The government have published the highly anticipated consultation document on the future of UK higher education titled “Fulfilling Our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice” which outlines key changes for the sector including the Teaching Excellence Framework, an Office for Students, and tweaks to research funding and assessment. Here we have compiled pieces previously featured on the LSE Impact Blog which provide background to the ongoing consultation and changes proposed.
The full text (over 100 pages) of the green paper can be found here. The Times Higher Education have a summary of the key points. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills welcome responses on this Green Paper from everyone with an interest. The deadline is 15 January, 2016. For more reaction and analysis from around the higher education sector, head over to Wonkhe’s liveblog. A range of responses can also be found on Twitter at #HEgreenpaper.
Teaching excellence and the relationship between quality teaching and research.
Without a balance between research and teaching, there will be nothing “higher” about UK education.
There are a surge of rumours circulating over how higher education will be affected by the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review at the end of the November. Responding to the latest suggestions, Martin Eve writes below directly to Jo Johnson, the Minister for Universities and Science. Whilst there are many causes for concern outlined, of particular concern is the emphasis put on teaching at the expense of research, which would in effect make UK HE incomparable and uncompetitive to other systems worldwide.
Jo Johnson’s rhetoric around the Teaching Excellence Framework reveals looming challenges for Higher Education.
Steven Jones takes a closer look at the metaphors of the market and the linguistics of blame, searching for clues about whether the government’s long-awaited Green Paper will offer a Teaching Excellence Framework that divides the sector further or begins to build bridges. Keeping the Higher Education sector on side remains the TEF’s biggest challenge.
Five reasons the Teaching Excellence Framework is bad news for higher education
Jessica Patterson argues the announcement of proposals for a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is bad news indeed for those concerned about a more rapid pace to the marketisation of higher education. Here she outlines five key concerns against a teaching assessment framework given the wider context of greater casualisation and stratification in the workforce and a ‘value for money’ approach to education.
The research-teaching nexus is taken for granted, but not well-understood or developed in practice.
Volha Piotukh and Simon Lightfoot look at the links between research and teaching in Politics and International Relations and find they are not as visible as one would expect, in part due to them being insufficiently developed institutionally. While departments/schools of the Russell Group universities explicitly discussed the research-teaching nexus, very few of the individual departments demonstrated a variety of practices. Furthermore, nearly 23% of these departments/schools did not offer any evidence of the links between research and teaching, which, to some extent at least, signals a lack of importance and value afforded to such links.
Image credit: Magnifying glass with focus on paper. (CC BY-SA)
The marketisation of higher education and audit culture
Governing through unhappiness: Audit culture and the lasting effects of the REF.
After the REF dust settled on 2014, what will come next for the higher education sector? Will Davies breaks down audit culture and describes neoliberalism as the ‘disenchantment of politics by economics’ where processes traditionally left in the realm of politics must now be reconfigured in calculative, economically rational terms. When audit becomes married to rapidly shrinking budgets, and the continued use of planned competition to allocate those budgets, it shifts from a technique of discipline to one of control.
‘Value for money’ rhetoric in higher education undermines the value of knowledge in society.
Over the past 15 years, reiterated across successive governments, the concept of value for money has been internalised throughout the higher education sector. Joanna Williams outlines the reasons why it is problematic to use student choice and value for money as a means of holding universities to account. Universities should be concerned with knowledge not skills; and intellectual capital not economic capital. Seeing the university as a financial investment in employability skills undermines the authority and value of knowledge.
Increasing involvement of private finance in Higher Ed will have lasting consequences for stability of the sector.
Changes in higher education policy are altering the way academic institutions are functioning in Britain. Andrew McGettigan takes a look at the implications of new funding mechanisms for higher education and writes that new methods of debt issuance will increase the financial fragility of academic institutions. Furthermore, due to the increase in students accessing loans, governments will soon be forced to find new policy options to maintain the new market in undergraduate study.
Doing things differently: By embracing the politics of Higher Education, academics can help create a better system.
With higher education in constant flux around the latest assessment exercise, to what extent are academics and administrators ‘hitting the target and missing the point’? John Turnpenny discusses the critical role of the arts and humanities and the grudging acceptance of the linear-rational model for evidence-based decision-making. He argues that by acknowledging that higher education policy is something we help create, rather than something that is wholly done to us, we can start to make a difference.
Improving research assessment and the tricky role of metrics in determining quality
The metric tide is rising: HEFCEmetrics report argues metrics should support, not supplant, expert judgement.
James Wilsdon introduces the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management. The review found that the production and consumption of metrics remains contested and open to misunderstanding. Wider use of quantitative indicators, and the emergence of alternative metrics for societal impact, could support the transition to a more open, accountable and outward-facing research system. But placing too much emphasis on poorly-designed indicators – such as journal impact factors – can have negative consequences.
Can metrics be used responsibly? Structural conditions in Higher Ed push against expert-led, reflexive approach.
Do institutions and academics have a free choice in how they use metrics? Meera Sabaratnam argues that structural conditions in the present UK Higher Education system inhibit the responsible use of metrics. Funding volatility, rankings culture, and time constraints are just some of the issues making it highly improbable that the sector is capable of enacting the approach that the Metric Tide report has called for.
Choosing the Right Criteria: Universities need to identify what behaviours should be valued and reward accordingly.
If universities are to thrive, evaluation criteria must capture and recognise exemplary contributions. To discontinue the legacy of poor indicators, Athene Donald calls for thefocus on quality to be in more fundamental ways. For example, the mobility of an individual to accept overseas posts and attend international conferences has been frequently used as a proxy for excellence. Moving around within one institution, let alone within one city or country, may be quite sufficient to give breadth. The academic community must look to reward behaviours that should be rewarded and not simply ones that seemed appropriate some decades ago.
Was the REF a waste of time? Strong relationship between grant income and quality-related funding allocation.
If the funding allocated to universities on the basis of the REF is correlated to the amount of grant income universities already receive, what is the point of the output assessment process? Jon Clayden explores the relationship between grant income generated and REF-related QR funding and finds a strong correlation between the two, suggesting that the double-counting exercise is surely not the best we can do.
Image credit: The Metric Tide: Report of the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management
Book reviews on higher education policy
Stefan Collini has undoubtedly done a great service to the university community in channelling criticisms of the current state of higher education in the UK into popular public discourse, writes Paul Benneworth. Readers will wryly raise an eyebrow at some of his characterisations of HE in this enjoyable and accessible read.
In The Great University Gamble, Andrew McGettigan surveys the emerging brave new world of higher education, asking what the role of universities within society might become, how they might be funded, and what kind of experiences will be on offer for students. Written in a clear and accessible style, this book outlines the architecture of the new policy regime and tracks the developments on the ground. Even the most sceptical reader must see in this dossier that the government has a case to answer that these reforms are not in the public interest, writes Paul Benneworth.
This book focuses on the policy of removing almost entirely public support for the payment of student fees. Although it goes into great detail regarding the emergence of the regulated market as a way of delivering higher education to growing numbers, it does so with little apparent appreciation for what that emergence has required within the universities and in the daily lives of their academics and administrators, finds Ron Johnston.
Reflecting the changing ideological and economic perspectives of the government of the day, the expansion of higher education in England has prompted numerous reforms aimed at reshaping and restructuring the sector and its funding. Leading to student riots and sparking some of the sharpest controversies in British higher education, the reforms introduced in 2012/13 are by far the most radical, and those concerning higher education funding and student finances the most far-reaching. This book seeks to unpack the drivers for the reforms while locating them in a broad historical, ideological, and policy context. The longer term impact of the reforms is, of course, still unclear. Some have lamented the death of the public university, but on the whole the contributors to this volume take a more measured view, finds John Field.
Does a university education hold any value? How do universities determine what skills are relevant in today’s ever-changing world when information could become outdated even before students graduate? These are some of the questions and problems that David Watson sets out to explore in this book. Ignas Kalpokas finds this a timely work that clearly dissects the current condition of HE and provides a rewarding read for those actively involved in the sector.