This month: Exeter’s Supercomputer, Government’s Science & Innovation strategy, public funding for universities and graduate retention. Last week: Innovate UK, the £30m Skills Fund and launching the National Composites Centre in Bristol.

Exeter’s growing reputation as a world-leading centre for climate change science was given another boost this week (October 28) by the announcement that the Met Office has secured the investment required to purchase one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. Minister Swire, FCO Ministerial Champion for Science and Innovation, cut the turf for the Met Office’s new supercomputer this week. Funding has been confirmed for the £97m supercomputer to improve the Met Office’s weather forecasting and climate modelling. The new system will be housed partly at the Met Office headquarters in Exeter and partly at a new facility in the Exeter Science Park, and will reach its full capacity in 2017. The Met Office works in strategic partnership with the Universities of Exeter, Oxford, Leeds and Reading. As one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world when fully installed, it will also be a catalyst for regional growth in the South West, supporting collaboration and partnerships between science, business and academia, cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in weather and climate prediction.

The Government is committed to producing a Science and Innovation Strategy to coincide with the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement 2014. The objective of the strategy is to secure economic growth and high quality jobs for the UK through investment in science and innovation. Timely, then, for a visit from Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, who met with councils and businesses from across the South West on the 8th of October to sign the £270.3 million Heart of the South West Growth Deal. The Minister also met with key researchers and business representatives during a fact-finding visit to the University of Exeter. The Minister fed back to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee after his visit to Exeter, speaking about growth deals, science parks, universities and links to local growth in the South West. The University of Exeter also secured a share of a £150m government investment in the UK’s clinical research infrastructure. HEFCE welcomed the final report of the City Growth Commission, including its specific analysis of the role of universities in driving local economic growth.

Petroc are organising two events on behalf of the Skills Fund for Hinkley ESF project in Devon, one at their Mid Devon campus on 10 December 2014 and one at Sandy Park in Exeter on 6 February 2015.  Prior to these events we have launched a survey to help tailor these events to match the needs of businesses and provide information that is both useful & relevant.

Employers and educators are joining forces with Semta to improve the quality of teaching and training in STEM subjects essential to engineering.  Leading science industry employers celebrated this month following the successful enrolment of the first apprentice cohort on revolutionary new Apprenticeship Standards.  An innovative new Modular Masters Training in Formulation Science and Technology being promoted by Cogent, offers greater flexibility for businesses and learners.

Businesses working in the wave and tidal technology sector in South West England could also be eligible for a new £1.85m funding opportunity. A new science park in Wiltshire has also been awarded £2m of local authority funding on top of £4m from the government’s growth fund.

We have been celebrating the history St Luke’s Campus this month to mark its 160th anniversary. Originally founded as a teacher training college in 1854, the campus is now home to the Graduate School of Education, as well as the University of Exeter Medical School and Sports and Health Sciences.  In relation to this, Nick Boles announced the continuation of a bursary scheme to encourage more top graduates to begin a teaching career in further education.

Public funding for universities should be scrapped and replaced by graduates paying an earnings levy to their institutions, to end the taxpayer ‘burden’ according to the Institute of Economic Affairs. Graduates should pay their university a proportion of their future earnings rather than taking out loans, the report suggests.

Changes in university tuition fees have had a significant effect on the rate of inflation over the last couple of years. Recent analysis by HEFCE gives a brief overview of the methodology used to measure these fees and includes a stylised example of the Consumer Prices Index calculation. UCU criticised the proposals. Six Russell Group universities have rejected government loans for postgrad study, suggesting £10,000 state loans wouldn’t help students from less well-off backgrounds. HEFCE is providing funding for the Student Engagement Partnership (TSEP) to support, develop and promote student engagement activity in the higher education sector in England.

Areas of the South West are among the worst parts of the country for getting young people into higher education. Labour activists ask ‘Is the Government failing to get enough Devon children into university?’. …and what of the graduates that do emerge? Calls to encourage ‘stay local’ graduate retention have been met with proposals to offer graduates a “golden handcuff” to stay and work locally.  Creating more opportunities for graduates to find jobs in Devon is vital to the county’s future prosperity, argues Andrew Leadbetter, councillor for economy and growth at Devon County Council. Incidentally, students from the University of Exeter’s Mining Engineering course are amongst the highest-earning graduates from any UK institution, a new league table has shown, with the average salary earned by ‘Materials Technology’ graduates entering employment six months after graduation at £41,000. The University has also been named the best university in the UK for international student satisfaction.

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News Headlines

University of Exeter scoops award for best international student satisfaction
The University of Exeter has been named the best university in the UK for international student satisfaction.

PM stresses importance of lifelong learning PM stresses importance of lifelong learning
Encouraged by the glowing references made on the importance of lifelong learning, NIACE has responded to the Prime Minister’s speech at today’s CBI Conference.

HEFCE – The Student Engagement Partnership
HEFCE is providing funding for the Student Engagement Partnership (TSEP) to support, develop and promote student engagement activity in the higher education sector in England.

HEFCE – Responses to independent review of metrics
A summary of responses to a call for evidence on the use of metrics in research assessment has been published by HEFCE.

HEFCE – The importance of people and partnership in university-business links
HEFCE welcomes the statement of the UK’s expert knowledge exchange practitioner bodies on universities’ principles and practices in managing their intellectual assets.

UK is magnet for highly educated EU migrants, research shows
Study reveals that 62% of migrants from western Europe have a university degree, compared with 24% of British workforce.

Student startups – could you be the next Mark Zuckerberg?
University might be the perfect time to create your own startup.

University welcomes announcement of Met Office £97m supercomputer to Exeter Science Park
Exeter’s growing reputation as a world-leading centre for climate change science was given another boost today (October 28) by the announcement that the Met Office has secured the investment required to purchase one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.

Future financial challenges facing the higher education sector
A review of the financial health of higher education institutions published by HEFCE concludes that the higher education sector in England faces significant financial challenges over the next three years.

University of Exeter gets share of £150m fund
The University of Exeter has secured a share of a £150m government investment in the UK’s clinical research infrastructure.

The role of universities in city and local growth
HEFCE welcomes the final report of the City Growth Commission, including its specific analysis of the role of universities.

Higher qualifications – July to September 2014
This bulletin covers qualifications of all types at Level 4 and above (equivalent to post-A level), excluding university degrees, which are regulated by the Quality Assurance Agency. There is some overlap between the figures in this bulletin and the Vocational Qualifications Quarterly which covers vocational qualifications at all levels.

Plymouth to loan science park £2million for expansion bid
Plymouth City Council has loaned the largest science park in the region £2million to help expansion plans.

UK review of National Student Survey – the next phase
The review of the National Student Survey is entering a phase of testing and development.

New HEPI report highlights the benefits of shared infrastructure
The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) today publishes a new report entitled Jisc: a hidden advantage for higher education, written by the Chief Executive of Jisc, Martyn Harrow, with a Foreword by Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI.

HEFCE – Evaluating impact assessment in the REF
An evaluation of the assessment process for impact in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) is now under way.

Quality assessment in UK higher education
Nick Davy, Higher Education Policy Manager for the Association of Colleges responds to the recent Quality assessment in UK higher education anouncemet by HEFCE.

University teaching departments key to train future teaching workforce says UCU as government cuts places by 5 percent
Commenting on National College for Teaching and Leadership figures that show teacher training places in universities will be reduced by 5% next year (2015/16), UCU said university teaching departments are key to producing the high-quality teaching workforce of the future.

£750,000 competition announced to help students with clever ideas
University students will bid for £750,000, in a new competition designed to encourage the practical use of intellectual property.

Cities call for HE investment powers
Groups of local authorities and universities should be allowed to use public money to create Metro Investment Funds for Higher Education focused on major urban areas, according to the latest report from the City Growth Commission.

Eden and University of Exeter sign up to a growing relationship
Two of the UK’s leading education centres, the University of Exeter and the Eden Project, have celebrated their strengthening links with a formal signing ceremony.

Higher Education Research Publications

Univercities – the knowledge to power UK metros
Presents a report from the City Growth Commission which makes recommendations for universities to enhance their economic impact on the UK’s metros. Explains that ‘metros’ are defined by the Office for National Statistics as “built-up areas including city centres, and surrounding settlements with total resident population over 500,000 residents”. Provides an overview of the policy concerning the relationship between universities and economic growth.

Sustainable Integration of Long-term Unemployed – From Work First to Career First
Considers the move from a “Work first” policy orientation towards a more sustainable “Career first” approach with a greater emphasis on the quality of jobs, job progression and longer-term career progression.

The business of cities
Seeks to review and explain the important new agenda arising from the changing relationships between cities and businesses.

The future of work
Explores the way office culture is changing, the new technologies in the work place and how to attract and retain the best talent.

What are the prospects for a wage recovery in the UK?
Compares employment, wage and cost of living data over two distinct periods of recession and recovery (1990-2001 and 2004-2014).

Project STEM – book of insights 2014
Describes young people’s attitudes, beliefs, motivations and behaviours that affect their decisions on subject choice and career paths.

The changing shape of UK manufacturing
The contribution of the manufacturing industry to the UK economy has changed markedly over the last 60 years. On average, output in the industry has grown by 1.4% a year since 1948, although it has contracted around the economic downturns in the 1970s and early 1990s, and most recently and notably during the 2008-9 economic downturn.

International Research Publications

Positive economic impact of UK immigration from the European Union – new evidence
Shows that European immigrants to the UK have paid more in taxes than they received in benefits, helping to relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers and contributing to the financing of public services.

Economic crisis and the resilience of regions
Exposes territorial evidence that supports policymakers at different administrative levels in making the economic structure(s) in Europe and its countries, regions and cities more resilient to economic crises and a sudden economic downturn.

Making Europe open and polycentric – vision and scenarios for the European territory towards 2050
Provides answers to the following key questions: 1. Why does Europe need a territorial vision now? 2. How will Europe develop if current policies are not changed? 3. How could different policy scenarios influence Europe? 4. How to make Europe more Open and Polycentric? 5. What policies could support this?

Why have some countries become more unemployed than others? An investigation of changes in unemployment in EU member states since 2008
Investigates links between employment changes and both sectoral developments and changes in earnings levels in six EU member states. Challenges the view that a remedy focusing on reducing employment protection and pay levels leads to higher levels of employment. Recommends instead policies to restore investment levels and to help transformation towards economies based on higher skill and qualification levels.

The growth of EU labour – assessing the impact on the labour market
Aims to inform the debate about the impact of the increase in EU migrant workers on the UK labour market, and particularly on young UK-born workers.

The Erasmus Impact Study – effects of mobility on the skills and employability of students and the internationalisation of higher education students
Study on the impact of the European Union’s Erasmus student exchange programme. Shows that graduates with international experience fare much better on the job market.


Women in engineering – fixing the talent pipeline
Demonstrates that 16 is the critical age at which women are lost to potential careers in engineering, and considers what needs to be done both in and outside of schools to attract more female talent into the industry.

The impact of welfare interventions on life-courses of deprived groups
Reducing poverty and social exclusion is one of the main challenges for ensuring social cohesion in modern Europe. How to facilitate active inclusion through integrated and participatory modes of multilevel governance is the core of COPE’s research. The project addresses key questions: How can the combat against poverty be organised in practice? How do European, national and local institutions shape the co-production of active inclusion? How do beneficiaries participate in these policies and how does this shape their life courses?

The reason for migration and labour market characteristics of UK residents born abroad
Analyses the labour market position of foreign born UK residents by their original purpose for migrating.


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.

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 fundi

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 implicati

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

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. The backing of some of the biggest engineering brands in Britain have made the awards night one of the most important dates in the sector’s diary.

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.

The Manufacturer Directors’ Conference
26-27 November 2014, Birmingham

An event for manufacturers in Birmingham open for booking now, part of the week of excellence provided by The Manufacturer.

AoC Conference and Exhibition
18-20 November 2014, ICC Birmingham

The AoC Annual Conference and Exhibition brings together the further education sector under one roof to learn, develop, influence, exchange information and network. The highlight of AoC’s events calendar, the conference combines keynote speakers, plenary sessions and breakout sessions to inform and stimulate debate.

Learning Networks and Annual Conference for Erasmus+
26-27 November 2014, Conference Aston, Central Birmingham

The very first Learning Networks and Annual Conference for Erasmus+ have arrived. Conference Aston in central Birmingham will be the venue for the Learning Networks event on 26 November and Annual Conference on 27 November. Bookings will open in October.