News round-up: The university regulator won’t ‘bail out’ failing universities

As it emerges that some universities are near bankruptcy, there has been a heated debate about whether the government should – or would – allow them to fail


Stormzy: Oxford University turned down my scholarship offer

The Guardian, 08/11/2018, Sarah Marsh and Dan Hancox

Stormzy has accused Oxford University of rejecting his offer to fund two scholarships for black British students, a proposal that was instead taken up by Cambridge University.

The grime artist was speaking at the Barbican in London, where he was launching his book Rise Up: The #Merky Story So Far.


UK and Australian universities launch ‘co-created’ online degree

Times Higher Education, 08/11/2018, Chris Havergal

Two universities on opposite sides of the world have launched a co-created online postgraduate degree.

In one of the first collaborations of its kind, Australia’s Deakin University and Coventry University in the UK are offering a postgraduate course in entrepreneurship on the FutureLearn platform, drawing on research and expertise at both institutions.


Safe spaces on campus have ‘gone too far’

The Times, 07/11/2018, Rosemary Bennett

Campus safe spaces have gone too far and students are not encountering unpopular views and rigorous debate, the head of the Office for Students has said.

Sir Michael Barber accepted that quiet places had a part to play but said the idea that a whole university should be a safe space was wrong. Inviting controversial speakers was important, he said, as was a “diversity of perspective” in lectures and seminars.


We won’t bail out failing universities, says higher education regulator

The Guardian, 06/11/2018, Richard Adams

Universities should not assume they will be bailed out from a financial crisis, according to the head of the higher education regulator in England, who likened them to overconfident banks before the global financial crisis.

Sir Michael Barber, the head of the Office for Students (OfS), said the regulator would only act to protect the interests of students, and warned that failing institutions would not be propped up.


‘Press reset’ to win back overseas students

BBC, 06/11/2018, Judith Burns

Overseas student numbers are “flatlining” and the government must “press reset” to tempt them back, says a cross-party group of MPs and Lords.

International students bring huge benefits, but restrictive policies mean they increasingly go to the US, Canada or Australia, says the report.

A key recommendation is to remove students from immigration targets.


MPs want OfS to rule on ‘acceptable levels’ of v-c pay

Times Higher Education, 05/11/2018, John Morgan

MPs have called for England’s regulator to “publish strict criteria on acceptable levels” of vice-chancellors’ pay, for universities to publish breakdowns of how fees are spent, and for higher education to shift “away from the traditional three-year degree model to a more flexible, less linear approach”.

The Education Committee’s report on Value for Money in Higher Education, published on 5 November, also urges the government to “address the regressive system of student support which has led to the decline in part-time and mature learner numbers”, with a shift to a funding model “which allows a range of flexible options including credit transfer and ‘hopping on and off’ learning”.

UK universities ‘bleeding their business schools dry’

Times Higher Education, 05/11/2018, Anna McKie

A survey of 114 senior staff at 77 business schools, conducted by the Chartered Association of Business Schools, found that contributions to the parent institution accounted for the majority of spending at 61 per cent of business schools.

At nearly four in 10 schools (39 per cent), the contribution accounted for between 51 per cent and 60 per cent of expenditure. At nearly one in five (18 per cent), it accounted for between 61 per cent and 70 per cent. And at about one in 20 (4 per cent), it accounted for between 81 per cent and 90 per cent of spending.


Ministers urged to fund university bail-outs

i Newspaper, 02/11/2018, Richard Vaughan

Ministers have been warned they must send a ‘clear message’ that they will not allow a university to go bankrupt amid concerns over the state of the sector’s finances. At least three universities in England are close to insolvency, with providers having to resort to taking out short-term ‘bridging loans’ to survive. It has prompted concerns among students that insufficient measures are in place to support them if a university goes under for the first time in British history. Unions have demanded ministers send a ‘clear message that allowing great institutions to go bust will be a disaster both locally and nationally’.


Government bill for student choice apps rises to £425K

Times Higher Education online, 02/11/2018, Simon Baker

Sector representatives have questioned the UK government’s decision to plough another £300,000 into developing digital tools that use graduate salary data to help students make choices about where to study.

Earlier this year, the Department for Education said it would share £125,000 among tech firms that proposed the best ideas for using the Longitudinal Education Outcomes data on graduate salaries by institution and subject as part of an app or web tool for making study choices.


Would a university really be allowed to go bust?

BBC News, 01/11/2018, Sean Coughlan

Hundreds of thousands of young people and their families are currently applying for university – going on open days and checking out shiny promises on websites.

They might have had an anxious look at Thursday’s headlines, with the i newspaper warning that three unnamed universities were on the “brink of bankruptcy”.

Are those thinking of committing tens of thousands of pounds to a degree course at risk of seeing it collapse?


‘GoCompare’ style app will level playing field for poorer students, minister says

The Independent, 02/11/2018, Eleanor Busby

The universities minister has come under fire for saying an app will help “level the playing field” for poorer prospective university students.

The government hopes a digital tool, which will compare graduate outcomes like “GoCompare”, will help poorer students to better understand how a degree from the right university can help their futures.


Three UK universities on the brink of bankruptcy and more reliant on short-term loans ‘to survive’

i Newspaper, 01/11/2018, Richard Vaughan

At least three universities are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, with growing numbers of institutions resorting to short-term financial loans “just to survive”, i can reveal. Increased competition for students, falling numbers of 18-year-olds and tighter immigration controls on international students have contributed to pushing universities closer to collapse than ever before, experts have warned.


Have university leaders changed after the vice-chancellor pay scandal?

The Guardian, 01/11/2018, Harriet Swain

Over a few days in September, five universities announced their vice-chancellors were leaving: Nigel Weatherill stepped down from Liverpool John Moores with immediate effect, Christopher Snowden announced his retirement from Southampton next spring, Brian Cantorsaid he would leave Bradford at the end of the year, while Iain Martin quit Anglia Ruskin for Deakin in Melbourne, Australia.

Meanwhile, new vice-chancellors were starting at the universities of London, Reading, East London, Sunderland and Belfast. Ian White was revealed as the replacement at Bath for Glynis Breakwell, who left following controversy over her £468,000 pay package. He will be earning more than £200,000 less.


University in London to stop making unconditional offers

The Guardian, 31/10/2018, Matthew Weaver

A university in London has banned the controversial practice of offering prospective students unconditional places in a move designed to ‘maintain standards’. St Mary’s University in Twickenham announced the plan after admitting that a number of students who had been given unconditional offers did not go on to achieve their expected grades.

Such offers, which were given to almost a quarter of students in this year’s cohort, allow students to accept an undergraduate place without meeting their A-level or BTec grades predicted by teachers. They are seen as an attempt to fill course places irrespective of academic requirements. Post-exam admissions are seen as a better gauge of academic standards and more likely to benefit students from disadvantaged backgrounds.


‘Unscrupulous’ essay mill companies are using social media to tempt students into cheating

Daily Telegraph, 27/10/2018, Camilla Turner

“Unscrupulous” essay mill companies are using social media to tempt students into cheating, the higher education quality watchdog has warned.

Firms have been infiltrating private Facebook groups for incoming freshers to advertise their services, as well as contacting students directly by sending them personal messages on social networking site.