Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 5

Memorandum from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (HE 33)

How is quality in teaching and learning defined?

  1.  There is no single definition of quality. The word is normally used in higher education (HE) to refer to the nature of the experience which students have while studying for an HE qualification. Within the terms of the quality assurance process, it refers to the extent to which that experience matches up with sector-wide expectations of the success of the university or college in enabling the student to learn in a way which meets the student's needs and the institution's objectives. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) is currently developing benchmark statements setting out the sector-wide standards of attainment expected in each subject area.

How is teaching quality measured and assured? The Select Committee welcomes comments on the work of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).

  2.  Section 70 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 requires the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to:

    (a)  secure that provision is made for assessing the quality of education provided in institutions for whose activities it provides, or is considering providing, financial support; and

    (b)  establish a Quality Assessment Committee with the function of giving advice to the HEFCE Board on the discharge of that duty and such other functions as the Board may confer on them.

  3.  From our establishment in 1992 until the setting up of the Quality Assurance Agency in 1997, we discharged this duty directly through our Quality Assurance Division. That developed a method of assessing the quality of courses known as "Teaching Quality Assessment" (TQA). The main elements of the method are:

    (a)  Assessments are carried out by "peer review"—ie most reviewers are practising academics drawn from universities and colleges and working in the same subject area, rather than a full-time inspectorate. Generally a team of four to five peers will visit the institution for four days to review the institution's documentation relating to the quality of the programme; to observe teaching and learning; to talk to staff, students and (often) employers of graduates from the programme; and to review facilities and resources.

    (b)  Assessments focus on the quality of the student experience while on the course, rather than standards of achievement attained by students at the end of the course.

    (c)  Assessments are made by reference to how well the course meets the objectives which the individual institution has set for it, rather than by reference to absolute, sector-wide norms.

    (d)  Following the review, a report is published setting out the reviewers' findings and conclusions, including identification of strengths and weaknesses.

  4.  The TQA method evolved over time. Two changes, introduced in 1995, were:

    (a)  To cover in all reviews six common aspects of quality—curriculum design, content and organisation; teaching, learning and assessment; student progression and achievement; student support and guidance; learning resources; and quality management and enhancement.

    (b)  To assign each of those six aspects a rating on a four point scale, where one indicates that the programme is not meeting the provider's aims and objectives and there are major shortcomings, and four indicates that the programme is fully meeting the provider's aims and objectives. Those ratings are included in the published report.

  5.  This method continues to apply in England, and will carry on until all subject areas have been reviewed, scheduled for December 2001. The HEFCE Quality Assessment Committee meets around six times a year, and considers at each meeting the latest results of TQA reviews. In any case where a programme is assigned a one rating, it will be re-visited within a year for further review, with financial sanctions potentially applied if the necessary improvement is not demonstrated at re-review.

  6.  In addition to TQA, the other major mechanisms for assessing and assuring quality in higher education are as follows:

    (a)  Each university and college which has the power to award degrees is responsible for maintaining the standard of those degrees. This responsibility is central to the university's or college's purpose as a self-governing academic community. Universities and colleges discharge this responsibility through a variety of internal procedures involving individual staff, departmental and faculty committees, and central review and approval mechanisms which track programmes from initial approval for their introduction through annual review exercises and periodic more fundamental reviews. These procedures vary from institution to institution. But we believe that one effect of TQA has been to encourage universities and colleges to be more systematic and rigorous in their internal approach, because their internal "Quality Management and Enhancement" procedures are one of the aspects which TQA assesses.

    (b)  All universities and colleges with degree-awarding powers appoint one or more external examiners for every course they offer. The external examiner is appointed from another institution, and has the core role of reviewing whether, in assessing students and awarding qualifications, the institution is applying standards and expectations of attainment consistent with those applying in higher education generally.

    (c)  There is also a well-established mechanism, known as "institutional audit", for external review of institution-wide procedures relating to quality and standards. This was originally developed by the Higher Education Quality Control (HEQC), an independent body established by the representative bodies of the HE sector. As with TQA, institutional audit is conducted by a team of peers drawn from other universities and colleges. Following the review, a report is published which describes the team's findings, and identifies strengths and weaknesses.

    (d)  Many HE courses—for example, in medicine and engineering—are also accredited by the relevant professional body. Typically, the professional body identifies the competences, skills and knowledge which graduates from the course will need in order to successfully practice in the profession; gives recognition to those courses which it judges to provide a satisfactory preparation for professional practice; and periodically reviews whether or not the courses continue to provide such preparation.

  7.  Originally TQA and institutional audit were separate processes undertaken by separate bodies. This position was reviewed in 1996 by a Joint Planning Group comprising representatives of the main HE interests. That led to the establishment in 1997 of a new, single body which would operate both processes in a more co-ordinated way—the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). We contract with the QAA for the continuing delivery of TQA, while subscriptions from universities and colleges pay for institutional audit.

  8.  In 1997 the report of the National Committee of Inquiry into HE, chaired by Lord Dearing, made a series of recommendations relating to the assessment and assurance of HE quality and standards (see particularly Chapter 10 of the main report). The QAA launched in March 1998 a fundamental review of the quality assurance framework. The detail of that framework is still being refined. But the principles are clear, and have been endorsed by the HEFCE and the other HE funding bodies as the basis for new arrangements which will be introduced in England and Northern Ireland from January 2002.

  9.  That framework is set out in detail in the QAA publication "Higher Quality Bulletin 6", published in November 1999. The main principles are:

    (a)  To review both quality (the nature of the student experience) and standards (what students achieve).

    (b)  To have a single integrated process which covers both course review and insitutional-level review, so that judgements on individual subjects inform judgements on the institution's overall effectiveness in maintaining quality and standards, and vice-versa.

    (c)  To move away from a single, snapshot visit towards a more extended engagement over the course of a year between reviewers and the institution, with the reviewers drawing as far as possible on evidence which the institution has already produced for its own purposes.

    (d)  To vary the intensity of scrutiny in accordance with the principle of "intervention in inverse proportion to success", such that reviewers will spend less time reviewing institutions with a proven track record of high quality, releasing resources for more intensive scrutiny of institutions where there are concerns.

    (e)  To publish the results of the reviews in a form which promotes improvement, which provides external audiences with clear and straightforward information, and which is a valid summation of the range of factors involved.

    (f)  To reduce the burden of external quality assurance on universities and colleges to the minimum compatible with rigour and consistency.

  10.  Beyond the formal TQA process, other aspects of quality are measured and reported on, for example by the Higher Education Management Statistics reports and the performance indicators produced by the Funding Councils (see HEFCE publication 99/66). The performance indicators include an indicator of student outcomes, measured against a benchmark which takes account of each institution's student characteristics. In due course they will also include indicators of employment success.

  The extent to which teaching quality varies between different disciplines and institutions (and types of institution); how quality of teaching has been and is likely to be affected by the continuing increase in participation in HE; the impact (benefits/drawbacks) of employing graduate and undergraduate students in teaching; and how developments such as the ILT might improve teaching quality.

QUALITY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN INSTITUTIONS

  11.  Given the complexity of higher education some variation is inevitable. The tables at Annex A give the available breakdown of TQA data from the current round of subject review by:

    (a)  Type of institution, classified as pre-1992 universities formerly funded by the Universities Funding Council (UFC); post-1992 universities and HE colleges formerly funded by the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council (PCFC); and further education colleges funded by the HEFCE for HE programmes.

    (b)  Subject area. Some of the cells represent a very small number of visits, so too much weight should not be placed on individual results.

  12.  In terms of comparisons between types of institution, the following main factors stand out:

    (a)  There is virtually no difference between ex-UFC and ex-PCFC institutions in terms of the quality of their teaching, learning and assessment processes.

    (b)  Although overall the student progression and achievement aspect is rated highly, there is a significant difference between ex-UFC and ex-PCFC institutions. That may reflect in part the tendency of the ex-UFC institutions to recruit more highly qualified students who would in general be expected to attain higher levels of absolute achievement at the end of their programme. But it may also reflect the greater challenge faced by the ex-PCFC institutions in supporting their more diverse student intake to enable them to progress through to successful completion of the programme. Student non-completion, as well as degree class, is closely correlated with qualifications on entry. The new HEFCE funding programme on widening participation should help over time, by giving institutions more resource to support such students (see paragraph 34).

    (c)  There is also a difference between ex-UFC and ex-PCFC institutions in the aspect which assesses learning resources, which may in part reflect the generally poorer physical inheritance of the ex-PCFC universities and colleges. We have been seeking to address this through the poor estates initiative (see HEFCE publication 99/51).

  13.  The tables also point up a differential in the relative performance of further education colleges (FECs) which provide HE programmes funded by the HEFCE. This finding needs to be treated with care because it is based on a very small sample (just 18 visits, and only covering provision greater than 30 full-time equivalent students). It also conceals wide differentiation, with some colleges—particularly the specialist FE colleges—getting good results.

  14.  Our policy is to address this differential through a series of measures, notably by encouraging FE colleges to work in partnership with HE institutions in delivering and developing their HE programmes.

    —  by incorporating FE colleges over a period of time within our general funding method in a way which allocates the same level of resources to all the HE we fund, irrespective of whether that is in FE colleges or HE institutions;

    —  by introducing a specific development fund to help FE colleges raise the quality of learning and teaching in their HE programmes;

    —  by working with the QAA to ensure more comprehensive coverage of HE provision in FECs within the TQA programme.

QUALITY AND PARTICIPATION

  15.  In the period between 1988 and 1998 student participation rates doubled from 15 per cent to over 30 per cent but the amount of funding per student declined by 35 per cent. Any further per capita reductions will risk damaging the high quality and standards of education that have been maintained so far, and it is essential that funding per student is kept at an acceptable level.

  16.  Any further expansion of HE must not erode funding levels if we are to avoid recreating the funding crisis which was experienced in the mid-1990s and which led to the National Inquiry into HE led by Lord Dearing. With that proviso, there are good reasons to plan for a significant increase in student numbers: it is likely that there will be strong demand from students who can benefit from HE, and it will be in the national interest to satisfy that demand. If students from disadvantaged backgrounds were to increase their participation to that of the average for all groups, then this will require an additional 100,000 HE places.

  17.  The student population has become much more diverse and will continue to be so. There are more mature students, with a variety of backgrounds and qualifications, and more people from previously under-represented groups such as women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. We are also encouraging higher education institutions (HEIs) to recruit and retain more students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We know that such students cost more to provide for and this will need to be recognised as funds are allocated for the expansion of HE.

  18.  Further changes will be needed to respond to the demands of a diverse population. There is likely to be increasing demand for:

    (a)  Courses other than the consecutive three or four year degree.

    (b)  Access to HE all year round.

    (c)  Professional updating and life-long learning.

    (d)  More local provision

    (e)  More flexible ways to study, such as work-based learning, modular and part-time courses and distance learning.

  19.  We do not have comprehensive evidence of changes in the quality of teaching over time. However, there is some evidence relating to non-completion, or drop out. In 1996 the Department of Education and Science estimated this to be running at 16 per cent. The performance indicators for the most recent cohort of students for which an estimate was possible—1996-97—estimated non-completion to have increased to 18 per cent. In the meantime, the participation of young students had more than doubled and the number of mature students greatly increased. A recent OECD review estimated that non-completion in the United Kingdom was lower than that in any industrialised country other than Japan. This aspect of quality appears to have been maintained reasonably well as participation has increased.

  20.  Technology provides an opportunity for institutions to respond to the demands of students in terms of where and when they study. As a consequence, institutions will have to consider:

    (a)  Changes to the way courses are organised and delivered.

    (b)  New teaching and learning methods.

    (c)  How to assess and support students effectively.

    (d)  A more customer-oriented approach—students who are paying for their education are likely to place new demands on HE providers.

    (e)  Implications for staff development of increased pressures on staff.

  21.  There is a great deal of potential to exploit technology for teaching and learning. Studies which we have commissioned demonstrate some of the benefits of communications and information technology (C & IT) in HE and there is clearly greater potential to exploit this to improve flexibility and quality (see HEFCE publications 99/39 and 99/60). However, there is no evidence of cost reduction as a result of investment in C & IT.

  22.  Centrally funded programmes to encourage innovation and good practice in teaching and learning should continue and perhaps be expanded. We are spending around £30 million per annum on specific funding for this purpose.

EMPLOYING STUDENTS IN TEACHING

  23.  We have no specific data or evidence relating to the impact of employing graduate and undergraduate students in teaching. However, when the issue was raised with our Learning and Teaching Committee, members commented that this practice has both positive and negative aspects. The positive aspect is that peer learning is believed to contribute towards the development of transferable skills among students. However, the negative aspect is that students may represent a cheap but inexperienced teaching option for HEIs.

THE INSTITUTE FOR LEARNING AND TEACHING (ILT)

  24.  We have been a prominent supporter of the ILT since the idea was first promoted in the Dearing Report. We have worked closely with the other funding bodies and the HE sector—in particular the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP), the Standing Conference of Principals (SCOP) and teaching unions—to establish the ILT. We have committed £2 million over the five year period 1998-2003 to meet the set-up costs and support the work of the ILT, which has a number of functions directed at improving the quality of teaching in HE. We are very keen to see the ILT become a success and we hope institutions will seek ILT accreditation for their staff and encourage them to become ILT members.

  25.  The ILT will contribute to improving the quality of teaching in the following ways:

    (a)  The mechanisms of accreditation of staff development courses that the ILT is operating will bring a measure of external scrutiny and standardisation to the process of training staff in HE, that has not previously existed. External evaluation will also stimulate internal review to assure that training is effective in meeting its objectives.

    (b)  The ILT will require its members to undertake a programme of continuing professional development in order to remain in good standing with the Institute. This will break entirely new ground with the academic community in requiring continuing reflection and improvement in their performance as teachers or facilitators of learning.

    (c)  The ILT will provide its members with access (online and in paper form) to information, guidance and examples of good practice over the full range of issues in teaching, learning and assessment in HE. This will draw on UK and international sources of research and good practice.

    (d)  The ILT will bring to its members the best examples of the results and processes of pedagogic research in HE.

    (e)  The ILT's policy of inclusiveness in membership will mean that it will become a forum in which the various types of staff member who contribute to the student learning environment (academic, graduate teaching assistant, learning technologist) can meet and discuss issues unhampered by institutional hierarchies.

    (f)  The close working association of the ILT with the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) will ensure that the work of the Subject Centres and the Generic Learning and Teaching Centre will be transmitted to a wider audience and that the many and complex issues surrounding the use of C&IT in teaching and learning are discussed and progressed in the wider academic forum of the ILT (see paragraph 37).

  Institutional arrangements, and their contribution to the quality of the teaching and learning experience. For instance, the balance between teaching and research; traditional universities as oppose to non-traditional; HE outside universities.

TEACHING AND RESEARCH

  26.  All HEIs engage in teaching, and the majority engage in research to some extent. However, the balance between the two activities varies considerably, determined in part by the mission of the institution concerned, but in large part by the research funds received. HEFCE funds for research are allocated extremely selectively (as are funds provided by research councils, industry and charities) as the chart at Annex B shows. The balance of activities within institutions necessarily reflects this. We do not expect all institutions to carry out high quality research throughout the range of their provision, but we do expect high quality teaching throughout.

  27.  In October 1999 we commissioned a study to investigate the relationships between teaching, research and other activities of universities and colleges of higher education. This is one of a series of research and consultancy projects intended to underpin and provide the evidence base for the work of the HEFCE Fundamental Review of Research.

  28.  The remit of the study is to explore six aspects of these relationships:

    (a)  The extent of any cross-subsidy between teaching, research and other activities.

    (b)  The benefits of shared facilities etc.

    (c)  Interactions at the level of institutional policy and practice.

    (d)  Interactions in the classroom and the workshop or laboratory.

    (e)  Links to research training and the impact of policies in this area.

    (f)  International comparisons and evidence.

FORMER PCFC/UFC FUNDED INSTITUTIONS AND FE COLLEGES

  29.  We make no funding distinction between ex-UFC and ex-PCFC funded institutions, but recognise that the higher education sector is characterised by a wide diversity of institutions, each with its own distinctive mission and focus. Some institutions are research focused, some aim to strike a balance between teaching and research, while others are primarily focused on teaching. We are currently investigating the relationship between teaching and research as part of the fundamental review of research. By and large, those institutions with a strong research focus are former UFC universities, reflecting their history of research activity and funding. However, many former PCFC universities have developed areas of research strength, some in a number of fields.

  30.  It is generally thought that teaching at the highest level will be improved if delivered in an environment in which research is being conducted. However, we have no evidence that this is the case for teaching at the lower level—the first year of a degree of diploma level qualifications. What is more important in teaching is that different institutions should adopt approaches which meet the divergent needs of their student populations. For example, whilst the teaching-intensive, student-focused approach of further education colleges and some of the former PCFC universities and colleges benefits some students, it is possible that more able, self-motivated students benefit from a different approach.

How does the way in which funding is allocated to HE affect the nature of teaching and learning? What is, and what should be, the role of the HEFCE in this respect?

  31.  We use formulae to determine how funding is allocated between institutions. These take account of certain factors for each institution, including the number and type of students, the subjects taught, and the amount and quality of research undertaken there. After the amount of funding is determined, it is provided in the form of a block grant (see Annex C). Institutions are free to allocate their grant according to their own priorities within broad guidelines. We do not expect institutions to model their internal allocations on our own funding method.

  32.  In distributing the funds, we aim to meet the needs of students, employers and the nation by promoting high quality teaching. Our allocation method for teaching funds similar activities at similar rates for all HEIs, and ensure that any variations are for explicit and justifiable reasons. This means that a student studying a subject at one institution can expect to have available to him or her a similar level of public resources as a student studying the same subject at another institution. In addition, the teaching funding method supports our policy to increase opportunities for a wide range of people to enter higher education. It takes account of the extra cost of providing for certain types of student, such as part-timers and mature undergraduates, and supports diversity by recognising the extra costs of specialist colleges. We have also introduced a funding supplement for students from disadvantaged groups, which recognises the additional costs of recruiting and retaining such students.

  33.  Although the teaching funding method calculates grants in some detail, the funds are nevertheless provided to institutions as a block grant. It is important that they exercise management judgements about the expenditure of this grant and do not simply follow the details of the HEFCE method in their internal resource allocation. There is inherent flexibility in the funding method which means that institutions may change the balance of their provision, between full-time and part-time for example, or between subjects, without incurring penalties. The main area of inflexibility is in the number of full-time and sandwich students, which is subject to control in order to remain within the total of such students fixed by the Government.

  34.  Although the great majority of funding (over 90 per cent) is allocated through block grant, separate funding is reserved for initiatives designed to promote national policies (see Annex D). The policy objective to widen participation in higher education is an example of this. In 1999-2000, £7.5 million will be allocated through a special funding programme to help develop partnerships between HE, schools and community groups, to disseminate and embed good practices, and to continue to improve provision for students with disabilities (see HEFCE publication 99/24).

  35.  We also have a special funding initiative to support the delivery of our learning and teaching strategy—the Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund (TQEF). The TQEF directs funds at three levels: the institution, the subject and the individual. £26 million will be allocated to the TQEF in 1999-2000, £31 million in 2000-01 and £32 million in 2001-02. This initiative ensures that funds will be provided to all HEIs to encourage development and enhance the quality of learning and teaching (see HEFCE publication 99/48).

  36.  The institutional strand of the TQEF supports HEIs in developing and implementing their strategies to improve teaching and learning. To support institutions in preparing and implementing their learning and teaching strategies we have produced a comprehensive good practice guide (HEFCE publication 99/55). Funding for this strand is expected to be around £14.5 million in 1999-2000, £17 million in 2000-01 and £18 million in 2001-02. The allocation of funds to each institution will be determined formulaically using the standard resource for teaching funding as the base and it is for each institution to determine how the money will be spent in furtherance of its strategy.

  37.  The subject strand of the TQEF has two funding streams: the UK wide Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) and phase three of the Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL). The LTSN aims to provide a "one-stop-shop" to promote high quality learning and teaching via subject-based support for sharing innovation and good practice. The FDTL links the results of TQA to the allocation of funds, helping institutions which have demonstrated best practice to disseminate it as widely as possible throughout the sector.

  38.  The individual strand of the TQEF is designed to recognise and reward individual academics who have demonstrated excellence in learning and teaching. This entails creating (jointly with the ILT) a National Teaching Fellowship Scheme and encouraging institutions to implement their own reward and recognition schemes for staff, as part of their learning and teaching strategies. In part, this scheme is designed to raise the status and prestige of teaching.

  39.  Indirectly funded provision which HEIs deliver through partnership arrangements with FECs are also included in calculating special funding allocations. FECs with higher education programmes funded directly by the HEFCE will receive support from a separate development fund to enhance the quality of their HE learning and teaching.

How do different models of attendance affect the quality of teaching and learning experience (eg full time, part-time, distance learning via ICT and other forms of flexible learning, including credit-based systems).

  40.  We believe that a variety of modes of learning and teaching will help open up higher education opportunities to a wider range of students and will help to deliver our goal on widening participation. In particular, increasing availability of credit-based systems will help to achieve this.

The effect of changing patterns of student support and student income on the quality of learning (loans, fees, and the continuing increase in the time students spend in employment/part-time jobs, during courses)

  41.  The issue of student loans and fees is a matter for the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE). However, we are monitoring the effects of the new student support and fee arrangements.

How accountable are universities for the quality of the student learning experience? How will it change as students become more demanding?

  42.  Universities and HE colleges are highly accountable, through the following mechanisms:

    (a)  The publication of TQA and institutional audit reports, covering all subject areas and all institutions (see paragraphs 3-6). Those reports are distributed widely by the QAA.

    (b)  The further dissemination of review outcomes by third parties, including the compilers of student guides.

    (c)  As a result of these two factors, there is a well informed, generally mobile, and highly discriminating set of "customers"—primarily, those applying for HE courses and the employers of graduates. Recent independent studies have shown that information about quality is by no means the only, or even the most significant, determinant of choices. But it is one factor, and the competitive market in recruitment to HE means that universities and colleges take the review results very seriously.

    (d)  Direct follow up by the QAA and the HEFCE as necessary, of TQA results assigned a poor rating (see paragraph 5).

    (d)  The work of the professional bodies in accrediting HE courses (see paragraph 6d).

    (e)  The reports which external examiners prepare each year on the courses they are examining, which are generally submitted to the vice-chancellor or senior management, with a formal process for consideration and follow up of examiners' comments. These arrangements will be further strengthened through the code of practice on external examining which the QAA is preparing.

    (f)  The extensive internal procedures which universities and colleges have for securing accountability, including use of student feedback on the quality of courses, and the role of Academic Boards/Senates.

    (h)  The performance indicators recently introduced by the funding bodies. These contribute to the public accountability of higher education by providing better and more reliable information on the nature and performance of the sector. These indicators allow comparison between individual institutions and enable them to benchmark their own performance. Once indicators have been available for a number of years it will be possible to track changes over time in the sector and in individual institutions. The initial set of indicators covers aspects of teaching and learning and research (see HEFCE publication 99/66).

To what extent are universities involved with their local communities? Would more work in this area have an impact on the nature of the student experience?

INVOLVEMENT WITH THE COMMUNITY

  43.  HEIs have a direct impact upon, or involvement with, their local communities in a number of significant ways including:

    (a)  As providers of skilled manpower in local and regional labour markets including graduates who originate from, or decide to remain in, the region; and post-experience provision at Masters level and through continuing professional development (CPD).

    (b)  Related to this, through various forms of collaboration with local businesses and employers in developing and delivering academic programmes. These interactions range from the commissioning or sponsorship of courses and students, through involvement in course planning, staff exchanges including visiting lectureships and the secondment or placement of academic staff, to arrangements such as Teaching Company Schemes and work experience placements where students spend time in local businesses.

    (c)  As major local employers. In a number of cities or sub-regions the local HEIs are among the largest employers, providing a very broad range of opportunities from highly skilled professional posts to jobs in catering or buildings maintenance.

      (d)  As both consumers and providers of a range of cultural and leisure facilities. The presence of one or more HEIs can considerably increase the client group for such facilities. Institutions are increasingly willing to share their own facilities with local residents, especially where a mutually beneficial relationship can be established. Many HEIs find that they can use their accommodation—both residential student accommodation and specialist conference facilities—to generate valuable income, with the knock-on effect of attracting visitors with money to spend into the area.

      44.  We are funding a new project, in partnership with the CVCP, to examine the range of ways in which HEIs contribute to their regions. The project is being undertaken by the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies at the University of Newcastle.

    SCOPE FOR FURTHER WORK AFFECTING THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE

      45.  Some of the above elements offer more scope than others for enhancing the student experience. HEIs are increasingly concerned to improve the volume and effectiveness of their interactions with local and regional business through a range of activities including:

      (a)  As providers of research, training and consultancy.

      (b)  Placing their students in businesses for structured work experience.

      (c)  Bringing people in from business to help improve the institution's capacity to respond to the needs of the business community.

      46.  The joint HEFCE/DTI Reach-Out to Business and the Community Fund has made special grants to institutions to increase their capability to engage in such activities (see HEFCE publications 99/40 and 00/05). Virtually all of the activities supported by the fund will benefit the student experience directly or indirectly. By fostering constructive dialogue and improved mutual understanding between HE and business, these will help to ensure that the HE experience (including course content and delivery and the development of generic employment-related skills) prepares students to participate effectively in the production economy. The fund currently stands at some £20 million per annum in England and Northern Ireland. If resources were available, we believe that increasing this to around £100 million per annum would enable institutions to achieve a better range and speed of response to business and community needs.

      47.  There is scope for action to improve HE-community interactions across the broad field of cultural activity in ways which impact positively upon the student experience (see HEFCE publication 99/25).

    Higher Education Funding Council for England

    February 2000


     
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