Tuesday, 28 February 2012

In which my lack of enthusiasm for KIS is not universally shared

Sir Tim Wilson's review of business/university collaboration has recommended the adoption of a KIS for postgraduates as 'a priority development'. So clearly Sir Tim thinks better of the KIS than I do. It is difficult for me to argue that I know more about HE than he does, so I won't try.

What I will note, though, is that the problems of data aggregation and publication which exist in UG courses are even more severe in PG courses, which are often smaller (and sometimes very small indeed), usually last only a single year, and are even more diverse in their intake. HESA Destinations (DLHE) data show that graduates from certain PG courses are in astonishingly high-paying jobs six months after graduation, but the truth is that these individuals were often in those same very high-paying jobs before they began the course.

So if this one of Sir Tim's recommendations finds favour with BIS, I at least will not be cheering.

Monday, 27 February 2012

I Return to the Key Information Set

Update: I updated this post at 1:35 on Monday 27 February to emphasise that the screen shot posted below is work-in-progress.

I haven’t posted much about the Key Information Set. In my last role I was given responsibility for collecting the data, but I left that role before HEFCE published any useful guidance. In my current role I have – hitherto – escaped responsibility but my boss has now asked me to take on the data collation and submission so I have spent a couple of days reviewing the guidance and attending the HESA KIS training event last week at SOAS. Now I have begun to get my head around KIS again.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The outriders of the AAB apocalypse

A while back I posted about the UCAS data, identifying the four institutions I consider most at risk from core/margin. They are Surrey, City, Goldsmiths and Aston, institutions which I offended one reader by describing as 'surprisingly posh', although I meant by that only that they are a lot further up the league tables than London Metropolitan. Since then, there has been further confirmation in the press that institutions have over-recruited by a very serious margin in 2011/12. This will cost BIS a lot of money, and make the prospect of moving the AAB boundary even less inviting (it is also, incidentally, a truly shocking example of the challenged competence of certain HE managers. The London Met staff posting on that THE story have, in my view, every right to be angry with senior managers who have let them down badly by managing their admissions so poorly. We have had years to get used to the Student Number Control now). So there is the possibility that the AAB boundary will stay at AAB for many years. What kind of impact would that have on these four outriders of the apocalypse?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Judging the OFFA controversy

So, the Select Committee has tried to veto Les Ebdon, and Vince Cable has stood by his man. I call this a straight knock-down-drag-out win to Vince and Les. First there is the straightforward matter of the outcome - the Select Committee can't actually prevent Vince from appointing the Director he wants provided the Minister holds his nerve, which clearly he has done in this case. But secondly (and this must have helped the Minister over the last couple of days as this was debated within Government), there is the sheer cack-handedness with which the Committee has acted.

Here are the key phrases from the Committee's report:

Speculation about OFFA

I speculated that Les Ebdon might not be a popular choice at OFFA, and now the THE are reporting that he may indeed have been nobbled.

Speculation can send soon, though: the Committee Report will be published here at noon today, and put us all out of our misery.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Core and Margin yet again: drawing some connections with the UCAS data

There have been a lot of core/margin posts on this blog and they used to be one of the main things that people read. As time goes on, other topics have gotten more popular, but core/margin still matters a lot to me so I'm going to carry on posting.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

UCAS data: some good reporting by the Guardian

This story carries some more detail on the UCAS statistics which I mentioned in my previous post and set out what we can really conclude from them - which is to say little or nothing. It is a shame that no correction has been added to the Simon Hughes piece in which the original misleading presentation of these data was made.

Foolish Nonsense

Long-term readers of this blog will be aware that this story in the Evening Standard cost the MOD about 1,904 graduates. You may not be aware that the adult population of the Falklands is 2,480. I wonder if the other 576 already have degrees?

Still, at least the Argentinians will be dissuaded from attempting any foolish nonsense...

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Les Ebdon to lead OFFA

Although the Times Higher had the story a few days ago, BIS only confirmed yesterday that Les Ebdon is (subject to Parliamentary scrutiny at a pre-appointment hearing on Thursday 2 February) to be the next Director of Fair Access.

The last two Directors - Martin Harris and Graeme Davies - were old university VCs of the old school. Les Ebdon is still an ex-VC but his heritage (Bedfordshire and Million+) is a good deal less grand. Compared to earlier reports that the Government wanted someone from outside the sector, I suppose he constitutes a kind of half-way house. Potentially, though, the elite universities might have preferred someone from outside the sector who had not spent the last four years at Million+ diligently (if not always successfully) fighting against their interests.

The appointment is a consequential one because Government proposes to quadruple OFFA's resources (to nearly 12 people...) and, more importantly, consider new statutory powers. The delay to the HE Bill will allow Prof Ebdon to have a greater impact on what those new powers might be. The current OFFA is, by design, pretty much powerless; the White Paper, by contrast, suggested powers that would probably prove contentious if they ever came to be included in a Bill, such as:
  • the power to instruct an institution to spend a specific amount on access or retention from its additional fee income; 
  • a more flexible range of sanctions; or 
  • to make public an assessment of any institution that the Director feels is not making sufficient progress against its Access Agreement.
 It will be interesting to see how this appointment pans out, and perhaps worth watching the Select Committee website to see how things go on Thursday.