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.


National Union of Students Appoint New President

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

The National Union of Students have elected a new head after Malia Bouattia was overthrown.

Describing herself as a "mother from a working-class family", Shakira Martin received 56% of the votes at the NUS conference in Brighton.

Previously working as vice-president, she will take over the role of Malia Bouattia who was elected in 2016. Ms Bouattia came under pressure after an article she co-wrote in 2011 described Birmingham university as a "Zionist outpost".

Ms Martin is a former student at Lewisham and Southwark College and has promised a union which is "united and fighting for free education for everyone".

Commenting on her appointment, she said: "I am honoured and humbled to have been elected as NUS national president.

"I take this as a vote of trust that our members believe I can lead our national movement to be the fighting and campaigning organisation we need it to be, representing the breadth of our diverse membership.

"Further education made me who I am today and I look forward to sharing stories of just how powerful all forms of education can be when we're all given access to it.

"During my term in office I want to spend my time listening, learning and leading."

Past NUS presidents include Jack Straw, Charles Clarke, Liam Burns and Trevor Phillips and its long been believed the role suits those seeking political office.

Ms Martin beat the former president by 402 votes to 272.


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.


The University of Hertfordshire Nominated for Accommodation Award

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

The University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield has been shortlisted for the Best Student Housing award at the 2017 College and University Business Officers Awards.

Run in association with University Business, the CUBO Awards is a yearly event which aims to recognise the achievements of those working in higher education.

Chosen by a panel of CUBO members, the College Lane campus in Hatfield was one of three to be shortlisted for the Best Student Housing award.

The campus has benefited from significant investment over the last three years and its transformation forms part of the University's Estates Strategy.

A university spokesperson said of the accommodation: "Now home to around 3,000 students, the university wanted to create a genuine campus experience with students at the heart of the development.

"This includes creating community living which has been achieved by breaking down the accommodation into colleges of 500 bedrooms.

"There are also various social and communal areas across the residences with each having a large common room.

"Kitchens have also been built to cook and entertain, as well as a central social space, multi-use games area and 3G sports facilities."

The accommodation focuses on promoting social interaction, with its townhouses sharing a large open plan living, kitchen and dining area.

CUBO members will vote for the winners of the award, which will be announced at The CUBO Awards ceremony on June 28.


St Andrews Begins University Halls Expansion

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

The University of St Andrews has got the ball rolling on its £70 million student accommodation project.

The university has submitted two separate applications to expand its halls of residences to increase the number of available student bed spaces.

Planning applications were put forward to extend the Agnes Blackadder Hall and the University Hall. Once complete the extended accommodation will provide a further 360 student beds.

The plans fall within the university's wider ambition to provide 900 extra beds for students, which once complete would increase the amount of accommodation to 4,900 beds.

Construction work is expected to start in August of this year, with the project due for completion in time for the 2018/19 academic term.

Commenting on the development, the university said: "St Andrews has always been a small university, and intends to stay relatively small. The intimacy of the town, the closeness of the community and the interaction of town and gown are key elements of the St Andrews experience.

"However, we do plan managed, moderate student growth over the next 10 years."

The university suggested the aforementioned growth will allow the institution to resist inflationary pressures on its cost base, but does require additional investment into student housing.

Part of the plans also include the refurbishment of Gregory Place, Old Wing University Hall, and Andrew Melville Hall.

St Andrews Community Council have welcomed the development and at a recent planning meeting no objections were raised.


Student Debt Levels to Increase yet Further

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

Students are set to face a sudden increase in the interest rate applied to their tuition fees and maintenance loans.

The increase will impact millions of current and former students in England and Wales, with interest rates rising by around a third.

For students taking out loans since 2012, the applicable interest rate is based on the retail price index (RPI) measure of inflation in March, plus 3%.

The latest RPI was recorded at 3.1% compared to 1.6% last year and 0.9% in the year before. This will result in an increase rate charged on tuition fees and maintenance loans of 6.1%.

The resulting increase will lead to students facing higher costs before they've even graduated.

Students will also be impacted by an increase in tuition fees this year, with universities in England set to charge £9,250 per year.

The Intergenerational Foundation's latest report on tuition fee interest was dubbed "The Packhorse Generation", reflecting the increasing levels of debt that students face.

The foundation estimated that prior to the interest rate increase, students earning £41,000 per year will make repayments of £54,000 on tuition fees alone. Many students also take out loans to cover living costs, which place an additional financial burden on students.

The level of debt owed by students for tuition fee and maintenance loans rose to £76bn last year, compared with around £34bn in 2011.

Commenting on debt levels, the National Union of Student president, Malia Bouattia, said: "Graduates wanting to access the housing market, save and start pensions after university are already struggling to do so and this step will only disadvantage them further."

Ms Bouattia added that the rising levels of debt would "cast a long financial shadow over young people's lives."


University of Leicester Opens Chinese Campus

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

The University of Leicester is set to open a new Chinese campus in September this year.

Situated on the Panjin campus of Dalian University of Technology, the Leicester International Institute, Dalian University of Technology has been formally approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

Students attending the institution will study for dual degrees in Maths, Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering from University of Leicester and Dalian University of Technology. The University will also offer dual degrees for UK students spending one year in China as well as for Chinese students studying in Dalian.

Recruitment is already underway for its September 2017 launch and its expected that as numbers grow more than 10% of Leicester's undergraduates will be educated in Dalian.

Commenting on the partnership, President Guo from Dalian University of Technology, said: "This initiative will succeed because we will only recruit the very brightest students. We chose to work with Leicester because of their research reputation - our partnership will be strong because it is based on powerful research collaboration."

Meanwhile Pro-Vice-Chancellor International at The University of Leicester, Professor Sarah Dixon, said: "We are at the vanguard of institutions looking for collaboration beyond Europe which will be key to our future success. We no longer think of a Leicester education necessarily being taught in the UK. Our brand is strong overseas and we expect to extend our footprint further in the coming years. In addition, we want more and more of our UK students to become more internationalised by spending at least part of their education overseas".


UCAS Figures Show Declines in UK and EU Applicants

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

The latest figures released by UCAS for the March 24 application deadline show a 4% fall in UK applicants.

With a limited number of new applications made between the January and March deadline, the pattern of year-on-year changes is similar to that released for the January deadline.

The latest numbers show a decline of 4%, or around 25,000, compared to the same period a year earlier. This means the number of people applying to UK higher education courses for 2017 has now reached 601,770. The decline in applicants was slightly smaller than seen at the January deadline, when a 5% year-on-year reduction was reported.

There are now 496,010 UK applicants applying to higher education courses for 2017, down roughly 4% compared to the same point last year, while the number of EU applicants declined 6% to 45,140. The number of applicants from other overseas countries actually rose by 2% to 60,630.

The number of English 18 year olds applying to higher education increased by 1% or 1,490 taking the total to 233,830.

English 18 year olds are by far the largest group of applications to UK higher education, making up nearly 40% of the total number.


Lord Coe Named as Loughborough University's New Chancellor

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Former Olympic athlete Lord Sebastian Coe will become Loughborough University's new Chancellor.

Lord Coe will be officially installed during the summer graduation ceremonies scheduled for July.

A former graduate of Loughborough, he went on to claim Olympic fame after winning gold and silver in the 1980 and 1984 games.

Commenting on the appointment, profession Robert Allison, vice-chancellor of Loughborough University, said: "We are delighted to announce Lord Coe as our sixth Chancellor. As one of the world's most high profile sportsmen and a long standing friend of Loughborough University, he is perfect for the role."

Lord Coe is already the university's Pro-Chancellor and President of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), and acted as chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Loughborough was also recently named as the best university in the world to study sports-related subjects thanks to the latest QS World University Rankings.

President of Loughborough Students' Union, Jon Ako, said: "It's fantastic to have one of our most celebrated alumni take on the role of Chancellor, and I know the student body will join me in congratulating him on this new appointment."