Guildford Borough Council Urged to Tackle Housing Crises

Posted by Richard Ward in , , ,

The University of Surrey's students' union has argued that Guildford Borough Council must take immediate action to protect students from a potential housing crises.

This week Alex Mackenzie Smith, the Students' Union President, called on the council to tackle the Guildford housing crises.

Ms Mackenzie Smith reported to the council that students were having to endure appalling conditions from ruthless landlords who were acting with impunity throughout Guildford.

It was suggested to councillors that they adopt and endorse the student union's housing manifesto and that restrictions in the local plan on the placement of purpose-built student accommodation be lifted.

Leader of the Council, Paul Spooner, acknowledged the housing crises and argued that any new developments, including student housing, must have the supporting infrastructure in place.

The role of the university in the area was also recognised, with Mr Spooner saying: "I'm very pleased to hear you didn't blame the university because I think the university is a very positive thing for Guildford while it does of course bring challenges."

Various sites in Guildford have been earmarked for development, including Gosden Hill Farm in Merrow Lane as well as Blackwell farm.

The latest draft local plan, which proposes thousands of new homes is scheduled to go out for public consultation on June 9.

University Principle Openly Criticises Government’s Immigration Policy

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Professor Craig Mahoney, Principle of University of the West of Scotland, has launched a scathing attack on the government for continuing to include students in UK immigration totals.

Mr Mahoney suggested there had already been a drop in the number of non-EU students coming to the UK and the UK Government's immigration policies were hindering recruitment plans.

The Higher Education and Research Bill was passed before government disbanded ahead of the general election, which according to Professor Mahoney, will have a severe impact on UK universities ability to attract foreign students.

The Conservatives have insisted they will continue to support efforts to attract overseas students to come to the UK.

Commenting on the government's decision, Mr Mahoney said: "Theresa May's refusal to remove foreign students from the revised immigration statistics, will continue to hinder recruitment plans for non-EU students into UK universities.

"It's deeply concerning that the UK is positioning itself as less attractive to overseas students and academic staff, particularly when the UK is keen to establish stronger international post-Brexit trade links."

Mr Mahoney, added: "We are already starting to see a fall in the numbers of EU and non-EU students coming to the UK. This is particularly true for postgraduate students - those who are more likely to forge stronger relationships with industry or start their own businesses."

Professor Mahoney suggested many universities will now need to evaluate their investment and growth strategies to ensure their long-term viability.

Labour Outlines Plans to Scrap Tuition Fees

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

Labour plans to scrap university tuition fees if the party wins the upcoming election.

Labour believes education should be free and will look to restore this principle by reintroducing maintenance grants for university students and abolishing university tuition fees.

The proposals were originally revealed by shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, at a speech he held in Mansfield, during which he said Labour would scrap tuition fees "once and for all".

It's estimated the cost of scrapping tuition fees will be in the region of £8bn, with an additional £2bn needed to reintroduce maintenance grants.

Critics of higher tuition fees have argued increases to the amount students pay in fees will actually cost the public purse more than before they were tripled, as a result of students failing to earn sufficient salaries to pay back the loans.

For the last few years the value loans borrowed by students has topped £10bn, with write off costs reportedly reaching 45%, essentially nullifying any savings made to the public purse.

Labour has said it would fund education policies via its announced increase to corporation tax, from which it hopes to raise £19.4bn.

However, they've been criticised by the opposition for appearing to indicate several policies which would be funded from raising corporation tax.

Despite this, the party hopes the pledge to scrap tuition fees will provide an attractive proposition to younger voters.

Universities UK to Push for Trade Agreements Post-Brexit

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

A report commissioned by Universities UK, has suggested the UK government must be willing to make political concessions to ensure higher education cooperation is maintained with other countries post-Brexit.

The report was put together by the UK Trade Policy Observatory and calls on government to prioritise higher education and research collaboration post-Brexit through free trade agreements (FTAs) with the EU.

The research argued: "The UK has strong interests in education services trade in both directions and must recognise that it will have to make concessions in order to win them."

It's suggested access to the UK for students and restrictions they have post-qualification, will most likely feature among the demands made by trade partners in exchange for including higher education and research cooperation in FTAs.

Although it's recognised the concessions will be politically difficult, the report argues the benefits outweigh what the UK stands to lose if cooperation falters.

Deputy chief executive at Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, said of the report: "The positive contribution of UK higher education to the UK economy and society will be greatest if British universities are magnets for international talent, are welcoming to international students and are leaders in international research collaboration."

It's hoped that a collaboration at a high level between countries, will mitigate some of the challenges the UK's higher education sector may face as its trade links shift.

Given the importance of FTAs for higher education collaboration, it's recommended the industry lobbies for the inclusion of both specific agreements and a broader commitment to collaboration, with scope to develop the agreements over time.

Birmingham University Warns Academics are Being Poached Due to Brexit

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Birmingham University has warned that European colleges are trying to poach academics from British universities because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

The university also suggested European academics had withdrawn from job applications due to a lack of clarity about the UK's future relations with the EU.

The warnings were reported in a paper submitted by the university to the Commons Education Committee, which conducted an inquiry into how Brexit was affecting the higher education sector.

Birmingham University employs over 7,000 staff from more than 150 nationalities. It told MPs: "We are deeply concerned at the lack of clarity for our EU staff and there have been a number of instances where potential highly-skilled EU academics have withdrawn from recruitment processes citing Brexit.

"We also have examples of our EU academics being targeted for recruitment by European universities."

The university estimate that overseas students, including those from the EU, contribute £408 million to the West Midlands economy, helping to sustain 5,180 jobs in the region and beyond.

Birmingham University have asked the Government to run a campaign encouraging students to come and study in the UK. They suggested a stronger marketing focus to ensure the UK's higher education sector doesn't lose market share to other countries.

Similar concerns were raised by Newcastle University, with Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof Tony Stevenson, saying: "The Government have the narrative of global Britain open for business and we seem to be doing something different in the immigration space for students."

Tuition Fees Increases Approved by Parliament

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

Legislation allowing universities to increase tuition fees has been pushed through parliament ahead of its dissolution in the run up to the general election.

The higher education legislation had been intended to make higher fees dependent on improved teaching. However, this will not come into force until 2020-21 and up until then universities can increase fees in-line with inflation, without a link to teaching quality.

As a result, students will face fees of £9,250 a year at almost all universities. This is on top of sudden increase in interest rates that student loans are subject to, which have increased from 4.6% to 6.1%.

The Higher Education and Research Bill faced a large number of amendments in the House of Lords, but after a number of compromises the legislation was passed prior to Parliament shutting down.

Although a framework to link teaching quality to tuition fees will be introduced, in won't be for at least three years. In the meantime, universities signed up to be part of the plans to measure teaching quality are free to increase fees in line with inflation.

An independent review of the proposed teaching excellence framework will begin in 2018, with the aim to introduce annual increases in line with teaching quality from 2020-21.

Universities have also argued for overseas students to be omitted from migration targets, although so far, this proposal has been rejected.

Universities are hopefully that the status of overseas students could be reconsidered as part of wider reviews of migration during the Brexit negotiations.

Mass Exodus of Staff Threatens UK Universities

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

The government is being urged to act quickly or risk a post-Brexit brain drain, which could detrimentally impact the international competitiveness of the UK's university sector.

A new report by the Commons education committee calls for the working rights of 32,000 university staff from EU countries to be guaranteed as a matter of urgency.

The report suggests government should be willing to unilaterally agree the rights of EU nationals in the UK before the end of the year, even without a reciprocal deal in place.

Without such a guarantee, there are concerns they may be a mass exodus of talented EU staff leaving the UK for competitor countries.

Initiating the report, Neil Carmichael, the Conservative chairman of the committee, said: "Higher education in the UK is a world leader, but Brexit risks damaging our international competitiveness and the long-term success of our universities."

Published on Tuesday, the report highlights a survey undertaken by the University and College Union (UCU), which indicated 76% of European academics in UK universities said they were more likely to consider leaving the sector because of the referendum.

A separate poll found 53% of non-UK nationals were actively seeking to leave the UK altogether, whilst reports suggest staff from the EU were rejecting job offers due to the uncertainty about Brexit.

In addition to guaranteeing EU workers' rights, the report calls for overseas students to be removed from net migration targets and reform of the immigration system to promote movement to and from UK higher-education.

They've also urged the government to ensure funding for research associated with EU's Horizon 2020 project is matched, in case access to the scheme and other frameworks stops.

Commenting on the report, Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, said: "Along with international students, overseas staff make a huge contribution to UK society and I call on the government to end their uncertainty or risk damaging the UK's ability to attract staff and students from around the world."

European Students Eligible for Loans and Grants in 2018-19

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

The government has announced that Europeans studying in the UK will remain eligible for grants and loans in 2018-19.

Even after the UK leaves the European Union, those students from the EU will remain entitled to receive grants and loans for the 2018-19 academic year.

Ministers said attracting talent from across the globe was key to success and the announcement will go some way to easing concerns over EU students' rights post Brexit.

Separately, the government had already guaranteed financial support to those starting courses this year, but the latest announcement was welcomed by vice-chancellors.

University UK's deputy chief executive, Alistair Jarvis, said: "Students from EU countries can now apply for places on undergraduate courses starting in autumn 2018 with the confidence that they will not have to pay up-front tuition fees and will remain eligible to receive government-backed loans to cover their tuition fee for the duration of their courses.

"This announcement also means that EU students commencing courses in autumn 2018 will continue to pay the same tuition fees as UK students for the full duration of their courses, even those years past the point the UK exits the EU."

Mr Jarvis suggested it was now vital the government communicates the change in policy to prospective students across Europe.

Meanwhile, acting director of the Russell Group of top research universities, Dr Tim Bradshaw, suggested the announcement gives EU students the certainty they need when considering the UK and provides clarity to universities.

RLA Argues Agency Fee Ban Unlikely Before Late 2018

Posted by Richard Ward in

Analysis by the Residential Landlords' Association (RLA) suggests a ban on letting agents charging fees to tenants in England is unlikely to be implemented before late next year.

The legislation is currently at consultation stage and is open for responses until June 2. Despite the recent call for a general election, the Department of Communities and Local Government has confirmed this remains the case.

The association's policy director, David Smith, said of the proposals: "The ban will need primary legislation and so the actual implementation date is not clear but is unlikely to be before late 2018."

The RLA have also argued there are several issues surrounding the consultation document.

The RLA argue the document highlights that the government assumes the entire agency market is the same. In reality they claim in some areas landlords have difficulty shopping around, whilst in more serviced markets there is reportedly evidence that tenants do shop around and compare agent fees.

Mr Smith also questioned another of the governments objectives, namely limiting the size of tenancy deposits. The argument is any such control would result in rent being asked for in advance or guarantors being sought.

Another concern is whether removing the ability to charge agency fees will mean those to landlords will rise.

In addition to the problem of enforcing the ban, he added: "With landlords already being pressed by tax changes they may well look to increase rent to cover these new costs although there will be a cap on what the market will bear in some areas."

University of Bath's Student Union Supports Cut the Rent Campaign

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

The University of Bath has endorsed a 'Cut the Rent' campaign aimed at fighting the increasing costs of student housing.

The announcement comes as the University of Bath seeks to raise additional income from student accommodation and other areas to counter cuts in public funding.

According to campaigners, the university has increased the proportion of luxury student accommodation while at the same time admitting more students. As a result, demand for student housing has increased while the supply of affordable bed spaces has fallen. Luxury accommodation on the University campus now costs over £150 per person per week to rent.

Since 2001, when the current Vice Chancellor came to office, university-owned accommodation rent has reportedly increased 150%. Due to these increases, just two student halls, namely Osbourne House and Eastwood, provide students with beds which cost lower than 50% of the maximum maintenance loan a student can receive.

The National Union of Students are worried that higher rents, along with the rise of private purpose-built student accommodation, will lead to more financial pressure on students.

The Cut the Rent Campaign is arguing the University of Bath has exceeded its target operating surplus each year since 2012, meaning it could reduce rents in University managed accommodation.

The student union has now adopted the policy and the campaign has demanded the union becomes active in seeking reduced rents.