Policy summary, February 2021

It has been a busy start to the year for HE policy and politics, despite the roll-out of a third UK lockdown at the start of the year – significantly impacting campus presence and face-to-face teaching and cancelling summer level 3 exams again this summer across all UK administrations.

After numerous delays, the government FE white paper has now been published, alongside an interim response to the Augar Review and the Pearce review of the TEF. A summary of these and other “live” policies are outlined below.

  • Skills for Jobs FE white paper

The Skills for Jobs white paper presents the government’s post-compulsory skills agenda, setting out plans to boost quality, parity of esteem and take-up of higher technical qualifications at levels four and five. “Kitemarked” qualifications will be approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) based on the institute’s employer-led standards for higher apprenticeships. The triangulation will be completed through full alignment to T levels, enabling progression from T levels to HTQs.

The range of options at post-16 and post-compulsory will be showcased by a modest injection into careers advice through improvements to the national careers service website and further rollout of local careers hubs.

From 2023, funding for non-kitemarked qualifications will be reduced and a new IfATE/OFS system for assessing quality beyond initial qualification approval will be applied to all technical education providers. This will include apprenticeships, which are also targeted for expansion, through funding for smaller employers to offer apprenticeships, greater ease for larger employers to transfer their apprenticeship levy funds, and the publication of salary returns data for apprenticeships.

The lifetime skills guarantee, and lifelong loan allowance announced by the Prime Minister last September, intended to allow more flexible use of student loan entitlement over a lifetime, will be implemented from 2025. Aligned with this is a signal of future funding to support development of more modular, flexible higher education provision and credit transfer in 2021-22.

Prior to this (in summer 2021) there will be funding for a further eight Institutes of Technology charged with offering high quality higher technical STEM provision in all areas of England.

  • TEF report

Dame Shirley Pearce’s Independent Review of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) called for clarity of purpose (and name) and improvements its metrics and their statistical application, transparency, relevance and balance (read burden). Pearce recommended greater granularity within four aspects – Teaching and Learning Environment, Student Satisfaction, Educational Gains, Graduate Outcomes – and a more nuanced rating system.

Pearce noted the need for broader input metrics, accounting for regional differences. Within Educational Gains, she noted an ambition for each university to demonstrate how, within their own particular mission, they articulate and measure the educational outcomes and learning that they aim to provide for their students.

A subject-level exercise was also recommended for inclusion in the provider-level assessment to inform ratings at provider rather than subject level.

  • Government’s response to the TEF report

The Government “mostly agreed” with the Review’s high-level recommendations and has responded by abandoning the subject level TEF exercise. Instead, they have asked OfS to develop a “revised and invigorated” provider-level TEF which will run not on a one-year cycle, but every four to five years, with the first group of assessments completed and published by 2022. Where the government didn’t agree with the recommendations was in its insistence that the TEF’s secondary purpose was to inform student choice. Furthermore, emphasis on ‘Student Satisfaction’ was rejected in favour of ‘Student Academic Experience’.

Unsurprisingly, driving out low quality provision permeated the Government’s vision for the new TEF (name unchanged) within a wider quality regime which will “apply across all providers, not just those at the lower end (where the OfS is consulting on plans to introduce a more rigorous quality baseline)” – see below. Four award levels will replace the existing bronze, silver and gold, where the new bottom category will capture those providers failing to show sufficient evidence of excellence and who need to improve the quality of their provision. The introduction of Limiting Factors is mooted, such that a provider should not achieve a high TEF rating if it has poor student outcomes.

A consultation on future iterations of TEF is expected in due course, including measures beyond

just earnings (including a reliable measure of educational gain) taking account of regional variations and flexible modes of study. There is a useful ONS Evaluation of the statistical elements of TEF which might guide this, at least in part.

In case you missed it, the OfS published the findings from the second subject-level pilot of the TEF in 2018-19 to coincide with the publication of the Pearce Review into the TEF.

  • Government’s (holding) response to the Augar Review

The Augar Review was the 2019 review of post-18 education and funding. For a summary in relation to engineering, see the EPC blog. In their much-delayed response to Augar, the Government stopped short of any serious funding reforms instead shoehorning these into further reforms to the higher education system to be consulted on in spring 2021 ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The current freeze on the maximum fee levels, and the threat of a huge cut in Home undergraduate fees, remains until then.

There is some recycling of policy in Skills for Jobs white paper (see above), including the lifelong loan entitlement, local skills improvement plans, the rollout of approvals for higher technical qualifications, and signalled plans for incentivising more modular and flexible delivery apply across higher education.

The Government also outlined its plan to realign teaching grant funding towards national priorities (through the introduction of a bid basis) including STEM, healthcare and specific labour market needs (see below).

  • Teaching Grant

The Teaching Grant letter announces an £85 million increase to the amount allocated through the main “high-cost subject funding” method for high-cost and “strategically important” subjects, including engineering. The London weightings in student premium and T funding will be ended from 2021-22, which is a big hit for London universities, particularly the big multidisciplinary ones who won’t benefit from an increase for small and specialist providers.

The budget for Uni Connect goes from £60m to £40 million, with the savings going on £5m for student hardship and £15m for mental health. Finally, capital funding for providers will be distributed through a bidding competition rather than a formula method, and students from the Crown Dependencies will be subject to home fee status and counted for funding purposes.

  • Quality and standards

Although there is, as yet, no formal response from the Office for Students on the recent quality and standards consultation, Government will to exert power over metricised HE “underperformance” permeates the policies of the day. Within these, OfS is asked to roll questions of standalone modular provision into its thinking on the development of the quality regime.

We are also promised a consultation on “further reforms” to the higher education system in spring 2021 which, along with “other matters”, may pick up on some of the missing in action proposals form Augar et el including the future of foundation years, reforms to student finance, minimum entry requirements. Hopefully all ahead of a final decision on quality and standards.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that the sector – which has pretty much unanimously called for the Quality Code to be retained – recognises the fatal undermining of the proposed approach to the government’s other levelling-up and social mobility agendas.

  • Post qualification admissions

Following the flurry of reviews of university admissions by UCAS, Universities UK, the Office for Students and DfE late in 2020 the latest, DfE, consultation is aimed principally at when students receive and accept university offers (not the wider assessment, admission or policy agendas).

The consultation presents two options which are predicated on removing teacher predictions from the system altogether in favour of on exam results. The first, “post-qualification applications and offers”, creates a longer application window by moving results dates forward to the end of July, and higher education term dates back to the first week of October. The second, “Pre-qualification applications with post-qualification offers and decisions” would mean applications being made during term-time (as now) but offers being made after results day.

DfE recognises that courses which require additional entrance tests, auditions and/ or interviews will also need to be accommodated in either system, somehow (cue the consultation).

The EPC is currently considering its response. DfE’s consultation runs until mid-May.

  • Brexit

The Turing Scheme – a replacement for the Europe-wide Erasmus+ now that its door is closed following the UK’s departure from the EU – was launched by Gavin Williamson earlier this month. Alongside this, the government has updated its International Education Strategy with a commitment to increase the amount generated from education exports, such as fees and income from overseas students and English language teaching abroad, to £35 billion a year, and sustainably recruit at least 600,000 international students to the UK by 2030.

The Turing Scheme is the UK’s global programme to study and work abroad. Website. EPC research (to be published shortly) conducted in partnership with UCL’s Engineering Education, highlighted many of the benefits of engagement in European student and staff exchange.

  • Free Speech proposals

The government has published proposals on academic freedom and freedom of speech as follows:

  1. Legislate for a Free Speech and Academic Freedom Champion to be appointed as a member of the OfS board with responsibility to champion free speech and investigate alleged breaches of registration conditions related to freedom of speech and academic freedom.
  2. Legislate to require a new OfS registration condition on free speech and academic freedom.
  3. Explore further the option of strengthening the section 43 duty to include a duty on HEPs to ‘actively promote’ freedom of speech (where section 43 relates to the 1986 Education (no 2) Act).
  4. Legislate to extend the strengthened section 43 duty to cover SUs directly.
  5. Set clear minimum standards for the code of practice required under section 43
  6. Introduce a statutory tort that would give private individuals a right of redress for loss as a result of a breach of section 43
  7. Wider and enhanced academic freedom contractual protections

Professional recognition post-Brexit

Is my professional title still valid in the EU? Will my combination of academic qualifications and professional experience still count post Brexit? What does the information on recognition of professional registration in the EU on the Engineering Council website mean for me? Here’s the simplified version…

Now we have left the EU, the EU legislation adopted by all Member States (called the MRPQ Directive), which sets out obligations to mutually recognise each other’s professional qualifications, no longer applies to the UK.

Under the Trade and Co-operation agreement there is a mechanism for professions to negotiate a Mutual Recognition Agreement between the UK and all 27 Member States.  This would effectively replace the Directive and put in place new legislation. (For EEA/Swiss professionals who want to gain the UK professional titles, there is already a new piece of UK legislation that replaces the Directive).

In the meantime (during what is likely to be lengthy and difficult negotiation process) for UK Professionals who want recognition an EU country, the UK application will now be treated like any non-EU country. The EU professional title can still be awarded, but it may take longer, and the application process may be slightly different. The Engineering Council has advised that, in practice, many EU countries do not require the professional title to work (just as in the UK).

Membership of organisations such as ENAEE and FEANI is unchanged by Brexit, as they are European Higher Education Area associations.  ENAEE is particularly important for the academic community, as it means that we will continue to demonstrate that our engineering degrees meet the European standard (EUR-ACE).

Going forward, it would be helpful to know if there is member appetite to engage with the Trade and Co-operation agreement mechanism on behalf of professional engineering or if there are better ways to achieve the same objective?

Trusted Research: How safe is your research?

Overview

This was a discussion on the security precautions that academic institutions should take to prevent intellectual property being leaked to competitors or foreign governments. With the aim of preventing research and technologies being used for immoral or unethical means by external actors while still encouraging – and enhancing – collaboration both nationally and internationally.

Important links

CPNI’s advice on security best practices: https://www.cpni.gov.uk/managing-my-asset/leadership-in-security/board-security-passport

CPNI’s advice on what to include within a security considerations assessment: https://www.cpni.gov.uk/security-considerations-assessment

CPNI’s think before you link campaign: https://www.cpni.gov.uk/security-campaigns/think-you-link

CPNI’s Trusted research guidance for academia or industry: https://www.cpni.gov.uk/trusted-research

Any of CPNI’s guidance can be rebranded to fit your company/university branding.

Game of Pawns, FBI website: https://www.fbi.gov/video-repository/newss-game-of-pawns/view

Engineering council’s guidance on security: https://www.engc.org.uk/standards-guidance/guidance/guidance-on-security/

Proposed National security and investment bill 2019-2021: https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-21/nationalsecurityandinvestment.html

Key Points

Research, security-mindedness and transparency: David Sweeney, Executive Chair of UKRI, and Kelly Pullin, Head of Strategic Coordination at UKRI

Challenges:

  • Supporting universities and researchers to navigate the complex regulatory and ethical landscape while still encouraging international collaboration.
  • Ensuring the continued success of UK universities in research and innovation systems along with the success of international education in general.
  • Offering necessary protections and freedoms to institutions and companies in an environment of privacy concerns and cybersecurity challenges without compromising security.

Context:

  • National security and investment bill and understanding the potential implications of the bill.
  • The collective objective to protect UK research integrity and credibility.

Introductory points:

Nothing is risk free, the aim is to mitigate the risks to academic research and collaboration as best as possible. Universities and their industry partners need support in order to achieve this. However, we need to recognise research organisations’ autonomy and treat academic freedom as a necessity.

What is already in place?

  • Wealth of expertise in security across the sector
  • Guidance and information readily available
  • We try to be as informed as we can
  • There is access to respective agencies and links have been formed with government

What more is needed?

  • Greater coordination and sharing of information as appropriate – with an awareness of tensions with other policies
  • A transparency around challenges and threats
  • Clarity around expectations and requirements
  • Establishing strengthened and sensible processes to help academics navigate the security landscape

Current support:

  • From government, Department for International Trade (DIT), Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), National Cyber Security Centre (NSCS) and Centre for the protection of national infrastructure (CPNI)
  • UKRI
  • Other organisations include UUK/UUKi, ARMA, OECD and Jisc

By Ewan Radford, an undergraduate in Integrated Masters in Electronic Engineering with Space Systems at the University of Surrey.

Emerging Stronger: Lasting impact from crisis innovation

Overview

What have we learned about learning under lockdown? How can we use the experience of trying to deliver high-quality engineering degree programmes to strengthen our teaching in future? This live webcast discussed the positive impacts of Covid-19 on university teaching and explored  the solutions to the unique challenges faced by online learning with a focus on lessons learnt which could potentially be carried forward post-Covid.

Important links

You can download the ‘Emerging Stronger’ report by Prof Bev Gibbs and Dr Gary C Wood at http://bit.ly/EmergingStronger

If you have any ideas or experiences with improving the online learning experience or have ideas on evaluation, you can share your 500-600 word case study at https://tinyurl.com/ES-Submit-2021,until 31st March 2021.

Catch up with the recorded webcast

Episode 1 including Keynote by Sir Michael Barber and first panel session (see details below).

Episode 2 including second panel session and summary (see details below).

Key points

Keynote (Rec 1 00:05:50): Sir Michael Barber, Chair of the OfS Board

Sir Michael congratulated the university sector for its resilience, vigour, innovative capacity and dedication in these challenging times. He outlined five thoughts around Emerging Stronger and potential innovations in pedagogy.

  1. Promoting social and economic value. While the OfS doesn’t pick and choose between subjects, high-cost subjects, including engineering, are highly prized by Government and the OfS for their contribution to our society and our economy through teaching future generations from an increasing breadth of backgrounds. (Watch the upcoming T grant consultation for some potentially good news for engineering.) What more can engineering do beyond what it already does to shape our economy and society in the future?
  2. Experimentation in course design. Engineering already demonstrates a diversity of models of teaching and learning, including degree apprenticeships. What is the right mix of applied and theoretical teaching and how should this change over time? What are the range of models that we want?
  3. Strengthening pedagogy through innovation and digital teaching. The EPC is in a strong position to build on what has already been developed and to move the sector forwards with a great diversity of innovative pedagogy models. It’s not too late to respond to the consultation on this. (Look out for the OfS report to be published in February or March). What can be done to prepare for the next academic year and the longer term?
  4. Contributing to the future. What is the role of engineering faculties within universities in spreading opportunities and economic growth more equitably.? In the past, great engineering breakthroughs have been brought through crisis; engineering can play a leading role in building a better future. What might that be?
  5. Innovations in engineering. Awesome technological developments will lead us to new opportunities. The future is bright for engineering.

Emerging Stronger Paper Overview (Rec 1 00:31:30): Prof Bev Gibbs, Chief Academic Officer at NMiTE, and Dr Gary C Wood, Head of Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy

Emerging Stronger 2020 was about sharing early ideas and the immediate response. There was little opportunity for evaluation due to the short timeframe available.

The major themes investigated in Emerging Stronger 2020 were Assessment, Student collaboration and professional skills, Practical work, Employability, and Student Partnership.

Emerging Stronger 2021 will focus more on student experience and evaluating the ideas presented in Emerging Stronger 2020.

Large Cohort Team-Based Learning (TBL) (Rec 1 00:42:40): Alexander Lunt, Lecturer, University of Bath

Historically passive Q&A tutorials are ineffective and under-utilised. Team based learning improves engagement and interaction.

It is useful to have online assessment before in-person meetings for students to be able to practise. This allowed students to have questions to bring to the in-person meeting. Increasing engagement.

Internet of Things Student Placements (Rec 1 00:49:30): Ceri Batchelder, Royal Society Entrepreneur in residence and SELA Board Member, University of Sheffield and Mo-Anna Tucker, SELA Graduate, University of Sheffield, and Intern, Recycling Technologies

Offering online placements enabled more places to be offered. Online placements can offer more flexible working options. Internet of Things (IoT) environment sensors were able to be accessed from students’ homes using the internet, allowing the placement to be conducted remotely.

Mental Health and Wellbeing of Engineering Students (Rec 1 00:57:30): Jo-Anne Tait, Academic Strategic Lead, Robert Gordon University

There are high rates of mental health illness amongst engineering students. Online teaching exacerbated problems and any available support is less accessible. Mental Health of staff and students should be prioritised more.

Promoting lecture and examples sheet interactivity (Rec 2 00:01:05): David Fletcher, Professor of Railway Engineering, University of Sheffield

Adding a question asking function to online slides is useful as it allows students to ask questions about the content anonymously. This is useful for foreign students who may not be confident in their English ability along with people scared of asking questions in person. Answers to all questions submitted were given in the next lecture.

Online Project Based Learning: Engineering Design (Rec 2 00:07:15): Daniel Beneroso, Assistant Professor, University of Nottingham

Online refresher lectures along with reviewing progress against key milestones is useful. Each student getting a mentor helps ensure that they stay on track. A strong support structure is necessary.

Student Partnership in Learning Design (Rec 2 00:14:50): Ryan Grammenos, Senior Teaching Fellow, UCL

Attempted to use 3 different platforms to perform a project remotely as no one platform did everything needed. Students were overwhelmed and unhappy with this approach. Students felt lost and did not know where to start. It was a struggle to communicate expectations and the staff had forgotten what it was like to be a first year.

By Ewan Radford, an undergraduate in Integrated Masters in Electronic Engineering with Space Systems at the University of Surrey.

Guest blog: EPC Hammermen student prize

Congratulations to Rachel Beel, Glasgow Caledonian University, and to Dan Hicks, University of Brighton, joint winners of the 2020 EPC Hammermen Student Award. The Hammermen Award is an annual prize, presented in association with the Hammermen of Glasgow, to celebrate engineering students’ excellence. This year’s award received an unprecedented number of submissions and five finalists competed for the coveted prize at the EPC Congress. To see Rachel and Dan’s posters and multi-media pitches, as well as the other short and longlisted applicants, visit the EPC events microsite.

We asked Rachel to tell us about her win and this is what she said:

“My name is Rachel Beel and I was one of the winners of this years Hammerman Award for my poster on the link between Academia and Industry.

My poster highlighted how my work placement in industry ended up driving me towards my final thesis topic. The skills and experience I had gained in the workplace were built upon by researching and completing my final thesis on: The Design, Manufacture and FEA of a Thin-Walled Pressure Vessel.My placement was at Pacson Valves in Dundee where I was in the engineering office working on 2D and 3D drawings and models, alongside pressure retaining calculations and some supply chain work. The main skills gained from this was the ability to apply a design code to calculations correctly and figuring out how to do so effectively. I took it upon myself to use 3 different design codes in my thesis: the ASME BPVC, BS EN 13445 and PD500.

My poster also managed to highlight the struggles I had faced with being a student applying design codes and how certain sections and attributes would be left to ‘the experience of the engineer’, along with a few others. However despite these struggles and a global pandemic I still managed to get a First-Class Honours degree from home.

My experience of the virtual congress and meeting the other finalists was great. Hearing about everyone else’s posters and what they were currently working on was very interesting and actually gave me little hope I’d manage to win since I seemed to be the only one at my level- just finishing my fourth year and graduating. If you’re thinking on entering you definitely should even if you don’t think you’ll get anywhere with it. I never thought I’d be long-listed, never-mind a finalist or winning it so you never know what will happen! By next years congress I am hoping to be able to finally get a graduate job as COVID-19 has cancelled most, if not all, opportunities for me to get one right now. I have however managed to put the prize money towards a new iPad Air that will keep me entertained in the mean time, to draw and do some art commission work before hopefully moving forward in my engineering career.”

For information on other Hammermen awards, please visit their website.

EPC engineering enrolments survey results 2020/21

The EPC engineering enrolments survey gives us an early annual temperature check of the health of HE undergraduate and postgraduate engineering enrolments.

Sector pressures undoubtedly impacted the 2021 survey. The EPC reduced our focus to the changes experienced in new enrolments in engineering this autumn (plus changes in deferral and attrition behaviours) leaving us without underlying distributions to share with you. Our members faced unprecedented barriers to engagement this year, including competing deadlines and priorities; timing issues; complexities and structural changes resulting from Covid-19; and sensitivity and caution around their position.

Despite these compromises, we have together created a survey sample of:

  • 35 EPC member universities
  • covering both undergraduate and PG cohorts
  • with well distributed responses across engineering (175 distinct disciplines)
  • representing all countries and regions of the UK
  • and a typical institution type profile of previous annual EPC enrolment surveys.

Furthermore, we know our annual survey typically broadly reflects published engineering HE trends (many months after we share our findings). We tend to capture:

  • similar domicile profiles (roughly 3 in 4 undergrads in our survey are UK domiciled and approximately 2 in every 3 postgraduates are international)
  • a high proportion of overseas postgraduate enrolments, especially within the Russell Group
  • and the popularity of Mechanical (undergraduate) and Electrical, electronic and computer engineering (postgraduate).

We hope we have judged this year’s particularly challenging balance of burden, valid coverage and utility in a way which both instils your confidence and continues to offer useful insight. We are grateful to those of you who assured us of the survey’s continued high value during the collection process and thank you for recognising both its strengths and weaknesses. Your support for the survey is greatly appreciated, thank you.

Enrolments compared with 2019-20

In total, the undergraduate level of change tended towards growth, with over one-third of responses (reported by discrete discipline level) recording new enrolments at more than 10% higher – in fact, many of you reported even greater growth, citing the central policy change days into confirmation (Centre Assessed Grades) as an impetus for unexpected growth. This is supported by the pattern of home undergraduate enrolment growth, including increases of more than 10% which were higher among home enrolments than overall. Given that home undergraduates represent approximately ¾ of the undergraduate population, we can be relatively assured that 2020 was a healthy year for home undergraduate engineering enrolments. (Figure 1.)

What’s more, both EU and non-EU overseas changes in enrolment are pretty uniform, with reported levels about the same as last year dominating the mid-point with substantial range. This suggests stability in the overseas engineering undergraduate sector again this year, despite earlier fears in the sector of the impact of Covid-19 on international travel. (Figure 1.)

However, we observe less stability at postgraduate level, with non-EU enrolments showing an overall decline; over half of postgraduate engineering disciplines surveyed reported a drop in enrolments of more than 10%. Around 40% of postgraduate engineering disciplines surveyed reported a drop in EU enrolments. These differences are important as approximately 2 in every 3 engineering postgraduates are international, suggesting the overseas engineering market may have shrunk this year in this context. (Figure 1.)

Overall, home engineering postgraduates are reported to have increased, by more than 10% in over 40% of responses. Despite this, nearly 1 in 3 responses recorded enrolments to be more than 10% lower in this cohort, indicating a mixed bag within the engineering postgraduate sector. (Figure 1.) Further analysis shows that Mechanical engineering is of note at postgraduate level, clearly bucking the general decline overall in 2020. The postgraduate engineering superstar, Electrical, electronic and computer engineering appears relatively stable. (Figure 2.) This is not so at undergraduate level, where this discipline bucks the growth trend (Figure 3).

By university type, the survey reveals that the greatest decline in postgraduate engineering enrolments is skewed towards Russell Group members, who see higher international enrolments overall. Conversely, Russell Group universities dominate the increasing trends in undergraduate enrolments in engineering; with 60% of distinct disciplines at Russell Group members reporting undergraduate growth, compared with about half of that proportion at their non-Russell Group counterparts. (Figure 4.)

Regional analysis highlights a clear North / South divide at postgraduate level; decline is more pronounced than growth everywhere north of and including the Midlands. London and Wales show the greatest relative growth. (Figure 5.)

At undergraduate level, the greatest enrolments stability (in terms of “about the same” responses) is in Wales although we witness greater decline than growth (in small measure), However, the proportion of respondents reporting a decline in new enrolments of greater than 10% is broadly in line with the other regions; this is a remarkably consistent measure at undergraduate level, with the exception only of London and the East / South east. The Midlands shows the greatest proportional decline in undergraduate enrolments overall. London witnesses the greatest relative growth. (Figure 6.)

Deferrals

We sought data on deferrals in the context, initially, of reports that applicants might be deferring in greater numbers due to the uncertainty resulting from the pandemic. However, as the cycle progressed, it became clear that deferrals were also being driven by universities struggling to cope with the impact of the unprecedented shifting of results during confirmation in 2020 (qualifying a high number of conditional firms). The data we received was not extensive but did suggest an overall tendency towards more deferrals than last year, particularly among postgraduates (specifically international postgraduates) and Non-EU and home undergraduates. (Figure 7.)

Attrition

The data we received on students not returning / dropping out was patchy and ambiguous, not least because of delayed processes, exceptional delayed starts this year and more general confusion around (non) returning students and how to count them. However, the data we did receive does suggest an increase in dropout; in fact, some qualitative reports of increased progression as a result of pandemic pressures were received.

Context

Of course, we know that recruitment and selection is made in the context of institutional recruitment and admissions strategies and internal strategic pressures in any year. For example, some of the fluctuations in numbers will be influenced not current market forces but by changing course profiles and conscious decisions to adjust cohort size,.

In the devolved countries, in particular, we were told that these were also influenced by government policy and funding initiatives. Other policy factors cited included managing the impact of the central government changes to the summer exam series results and the economic context in which student decision-making occurs.

This year, many members were mindful of the impacts of Covid-19 on overseas partnerships, geography and travel limitations, and shared a wealth of administrative workarounds at play including delayed starts, arrivals and registrations and exceptional late intakes.

Sector behavior was also cited as a factor in enrolment trends; there was a perception of some pre-result unconditional offer making and, initially, unusual confirmation at lower than advertised entry requirements.

Further information

In addition to the images published above, the slide deck from the EPC Recruitment and Admissions Forum launch is available to download for all EPC members.

EPC Recruitment and Admissions Forum 2020 Series Speakers

Jon Adamson (Entry qualifications, 18/11)

Jon Adamson is Director of Post-16 Standards at Oakgrove School, Milton Keynes. Jon has 25 years of experience working in state schools. He has spent 20 of those years in the role of Head of Sixth Form in three very different schools in London and Milton Keynes. An English teacher at heart, Jon has also taught a range of other subjects including Classical Civilisations.

Oakgrove School has been praised for its excellent careers provision and has been well ahead of the game in meeting all Gatsby benchmarks. In recent years, Jon has been focusing on increasing the number of students progressing to competitive courses and universities, especially Oxbridge and medicine.


Prof Louise Archer (Fair access, 18/11)

Louise Archer is the Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education at UCL Institute of Education. Her research focuses on educational identities and inequalities, particularly in relation to gender, ethnicity and social class. She directs a number of large funded research studies focusing on understanding and addressing injustices in young people’s engagement with science/ STEM in both school and out-of-school settings, including the ASPIRES, Youth Equity + STEM, Primary Science Capital: A whole school approach and Making Spaces projects.


Dr Jude Brereton (Entry qualifications, 18/11)

Jude is a Senior Lecturer in Audio and Music Technology at the University of York with research interests in interactive acoustic environments for musical performance. Since 2017 she has been Undergraduate Admissions Tutor for the Department of Electronic Engineering, where she is responsible for recruiting and admitting students to a variety of programmes in Electronic Engineering and specialisms such as Audio and Music Technology Systems, Nanotechnology, Medical Engineering and Robotics. She is a strong advocate for gender equality, serving as a UK Athena SWAN panel member and chair. She is dedicated to promoting inclusive engineering, through innovative, creative approaches to teaching, which are grounded in interdisciplinary research and sit at the boundary between arts and technology. 


Prof Mike Bramhall (Student numbers, 02/12)

Mike is Emeritus Professor of Engineering Education at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU), having previously been the Assistant Dean Academic Development for the faculty of Arts, Computing Engineering & Sciences until his retirement in 2017, after working there for 30 years. He now works as an independent Higher Education consultant. Mike has been on QAA teams for Subject Review, Higher Education Review, Quality Review Visits and Quality and Standards Review for a wide range of Universities, further education colleges and alternative providers. He is a Governor at Northern College for Adult Education, Barnsley, and chairs its Quality Committee. Mike is a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and is also an active member and on the Board of the UK Engineering Professors’ Council, being also a member of its Recruitment and Admissions sub-committee. He was Associate Director of the SHU Learner Autonomy CETL from 2005 to 2010 and has worked for the HEA as an Associate Director of the Materials Subject Centre from 2003 to 2012 at the University of Liverpool. Mike is a National Teaching Fellow and a Principal Fellow of the HEA. He played a key role as Project Manager in developing Sheffield Hallam’s Retention & Student Success Strategy, which was subsequently adopted by Brighton University.


Dr Steve Bullock (Entry qualifications, 18/11)

Dr Steve Bullock is Programme Director for Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol, and leads on Widening Participation across the Faculty of Engineering. Previously a physics teacher, he was on the founding team of a highly-successful central London academy, later moving into HE with a teaching focus on inclusion and transition, and research interests in aerial robotics for search and rescue and humanitarian applications via his work in the Bristol Flight Lab. He has consulted on wide-ranging outreach including Google’s Global Science Fair and Ben Ainsley Racing’s STEM Crew, and co-hosts ‘The Guardian’s favourite podcast’, The Cosmic Shed, covering science fact, science fiction, and everything in between.

Contact: steve.bullock@bristol.ac.uk; http://weird.engineer 


Lucy Collins (Student numbers, 02/12)

Lucy Collins is Director of Home Recruitment and Conversion, University of Bristol. Lucy graduated from the University of Bristol with a BSc in Sociology in 2000.  She then went on to gain an MSc in Sociology and Social Research in 2004. Lucy has always been interested in education and believes strongly in the transformative effect of higher education. Following two years working for the educational charity Common Purpose, running a citizenship programme for young people, Lucy returned to the University to take up the post of Schools and Colleges Liaison Officer in the newly created Widening Participation Office. In 2006 she was appointed as Head of Widening Participation and Undergraduate Recruitment. In 2015 Lucy became Head of UK Student Recruitment at the University of Bristol, a role encompassing the development and delivery of strategy for the recruitment of all home students at undergraduate and postgraduate level.  In July 2018 Lucy became the Director of Home Recruitment and Conversion. Lucy and the Home Recruitment Team developed the Bristol Scholar’s scheme in 2016, a new initiative designed attract high quality students from the city of Bristol whose potential is not reflected in their predicted A Level grades. Lucy has been a school governor for over 12 years.  She is currently Vice Chair on the Board of Venturers Trust, a multi-academy trust in Bristol, co-sponsored by the University and the Society of Merchant Venturers.


Dr Mark Corver (International students, 25/11)

Mark has worked on data in higher education for over 20 years. Most recently this has been with dataHE – a business dedicated to helping universities use data better –  which he set up with colleague Andrew Hargreaves two years ago. Prior to founding dataHE, Mark was Director of Analysis and Research at UCAS. Here he built a data science capability that innovated across research, data products, and digital marketing areas. Previously Mark has worked for HEFCE, OFFA and central Government, playing a leading role in development of many of the analytical structures supporting the sector. Mark has degrees in spatial statistics and chemistry and is an advocate of code-based data-led methods for successful outcomes in the higher education sector.


Peter Derrick (Student numbers, 02/12)

Peter joined UCAS is 2015, initially as Head of Service Delivery, subsequently taking on the Admissions Delivery portfolio, covering the full breath of UCAS’ Operational Delivery. He leads and manages the core service delivery to UCAS’s provider, student, and adviser customer groups. He is accountable for the admissions, results, collection, and data quality services, including digital learning and business change. He leads the delivery of the annual Confirmation and Clearing activity as well as working across the breath of UCAS’s change initiatives. Peter is a Biochemistry and Physiology graduate with experience broad range of roles related to applicant and student administration, including Head of Admissions at both the University of Southampton and Middlesex University.


Dr Inês Direito (International students, 25/11)

Inês Direito, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Engineering Education (CEE), University College London, UK. She is a psychologist working in engineering education research since 2007. Her main  focuses are on the development of transversal and professional skills; gender, diversity and inclusion; and, more broadly, how social and cognitive sciences can inform engineering education and practice. She is the Chair of SEFI’s Special Interest Group on Gender & Diversity, member of the UK and Ireland Engineering Education Research Network (UK&IE EERN) Steering committee, and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


Gero Federkeil (International students, 25/11)

U-Multirank


Stella Fowler (Student numbers, 02/12)

Stella Fowler is the EPC Executive Policy and Research lead. She is responsible for all aspects of policy and research including projects; data analysis; report writing; member surveys and consultations; and events and communications. Stella has worked in HE analysis for over 20 years with experience at UCAS, on the Higher Education Strategic Planners Association (HESPA) Board and in senior university planning and research data management roles.


Anne Marie Graham (International students, 25/11)

Anne Marie Graham is Chief Executive of UKCISA. Anne Marie joined UKCISA in 2019 from the Association of Commonwealth Universities, where she was Director of Chevening, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s flagship global scholarship scheme.
Prior to that, Anne Marie has led on a range of educational programmes and projects promoting international mobility and intercultural exchange. At Universities UK International, she developed the first government-funded UK Strategy for Outward Mobility, and established the Go International programme to build capacity and influence institutional change in UK universities to increase the proportion of UK domiciled students with international experience. Before moving into the education sector, Anne Marie spent several years in the language services industry managing high profile accounts with multinational engineering and pharmaceutical companies. Anne Marie is a linguist, with a first degree in Modern Languages from Anglia Ruskin University and a postgraduate translation qualification from University of Westminster.


Josephine Hansom (Fair access, 02/12)

Josephine oversees all youth research and insight at the award-winning agency, YouthSight. Leading a team of specialist researchers, she helps clients grow by better understanding the needs of Millennials and Gen Z. During her nineteen years as a researcher Josephine has worked with many university clients as well as brands like the BBC, BMW, Facebook, Google, Tinder and Sport England. She is the mastermind behind the State of the Youth Nation – the most up-to-date youth tracker in the UK; keeping clients plugged into youth culture since 2015. She is a regular on the conference circuit, having spoken in Milan, Chicago, Boston and Vienna.

Twitter: @JosephineHansom / LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/josephinehansom/


Dr Georgina Harris (International students, 25/11)

Georgina is Director of Engineering at The University of Salford. She joined the university after working at Manchester Metropolitan University for over five years where she held the post of Head of School of Engineering and Associate Dean. Georgina is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer with an Engineering Doctorate.  She holds two Master’s Degrees: one in Mechanical Engineering and the other in Business Administration. She is a passionate advocate for engineering with a firm belief that it can solve the world’s grand challenges and improve daily life for everyone. Georgina also feels that engineering has the potential to provide social mobility for our successful graduates.


Rachel Hewitt (Student numbers, 02/12)

Rachel joined HEPI in November 2018, as Director of Policy and Advocacy and has written about a wide variety of HE policy issues, including the financial stability of universities and the impact of focusing on graduate employment metrics. Prior to joining HEPI, Rachel held a number of roles at the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), focused on data policy and governance and gathering requirements for information that could be met from HESA data. Rachel also lead on the review of data on graduate destinations and designed and implemented the new Graduate Outcomes survey.


Dr Omar Khan (Fair access 09/12)

Dr Omar Khan is Director of the Centre for Transforming Access and Students Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO). Omar joined TASO from race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust, where he had been Director since 2014. Prior to this, Omar was Head of Policy at the Runnymede Trust and led its financial inclusion programme.

Omar holds several advisory positions, including chair of Olmec, chair of the Ethnicity Strand Advisory Group to Understanding Society, chair of the advisory group of the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at the University of Manchester, Commissioner on the Financial Inclusion Commission and a member of the 2021 REF and 2014 REF assessment. Omar was previously a Governor at the University of East London and a 2012 Clore Social Leadership Fellow.


Dr Steph Neave (Fair access, 09/12)

Stephanie Neave is the Head of Research at EngineeringUK, where she is responsible for developing and delivering the organisation’s research programme, including its State of Engineering reports; the Engineering Brand Monitor, a national survey of young people, teachers and parents on their attitudes toward engineering; and research initiatives to support the STEM community to improve educational outreach. Prior to EngineeringUK, she led research in various education policy organisations on behalf of bodies such as the European Commission, the Home Office, and HEFCE on topics ranging from the diversity of the scientific workforce to the BME degree attainment gap.


Rohit Ramesh (International students, 25/11)

Rohit Ramesh is Head of International Student Recruitment at the University of Liverpool, where he is responsible for providing strategic direction to the institution’s internationalisation objectives. In this role he manages a team that is tasked with devising and overseeing the implementation of the University’s strategy to increase the number of international students coming to study at Liverpool, through the University’s network of partners; exploring and bringing suitable opportunities to grow its overseas partnerships; and managing student numbers and relationships with governmental and commercial partners. Prior to this, he was in the Investment Banking sector, having worked for companies like Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank. Rohit holds an MBA from the University of Liverpool and is a registered Member of the Chartered Management Institute.


Johnny Rich (Fair access 09/12)

As well as his Chief Executive role with the EPC, Johnny Rich is well known across the higher education sector as a high-profile commentator on policy issues as well as the chief executive of student advice and outreach organisation Push, as a consultant working in education and careers, and as an author. Before joining the EPC, Johnny has already worked on many issues of concern to our members. Over the past 25 years, he led Push’s research – such as on drop-out rates and student debt – which has had direct impacts on policy. Johnny’s thought leadership, such as his papers for a graduate levy and a national access fund (2018) and on employability (2015) for the Higher Education Policy Institute, have been influential throughout the sector. Policy issues are also a significant part of his consultancy work, along with communications. His clients have included the European Commission, HEFCE, U-Multirank, as well as many universities, recruiters and charities. He’s a regular speaker at conferences, awards and in schools. In 2013, his novel A Human Script was published.

Twitter @JohnnySRich


Dennis Sherwood (Entry qualifications, 18/11)

Dennis now runs his own consulting business, The Silver Bullet Machine Manufacturing Company Limited, working with clients in all sectors and all scales on creativity and innovation – including many academic science and engineering departments, and DTCs, under the EPSRC’s “Creativity@home” programme. And, following an assignment for Ofqual in 2013, using systems thinking to compile causal loop diagrams to map all the systems within which Ofqual operates, Dennis has been an active campaigner for the award of grades that are fully reliable and trustworthy. Earlier in his career, Dennis was an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs and a consulting partner in Deloitte, having read Natural Sciences (Physics Part II) at Clare College, Cambridge, followed by an MPhil (Molecular Biophysics) from Yale and a PhD (Biology) from the University of California at San Diego. Dennis has written many journal articles and blogs, and is also the author of 11 books on a variety of subjects – including thermodynamics!


Helen Thorne MBE (Entry qualifications, 18/11)

Helen has over 25 years of experience working with the HE sectors in the UK and the US, covering student recruitment, admissions, research and innovation.  She was most recently Director of External Relations for UCAS with responsibility for strategy, digital product management, marketing, PR and student exhibitions.  Helen serves as an independent governor for Northumbria University and two schools in Swindon. 


Thijs van Vugt (International students, 25/11)

Thijs van Vugt is the strategic power of the Analytics and Consulting Team at Studyportals. With 30 years of experience in international education, he brings to the table experience as an entrepreneur, consultant, trainer, author and board member. Some of his recent clients include University of London, University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh, University of Nottingham, Glasgow Caledonian University, Karolinska Institute, Sciences Po, the European Commission Pearson, San Diego State University, Keypath and PwC. Thijs is the founder of the Expert Community Marketing & Recruitment of the EAIE. He was chair of M&R (2002-2008) and a member of EAIE’s Executive Board (2004-2008). In 2006 he published a book on The Impact of Tuition Fees on International Student Recruitment and in September 2009 was awarded the Bo Gregersen Award for Best Practice of the EAIE. Thijs holds a Master’s in International Economics from Tilburg University and post-graduate diplomas in Public Management (Tias Business School) and Customer Relationship Management (Beeckestijn Business School).


EPC Recruitment and Admissions Forum 2020 Series Posters

Click on the thumbnails below to view the posters.

UK engineering students’ maths entry qualifications: grades and non-progression

Tim Bullough, University of Liverpool

NMITE recruitment and selection

Costa Coleman, New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering

Experiential Capital of mature returners to Engineering Education

Martin Eason, University of Wolverhampton

Math workshop as a valuable vehicle to learning

Karin Ennser, Swansea University

In engineering, what changes would be needed to receive applications / make offers after level 3 results were known? And what might be the unintended consequences?

Stella Fowler, EPC

Guest Blog: To trust or not to trust?

Imagine the situation, you have worked tirelessly to make a discovery which is important, potentially revolutionary, or worked long days and nights and sacrificed everything in order to bring that life changing product to the market. You feel elated and hopeful of what the future holds only to find out that everything you have worked for is for naught as your partners have passed off all your work as their own. Or even worse the discoveries you have made are being used to increase oppression, or worse, and your reputation is damaged even though you had no knowledge of the use. The following case study shows the risks:

A university signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to collaborate on research into facial recognition technology with an overseas university. As part of the proposal, the overseas university committed to providing significant funding and to sponsor two research fellows. The university conducted in-depth due diligence, including financial assurance and checking compliance with export control legislation. A year into the research, a newspaper published an exposé which highlighted well-publicised details of the overseas university’s work with the military and police of their country to support surveillance and repression of dissents to the political leadership.

I wish I could say these were one off incidents but worryingly, this is happening a lot more than is realised. A quick search online reveals stories of IP theft from universities or AI being used to increase mass surveillance.  However, these risks can be mitigated and CPNI and NCSC are here to help.

The CPNI (the national technical authority for physical and personnel security) have now collaborated with the NCSC (the national technical authority for cyber security) to bring you Trusted Research to support academics to manage the risks to international research collaboration. This guidance

  • Outlines the potential risks to UK research and innovation
  • Helps researchers, UK universities and industry partners to have confidence in international collaboration and make informed decisions around those potential risks
  • Explains how to protect research and staff from potential theft, misuse or exploitation

The website also includes a simple checklist to help identify potential risks and also has guidance for senior leaders.

We recognise international collaboration is vital, we also realise that collaborating with the wrong people could end up costing everything, rather than paying dividends.

In an increasingly uncertain world, it is safer to know who you are doing business with.

Guest Blog: Engineering Council on Revised Standards

By Catherine Elliott, Education and Skills Manager at the Engineering Council

The fourth edition of Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes (AHEP) has been published, ahead of the 2020-2021 academic year. There will be a transition period, from publication until the start of the 2023 academic year, during which providers can request accreditation against the old or new learning outcomes.  

Accreditation is the process of reviewing an engineering degree programme to judge whether or not it meets the defined standards set by the Engineering Council. A degree may be accredited by one or more of the engineering institutions licensed to do so, particularly where it spans several engineering disciplines. Accredited engineering degrees offer students, their parents and advisors, and employers an important mark of assurance that the programme meets the high standards set by the engineering profession.

Alongside the fourth edition of AHEP, we have published:

  • a summary of key changes to the document
  • a comparison of the learning outcomes in this fourth edition to the previous edition of AHEP, ‘Mapping Learning Outcomes AHEP4 against AHEP3’
  • a table of ‘Defining characteristics and learning outcomes’, which sets out the characteristics that define accredited programmes and the generic learning outcomes

all of which are available at: https://www.engc.org.uk/ahep4th

Revisions to AHEP aim to encourage development of innovative programmes and pedagogy, as well as making the importance of industry involvement in programme design and delivery clear. The updated document also has a sharper focus on inclusive design and innovation, and the coverage of areas such as sustainability and ethics.

Approval and Accreditation of Qualifications and Apprenticeships (AAQA) is the new Engineering Council Standard against which apprenticeships (including Degree Apprenticeships and Graduate Apprenticeships) and non-degree qualifications can be recognised.   AAQA supports the formal recognition of competence, as well as knowledge and understanding, developed through non-degree qualifications and apprenticeships. For higher level programmes this refers to the same defining characteristics and generic learning outcomes as degree accreditation.

More information on and links to all the Engineering Council’s revised Standards is available in our press release.

The Engineering Council would like to thank the professional engineering community for its valuable contribution to this process, including providing consultation responses and nominating volunteers for the relevant Working Groups. This revision of our Standards would not have been possible without the expert perspectives offered by higher education providers, the professional engineering institutions and the community as a whole.