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Poorer students aren't applying to university because of fears of high debts

Blog Editor, IOE Digital7 June 2017

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Is the sky really the limit when you’re from a poorer background? Pexels
Claire Callender. 
With various political parties pledging to abolish or alter tuition fees, the question of how to fund higher education is squarely back on the political agenda.
The Conservative government has argued in favour of tuition fees and student loans. It confidently declared that neither the abolition of undergraduate grants – which happened in 2016 – nor the proposed rise of full-time undergraduate tuition fees to (more…)

Higher education: how financial strategy took centre stage

Blog Editor, IOE Digital18 November 2016

Paul Temple.
Government decisions about student fee levels, research funding and all the other aspects of higher education finance, and how individual institutions respond to these policy choices, now form a central aspect of the study of higher education, in the UK and elsewhere.
But it was not always so: and one of the scholars who was largely responsible for bringing these matters centre-stage academically in the UK was Professor Emeritus Gareth Williams, who was honoured at a seminar held at the IOE this week. The event was structured around the book of essays written to celebrate his contribution to the study of the economics of higher education. The international significance of Gareth’s work is demonstrated by the fact that authors were from the United States, Germany and Canada, as well as from the UK.
As he remarks in his own commentary, Gareth began his work as an economist just at the time – the mid-1950s – when the economics of education was emerging as a distinct topic for study. He joined the IOE in 1984, after working for the OECD and then at the LSE. The Institute had by then become a leading centre for research in the economics of education under the leadership of Mark Blaug (1927-2011), a pioneering (more…)

Research excellence: getting better all the time – or is it?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 December 2014

Simon Marginson
Research assessment is only partly reliable as an indicator of the real quality of the work going on in higher education. It has a dual character. On one hand it is rooted in material facts and objective methods. Strong research quality and quantity should be and are rewarded in the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF), the results of which have just been published.
But the outcome is also shaped by the universities that select and fashion data for competitive purposes and the subject area panels that define research judged to be outstanding on a global scale.
Total research activity can never be fully captured in performance data. Some things, such as citations in top journals, are easier to measure than (more…)

Higher education’s X-Factor: everything you always wanted to know about the REF

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 December 2014

Chris Husbands
Imagine – if you do not work in a UK university – a cross between the Olympics, the X-factor and a visit from Father Christmas. That will give you some – some – idea of the REF (the Research Excellence Framework), and its importance in academic life. The results of REF2014 are published this week. Around the country, vice-chancellors, pro-vice-chancellors for research, deans, heads of department will be looking anxiously – not just at their own results, but at their competitors. As Gore Vidal famously put it: “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail”.
Research funding matters enormously to government, and to universities. For government, it is how new knowledge is generated, new science supported, innovations which will eventually strengthen national competitiveness developed. For universities, research is the lifeblood, motivating
academics and defining their purpose.
In the UK, the bulk of research funding is offered competitively, through bidding to research councils and charities, but the research infrastructure is funded through a grant – now called ‘QR’ (quality-related) funding. This system was developed in the 1980s; with public spending under pressure, (more…)