A future for lectures?

Two articles caught my attention this week. Firstly a defence of the traditional lecture by Jonathan Wolff  of University College London and secondly an interview with Anant Agarwal of edX.

In the Guardian, Prof Wolff looks at a history of technical innovations that could have killed off the traditional lecture: the arrival of the printing press; audio recording and easily accessible video recording. In the model of disruptive technologies, then a successful new entrant to a market will offer a cheaper more accessible product, which may not have the features of that which is replacing initially, but which will still dislodge the incumbent market players.  Prof Wolff identifies nylon shirts and wine boxes as innovations that didn’t disrupt established products or services. I’m with him of this – my wine comes in bottles, and my shirts are always pure cotton.

He states:

For as long as the lecture is regarded as better than internet-based learning, it will survive on a substantial scale. And wherein lies its superiority? An interesting question. It is live. It is real. It is put on with you in mind, even if you are one of a large crowd. You experience it with other people. And, perhaps the clincher: it takes place in a university, bursting with life and interesting people who will inspire you in unexpected ways.

I believe that the sense of place is important as a part of the generation of a learning community, however, Prof Wolff does indicate that internet based teaching can offer many benefits. The clever approach surely will be to identify where each of the various technologies or methodologies can be used in an integrated or blended way to maximise student attainment and success.

All of which brings us neatly to the interview in the Times Higher with Anant Agarwal, one of the founders of edX. We’ve noted previously in this blog that the MOOC companies are now looking to blended learning approaches as a way of monetisng their courses and generating revenue to satisfy their investors. edX is a not-for-profit enterprise, but is also now talking about how its MOOCs could link to blended learning programmes:

One route being pursued by edX, which is now partnered with 27 universities across the world, is the licensing of its online courses to other higher education institutions. The idea is that students can view video lectures at home, or on campus in their own time, before receiving face-to-face instruction and guidance from their institution’s academics.

Inevitably there has been concern that if the delivery is being done via the internet, then the role of the lecturer is devalued or even removed.

Agarwal, who earlier this month spoke at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh in defence of Moocs, denies that taking the teaching out of the lecture hall will jeopardise jobs. He insists instead that although lecturers’ roles may change slightly, students using Mooc resources will still benefit from contact time with professors.

“When textbooks came out we could have said the same thing – what’s going to happen to all the professors who had to remember and talk about the content? What it did was to transform professors’ jobs into ones where, rather than imparting content, they worked with students to impart knowledge and learning.”

As a university which has student learning at the centre of its plans, then the way in which we look to use resources such as MOOCs, open educational resources, the technologies used in existing online courses can provide us with new ways of delivering content, and improving the actual teaching that students get.

After all – when did you last see or hear a group of students rushing in excitement to a lecture ?

Report to European Commission on improving teaching and learning

A new publication came out today, the report to the European Commission on improving the quality of teaching and learning in Europe’s higher education institutions.

The report emphasises the importance of teaching in HEIs, and asks that it be treated in the same way as research, in terms of status and promotion prospects.

A number of recommendations are provided- many of them are not earth-shattering, however in addition a number of questions are posed, for leaders of institutions and for teaching staff. Again, these may not be revolutionary for an instituition with a strong teaching and learning focus, but the ones for teachers do provide a useful reflective checklist:


>How comfortable am I with recent teaching concepts, such as student-centred teaching and learning, competences and learning outcomes, etc.? Would my teaching benefit from profes- sional training, mentoring or other support in this area?
> Would a teaching portfolio allow me to better reflect on my own teaching methods, objectives and achievements and thus foster constant improvement of my teaching performance?

Students as partners

> How can I make sure that my teaching puts the students at the centre of the teaching and learning process?
> How can I reach out to students to engage them actively and make them understand that successful teaching and learning at tertiary level requires strong personal commitment from both sides?
> How can I offer adequate counselling to my students,throughout their studies, to help them map out their individual learning itinerary and assume responsibility for it?
orientation phase
> How can I provide clear and transparent information on my study offers, including module descriptions, learning outcomes, and employment perspectives after graduation to prospec- tive students, e.g. through the website of my institution?
> How can I provide prospective students with any information on available self-assessment methods that would allow them to check their affinity and talent for the subject in question, the required previous knowledge, etc.?

Course design

> How can I make sure that my course design encourages and requires the active involvement of students in the learning process, e.g. through innovative forms such as problem-based and research-based learning, self-organised working groups, team work on research projects, tutoring and mentoring activities for the students, etc.?
> Is the course I am delivering part of an integrated curriculum which has been jointly designed by all members of staff involved in delivering the programme, based on a modular structure and agreed learning activities which will allow students to achieve clear and assessable learning outcomes?
> How can I organise my teaching in such a way that it will not simply provide my students with facts and knowledge, but confront them with questions that are bigger than the course itself?
> Will my teaching lead students to questioning their preconceived ideas and thus to a deeper understanding of the issue and to ‘self-thinking’. Will it stimulate critical and inquisitive
attitudes among my students?
> In the spirit of seeing students not as passive recipients of knowledge, but as responsible
partners in the teaching and learning process, how can I involve them in the permanent improvement of my course design?

Course delivery

> How can my teaching take into account the ever growing heterogeneity of the student body by using different methods, new media, new modes of delivery (such as blended learning), etc.?
> How does my course encourage my students to be aware of and to draw not only on my
own teaching and research, but also of fellow academics within and beyond my institution,
including international academics?
> How will my teaching impart, apart from the body of knowledge of the given discipline,
generic and language skills and stimulate personal development ?
> How does my teaching provide a research-rich and interdisciplinary environment to
> How does my course provide my students with a sense of global connectedness and an
understanding of how their subject is viewed in different parts of the world?
> How does my course encourage community engagement and a sense of active citizenship
among my students?


> How can I adapt my assessment formats to reflect the new pedagogical approaches, such as problem-based and research-based learning? Would presentations, role plays and case studies help me to measure the individual student’s progress in the acquisition of certain competences?
> How can I make sure that the number of exams is kept to a reasonable minimum so as not to distract students from their learning and research?

Quality enhancement

> How can I systematically demand student feedback on their learning experience in my courses? How can I use this feedback to constantly improve my teaching performance?
> Would I benefit from exchanges with colleagues on latest developments in curricular design,
new modes of delivery and assessment, and from peer reviewing of my teaching?

100 under 50

Yet another league table, or ranking of universities.

Ths week the Times Higher publishes it’s league table of the top 100 universities in the world, under 50 years old. One point of interest is the number of universities from the UK that make the list.

So here they are:

York. 7th
Warwick. 13th
Lancaster. 14th
UEA. 16th
Essex. 29th
Bath. 34th
Brunel 44th
Plymouth. 53rd
Stirling. 61st
Herriot Watt. 63rd
Loughborough. 65th
Surrey. 71st
Hertfordshire. 75th
Strathclyde. 79th
Liverpool John Moores. 88th
Aston. 96th
Kent. 97th
Open. 99th

Interesting that 3 of the universities are from the post-92 sector- it’ll be interesting to look at the methodology and see how they got there.

Annual Survey of HE Leaders

The fifth annual survey of leaders of HEIs in the UK (Charting a winning course – How student experiences will shape the future of higher education) was published today by PA consulting .

The report is summarised as:

“This year’s survey report records the beginnings of a sea-change in the strategic priorities of leaders across the HE system. In place of their historical obsession with the outlook for Government policy and funding, leaders appear to have switched their focus to the competitive battle for fee-paying students and the imperative to offer attractive and rewarding learning experiences. This imperative is driven by the effective demise of grant funding for teaching, coupled with slowing and potentially falling student numbers and increased competition from alternative routes to higher learning.

Sector leaders are unimpressed by predictions that online alternatives will sweep away conventional providers of higher education, expressing confidence in the resilience of the established system to embrace and adapt to new ways of working. Nonetheless, our respondents are united in expecting the emergence of a very different HE system, characterised by a diversity of tailored and student-centred learning experiences delivered through a patchwork of provider partnerships, collaborations and alliances.

Our survey reveals a widespread expectation that not all current providers will survive this disruption, with predictions of institutional failures. There are however few signs of this actually happening. The more likely outcome, in our view, is a radical restructuring of relationships and ventures within and between providers, rather than a widespread shake-out of institutions. “

The greatest worry expressed by HE leaders is around future student demand – not really surprising considering a number of factors such as Changing demographic of UK population, with a reduction of 18yer olds for the next few years and the perceived lack of welcome from the UK towards international students. Over 90% were worried about the decline in UK/EU numbers of postgraduate students, and 80% about international postgraduates. As the report states:

“It is becoming apparent, as the market data increasingly validate these worries, that real competition for students of all types is becoming the major force for change in higher education”

This means that student experience is becoming increasingly important, and an area where universities will seek to differentiate themselves.

90% of respondents said that improving the student experience proposition was among their top three strategic priorities

“Strategic motivations for this priority were, however, polarised between those leaders who regard improved student experiences as primarily a driver of institutional standing (for example as factors in league table ratings or as a source of market distinctiveness) and those who are more concerned to improve students’ learning outcomes and/or employment prospects.”

This is an interesting split.  There is a real danger in being driven just by league tables, and forgetting that they are simply a mirror held up to us to see a reflection of our performance.  While improving our league table position is important, my view is that our focus has to be on improving student experience and outcomes, and allowing this to drive the league table.

To improve experience, many respondents indicated that increased contact with and access to academic staff would be desirable, whilst recognising the cost implications. In my view, this is where an L&T strategy could be designed which would ensure that contact was relevant, and significantly higher for the earlier levels of an award, with a subsequent decrease in the later years, with better use of technology supported learning for the more experienced learners.

It’s interesting to look at the graph below showing the factors that leaders felt inhibited improvements to student experience – cost implications and government or funding policies figure highly.

PA rept4

(from Charting a winning course – How student experiences will shape the future of higher education)


Another interesting finding of the survey was that, after all the hype about MOOCs (previously written about ad nauseam on this blog), many university leaders do not see them as a disruption which could remove established models of higher education. Many did think that the new technologies could lead to new forms of blended learning and blended pathways. Regular readers will know that this would be my take – unless we are all wrong and an avalanche really is coming.

The survey this year has suggested that “HE leaders have little expectation that Government or ‘official’ sector bodies will be central to their future success” and:

“None regarded Government departments or agencies as prime sources of innovative thinking or stimulus for change regarding student experiences (most institutions look first to their own staff and students for new thinking in this area). In this, as in many other regards, it is increasingly apparent that HE leaders no longer see themselves as responsible for delivering public education policies, and are looking to grow their institutions’ futures in a very different, learner-centred market environment.”

Our own university plan reflects this in its focus on partnership with the various key stakeholder groups – of which government is not one.

The outcome of the survey shows the prevailing neo-liberal view of higher education where student outcomes are measured very much in terms of the benefit to the individual student and their individual employment prospects, rather than the benefit that may be gained by society as a whole through their education.

Most HE leaders surveyed though that the sector was going to change in size and shape, with mergers and closures as part of the change. This is similar to previous survey results – which seem to say,” yes there’ll be closures, but it’ll be someone else.” The most anticipated change is in multi-institution partnership, alliances and networks.

PA rept6


(from Charting a winning course – How student experiences will shape the future of higher education)

Overall – the two most interesting things in this report for me are: the emphasis on student experience and how that could be differentiate between institutions; and the view of how some technologies will not be the disruption that others believe.


My Next Online Course

Regular readers will be aware of my ambivalence about MOOCs – I don’t see them as the avalanche that will totally transform or disrupt higher education, although I can recognise there are some useful things we can learn from them.

They do however provide a great opportunity for self-directed personal learning and development, with no financial cost – but a significant time commitment.

The recent NMC Horizon report identified that Learning Analytics will be a key development in the coming years, hence I am now enroled for Coursera’s new course on Big Data in Education which starts in August and runs for 10 weeks.

Through this I’ll be studying:

  • Prediction Modeling
  • Behavior Detection
  • Behavior Detector Validation
  • Relationship Mining
  • Discovery with Models
  • Visualization of Educational Data
  • Knowledge Inference
  • Structure Discovery: Knowledge Structures
  • Structure Discovery: Clustering and Factor Analysis
  • Educational Databases

Come and join me!

Some thoughts on improving league table outcomes


League tables are not something that are done to us. They are just a reflection of our performance, and I think we would all like to see our performance improve to the point in those tables where we all think we should be.

Staffordshire has performed better in student satisfaction this year, but the areas in which we could improve are: value added; career prospects, and entry tariff.

I’ll be meeting with lots of people of the next few weeks to start looking at what this means for us, and what we can change. The thoughts below are just a starting point – I hope everyone will engage in this important debate, starting with Heads of School and Associate Deans in the monthly meeting this week.     

Value added

In the Guardian League Table, this is a measure of good degree outcomes, moderated by  entry qualifications, rather than a simple measure of distance of travel between entry and exit. Since some of the most highly selective universities, with the highest entry tariffs, score most highly in value added, then as a University, we need to be looking at how many of our students are gaining good degrees. We already know that despite this figure rising in 2011-12, we are still a university that awards relatively few 1sts and 2(i)s.

There are a number of approaches we could use to tackle this, and to have any effect we will need to consider all of them

  • Reviewing award regulations
  • Reviewing individual module performances
  • Reviewing student support systems
  • Reviewing learning and teaching strategies, particularly around assessment and feedback
  • Making sure all student groups (by gender, age, ethnicity etc) are able to perform equally well.

Career prospects

Firstly we need to ensure that the data we return is as good as possible – although this is the same for all of our data returns that are used in league table compilation.

Secondly, increasing the number of good degrees that we award should have positive benefit- students with a 2(i) or above are more likely to gain graduate employment, or land interviews with the bigger employers.

Thirdly, our Staffordshire Graduate programme will help to make our graduates more employable, but this will only start to pay dividends for the cohort graduating in 2015.

Finally, we could look to creating graduate internships within the university- other institutions have already done this. The benefit to the graduate is clear- graduate level work experience – and the benefit to us would be a pool of motivated employees who could be engaged in short term project work in both academic and service departments of the organisation.

Entry tariff

On one level this should be a no-brainer- students with better A levels perform better in degrees. However, we should not lose sight of two things:

  • Our commitment  to widening participation in a city with relatively low educational achievement
  • The numbers of students that we have with BTEC and other qualifications

Raising entry tariff sends a marketing message about the perceived value of an award, and may make it more likely for us to become first choice for applicants. However, in terms of improving attainment, we should also be developing a better understanding of our students’ previous background, which will involve a bit of data mining of our information system, and then ensuring our TLA approaches are suitable.

We will be working this year to gain a better understanding of how BTEC students achieve at university, how EdExcel awards could be designed to prepare students better for higher education, and how we could adjust to teaching these entrants


There’s a lot of work to do here, but we have turned a corner, our league table position is slightly better this year, and we are developing a better understanding  of how  to improve our position. To reiterate my first point though – this is not about responding to a league table result, or trying to game the system. It’s a recognition that the table is just a reflection of where we are right now. I think we all believe that we can be better than we seem to appear , and so we can start working towards that goal.

Mitra and Agarwal in today’s Observer

This week’s Sunday paper had articles by two of the well known names in disrupting education – Sugata Mitra of the “Hole in the Wall” project, and Anant Agarwal of EdX.

The gurus preaching these disruptions must love the platform they are given by mainstream press, and by industry bodies such as UUK as it gives them unbridled opportunity to preach to opinion formers. However, let’s look at what they have to say, and how useful it might be to us.

Firstly Sugata Mitra writes on “Advent of Google means we must rethink our approach to education” in which he discusses his view that curriculum is out of date in schools, and that self organising learning environments are the alternative. I’m pretty sure that Michael Gove might have a diametrically opposite point of view, but there is validity here in some of his ideas. I’m not sure I go all the way in removing all of the curriculum, but in terms of assessments being able to assess real skills rather than just facts then as Mitra says:

Teaching in an environment where the internet and discussion are allowed in exams would be different. The ability to find things out quickly and accurately would become the predominant skill. The ability to discriminate between alternatives, then put facts together to solve problems would be critical. That’s a skill that future employers would admire immensely.

He is not without his critics – a quick read of the comments underneath the article shows that, and it’s worth a look at this brief interview with Steve Wheeler.

The second article is by Anant Agarwal, one of the founders of EdX, the not for profit MOOC company led by Harvard and MIT, entitled “Online universities: it’s time for teachers to join the revolution“.

Like so many mainstream press articles on MOOCs, this is as usual full of praise and hyperbole about their potential:

“One way Moocs have changed education is by increasing access. Moocs make education borderless, gender-blind, race-blind, class-blind and bank account-blind”.

“Moocs are also improving the quality of education. Online learning promotes active learning, where the learner watches videos and engages in interactive exercises.”

An interesting point he makes is this (and remember Coursera’s recently expressed intention to move into the blended learning arena?):

I do not believe online education can replace a college experience, but the days of the old ways of teaching are numbered. Students have always been critical of large lecture halls where they are talked at, and declining lecture attendance is the result. But today we see that there is deep educational value in interactive learning, both online and in the classroom. Colleges and universities are beginning to use Moocs to make blended courses where online videos replace lectures, and class time is spent interacting with the professor, teaching staff and other students. Blended courses can produce good results.

Agarwal also talks about:

  • the learning analytics they can perform: “EdX and its partner universities are using the data we collect throughout a class to research how students learn most effectively, and then apply that knowledge to both online learning and traditional on-campus teaching.”,
  • changes to assessment “Another way technology has driven these revolutionary changes in education is through using artificial intelligence to help teachers effectively assess students’ work.”
  • and the release of the EdX platform as open source “In April we announced that our entire learning platform would be released as an open source on 1 June, and that Stanford University, along with Berkeley, MIT, Harvard and others, would start collaborating with us to continue to improve the platform. We are looking forward to universities and developers everywhere enhancing the platform that powers our edX courses.

These are some of the ways in which all institutions might benefit from the technologies the MOOC providers have developed – at the simplest level, using some fairly simple learning analytics on our own VLE, together with attendance monitoring would provide information on overall engagement of students and what we could do to improve that engagement and hence success.

People and Planet Green League Table 2013

Well at this time of year, league tables come thick and fast. I’m not going to cite the one on studentbeans.com which ranks universities on the “activity” hem hem of their students.


Today sees the announcement of the latest Green league table from People and Planet, an area where we as a university make a significant commitment.

According to the Guardian:

Taking the No. 1 spot in this year’s People & Planet Green League is Manchester Met, which jumps from 10th place last year. Coming just half a point behind is Plymouth, in second place for the second year in a row. Plymouth scores full points for every policy measure apart from ethical investment. Greenwich, top last year, slips to 6th place, but is still just 3.5 points behind the leader. The most-improved is Sheffield University, which jumps 63 places to 56th. Its giant leap is largely thanks to a strong new sustainable food policy, increased environmental staff capacity and the introduction of ambitious carbon-reduction targets.

Staffordshire has risen 15 places to 16th in the table,which is excellent news.

Looking at the detailed results for our university, then the weakest area is in integration of sustainability issues into the curriculum. We can argue that we deal with this under global citizenship, as part of the Staffordshire Graduate attributes, but maybe we need to offer more guidance to staff and students on how this is embedded.

More thoughts on the Guardian 2014 League Table – NSS scores and added value

The eagle-eyed will have spotted that the NSS scores that appear in the guide are different from those that we have seen before. This is not just the case for this university, but for other institutions,. the table below shows the league table’s NSS figures against the results released by Ipsos-Mori last year.



The methodology used in constructing the website is presented on the Guardian website. This ought to explain the difference above – but I haven’t yet figured it out.

In terms of how we fare against our competitors, here’s the same diagram, but sorted in terms of overall NSS satisfaction:



Maybe it’s a good thing that the Guardian records this as 85%, and not 82%!

An area to be investigated is that of value added. In the Guardian table, this relates to both entry qualifications and to the probability of gaining a good degree . The table below shows the results in order of value added (from the Guardian league table) and the percentage of good honours degrees (from the recent CUG table). Guardian data in blue.


We can clearly see that to start to rise up either of these tables, that we need to focus on methods of ensuring that more of our students gain better classifications of degrees. This might involve looking at marking criteria, looking at which modules are consistently causing difficulty, and looking at preparing students for final year study. It absolutely does not involve reviewing and compromising academic standards!




A critical path: Securing the future of higher education in England

This new publication from the Institute of Public Policy and Research has been produced by their Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The commissioners were:

Professor Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor and president, University of Warwick (chair)

Thom Arnold, former president, Sheffield Students’ Union (2011/12)

Professor Janet Beer, vice-chancellor, Oxford Brookes University

Dame Jackie Fisher, chief executive, Newcastle College Group

Professor Sandra McNally, director of education and skills, LSE

Professor John Sexton, president, New York University

Professor Sir Steve Smith, vice-chancellor and chief executive, University of Exeter

Professor Sir Rick Trainor, principal and president, King’s College London

Hugh Morgan Williams, chairman, Broadtek Ltd

In the executive summary it states that “this Commission believes that our higher education system must continue to be shaped by five principles. We believe that higher education institutions must:

• be disinterested producers of knowledge

• nurture sceptical and informed citizens

• promote the public good

• expand opportunity for all, and

• further national economic renewal.”

The summary of recommendations is: (my comments in italics)

“1. Higher education opportunities should continue to expand. While resources are constrained in the next parliament, we should sustain the current proportion of 18–21-year olds entering higher education until 2020, while focusing additional places on locally available, flexible and low-cost courses, aimed in particular at those who seek vocational oriented learning.

A possible opportunity here for universities that have a strong record of local recruitment, and vocational courses

2. Universities and further education colleges should be able to bid to provide new £5,000 ‘fee only’ degrees, focused on vocational learning and offered to local students who would be eligible for fee loans but not maintenance support.

similar to the Coventry University College model?

3. The government should consider reforms to the approximately £5 billion that companies receive in training tax relief, with a view to better incentivising employers to invest in courses leading to accredited qualifications and continuing professional development, whether in further or higher education.

This may be interesting in light of the work that this and other universities/colleges already do in developing bespoke accredited programmes

4. We must strengthen our systems of vocational provision and in particular our provision of advanced vocational learning through further education colleges. More of these institutions should be given the ability to award degrees and granted the renewed use of the title ‘polytechnic’.

interesting to see the word polytechnic reappear. Is this likely to cause a different version of the binary divide in HE?

5. We should continue to ring-fence and sustain in cash terms the science and research budget through the next spending review period until 2017/18. Because this implies a continued real-terms decline in funding, we argue that once the structural deficit in the public finances has been eradicated we should commit to a 10-year strategy of raising public investment in research each year above inflation.

6. We should reallocate approximately £1 billion a year that is mainly spent inefficiently on R&D tax incentives to instead set up a national network of Applied Research and Innovation Centres focused on boosting applied research in the strategic industries of the future and on revitalising regions with below-average growth.

7. Universities in Britain should follow the best practice of the US Ivy League in recruiting and ‘crafting’ diverse and representative student intakes. This is to ensure that students are educated not merely for individual advancement but also to be effective and responsible leaders with an understanding of an increasingly diverse society and interconnected world.

as i understand it, the Ivy League universities are able to do this by offering scholarships to enable them to “craft” their student body. Without a history of endowments and moire importantly use of them to do this, then our “leading” universities will take a while to catch up

8. Funding should be shifted out of fee waivers and bursaries and into outreach programmes, which have a stronger track-record of recruiting applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds. Where possible, these should be delivered collaboratively by higher education institutions in the same city-region.

9. A student premium should be introduced of £1,000 extra per student from a low-participation area or who has received free school meals, in order to recognise the additional cost of their learning and recruitment. This would be funded by reallocating existing widening participation resources and the abolition of the national scholarship programme.

10. Institutions that currently have a small core allocation of places should be able to recruit unlimited numbers of students who are eligible for the student premium, in the same way as they are currently free to recruit students with grades ABB+. This will enable them to make contextual offers to this group.

11. More widespread use of contextual admissions data should be promoted so that lower offers can be made to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This will be enabled by exempting 10 per cent of the lowest grades from entry tariff calculations in university league tables, provided universities commit to using them for contextual offers.

This, and the two points above are important in addressing issues of low participation, and social justice. However  we need to recognise at the same time that such students would need more support in their learning, particularly in the transition to HE. In order o ensure that they remain in HE an d are able to succeed, those institutions that might do thsi would need to revise their overall learning and teaching strategies to reflect their student body.

12. Eligibility for part-time loans should be extended to tackle the crisis in part-time learning.

this really should have been sorted out after the Browne review!

13. International students should to be removed from the net migration target and the rules governing post-study work should be revised, to ensure that the UK’s HE sector can compete on a global stage.

Yet another report asks the government to act on this – but so many reports and so many select committees have already said the same. The standoff between BIS and the Home Office is potentially damaging to the UK HE business, and our reputation overseas is likely to be damaged.

14. A new postgraduate loans system should be introduced to enable fair and wider access to postgraduate courses.

15. Higher education institutions should strengthen the active participation of students in improving teaching and learning.

I think this is already happening – we see students increasingly engaged in quality processes  and we take increasing note of what is said in student surveys and understand how this affects us in league tables and Unistats. There will always be  a possible tension between “students as learners” and “students as customers” – if we use this university’s view of students as partners in learning, then we are taking steps in the right direction

16. English higher education institutions should embrace the potential of new technologies by recognising credit from low-cost online courses so that these may count, in part, towards degree programmes. To make a start down this road we recommend that the Open University should accredit MOOCs provided via the FutureLearn platform so that they can count towards degree programmes offered by the OU itself and its partner institutions.

Yes well…..FutureLearn is not likely to be offering credit initially. What could be interesting is how institutions who are not partners of the OU could reuse the materials provided (assuming tha they are “open”) and then award credit themselves. Alternatively, there are useful lessons to be learned from some of the uses of technology to improve any on-campus offer.

17. All universities should follow the example of those that have created an established career path for academics who want to focus on teaching.

I think this goes without saying, but it is important that institutions who follow this do have in place the promotion and reward mechanisms for those who wish to pursue a teaching career (and for me that isn’t about just teaching, but providing leadership and innovation in teaching and learning).

18. To enable greater transferability throughout the system:

–– HEFCE should exempt those students that transfer directly from one institution to another from student number controls.

–– Higher education institutions should be encouraged to establish transfer arrangements with other institutions, both regionally and nationally. The regulator should include accreditation of prior learning as a good practice in access agreements. It should also set benchmarks for how many transfer students institutions should aim to admit.

–– HESA should collect data on the extent to which institutions engage in transfers and accredit previous qualifications of students.

19. We recommend that HEFCE, QAA and OFFA should be merged into a single higher education regulator. This will reduce bureaucracy by simplifying the relationship between universities and government.”

every report on HE recommends this……

I’m sure there’ll be  a brief flurry of commentary over the next week, indeed there is already a review on the WonkHE site by David Kernohan, but this report may go the way of so many. Still some interesting ideas here though, particularly for a university like ours.