Three UK HE agencies should be merged, says review

Sir David Bell’s review says the ECU, HEA and LFHE should become one body by September

January 31, 2017

The UK’s Equality Challenge Unit, Higher Education Academy and Leadership Foundation for Higher Education should be merged to create a new, more “holistic” sector body, according to a review.

A review group established by Universities UK and chaired by Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor of the University of Reading, makes the merger – which should be delivered this year – its key recommendation in its report published on 31 January.

“The core functions of the Equality Challenge Unit, the Higher Education Academy and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education should be merged into a single body to create a new, more responsive and holistic sector agency,” the review says.

“This new body will support institutions to meet strategic challenges as they relate to equality and diversity, learning and teaching, and leadership and governance. It should seek to realise the full potential of bringing these functions together in one single organisation.”

The review says that the “timetable” for delivering the new body would be September this year, with “a new subscription model to be in place for September 2018”.

Among its 11 recommendations, the review also says that a transition group should be established to help coordinate the delivery of the proposed merged body and that affected agencies should freeze all subscription rates and packages until the merger.

The review adds that the Higher Education Careers Service Unit, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, Jisc and Ucas “should form a strategic delivery partnership with a focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of data-related functions and services”.

“The partnership should aim to better coordinate data and innovation-led activities, with a focus on reducing the administrative burden on institutions and enhancing the overall impact and effectiveness of the system.”

Hecsu should move towards a subscription-free model over the next two years, and a forum should be established for chairs of sector agencies with senior representation from UUK and GuildHE, the review also says.

Sir David said: “The sector has, however, undergone significant policy reforms and funding changes in recent years. Most of the sector agencies have been in place for many years, so it was important to ensure that they have all adapted to this new environment and that they are able to meet the needs of a dynamic and increasingly diverse sector.

“The review identified a clear need for reform. Reducing duplication and improving value for money and coordination between agencies were some of the key concerns identified by institutional leaders and other stakeholders.

“These recommendations, including the creation of a new, merged body, should help to ensure that the agencies continue to succeed and support the sector well into the future.”

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