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Apprenticeship levy and the new Green Paper Higher Education

Things can only get better… right?

It is almost 20 years since the introduction of tuition fees and the scrapping of maintenance grants; one of the first major decisions of the Blair administration in 1997. Asking students to pay for their university education, the conclusion of The Dearing Report published earlier that year, signalled the start of Higher Education’s marketization in England, explains Rajesh Patel and Bob Athwal from University of Leicester.

Rajesh Patel

Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice’ heralds the biggest shake-up of Higher Education since 1997.

P Bob Athwal

Published in November last year, its proposals covered: Teaching Excellence, Quality and Social Mobility: Introducing a new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to “deliver better value for money for students, employers and taxpayers”. Metrics proposed include students’ satisfaction, their retention and academic outcomes, and their employment/ destination following study. The extent to which students from disadvantaged backgrounds and under-represented groups both access and benefit from Higher Education is also likely to feature.

There is a strong

political focus on social mobility and the government is looking to universities to help realise this.

Opening the sector to new providers: Provisions to make it easier for new providers to enter the higher education market by creating: (a) a new single gateway for entry; and (b) a common system for all providers. The paper also highlights provisions

for existing institutions to ‘leave’ the market. An ominous sign for

universities that are struggling, making

it clear that the government can envisage a university failing.

Simplifying the higher education architecture: The ‘Office for Students’ (OfS) proposed role, replacing the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Office for Fair Access will be to promote the student interest, “ensure value for money”, and “reduce the regulatory burden on the sector.” Reducing complexity and bureaucracy in research funding: With no HEFCE

10 Graduate Recruiter |

olicy that emerges in 2016 from the government’s Green Paper ‘Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching

(who currently allocate grant funding for teaching and research in England) this would separate responsibility for teaching and research.

The outcome of the Green Paper’s consultation will be due sometime this spring. But, whether you regard these as positive or negative, the emerging policy does have implications for graduate recruiters, and it is important to consider the following questions as you, along with universities, move toward a brave new world.

a) Firstly, how do you collaborate with universities? Two things are emphasised here: collaboration and the quality of it. Universities need employers to be ‘active partners. The important point is that increasing student contact time in universities will change the way that the ‘staples’ of graduate attraction (i.e. campus presentation and skills sessions) are delivered. Quite soon, if not already, universities will question the value of these and look more at what can, and should, be integrated into the taught curriculum.

b) Does your recruitment secure a diverse range of graduates? There is a strong political focus on social mobility and the government is looking to universities to help realise this. However, the ambitions of this paper, as highlighted by The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s State of the Nation report published last year, are impossible without real changes in graduate recruitment. With increasing pressure on universities to demonstrate the progression of students from underrepresented groups, it is not inconceivable that

universities will focus their efforts, their time and resource, on those employers that are making changes like the contextual recruiting systems some law and professional service firms have been praised for using. The question for you is whether you too have started thinking about these changes?

c) Soon you’ll have more data… but how are you going to use it? It has been on the horizon for a while, but the TEF will also encourage providers to adopt the grade point average (GPA) alongside traditional degree classifications. The GPA uses a 13-point scale and takes account of student performance during their course, not just in final exams. With more data to hand, how are you going to use this?

d) Finally, how will you continue the development universities have begun? With students demanding more from universities, it is only logical that they will look on their employment in a similar way. This is compounded by a report into the supply and demand for higher level skills published last year which underlines the strong growth in graduate recruitment highlighted by all the major surveys (i.e. AGR’s Graduate Recruitment Survey 2015, High Fliers Research and the CBI/ Pearson Education and Skills Survey). Therefore, the importance of a comprehensive recruitment strategy cannot be underestimated. However, neither then can your commitment to graduates’ ongoing development, something our own research into what makes graduate employer attractive has highlighted. The question is not just what you are doing, but how you’re communicating this.

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