Universities Wales Weekly Wrap Up 31 October 2014

Happy Halloween!

News – HE (Wales) Bill update 

The deadline for tabling amendments to the HE (Wales) Bill was Wednesday, with 36 tabled by opposition AMs, as well as 28 government amendments (many of which were technical in nature) – up online here.  All nine of the Unis Wales amendments were tabled by Aled Roberts, Suzy Davies and Simon Thomas following intense discussion with opposition support staff and their respective AMs.

CYPE committee will be an open session on 5 November and available live on Senedd TV.

Having all nine Unis Wales amendments tabled as well as key Government amendments to remove and replace Clause 13 of the Bill (HEFCW’s powers in relation to failure to comply with the general provisions of a plan) is a good outcome for stage 2.

News – Quality Assessment Review Steering Group announced

On 27 October 2014, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) announced that a Quality Assessment Review Steering Group has been established, consisting of representatives from the higher education (HE) sector, including the National Union of Students (NUS). Professor Dame Shirley Pearce has been asked to chair the group by the HE funding bodies for England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. The Steering Group will lead and shape the debate about how best quality assessment should be conducted in the future. It will oversee the mechanisms to gather a wide range of perspectives and the fora to ensure that these are heard, discussed, and considered carefully. The Group will gather intelligence on the operation of quality assessment in other international systems and in other sectors within the UK. It will draw on evidence from experts as it deems appropriate.

News – Evaluating impact assessment in the REF

HEFCE has reported that an evaluation of the assessment process for impact in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) is now underway. HEFCE, in partnership with the other UK HE funding bodies, has commissioned RAND Europe to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of impact in the REF. This will look at the strengths and weaknesses of the assessment process for impact, and consider any implications for how impact is assessed in future exercises. The evaluation will look at the assessment process across the REF subject panels. Work has now commenced and is expected to complete in Spring 2015.

News – UK review of the NSS

HEFCE has reported that the review of the National Student Survey (NSS) is entering a phase of testing and developing. In July 2014, HEFCE published two pieces of research as part of the review. While the research did not recommend radical changes to the NSS, it suggested that some alterations would preserve the strengths of the survey and address identified weaknesses, including the possible addition of new questions on student engagement and examining the barriers to the inclusion of some students. The UK HE funding bodies will be consulting formally on the new NSS in Autumn 2015.

Publications – EU report – New modes of learning and teaching

This month, a new report has been published by the High Level Group on the Modernisation of HE – New modes of learning and teaching in higher education. The report acknowledges the changes underway as a result of technological innovations, and recognises that integrating new tools and pedagogies, learning and teaching can be enhanced. The report argues the innovations in open and online education have enormous potential for widening access, as well as new technologies acting as a facilitation tool for greater collaboration. It also argues there is a culture of conservatism within European HE which needs to change, and that governments and institutions should be developing comprehensive strategies for the adoption of new modes of learning and teaching.

Publications – Newton Fund conference – resources

The UK Higher Education International Unit’s (IU) Newton Fund conference brought together government colleagues and delivery partners to provide an overview of the opportunities available under the Fund. A dedicated webpage has been created to host the conference papers, film footage of the plenary session, and copies of the presentations.

Publications – European Commission adopts ‘Partnership Agreement’ on using Structural and Investment Funds

On 29 October 2014, the European Commission adopted a ‘Partnership Agreement’ with the UK on using EU Structural and Investment Funds for growth and jobs 2014-2020. The agreement sets out the strategy for the use of funds throughout the country. The summary can be viewed here. The press release with link to the full document can be viewed here – the Wales Chapter starts on page 285.

Events – LFHE / WHESDN Annual Wales Conference – Identifying talent and nurturing future leaders

On 25 November 2014, the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) and Wales Higher Education Staff Developers Network (WHESDN) annual Wales conference will take place in Cardiff. The programme includes contributions from Roger Lewis, the Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Group, and Professor Michelle Ryan, of Exeter University, who will be looking at why we appoint women to senior management positions, and what happens when we do. Booking is available online via the LFHE website.