Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Higher education predictions

I have contributed the following thoughts to the Guardian's website on higher education in 2012:

2012 will be the year when the government's HE changes are properly tested.  I think ministers will struggle to resolve the central tension in the government's approach to higher education: how to develop a market while paying the up front costs of higher loans. The redistribution of 20,000 places for those charging lower fees seems unlikely to do it, and FE colleges are finding it harder to gain university accreditation for their degree courses. Legislation due in the spring could see measures to try to force more of a market and a wider range of lower cost degree courses. The Open University will find itself accrediting many more courses than it does now.

If student numbers for 2012 are significantly down on 2011 figures {the final application figures are published later this month], there will be growing Lib Dem and Labour pressure for stronger access regulation that will be resisted by universities. At the same time, the reality of the fees will see renewed pressure to increase contact time with students. Parents and students will demand more teaching and tutorial time to justify the fees they are paying, and this will become a big issue in the autumn.

The UK will struggle in the international market, as Australian, other European and South East Asian competitor universities successfully highlight the 'hostility' of the UK government towards overseas students, and offer attractive packages including English booster courses, simpler visa facilities and postgraduate work experience. Ministers will be forced to rethink this aspect of their migration policy as they see the economic impact.

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