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!

CERS’ Higher Education Bulletin, 4th October 2021

Spending Review

Huge economic contribution

Many have published their contribution to the spending review. GuildHE and the Russell Group have also published as have UniversitiesUK.  They state that Universities in England contribute around £95 billionto the economy and support more than 815,000 jobs across England, new findings by Frontier Economics today reveal. In terms of GDP, the higher education sector in England has also grown by around a quarter over 5 years to over £50 billion.  As well as direct employment, universities support these jobs through their purchases of services and goods from other sectors and through employee spending power. Universities also attract substantial numbers of international students, and visitor spending associated with international students runs into the hundreds of millions. Read more.

Free speech

Universities should outright oppose the free speech bill according to Jack Ballingham, the Opportunities Officer at Durham SU.  He argues that the government’s free speech bill is really about muzzling students and academics – and that universities should unreservedly oppose it. Read more.

Other news

Getting out for Europe

THE reports that ever since the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, observers have been keeping an eye on data on the movement of academics out of the country to see if there is any evidence of a “Brexit” effect, with EU scholars leaving for universities on the continent. But it seems that concerns about future funding and restricted opportunities have also led to some British academics deciding to take the plunge and move to institutions elsewhere in Europe

Dropping student repayment threshold

The government appears to be on course to reduce the repayment threshold for English student loans, raising fears that it could hit lower-earning graduates the hardest according to the THE.  Apparently the government is considering lowering the salary threshold at which graduates start repaying their tuition fee loans from the current figure of £27,295. 

This is much the same message from Lord Willetts’ new book,.  Boosting higher education while cutting public spending. It is a short read but longer than the contribution might warrant. You may find it of some value: I didn’t, but neither did I enjoy any of his other books!  Perhaps such a review will be stopped under the new Freedom of Speech act. A quote “The so-called ‘bad’ universities are very useful indeed in vocational training and applied research”.  How do you work with that? Read more.

THE has an interesting take on international students.  They explore whether a cutback in numbers will have a negative impact on pedagogy, or if the Covid crisis could give institutions a chance to reset and refocus how they integrate students from abroad. Read more.



AdvanceHE has published a review of the recent literature around employability. This latest instalment of the Connect Benefit series of reports is available to AdvanceHE members. Read more.

CERS’ Higher Education Bulletin, 27th September 2021


On 12 May 2022, the REF will publish the results of REF 2021. Publication will include the overall quality profile awarded to each submission, by unit of  assessment (UOA) along with the output, impact and environment sub-profiles combined to produce the overall quality profile for each.  


Advance HE has published a guide for facilitating student partnerships as part of assessment. Drawn from literature, research, and the contributions of Advance HE members, the guide puts forth five principles for fostering good student partnerships for assessment, including sharing responsibility, nurturing inclusive processes, and connecting partnerships to curriculum and pedagogy. Their website is worth a look and you can find the report here.



Terms of reference: Ofsted’s independent review of teachers’ professional development

The government has asked Ofsted to carry out an independent review of teachers’ professional development. This is one of two reviews used to assess the progress and, where possible, effectiveness of the government’s education recovery plans.  Ofsted will report on the findings of our review in early 2023 and early 2024. The review will answer the following questions:

  1. What teachers and leaders are receiving
  2. Management of professional development
  3. Awareness of professional development
  4. Quality of professional development
  5. Impact of professional development
  6. Our approach

You can find more here.

Quality does not equals volume Official

In response to a Parliamentary question concerning the introduction of a statutory baseline for the number of hours higher education providers must provide face-to-face tuition in an academic year,  the government responded on 21 September 2021: “We do not intend to introduce a statutory baseline of contact hours” – so now we should be really concerned.


Us and them?

A report (Education divide) published by the Social Market Foundation characterises the gaps between graduates and non-graduates as “the most important division in Britain today, where the non-graduate majority often feel “ignored and excluded”. It recommends that politicians and businesses should do more to “restore the social norms” that previously offered non-graduates esteem and respect in society – and that those holding non-graduate jobs such as those in public transport and retail should be seen as authority figures. There are also calls for employers to offer non-graduates opportunities to progress and lead.

We need humanities but not in the form they were?

A report from HEPI The Humanities in Modern Britain: Challenges and Opportunities (HEPI Report 141) by Dr Gabriel Roberts, https://www.hepi.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/The-Humanities-in-Modern-Britain-Challenges-and-Opportunities.pdf,  finds that Universities should embed more “professionally valuable skills” such as digital and numerical literacy into their humanities degrees to improve the employability of graduates. It seems skills are always the answer even with a huge number of graduates not in graduate jobs – what about more humanity in all degrees???

Coming out

LGBT+ students are more comfortable being open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at university than at school, a new report finds today. Nevertheless UCAS and Stonewall’s “What is the experience of LGBT+ students in education?” finds that more than one in 10 applicants are unsure about how “out” they will be able to be when they start as students this term. 

Read more.

Universities of the future

“College is about building a great human—intellectually and emotionally—and answering the question: ‘who do I want to be?’” See how Stanford are going about their teaching and learning strategy 


Doctoral researcher

The Transdisciplinarity Lab (TdLab), ETH Zurich (Switzerland).have an open call for 2 PhD. positions (4 years). They want  doctoral researchers to join their team for the project «Investigating interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity: intersections of practices, culture(s) and policy in collaborative knowledge production» (INTERSECTIONS(funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation). The new research group is part of a dynamic and interdisciplinary academic community working in science cultural studies.  Find out more.

STOP Press

As part of an effort to expand its research and evaluation portfolio, Transforming Access and Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO) is inviting expressions of interest for five invitations to tender. The invitations to tender cover the areas of student mental health, equality gaps for disabled students, reducing employment gaps between graduates, validating survey scales for widening participation work, and an open call to join TASO’s panel of evaluators. The deadline to express interest for the first four areas is 19 October, while the deadline for the open call is 3 November.  The budget are around £40,000 per project. Read more.

BERA has just announced a new report mapping the state of Education Studies in Universities, and announcing 3 new tenders:

CERS’ Higher Education Bulletin, 20th September 2021

New Leadership

It  been a busy week in higher education. The long awaited Westminster Cabinet has seen a new Secretary of State for Education –  Nadhim Zahawi – with Minister for Universities Michelle Donelan staying but adding apprenticeships and skills to her beefed-up ministerial brief, as well as Cabinet duties.

Freedom of Speech

There has been continued debate and voting on amendments to the  Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill with various levels of value in the contributions from academics, lobbyists and regulator.  Perhaps we should note that it is a particular version of freedom of speech that is on offer in the Bill, one that is arguably focussed on protecting the rights of people who, in exercising their freedom, may have harassed others, but others argue have merely caused offence.  Jim Dickenson, an Associate Editor, summarizes thus: “the universities’ regulator asserting there’s a problem when it has previously said there isn’t one and with no evidence to back up the assertion…”  

Spending Review

Two potential damaging events might be of concern when Higher Education allocations are made in the Spending Review.  The first (and linked with the second) is the dispute for UK university pensions which looks set to result in industrial action on the grounds that it could hinder universities’ ability to fight off damaging funding reforms at Westminster. Read more.

Second is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published its annual Education at a glance report. Students in England pay some of the highest tuition fees in the world, with the report authors warning that a shift to online learning may make these levels unsustainable. Read more.


The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK economy, published by UUKi and HEPI with research from London Economics, showed the net economic benefit to the UK of the 2018/19 intake of international students was £25.9 billion. Read more.

UPP report on the Truly Civic: Strengthening the  connection between universities  and their places https://upp-foundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Civic-University-Commission-Final-Report.pdf

Interesting papers and events

CHEF Talk (webinar) Whiteness of Futurity and Globalization of Higher Education, which will be held on 16 Sept. 2021, recoding available on website https://dpu.au.dk/forskning/omraader/chef/

Whitchurch, C., Locke, W. & Marini, G. Challenging career models in higher education: the influence of internal career scripts and the rise of the “concertina” career. High Education  82,635–650 (2021)

Howard E. Gardner & Wendy Fischman (2021) Does truth have a future in higher education?, Studies in Higher Education, 46:10, 2099-2105,

Problem solving pedagogy. Read more.