forced to turn to loan sharks after being confronted with a series of “hidden costs” when they arrive at university, the National Union of Students (NUS) has warned.

Cash-strapped students are being asked to fork out hundreds of pounds extra a year for compulsory course materials and trips they have not budgeted for amid a lack of transparency across the sector.


Oxford provost at centre of ‘poison pen’ campaign is to step down

Daily Telegraph, 14/03/2019, Camilla Turner

The provost of an Oxford college, who was the victim of a “poison pen” campaign attacking him and his wife, has announced he is stepping down.

Sir Jonathan Bate wrote to Worcester College alumni this week to explain that his role as provost has “taken a toll” on his family life and he wants to pursue his academic interests.


Female-only college sparks backlash after saying it will admit men to boost diversity

Independent, 12/03/2019, Eleanor Busby

A female-only Cambridge college has faced criticism for plans to admit men in a bid to widen access.

Lucy Cavendish College, at the University of Cambridge, will no longer only admit women aged 21 or older in an effort to boost the number of students from other underrepresented groups.


Middle class Oxford rejects demand explanations for missed places amid fears they are ‘squeezed out’ by diversity drive

Daily Telegraph, 09/03/2019, Camilla Turner

Middle class Oxford rejects are increasingly demanding explanations about why they missed out on a place, amid fear that they are being “squeezed out” by the university’s diversity drive.

Oxford is under growing pressure to admit more undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds and Colleges have started using “contextual data” about a student’s background to inform tutors’ decisions on their application.


Simpler Ucas system to attract more student apprentices

The Times, 08/03/2019, Rosemary Bennett

Applications for “earn as you learn” degree apprenticeships will be made easier to boost their popularity.

Ucas, the universities and colleges admissions service, wants to offer degree and higher-level apprenticeships through its system for the first time to streamline the process.