Being Challenging – the Government White Paper on HE

Today 16th May the Government releases its white paper on Higher Education. To see an overview of what this will contain go to

_89662857_009805784The White Paper reveals some interesting developments that could have positive implications for Crossfields Institute. Most exciting of these is that new providers will find it easier to obtain the power to award degrees. You will see in news reports that these are called ‘Challenger Institutions’ because they represent a challenge to the established universities. The idea of challenging the status quo around how education is delivered, what it addresses, and who can take part is something we like the sound of – its what we do.

The press will be focusing a lot on two elements in the white paper: the raising of tuition fees beyond the current 9,000 a year cap and the permission to do that being based on the score a University gets for the quality of its teaching as measured by the Teaching Excellence Framework. Challenger Institutions will be in a good position to provide cheaper and potentially more innovative degrees. Something the press doesn’t seem to be picking up on is a loosening of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications to allow for greater student mobility between institutions. This should make the transfer of credit for learning achieved to be more easily transferred. This is certainly good news for one of our latest projects which is to explore the demand for a completion year for people who never finished their degree and would like to do so by taking an innovative one year liberal arts completion course.

Exciting times in Higher Education – watch this space…

Syrian Academics Offered Lifeline by UK Universities

The Council for At Risk Academics in co-operation with 110 universities in the UK, has been offering lifesaving opportunities to academics in conflict ridden countries. Reem Doukmak talks about her experience:

‘We never experienced fighting and bombing in Syria in my generation. That’s why it’s hard to accept’ … Reem Doukmak. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

The Role of the UK University: Teaching & Research

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Micro-management of academics is relentlessly eroding their ability to teach and conduct research.’ Above, London Metropolitan University’s super-lab. Photograph: View Pictures Ltd/Alamy


According to the following article on The Guardian, forcing universities to be competitive and efficient stifles their ability to what they do best: research and teach.

Minister Proposes a Teaching Excellence Framework for Universities

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Jo Johnson’s proposal for a TEF similar to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) has stirred up both approval and dissent amongst university staff. The REF was seen as skewing the focus of universities too far in the direction of high status research and away from the student experience.  Will this address the balance or lead to similar problems?  Problems such as the hiring fair scenario of well-respected teaching experts being wooed to well-resourced universities in advance of the data collection cut off for each TEF period.

There should be much debate about how teaching excellence is measured and the design of a metrics system to deliver robust information.  Given that the final result will probably be a league table of universities – a further step toward the consumer model of education – the quick route would be to use data already available such as:  HEA membership, teaching qualification, National Student Survey results, student retention, student results.   This, of course, sidesteps the wider debate about what Teaching Excellence might actually be and how one might measure it.

You can read the speech at: