CERS’ Higher Education Bulletin, 11th October 2021

Theme of the Week

A plea to marketers

Nic Hillman of HEPI meanders about his higher education journal in a recent blog, suggesting that higher education transforms cities and regions; provides the skills, the knowledge and the cutting-edge research that delivers progress as he advocates these to marketers as a good product– so actually equalling education with ice cream.  I was a marketer and have argued that good intrinsic ideas and service and products don’t do well in the hands of manipulative and exploitative marketing so perhaps something more is missing – truth and trust?

Medieval grammar makes a comeback

The forward-looking Office for Students has announced that all learners in higher education should be assessed on spelling, punctuation and grammar in order “to maintain quality and protect standards.” It reminds me of the curriculum of medieval students who began their studies with the Seven Liberal Arts, divided into the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic), and the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Astronomy, Geometry, and Music).  Read about what they mean as their regulator set out its latest requirements in a report, following a review of assessment practices with “common themes that gave it regulatory concern”. Read more.

Contract cheating action against essay mills.

The Department for Education has said that it will introduce an amendment to the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, which is currently working its way through Parliament, to make it a criminal offence to “provide, arrange or advertise…cheating services for financial gain to students taking a qualification at any institution in England providing post-16 education, including universities.”

Other interesting things

Doctoral supervision

The UK Research Supervision Survey (UKRSS) from the UK Council for Graduate Education 91% of respondents reported enjoying their role in doctoral supervision. 72% are motivated by being able to help engage, motivate and train the next generation of researchers and 82% agreed that “being a supervisor improves the quality of my own research.  Seem we mainly know what we are doing and enjoy it.  Just over half (51%) said that supervisory duties were likely to be recognised by their workplace or institution in their allocation model.  So it seems clear who takes responsibility for the research ethos of the university, and perhaps it is not the layer of research management structured to give a quality safe blanket to management. Read more.

It is not all about English

An Australian study found that the frequency of non-English scientific publications was increasing in simplified Chinese, French, German, Japanese and especially Portuguese and Russian. The study also contradicted doubts about the quality of non-English publications, with papers in traditional Chinese, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish and Ukrainian exhibiting no significant design differences from English-language studies.

Kidnap Diplomacy

Universities must be wary of “kidnap diplomacy” when they send academics to China, but they must also avoid an “overcorrection” by discouraging Chinese research students, according to Deakin University security expert Greg Barton.


HESA has intervened in the ongoing debate around measures of disadvantage by synthesising a new metric that is available for very small areas of the UK (Output Areas in census geography). The approach combines census data on qualifications held and employment in roles with a lower socioeconomic status – and is directly comparable across the whole UK.  Seem a bit like desk chair moving. A more values contrition would be just to look at how the areas of knowledge deprivation might be a better way to construct a new model – not for class embedded exiting metrics – nice work if you can get it though… Read more.

The Pathway to Lifelong Education: Reforming the UK’s Skills System recommends the introduction of a unified, credit-based funding system that would allow access and support to learners regardless of how or where their learning takes place. In the short term, the report calls on the government to ensure that all citizens have access to the Lifetime Loan Entitlement, with funding applied to different modules to enable qualifications to be unbundled from larger units.  A good idea at this time of skills shortage but as nothing else has work politically excepted skill nor-brit perhaps it should be directed to the foreign office. Read more.

More information for managers – what will they do with it?

Advance HE is creating a new global leadership survey for higher education and related organisations. The project aims to create an evidence base for leadership in higher education and to highlight variations in thought and practice across the UK and the world.


A Book which ought to be sensible since it is by Peter Scott, who is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education Studies at the UCL Institute of Education and Commissioner for Fair Access in Scotland.  Looks interesting.   It deals with mass higher education and the two immediate obsessions of higher education policy making: the future of fees (in England) after Augar, and the shock of COVID-19.

Retreat or Resolution?

Setting out a clear and radical programme for reform, this book makes an important contribution to current debates in education in the context of the evolution of the UK economy and wider society.  However, as Peter Scott suggests, Ministers seem to be more interested in fighting woke wars than in systematic reform.  This seem the best cover text recommendation a book could have!