Government plans to support a broader range of routes into higher education and give prospective students better information about courses and job prospects have been given a guarded welcome by the HE representative body GuildHE.
Some of England’s newest universities, university colleges and smaller specialist institutions stand to do well in a system envisaged in the long-awaited higher education framework document where there is a greater emphasis on the experience of students.
The document, published today, stresses the importance of widening access to HE and promoting social mobility by supporting a variety of entry routes, particularly for older students. It also urges institutions to work more closely with employers, and make information on graduate employment more visible.
Professor Ruth Farwell, GuildHE Chair and Vice-Chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University, said such a regime would play to the strengths of GuildHE institutions and give them a better chance to promote the advantages their students enjoy – including close individual attention, support and career guidance.
She said: "Students get a good deal at our institutions. We welcome anything that can be done to help inform students in advance about what they can expect from us and what they might hope to get for their investment in higher education. We don’t see students as consumers, but as partners in our learning communities.
"The pity is that currently many of the smaller institutions – especially those that don’t have a university title – struggle to have their voices heard. Although it’s not the only factor, at Buckinghamshire New University we certainly experienced a huge surge in applications after gaining the university title.
"All too often students are encouraged to look only at the "usual suspects" – the larger, long established universities – overlooking smaller institutions that offer the kinds of courses most suited to many students needs and offering excellent chances of landing a graduate job shortly after obtaining their degree."
But GuildHE also warned that the Government’s pledge to support diversity in higher education and widen access to HE will seem worthless unless it extends funding for teaching and research beyond STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).
Professor Elaine Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts and a member of the GuildHE executive, said:
"We recognise that growth is going to be constrained for a while. But that must not be allowed to constrain the aspirations of prospective students who may not wish to study STEM subjects.
"The narrow emphasis on STEM flies in the face of all the evidence on the value of the creative industries and other specialised areas both to students and the British economy.
"A narrow emphasis on channelling research funding to larger research intensive universities and science will equally dampen aspirations and growth.
"Pigeon-holing institutions does no-one any favours. If theaim is for HE to work more closely with industry and employers, support must be given to those institutions that have already proved themselves to be good at it."
For more information, please contact:
Professor Ruth Farwell
Tel: 01494 605113
Deputy Chief Executive GuildHE
Tel: 0207 387 7711
Tel: 01629 650910
Notes to Editors
Performance indicators published this year show that on average GuildHE institutions are beating Government benchmarks for widening participation and many have graduate employment rates above the national average. Latest figures on the Destination of Leavers in HE published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show the proportion of graduates in work or further study six months after graduating was 96.1 per cent at Harper Adams University College, 93.7 per cent at the Arts University College at Bournemouth, 93.4 per cent at the University of Worcester and 93 per cent at Leeds Trinity University College.
GuildHE members are among the most dynamic and fastest-growing institutions in higher education.
GuildHE is an inclusive body, with members across universities, university colleges and specialist institutions. The members include many institutions with a specialist mission or subject focus and major providers in art and design, music and the performing arts, agriculture, education and health.
For a list of GuildHE institutions, please click here