This week the headlines focus on the OECD’s latest ‘Education at a Glance’ findings, Marchmont research in the spotlight, the National Student Satisfaction Survey 2014, University; applying, work & study and graduate recruitment, student finance.  Last week’s South West Skills newsletter reported on growth in construction and skills shortages, wage growth in manufacturing, South Devon’s new University Technical College, the Civil Service Fast Stream and the search for an FE provider to take on A4e’s ailing £17m prison education contract.

Access to education continues to expand worldwide but the socio-economic divisions between tertiary-educated adults and the rest of society are growing according to a new report form the OECD. “This report from the OECD provides a wealth of data to help us understand the strengths and weaknesses of our learning and skills system and how we compare internationally. It deserves close consideration.” said David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE.

Ron McQuaid, Professor of Work and Employment at the University of Stirling and Dr Valerie Egdell at the Employment Research Institute, Edinburgh Napier University recently put Marchmont research in the spotlight, featuring our work ‘Good practice examples for labour market intelligence (LMI) tools in European regions and localities’ on Skills Development Scotland.

The satisfaction rate for students studying at UK universities and colleges has hit a 10-year high, with 86 per cent saying they are satisfied overall with their course, in this year’s National Student Survey (NSS). Students reported record levels of satisfaction in responses to the survey. Exeter students are the most satisfied of any of the Russell Group universities, with the universities of Belfast, St Andrews, Keele and Bath also among the top for student satisfaction. The University of Exeter has also been shortlisted for three Times Higher Education (THE) awards.

The UK has passed a significant milestone towards becoming a graduate economy, with more people now likely to have a degree than to have only reached school-level qualifications.  Record numbers of university places are on offer in the wake of A-level and AS-level results, announced this month. But just how important are GCSE grades when applying to university? For some courses and institutions they’re ‘very important’ but for others they might be meaningless. Some would argue that the hardest job for graduates is finding a job – we look at the problem graduates face when they try to find paid work. A recent survey of over 2,100 students carried out by the National Union of Students (NUS) suggests 13 percent of students now work full-time while at university. Grads for Growth have recently produced an excellent infographic illustrating the results of another NUS survey of 900 students looking at recent recruitment trends; the views & opinions of students & smaller businesses across the UK.

Amid calls to let universities underwrite student loans to reduce the burden on the taxpayer, David Willetts has suggested that students would benefit but opponents fear institutions would demand higher tuition fees to cover debts. A report by the Independent Commission on Fees, shows that 10 times more advantaged students get a place at a top university than their disadvantaged peers. In response to Shadow Universities Minister Liam Byrne’s comments on reshaping the higher education system, Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “We need the higher education system to refocus on technical and professional education, providing an alternative to academic study with features such as the flexibility to allow for part-time study alongside continuing in employment.” Labour is also calling for technical universities to be created as part of a blueprint for reshaping the higher education system to support a hi-tech, high-income economy. So, is it time to restructure our universities? Peter Scott, professor of higher education studies, Institute of Education argues that a federal approach could help tackle the divisive brand wars and class-bound hierarchies that dog our current system.

HEFCE has recently published its first register of higher education providers, launching this alongside an updated operating framework for higher education, which explains the arrangements for regulating higher education providers in England.

On the international stage, the University of Exeter’s first official visit to Brazil took place at the end of July, with Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Steve Smith leading a University delegation to the country to consolidate links with three leading research institutions: the University of São Paulo (USP), the Oswald Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) and the National Institute of Space Research (INPE).

Looking at developments closer to home, a new initiative, due to launch in September, will allow anyone in the South West or anywhere in the world to study business for free at the top ten ranked University of Exeter Business School, thanks to a collaboration between global accountancy body, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and online learning platform FutureLearn.

Camborne School of Mines has announced the launch of a pioneering new Programme, designed to deliver key learning and professional development to employees and stakeholders within the mining industry. As for tomorrow’s scientists and engineers, they can now apply for places at the Devon’s newest school, the South Devon University Technical College in Engineering, Water and the Environment, which opens its doors to the first intake of students this time next year.

The Women in Higher Education @Exeter bi-annual report has recently been released, highlighting the University of Exeter’s activities relating to the Athena SWAN charter, which leads me to flag the fifth annual Women into Leadership Conference in London this September – see events for more details.

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National Headlines

Data published on staff employed in the higher education sector
HEFCE has published interactive data on the trends in employment of staff in the higher education sector for the ten years, 2003-04 to 2012-13. 2012-13 is the first year in which detailed information on job types is available.

UCU comment on possible changes to student loans
UCU recently responded to reports about government proposals to reform the English student loan system which could lead to higher tuition fees for students and changes in loan terms.

UCU calls for an end to zero-hours contracts at meeting with industry leaders
UCU recently re-emphasised its opposition to zero-hours contracts at an industry briefing on atypical and zero-hours contracts hosted by conciliation experts Acas.

UK Research Partnership Investment Fund round 4
A further £100 million is being allocated across the UK to develop research facilities to encourage collaboration and support excellent research.

Invitation to apply for HEFCE Catalyst Fund monies
AoC is working with the HEA , QAA and NUS on a HEFCE catalyst fund bid (of around £3 million).

HEFCE welcomes streamlined TRAC Guidance
HEFCE welcomes the new streamlined guidance for the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) published by the TRAC Development Group (TDG). This will apply for reporting from the academic year 2014-15 onwards.

HEPI publishes detailed study of removing student number controls in Australia – and what it could mean for England
At the end of 2013, George Osborne announced the end of student number caps. In future, universities will be free to recruit as many students as they want. But it remains unclear how the change will be implemented, how it will be paid for and what it will mean in practice.

University of Gloucestershire shares student village plan
Plans to turn a former teaching campus of the University of Gloucestershire into a student village have been shared publicly for the first time.

Plymouth University board ‘united’ over CEO suspension
Plymouth University’s board of governors has said it is “united” behind a review process that led to the chief executive being suspended.

Record numbers have university places confirmed
A record number of students have had their university places confirmed, figures from admissions body Ucas show.

Grads for Growth – Budding graduates help businesses bloom this summer!
With an array of graduate placements being supported across the region, the Grads for Growth team are proud to see more and more placements coming to fruition and look forward to success stories yet to be written.

Universities and the 2015 election – gulf between big parties widens
Labour is committed to lowering fees, the Tories are eager to let them rise. Next year will be very significant for higher education, says Martin Hall.

Why computer science graduates can’t talk themselves into jobs
Maths and science graduates are victims of a dirigiste British education policy that fails both labour market and individual.

Attitude of young job candidates ‘more important’ than academic scores
Employers put greater value on attitude than academic results when it comes to recruiting young people, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has found.

Fast Stream offers route to civil service careers for future leaders
The Fast Stream programme offers talented graduates a quicker route to leadership and the opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives. Applications are open to join the Civil Service Fast Stream in 2015.

Lord Young interview – ‘We need to get young children believing in themselves’
The former Thatcher favourite, and now David Cameron’s Enterprise Adviser, is convinced the link between education and business has been eroded in the rush to go to university.

Lessons from America – why colleges must collaborate rather than compete
‘Collaboration is the key to world class education, not competition.’ Deputy principal Nick Isles reflects on what UK further education can learn from the US.

International Research Publications

Youth employment in an international context
Latest youth report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), examining youth employment in an international context.

ESF funding for the South West
Shows European Social Fund (ESF) funding for the south west for 2007 to 2013.

ESF funding for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
Shows European Social Fund (ESF) funding for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for 2007 to 2013.

ESF funding for national technical assistance projects
This document shows European Social Fund (ESF) funding for national technical assistance projects for 2007 to 2013. The list includes the: name of each project; ESF funding; national match funding; names of the providers and any sub-contractors or partners; and, contract start and end dates.

Cedefop – Briefing note – The hidden potential of level 5 qualifications
European qualifications framework (EQF) levels reveal what a learner knows, understands and can do at the end of a learning experience. Thanks to the comprehensive nature of the EQF, these learning outcomes can also provide policy-makers with a fine mesh of data about each particular level and every kind of qualification. Nowhere is this mesh more intricate than at level 5, where learning outcomes cut across several subsystems. Moreover, these qualifications serve to test the degree of permeability between subsectors of our education and training systems.

Cedefop – Briefing Note – Developing apprenticeships
To reduce high unemployment among their young people, countries are looking to others for help. During the economic downturn, some countries have performed better and youth unemployment has remained relatively low, for example in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. This has been attributed in part to their apprenticeships or ‘dual’ systems and, consequently, interest in them has increased.

Migration policy changes – employer responses
Findings from case study research into UK employers’ responses to changes in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 points based immigration system. Presents findings from a case study of 20 employers that have historically recruited migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Examines how changes to the points-based immigration system have affected employers and provides examples of initial employer responses to those changes.

Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs 2014 – An OECD Scoreboard
Now covering 31 countries, this book documents the financing difficulties of SMES and entrepreneurs and monitors trends in 31 countries, along with government policy responses to deal with these challenges.

OECD Employment Outlook 2014
The OECD Employment Outlook 2014 includes chapters on recent labour market developments with a special section on earnings, job quality, youth employment, and forms of employment and employment protection.

UK Research Publications

Should I stay or should I go? An investigation of graduate regional mobility in the UK and its impact upon early career earnings
Uses HESA data from the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2003/04 to examine whether more mobile students in terms of choice of institution and location of employment earn more than those who are less mobile. The clear finding is that mobility is associated with superior earnings outcomes, but principally through mobility as it relates to students extending their horizon of job search.

Robbins rebooted – how we earn our way in the second machine age
Pamphlet setting out options for reforming Britain’s universities to boost the country’s knowledge economy and open high paying technical and professional jobs to all.

Participation rates in higher education – 2006 to 2013
Statistics for participation rates in higher education between the academic years 2006 to 2007 and 2012 to 2013.

The Crisis of Young Women’s Worklessness
A new report by the Young Women’s Trust finds that the impact of being NEET for a woman is more significant and can last longer, with evidence showing that young women are NEET for longer than men – three years on average, versus two. The report highlights an inadequacy of advice, training and support young women receive, meaning they do not gain employment or result in highly competitive, poorly paid jobs in a limited range of occupations.

Cedefop – Use of validation by enterprises for human resource and career development purposes
Based on a survey of 400 enterprises, 20 in-depth case studies and interviews with human resource experts in 10 countries, this report analyses the main purposes of competence assessment, the standards and methods applied, the employee groups targeted and the way results are documented and used.

Driving New Success Strategies in Graduate Recruitment
Argues that businesses looking to hire the most talented university leavers need to shift their approach to recruitment in order to improve retention. Suggests that there is a mismatch between employers’ recruitment strategies and graduates’ bid to secure their first role.

Remember the young ones – Improving career opportunities for Britain’s young people
Looks at five critical elements of the school-to-work transition for young people – the role of employers, vocational education, apprenticeships, careers guidance, and the benefits system – and at lessons the UK can learn from European economies with better youth employment records.

Alternative higher education providers – specific course designation – guidance for applicants
Guidance on the new specific course designation process, the criteria and conditions and the new application process for higher education.

Proportion of jobs which are highly skilled, by government office region
The most recent LFS release (from Janaury to March 2014) was used to calculate the proportion of jobs in each government office region which are classified as ‘highly skilled’.

Trends in undergraduate recruitment
Looks at recent trends in the recruitment of undergraduates in England, focussing on students from the UK and EU. Drawing on analysis of publicly available data, combined with evidence gathered from interviews and surveys of Universities UK members, the report provides an assessment of trends covering a period of significant change for universities. Including ongoing transition to a new funding system, reductions in public funding, and the impact of the economic downturn.


Reducing poverty in the UK – a collection of evidence reviews
Reviews of existing policy and research on a wide range of social issues that are related to poverty. The reviews are split into five sections: The bigger picture, Welfare and work, Money and the cost of living, Education, family and community, Complex needs.

The estate we’re in – lessons from the front line
Argues that the condition of many of Britain’s social housing estates is nothing short of a national embarrassment. Suggests the results of decades of neglect and ghettoization have led to acute social problems that are entrenched and generational including: lone parents with low educational attainment and poor parenting skills; child neglect and domestic violence; low levels of employment; and the rise of gang warfare and knife crime.

Moving beyond the market – a new agenda for public services
Argues that, if we want to move beyond top-down, centralised services, we need to move beyond the market. Suggests a new direction of travel: shifting power away from private providers to the citizens and frontline staff.

Financing social ventures and the demand for social investment
Demonstrates that 15 percent of social enterprises are seeking loan finance, with most of these borrowing from high street banks. Allows a clear distinction to be made between social enterprises that are not interested in loan finance, those already receiving, and those that are interested but not able to source loans, or are discouraged.

Forced labour in the United Kingdom
Argues that forced labour is a serious crime that currently affects thousands of people across the UK – and the number of cases is growing. Presents research into the nature, scale and scope of forced labour in the UK since 2010. Draws together JRF’s programme of research, highlighting the most significant findings and key recommendations.


ESRC’s Festival of Social Science
1-8 November 2014, University of Exeter

11 separate events celebrating social science research and its relevance to many areas of life, from personal wellbeing to the sustainability of the economy.

Women into Leadership, Fifth Annual Conference
17 September 2014, Central London

For all those interested in seeing leadership opportunities for women enhanced. Women into Leadership 2014 will examine how female leaders, at whatever grade, can enhance their relevant skills to become the leader they aspire to be. This year’s conference

The Skills Show, NEC
13 – 15 November 2014, Birmingham NEC

FREE to attend, The Skills Show provides young people with opportunities to discover what they are good at and what they enjoy, through hands-on experiences combined with practical advice and guidance, to help shape futures and transform lives.

Grow Gloucestershire – The Skills Show Experience
7 – 8 October 2014, The Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse

Highlight the exciting career opportunities you have available and get face to face with potential apprentices, trainees and staff. Bring skills to life through inspirational ‘HAVE A GO’ activities. Talk to Gloucestershire’s young people about what it is

Employer Ownership – Current Position and Future Prospects
with Michael Davis, Chief Executive of UKCES
23 September 2014, Campaign for Learning, 24 Greencoat Place, Westminster, London, SW1P 1RD

With the general election less than nine months away, this is an exciting moment discuss where the ’employer ownership of skills’ agenda has reached and what the prospects are for the future.

GET THE GRIT – A resilience workshop to develop a ‘growth mindset’ for all – training event
led by Jackie Beere OBE
12 November 2014, Campaign for Learning, 24 Greencoat Place, Westminster, London, SW1P 1RD

Raise achievement and improve wellbeing through resilience training with Jackie Beere, who has years of experience in coaching and personal development for children and teachers.

Motivated or Mandated – engaging adults in learning and supporting them to succeed
20 October 2014, London, UCU Office, Old Bakery, Carlow Street, London NW1 7LH

This conference will encourage dialogue between practitioners and researchers in order to explore the ways to motivate adults to engage and succeed in literacy and numeracy learning.

NIACE – FELTAG Session 1 – Meeting Learner’s Needs
9 September 2014, online – ref: BIS602A/0714

The government’s response to the FELTAG recommendations published on the 16 June confirmed the government’s commitment to the use of technology for learning.

CIPD – Devon and Cornwall Branch Conference
1 October 2014, 09:45, Sandy Park Conference Centre, Sandy Park Way, Exeter, EX2 7NN

Delegates will be able to enjoy 2 fantastic Key note speakers and select from a menu of 12 mini seminars, workshops and master classes in Employment Law, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Health and Wellbeing and Learning and Development.

Cedefop – Skills needs anticipation and matching course
Turin, Italy, 20 – 24 October 2014
Deadline for applications – 15 September 2014

Cedefop co-organises a training and knowledge-sharing course on skills needs anticipation and matching with the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation (ITC-ILO), the Skills Development and Employability Unit of the ILO…

Webinar – Engaging with NIACE’s general election manifesto
17 September 2014, online – ref: WEB002A2/0914

Webinar participants will hear from NIACE’s CEO, David Hughes, about the manifesto’s bold new proposals following recent reports confirming the urgent need for a skills-led economic recovery; including the 2013 OECD Survey of Adult Skills, the 2014 UKCES…

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.

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…

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

Visitor application forms will be available from May.

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…

IfL Fellowship Research Programme
17th Oct 2014, Oxford

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

Maths and English Conference
19 September 2014, Swindon

Targeted at maths and english tutors and managers. The aim of the event is to provide participants with a range of tools, resources and best practice which they will be able to take back to their own organisations.

The Skills Show Experience – Have a Go Exeter
22 October 2014, WestPoint Centre (Devon) Ltd, Clyst St Mary, Exeter, EX5 1DH

The SW Employment and Skills Partnership and partners are very excited to formally invite you to The Skills Show Experience Exeter 2014! The Employment and Skills Partnership are organising an event in Exeter in partnership with Devon County Council on 22..

Skills, Employment and Growth Conference 2014 30th September, 2014, University of Salford
This one day conference will provide delegates a timely opportunity to debate whether Government proposals to reform skills and employment programmes will benefit learners, engage more employers and get more people back to work. This important conference

OECD LEED programme High-Level Capacity Building Seminar – Supporting youth in entrepreneurship
22-23 September 2014, Brussels, Belgium

The aim of this High-Level Capacity Building Seminar is have an international exchange of information on inclusive entrepreneurship actions across the European Union and on how the European Union Structural Funds can be used to support actions that combin

OECD LEED Programme Expert Seminar – What works, and what doesn’t? Evidence-based approaches to tackling disadvantage
October 2014, OECD Conference Centre, Paris

This expert seminar will focus on how countries can establish a policy framework to enable effective local action using an evidence-based approach, choosing between different measures at a time of limited resources. The latest evidence from OECD countries

SW TUC – A Vision for a South West That Works
13 September 2014, 14:30-16:00, Unity Hall, Central Road, Yeovil BA20 11JL

This session will focus on migration and population.

SW TUC – A Vision for a South West That Works
17 September 2014, 14:00-16:00, UNISON, Vintry House, Wine Street, Bristol

This session will focus on housing.

SW TUC – A Vision for a South West That Works
1 October 2014, 16:00-18:00, PCS South West Regional Office Suite III, First Floor, Quintana Gate, Bartholomew Street, Exeter EX4 3BH

This session will focus on transport.

SW TUC – A Vision for a South West That Works
11 October 2014, 14:00-16:00, Unite, Tony Benn House, Victoria Street, Bristol

This session will focus on the green economy.

SW TUC – A Vision for a South West That Works
29 October 2014, 16:00-18:00, Unite, No. 1 Pullman Court, Great Western Road, Gloucester GL1 3ND

This session will focus on skills for the future.

SW TUC – A Vision for a South West That Works
4 November 2014, 16:00-18:00, Unite, Tolpuddle Martyrs House, 238 Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth BH8 8EG

This session will focus on public services.

SW TUC – A Vision for a South West That Works
12 November 2014, 14:00-16:00, Taunton Rugby Club, Hyde Park, Hyde Lane, Taunton, Somerset TA2 8BU

This session will focus on tacking inequality.

SkillsActive National Occupational Standards review in Spectator Safety, England
22 September 2014, Windsor, Royal Windsor Racecourse

Since the launch of a project to review the National Occupational Standards (NOS) in spectator safety in April 2014, SkillsActive have been busy working with the Sports Ground Safety Authority and other key stakeholders.

Semta Skills Awards – Engineering Skills for the Future
24 February 2015, Park Plaza Riverbank hotel, London

Turn on the spotlights, dust off the red carpet – the hunt is on to find the very Best of British Engineering – which is to be celebrated at the second Semta Skills Awards.

MAS Workshop – Using Design for Competitive Advantage
9 October 2014, Royal Wootton Bassett

The workshop for SMEs will summarise different expressions of design best practice and will include practical exercises to investigate how a products manufacturing cost can be reduced by design.

International IP Protection
6 October 2014, British Library, London

In this one off series of events, senior representatives from WIPO will lead discussions on the international protection of IP rights. The half day events will provide an introduction to WIPO services and initiatives.

Creative SkillSet – Get Your Next Job in TV Drama, Birmingham
20 October 2014, BBC Academy, Birmingham

This day is a Creative Skillset funded initiative for TV freelancers in the UK creative industries, and is supported by the Skills Investment Fund.

Creative SkillSet – Get Your Next Job in TV Drama, Salford
21 November 2014, MediaCityUK, Salford

This day is a Creative Skillset funded initiative for TV freelancers in the UK creative industries, and is supported by the Skills Investment Fund. booking for this will open nearer the time.

Open consultation – Higher education living cost support, EU nationals’ residency requirements
10 November 2014, 23:45

Proposal to extend the residency requirement from 3 to 5 years, before EU nationals can receive higher education living cost support.