In last week’s South West Skills Newsletter, I reported onvocational qualifications, NIACE’s Manifesto, measuring university-business cooperation, the provision of – and quality assurance in – Higher Education, and Local Enterprise Partnership funding. This week, the headlines are around Universities Week,maximising opportunities using student population statistics, student volumes;graduate recruitment& employability and the Guardian University League table 2015.

University of Exeter celebrated Universities Week with range of activities, featuring in a UK-wide campaign to highlight the value and importance of universities to our everyday lives. David Willetts marked the week, speaking at Bournemouth University, announcing £48 million of new investment in biomedical research. At the start of Universities Week, the vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey criticised those who promoted higher education as a way of earning more money in future. “Trying to measure everything by the X number of pounds it’s going to get you, that’s not the right way of doing it,” he said.

According to a Eurydice report published recently, not enough countries are using the information they collect on Higher Education (HE)to improve their universities and the opportunities they offer for students. ‘Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe: Access, Retention and Employability’ investigates what governments and Higher Education Institutions are doing to widen access to HE, increase the number of students that complete HE (retention), and give guidance to students on entering the labour market (employability).This comes as businesses across the UK are planning a rise in graduate recruitment this year, indicating growing confidence and an improving economy, employment experts suggest. High Fliers research finds that a growing number of students are applying for jobs nearly a year before their graduation.  Dr Anthony Mann at the Education and Employers Taskforce, working withcolleagues from University of Warwick and King’s College London, published a literature review entitled Understanding Employer Engagement in Education: theories and evidence.

A report from the University and College Union (UCU) has highlighted the effect that devolution is having on outcomes for post-compulsory education in different parts of the UK.The number of part-time students in English universities now stands at 139,000 – nearly half the 2010 total of 259,000 students, a separate report, from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which itself was released in response to a University Alliance report entitled ‘How do we ensure quality in an expanding higher education system?‘.  Professor Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE’s Chief Executive, said: “The Government has asked us to develop mechanisms to assure the quality of the student experience when student number controls are removed. We have also started work to examine how students might be better protected in the event of untoward disruption to their studies”. Matthew Hancock recently addressed the Association of Colleges International Conference, speaking on the International Education Strategy.

The four UK HE funding bodies and Research Councils UK (RCUK) have written to the heads of all UK HE institutions inviting input into the science and innovation strategy, as non-Russell Group universities rise in theGuardian University League Table 2015, knocking former favourites out of top slots. The University of Exeter has enjoyed significant success in the latest league table, strengthening its position as one of the best universities in the country. One of Exeter’s latest ventures is looking to train the business leaders of tomorrow with a new £5.5 million purpose built business school, the first of its kind in Cornwall. Dr Garry Tregidga recently reflected on the impact of the European Union, suggesting that a ‘Cornish solution’ will ensure economic regeneration.Measuring the impact of university-business cooperation is a new study from the EU’s DG Education and Culture, which highlights numerous benefits of university-business cooperation in the field of education, such as: Strengthening levels of human capital; Stimulating entrepreneurship; Knowledge exchange; and Raising the profile of an organisation.

I hope you find this information useful.



National Headlines

Guardian University League Table 2015
Non-Russell Group universities rise, knocking former favourites out of top slots.

University league tables 2015 – by subject
Subject areas available at UK universities.

UK Employers Plan Graduate Hiring Boom, IDS Data Shows
Businesses across the UK are planning a rise in graduate recruitment this year, indicating growing confidence and an improving economy, employment experts suggest.

Extra 30,000 students funded by higher earnings and tax
An expansion in student numbers – which will see an extra 30,000 places this autumn – will be self-financing in the long term, says Universities Minister David Willetts.

Universities’ Key Role in Real Economy
There are some that still consider universities to be ivory towers that are largely out of touch with the world of business and industry. Yet, the reality is that higher education institutions are an active participant and contributor in driving forward local, regional and national economies around the World.

Funding boost for skills training in the South West
Businesses in the south-west of England will benefit from a new boost in funding for skills training. A total of £400,000 has been secured to help local firms ensure that their staff are equipped with the necessary training and encourage a greater take-up of apprenticeships in the area.

David Willetts welcomes Universities Week with £48 million investment in biomedical research
David Willetts recently used his speech at Bournemouth University to announce £48 million of new investment in biomedical research.

Jobs in the future will require skills and investment in education
Many of the jobs expected to drive economic growth in the future will require vocational qualifications, says a report released today from the Institute for Public Policy and Research.

New initial teacher training inspection framework needs to recognise the differences in colleges
Joy Mercer, Director of Education Policy at the Association of Colleges, said “It is disappointing that the Ofsted consultation focused so much on school-based initial teacher education (ITE). It did not recognise the difference in further education (FE) where trainees come from a college’s own staff and external agencies like the police.”

VQ Day – vocational qualifications a route to future success
To mark VQ Day 2014, a new report from the Institute of Public Policy Research has investigated the changing landscape of the workforce.

10 Things You Need to Know about e-Learning
Internet-based education offers everything from a free maths lecture to a full course on ancient Roman history. But it has its critics…

Priorities of the Next European Commission – A British Perspective
Foreign Office Minister David Lidington outlined five priorities for the next European Commission in a speech at the European Policy Centre.

UK ‘Second Best Education in Europe’
The UK is in second place among European countries and sixth overall in a global education league table.

UK students trailing EU peers on take up of Erasmus exchanges
The Erasmus+ programme, which aims to boost the number of students and staff studying and working abroad across the European Union, started on January 1 2014.

Erasmus Exchanges get Down to Business
For a generation of European students, the Erasmus programme has been synonymous with having a good time while studying in another country.

Erasmus+ Online Linguistic Support – Update
The European Commission plans to introduce the on-line linguistic support for English, French, German, Italian and Spanish as of 1st October 2014 at the earliest.

Building world-leading research communities
The first GW4 Alliance projects to receive funding to build research communities focused on tackling some of the world’s grand challenges, have been unveiled. The GW4 Alliance – an alliance between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter – has released the results of its first GW4 Building Communities programme.

The University of Exeter Sets Up Duchy’s First Business School
The University of Exeter is looking to train Cornwall business leaders of tomorrow with a new £5.5 million purpose built business school.

GFirst LEP and the University of Gloucestershire Growth Hub Business Venture Creates 18 New Jobs
The Growth Hub, a partnership between GFirst LEP and the University of Gloucestershire, has launched a recruitment drive for 18 professionals to join the team.

UK Research Publications

How place influences employment outcomes for ethnic minorities
Looks at the influence of location on employment for ethnic minorities, asking why ethnic minority people fare disproportionately worse in the labour market in areas of high deprivation. Examines the roles of culture, racism and class, and of familial, community and state support in affecting employment outcomes. Finds that, whilst social segregation may provide support, it can also reduce employment performance, limiting social networks and inhibiting labour market knowledge.

Moving up the ladder? Labour market outcomes in the United Kingdom amid rising immigration
Analyses the labour market integration of recent immigrants to the United Kingdom, based on UK Labour Force Survey data. Distinguishes between different cohorts based on the year of their arrival in the country. Finds that, in 2012, new arrivals from within the European Union were almost three times more likely to be in low-skilled work than natives. Over time all groups showed some progress in moving out of the lowest-skilled jobs.

Selective schooling systems increase inequality
Investigates the impact on earnings inequality of a selective education system in which school assignment is based on initial test scores. Uses a large, representative household panel survey to compare adult earnings inequality of those growing up under a selective education system with those educated under a comprehensive system. Finds the wage distribution for individuals who grew up in selective schooling areas is quantitatively and statistically significantly more unequal.

The funding of further and higher education
This paper summarises current UCU policy and discusses the overall picture of funding, resources and student contribution within F/HE in the four nations before looking at the main political currents and potential for change. It also includes recommendations for six key tests against which UCU might judge new policy on funding either within the UK itself or the devolved nations.

IPPR – Winning the global race? Jobs, skills and the importance of vocational education
Analyses the latest projections on the changing shape of the jobs market in the UK to presents a more complex picture of the skills needs of our economy. Concludes that Britain needs stronger and better-quality vocational education, coupled with new business models that make better use of workforce skills and enable companies to move up the value chain to take advantage. This will require employers to engage in a more meaningful way in vocational education and skills development than they do currently.

How do we ensure quality in an expanding higher education system?
Considers what kind of quality assurance system is going to be fit for this more complex new world of expanding higher education. Suggests quality assurance does, and should, sit within a broader framework for regulation of providers. Primarily focuses on quality assurance rather than the wider regulatory system, setting out nine recommendations for the future of the quality assurance system in England.

Understanding Employer Engagement in Education: theories and evidence
A review of the associated literature compiled by the Education and Employers Taskforce, working with colleagues from University of Warwick and King’s College London.

Exploring the impacts of the UK government’s welfare reforms on lone parents moving into work
Explores the experiences of lone parents in a context of increasing benefit conditionality and welfare reform. Looks at the challenges and opportunities facing lone parents who wish to return to work, or are being compelled to do so because their youngest child has turned five. It sought to understand: the issues facing a lone parent seeking work; what it is like being a lone parent on Jobseeker’s Allowance; and how the expectations placed upon them as Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants relate to the realities of seeking, entering into and sustaining paid work as a lone parent.

Technology manifesto
Sets out three principal goals: to build the world’s most connected and digitally skilled society; to make Britain the most attractive place outside of Silicon Valley for technology entrepreneurs to start and grow a business; and to make our government the smartest in the world.

Qualifications at level 5 – progressing in a career or to higher education
This study of EQF level 5 qualifications on the basis of learning outcomes reveals much greater complexity, diversity and dynamism than previously assumed. But where they fit within the spectrum of education and training is not always clear. Typical level 5 qualifications are provided by short-cycle higher education programmes; yet the study finds that half of learning outcomes at this level are vocational education and training or outside the formal system.

Navigating difficult waters – learning for career and labour market transitions
Cedefop has shown that participation in training has a positive effect on the probability of finding a job. This study adds to such results by showing that learning can support labour market transitions of adult workers by increasing their adaptability to a changing environment.

Intervention in further education – the strengthened intervention process

Details how the Further Education (FE) Commissioner process helps deal with underperformance in FE corporations and institutions. This document explains:
– the role and purpose of the FE Commissioner
– details how the FE Commissioner process operates
– when and how BIS will communicate FE Commissioner intervention
– lessons BIS has learned from those interventions

International Research Publications

Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe: Access, Retention and Employability
Investigates what governments and Higher Education Institutions are doing to widen access to HE, increase the number of students that complete HE (retention), and give guidance to students on entering the labour market (employability).

Measuring the impact of university-business cooperation
Study from the EU’s DG Education and Culture, which highlights numerous benefits of university-business cooperation in the field of education, such as: Strengthening levels of human capital; Stimulating entrepreneurship; Knowledge exchange; and Raising the profile of an organisation.

Developing apprenticeships (CEDEFOP briefing note)
Briefing note from CEDEFOP, which finds that, despite their advantages as a way of aligning vocational education and training to labour market needs, apprenticeships are underused.

The effects of the EU equal-treatment legislation directive for fixed-term workers – evidence from the UK
Uses eleven years of data from the Labour Force Survey to assess whether new legislation has led to a decrease in the average wage gap between fixed-term andpermanent workers. For women, there is no evidence of that. For men, the wage gap appears to have closed after 2002. However, this gap was falling even before 2002 and some evidence of changes in the selection of workers after the implementation of the Directive cast doubts on the extent to which the closing of the gap can be ascribed to the new legislation.


Young adult carers and employment
Highlights that young people providing unpaid care for friends and family have many fewer opportunities in education and the workplace as a result. Shows that nearly 50% have physical health that is ‘just okay’ or ‘poor’, and over half reported currently experiencing a mental health problem.

Looking forward to later life – taking an early action approach to our ageing society
Argues that unprecedented increases in life expectancy over the last century have not been matched with a clear understanding, across society, of what we expect from our newfound older age. Discusses what it would be like if public services, businesses, civil society and all of us as individuals were ready, both to take advantage of the opportunities and to successfully navigate the challenges of later life, we would experience a triple dividend – increased wellbeing, reduced costs, and increased contribution. This requires a new vision for later life.

Gender and the quality of work – from boom to recession
Considers gender differences in both the quantity and quality of work before and during the recession using high-quality, nationally representative Irish and international data.

Analysis of employee contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours
There is no legal definition of “zero-hours contracts”. Consequently, different groups and bodies will not only measure the number of such contracts in different ways, they will also have different perceptions of what should be included as “zero-hours contracts”. Significantly, the perceptions of employers and employees on what constitutes a particular type of contract will differ. Also, estimates from both employers and employees may be influenced by their level of awareness of such contracts.

Launch of University Ranking – U-Multirank
U-Multirank is a new tool to compare universities, launched earlier this month.


Improving financial stability and efficiency in Higher Education – sustainability, alternative revenue streams and lean ways of working
19 November 2014, central London

Steve Egan, Deputy Chief Executive, HEFCE, will be speaking at this event, which will bring out latest thinking on making the Higher Education sector more efficient, and to increase financial stability at a time of considerable changes to university funding – focusing on options and implementation.

Next steps for the Research Excellence Framework
23 April 2015, central London

David Sweeney, Director, HEFCE will be speaking at this seminar, which is scheduled to follow publication of this year’s Research Excellence Framework (REF), the system by which the quality of research from UK HEIs is assessed – with significant implications for public funding for universities’ research, for benchmarking, and for academic reputation.

Falling Off the Radar? The impacts of digital by default
23 June 2014, 10.00 – 15.30, Best Western Tiverton Hotel, Blundells Road, Tiverton

This conference aims to bring key stakeholders together, to discuss and promote synergies between agencies involved in the promotion of digital and social inclusion in Devon, with a focus on deprived urban areas and rural communities. Confirmed speakers include: Professor Jane Seale (University of Exeter), Nora Corkery (Devon Welfare Rights Unit) and Julie Hawker (Cosmic and LEP). Rob Garrett: rgarrett@tuc.org.uk or telephone 07899 966 358.

IntoWork Convention 2014
8-9 July 2014, Arena Convention Centre, Liverpool

In 2014 it will be called the IntoWork Convention and will be for everyone involved in helping people find work, keep work and progress in work. The IntoWork Convention will be larger and more interactive showcasing ‘what works’ in employment, skills, health and for disadvantaged people.

TUC Congress 2014
7-10 September 2014, BT Convention Centre, Kings Dock, Liverpool L3 4FP

Visitor application forms will be available from May.

2013 results of the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)
How to Best Shape Teacher Policies? Policy lessons from international comparisons.
25-26 June 2014, Tokyo, Japan

With the theme “How to Best Shape Teacher Policies? Policy lessons from international comparisons and guidance for education and schools in the future”, this Seminar aims to provide an opportunity to exchange views on how to best shape teacher policy so as to have the strongest impact on the quality of the learning environment.

AoC Sustainability Portfolio Group – 1st annual conference
8 July 2014, Think Low Carbon Centre, Barnsley

The conference, entitled; Sustainability, Employment, Education and the Role of Colleges, will showcase best practice from around the regions of England on colleges’ success in engaging learners in the importance of Sustainable Skills for Employability. It will also highlight the successful career paths provided by sustainability and environmental skills. The venue for the event is the Think Low Carbon Centre, Barnsley College. We have chosen the venue to demonstrate the technology and techniques needed to make a low carbon building as well as highlighting how colleges can lead the way on sustainability. With our partners, Social enterprise organisation, 4 All of Us, we will also be creating a sustainable legacy fund via the conference. This fund will be open to Colleges and groups demonstrating sustainability within further education.

HEFCE Annual Meeting 2014
16 October 2014, 09:30-13:00, Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG

The meeting offers an opportunity to learn more about current developments, HEFCE’s role and the challenges facing higher education. Booking for the event will open in August.

Welfare reform – creating effective local delivery partnerships
20 December 2014, Prospero House, Borough High Street, London SE1

This one day conference will provide an early opportunity to consider the updated Local Support Services Framework and will feature examples of best practice in the planning and delivery of services sharing learning from the Local Authority led pilots as well as drawing on the experience of housing associations, and third sector organisations in the delivery of budgeting support, debt advice, and financial inclusion inititatives, local welfare schemes, and digitial inclusion projects.

Unions and the path to war – Tolpuddle Radical History School
17 July to 19 July 2014, Tolpuddle Festival Site

Open to all, the history school is a great chance to learn more about radical and trade union history. Running ahead and alongside the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival it offers a chance to learn lessons from the past in beautiful, rural Dorset. There will be plenty of opportunitity for discussion. Visit the Tolpuddle Martyrs website for full programme information.

Living and Working in Wiltshire Event 2014
3 July 2014, Tidworth Leisure Centre, Nadder Road, Tidworth, Wiltshire, SP9 7QN

The “Living and Working in Wiltshire and Swindon” event will bring local businesses and the military together in Tidworth on 3rd July 2014.

IfL Fellowship Research Programme
17th Oct 2014, Oxford

The IfL Fellowship Research Programme is designed to develop individuals’ research and publication skills.

Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen Careers Show 2014
17 June 2014, 10:00 – 20:00, Thistle Cheltenham Hotel, Gloucester Road, Cheltenham

A new careers fair will give job hunters unrivalled access to the county’s top employers. The Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen Careers Show 2014 will take place at The Thistle Cheltenham Hotel in June. The show, which is signing up a range of large and small employers across the county, is backed by the newspapers’ job section Jobs 24/7.