Hewitt: policymakers’ ‘narrow’ view of sector could hurt post-92s

New MillionPlus chief executive says blinkered focus on graduate employment data could make life ‘very difficult’ for modern institutions

八月 2, 2021
Rachel Hewitt

Reforms that could make life “very difficult” for England’s modern universities are driven by a lack of appreciation for post-92 institutions’ important roles, a sector leader said.

Rachel Hewitt, the newly appointed chief executive of MillionPlus, which represents modern universities, said the biggest challenges ahead for her member institutions were “likely to come from policy initiatives rather than Covid”.

A range of policy proposals coming from Westminster and the Office for Students could hit less prestigious institutions particularly hard, including a cut in tuition fees and the imposition of sector-wide minimum entry standards, and particularly the introduction of minimum baselines for the proportion of graduates going into managerial and professional jobs.

Ms Hewitt said that while the idea of wanting to link university degrees and graduate careers “isn’t necessarily a bad thing”, problems arose when that was “limited to narrow metrics: graduate-level jobs, which is a debated term, or graduate salaries, which can be influenced by so many other things”.

“Modern universities represent some of the best of what education can do in terms supporting students from a diverse range of backgrounds,” she said. However, that does not always translate into high earnings: either because of the careers graduates choose, for example, in healthcare or the creative industries, or because of the parts of the country where they are located.

If universities fail to meet the graduate employment thresholds, which will not be benchmarked on social mobility measures, their registration with the English regulator could be at risk.

“With the potential level of policy change that we might see, it could be very difficult for some universities,” Ms Hewitt said.

“When people who aren’t involved in the sector look at the university system, they often see it in a really narrow way,” she continued. “In some ways, that’s understandable as people often go on their own experiences, but we need to help people – the general public, the media and government – recognise that diversity of our higher education is really important.”

Any idea that universities were short-changing students from deprived backgrounds to get “more bums on seats”, as universities minister Michelle Donelan suggested, was not supported by the evidence, Ms Hewitt argued. “In fact, the evidence says it has a transformative impact on people’s lives – particularly for people who don’t have a family background in higher education.”

Any form of student number controls, for example, through minimum entry requirements, would “have a damaging impact on those from low-participation backgrounds”, said Ms Hewitt, who was formerly director of policy and advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute.

This was a particular issue for modern universities, whose goal is to support “anyone who has the ambition, the talent, to succeed in higher education”, she added.

Many Westminster priorities – such as improving technical and vocational education, and “levelling up” the English regions – were already being pioneered in modern universities, Ms Hewitt said.

She said she would be “shouting about” all the “brilliant work already going on within universities” and pushing for conversations that talk about universities in a broader way, recognising that there are different universities that operate in different ways. “It’s a great strength of the UK system,” she said.



Print headline: Hewitt: bureaucrats’ ‘narrow’ view of sector could hurt post-92s



  • 注册是免费的,而且十分便捷
  • 注册成功后,您每月可免费阅读3篇文章
  • 订阅我们的邮件
Please 登录 or 注册 to read this article.

Reader's comments (2)

The research questions are well posed and address questions of fundamental and broad interest. The proposed research is moderately innovative but integrates into a word-wide approach to link observably animal behaviour with underlying neuronal activities. Conceptual framework is being developed. Methods are state of the art but not as novel as claimed at several occasions. As stated in the review of the preceding application, a resolvable weakness is the proposed use of VGAT-ChR2-eYFP mice to facilitate an optogenetic approach to inhibit pyramidal neurons since the effects of ChR2-mediated activation of GABAergic cells strongly depends on the GABAergic cell subtype. For one subtype a “paradoxical” excitation of pyramidal cells is known. This issue is partially addressed by adding an approach aimed at direct inhibition of pyramidal cells. Unfortunately, not the most suitable opsin in selected. In the 2020 application, I noted as another resolvable weakness that targeting GCaMP6f to superficial layer (L)2/3 excitatory pyramidal neurons as described in Madisen et al., 2015 requires tTA mice and the mesoscopic imaging at single cell resolution most likely requires a sparse expression strategy. These methods are described in the literature and the applicant may simply consult the literature to deal with this weakness in the application. The applicant has addressed this concern by editing at some places, but he did not include the required mouse strains in the budget consideration.