HEFCE sees student involvement and flexible provison as the future for HE
In recent days, HEFCE has signalled several important messages for the future of the HE sector.
Speaking at the annual Dearing Higher Education Conference, HEFCE Chief Executive Sir Alan Langlands said that it was essential that work on quality improvement in higher education satisfied present and future students. This underlines the need for the active involvement of students at all levels of university development and decision making will become even more important in the future. The context for this continued emphasis on responsive quality improvement is given by the changes in funding that the sector is facing:
“We have an internationally respected higher education system, derived from a progressively reformed ‘public-private’ funding mix. There is a clear case for change based on questions of affordability to the state, benefits to individuals and the need for continuous improvement. This change needs to be carefully handled – building on existing strengths, investing for the future where possible and tackling weaknesses head-on. [...] In working towards the new arrangements we do need regulation that will protect the interests of students and the wider public, but this has to be carefully judged: whilst it should not be intrusive, there must be mechanisms to intervene when institutions are facing financial or other difficulties. This is an important balancing act and we need to get it right.”
He said the aggregate effects of all the recent changes would be very different in different institutions, and that HEFCE would work in the interests of students to support institutions which have to change their business models, and perhaps their size and shape, in response to higher levels of financial risk.
Full text of Sir Alan Langlands’ speech: http://hefce.ac.uk/news/hefce/2011/A.Langlands_DearingConf17Feb.doc (MS Word format)
HEFCE has also published three studies on flexible and innovative provision. Remarking on the studies, Heather Fry, Director (Education and Participation), said they “advance understanding of the issues around flexible learning and address some of the questions that have emerged from the HEFCE-funded Flexible Learning Pathfinders.
“Liz Hart Associates’ costing study of two-year accelerated honours degrees concludes that there are potential cost savings to be made through accelerated delivery, but that these are dependent upon other changes in institutions and the ability to operate at greater scale. While costs per year were found to be higher than for three-year delivery, these can be more than offset by the potential savings (particularly in estates, infrastructure and central services) to be made by opting for two-year accelerated delivery. The study also identifies the challenges faced by institutions in implementing accelerated degrees, and puts forward some interesting ideas as to how changes might be facilitated.
“We need to be cautious in extrapolating from the findings of these two studies, given the small numbers involved and the concentration on particular subject areas. I am pleased that we plan to carry out further work in 2011 which will look at the characteristics of a further cohort of students. I hope that the costing study will provide a starting point for institutions that wish to explore in more detail the costs of accelerated delivery and of flexible learning in general.
“Together with these recent studies, we are also publishing our report ‘Diverse provision: options and challenges’. This was written in early summer 2010 to provide information to ministers, and is now published at the Government’s request. The time lag between writing and full publication means we may now be thinking differently about some aspects, but much of the report should still be of use and interest.”
- Flexible Learning Pathfinders: key statistics 2008-09 (HEFCE 2011/05)
- Costing study of two-year accelerated honours degrees: A report to HEFCE by Liz Hart Associates
- Diverse provision: options and challenges (MS Word format)