Issue 104 | March 2020

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The government has announced that in response to the Coronavirus crisis, all schools, nurseries, private schools, FE and sixth form colleges in England (along with those in the rest of the UK) will be closed to the majority of pupils and students on Friday 20 March and ‘…will not reopen for the foreseeable future’. The press release covering this announcement can be found at:

Government guidance on the closure says that:

  • If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
  • If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a critical worker, then educational provision will be available for them.
  • Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents or friends and family members with underlying conditions.
  • Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
  • Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings will continue to care for children wherever possible.

A skeleton operation will be retained so that vulnerable children and the children of key workers can continue to be looked after, including during the Easter holidays.

  • Vulnerable children include those with safeguarding and welfare needs, looked after children, young carers, children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans.
  • Key workers include many, but not all, of those employed in health and social care, education and childcare, key public services, local and national government, food and other necessary goods, public safety and national security, transport, utilities and communications.

Further government advice and a more detailed list of those designated as key workers can be found at:

Interestingly, while for example hospital porters, postal workers, refuse collectors and delivery drivers are defined as key workers, hedge fund managers, stockbrokers and currency traders are not…

School representatives say that if all key workers’ children continue to attend schools then the total could be equivalent to one in five of the current school population and, because schools may be operating on reduced staffing, they may not be able to cope. The National Education Union (NEU) has called for all teachers involved with helping to maintain provision for vulnerable children and the children of key workers to be tested for the virus. The union has also asked for guidance on how to verify whether the parents of children coming into school really are key workers. College representatives say that most younger college students are of an age where they can safely be at home and supported remotely. Many are likely to be looking after younger siblings during the shutdown. However, some students with identified vulnerabilities will continue attend college throughout the period of closure. As far as is possible, colleges and schools are encouraged to work collaboratively with each other and with local authorities to find solutions and to be on hand to offer support where needed. As an example of this, many colleges are offering their facilities to help schools which are struggling to maintain services. Others are opening up their creches and other childcare resources for key workers’ children. Advice to colleges and schools on maintaining their education provision during the crisis can be found at:

Further information and advice for parents and carers can be found at:

Children who receive free school meals will be provided with food vouchers. Guidance on this can be found at:


The government has announced that there will be no primary school assessments (SATs) or secondary examinations (including GCSEs and A-Levels) this summer. With reference to A-Levels and GCSE’s the Department for Education (DfE) in conjunction with Ofqual has issued a statement which says that:

  • Teachers will be asked to submit their judgements about the grade that they believe their students would have received if A-Level and GCSE examinations had gone ahead this summer. Teachers will use a range of evidence, including mock examination results, course work and non-examination assessment, as well as other student data to help them do so.
  • These judgements will be used by examination boards to produce a ‘calculated grade’.
  • The grades awarded will reflect student performance as fairly as possible.
  • Calculated grades will be provided to students before the end of July.
  • In terms of a permanent record, the grades awarded in 2020 will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years.
  • 2020 examination grades awarded will not be used to judge school performance and no 2020 national performance tables will be published.
  • Students will be able to appeal the calculated grades they have been awarded and to sit examinations early in the next academic year, if they wish to do so.
  • Ofqual will work with examination boards to ensure this process is applied consistently.
  • Universities will operate similar arrangements to award degrees. However there will be no award ceremonies held in 2020.
  • Universities are expected to be flexible in supporting students’ entry to higher education.

With reference to vocational and technical qualifications not yet completed, the statement from the DfE says, ‘There is a very wide range of different vocational and technical qualifications as well as other academic qualifications for which students were expecting to sit examinations this summer. These are offered by a large number of awarding organisations, and have differing assessment approaches. In many cases students will already have completed modules or non-exam assessment which could provide evidence to award a grade. However, the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) is calling for more clarity and guidance on how technical and vocational qualifications are to be assessed during the shutdown. A statement issued by FAB says, ‘We would like to see government move with more urgency and pace to address the specific needs of the UK’s post-16 skills system, in the same way it has made decisions and moved at pace in resolving the cancellation of general examinations this summer’. FAB has also called on the Secretary of State to delay the T-Levels scheduled to be delivered in 2020 and the ongoing work on the Post-16 review of qualifications at Level 3 and below, by one academic year

Some observers think that Michael Gove may by now be possibly regretting his decision to end continuous assessment and replace it entirely with time constrained end of course examinations. Others think the crisis raises the question why, if university lecturers can be trusted to award degrees, can’t schoolteachers and FE lecturers can’t be trusted (with external moderation) to make judgements about accreditation up to Level 5, particularly since they are being asked to do so now.

More information on alternative examination arrangements for 2020 is available at:

Ofqual has confirmed they will provide further detail in the coming days. A copy of the current Ofqual guidance on disruption to examinations (which will no doubt be updated regularly as events unfold) is available at:

Meanwhile, Nicola Dandridge, the Chief Executive of the Office for Students, is asking universities and colleges to pause making unconditional offers because ‘…it may not be in students’ best interests.’


The DfE has set up a dedicated helpline for education leaders, teaching staff and parents to answer questions, address concerns and provide advice about Coronavirus issues. The helpline is intended to complement the general advice being provided by Public Health England. The helpline number is 0800 046 8687 and calls can be made between 8.00am and 6.00pm Monday to Friday. Questions can also be submitted by email at


Ofsted has announced that all inspections have been suspended with effect from Thursday 17 March. A statement from Ofsted said, ‘…all monitoring visits and inspections that have started have been stopped and inspectors will not return to provider premises.’ The only exception to this, says Ofsted, will be in cases where there are concerns about safeguarding arrangements.


The FE Commissioner, Richard Atkins, says that his team has now paused its work in colleges.


Colleges say that they could lose between £500,000 and £1 million per month while they are closed and Association of Colleges (AoC) Chief Executive, David Hughes, has written to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to ask for assurances that over the coming months:

  • Continuation of funding will be guaranteed in respect of Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) revenue, Adult Education Budget (AEB) funding and other DfE/ESFA income.
  • Those colleges with low cash balances and/or are heavily reliant on student fee income and/or employer funded training, will be able to access emergency financial support during the closedown.
  • In the wake of the decision to suspend Ofsted inspections, any judgements made about colleges based on data and other performance measures will be adjusted accordingly.

A copy of Mr Hughes’ letter (which was sent prior to the decision to close colleges) is available at:


As is the case with schools and colleges, ITPs in receipt of public funding have been asked to close until further notice. The only exception to this is ‘… if a provider is going out to employers’ premises to deliver training (if they are still allowed to), in which case this can continue alongside the provider’s own remotely delivered training’. The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), which represents ITPs, is pressing the government to guarantee training providers’ (and subcontractors’) income and for apprenticeship funding ‘…to continue to be paid at a level equivalent to the average draw down for levy starts from the past three months.’ The AELP says that many ITPs now have concerns about their ability to stay in business as their recruitment of new starters collapses in the wake of the increasing numbers of employers observing government guidance on social distancing, and the increasing numbers of apprentices now being made redundant.


Meanwhile, the new Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, Gillian Keegan, has written to FE and sixth-form college leaders to address concerns about their finances during the crisis. In her letter, Ms Keegan confirms that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will continue to pay grant-funded providers their scheduled monthly payments for the remainder of the year. Ms Keegan said that in the light of the activity-based funding model for colleges and ITPs delivering apprenticeships, the government was ‘urgently looking at the impact of the current disruption and how to mitigate it’. She also said that for other funding streams, ‘…we will be making decisions on where existing rules and models may need to be modified in relation to any planned reconciliation and future year allocations.’ She added that for colleges in significant financial difficulties, ‘…the existing support arrangements remain in place. including emergency funding’ and that colleges which found themselves in this situation should speak to their local ESFA team. Ms Keegan said that the government was also working on more detailed operational guidance, which will be circulated to colleges and other providers as soon as possible. Turning to 2020 examinations and other assessments, Ms Keegan said that the decision to cancel all exams in schools and colleges ‘…had not been taken lightly’, and that organisations should show ‘…the maximum possible flexibility and pragmatism to ensure students are not disadvantaged’.


The guidance says, ‘As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers.’ The guidance goes on to say that ‘There will always be greater risks for lone workers with no direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong’ and that when someone is working at home, employers should have processes in place covering such things as:

  • What work activity employees will be doing and for how long.
  • Ensuring the work can be done safely.
  • The control measures that need to be put in place to protect them.
  • Channels of communicationand how to keep in touch with lone workers.
  • Ensuring the safety of those working with display screen equipment including home workstation assessments and the provision of specialist equipment (e.g. ergonomic chairs, height-adjustable desks) where possible.
  • Monitoring employees’ mental health whilst in isolation.

A copy of the HSE guidance can be obtained at:


To support workers and their employers during the crisis, the British Safety Council is offering free online courses covering these areas until the middle of April. The courses cover:

  • Remote workers’ health and safety
  • Employee mental health and welfare
  • Managing stress within teams working from different locations at a time of major national crisis.

Further information about how to access these courses can be found at:



The ministerial responsibilities listed below only apply in England. Education policy and the responsibility (and funding) for the provision of education and skills in other UK countries is devolved to those countries. The weblink is made available should you want more information about the individual post holders:

Gavin Williamson: Secretary of State for Education

  • Early years
  • Children’s social care
  • Teacher recruitment and retention
  • School curriculum
  • School improvement
  • Academies and free schools
  • Further education
  • Apprenticeships and skills
  • Higher education.

Gillian Keegan: Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills–133

  • Strategy for post-16 education and skills (jointly with Michelle Donelan- see below)
  • Technical education and skills including T Levels, and the ongoing review of technical qualifications
  • Apprenticeships and traineeships
  • The further education workforce
  • The further education provider market including quality and improvement and efficiency
  • Adult education, the National Retraining Scheme and basic skills
  • Institutes of Technology and National Colleges
  • Reducing the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET)
  • Careers education, information and guidance, including the Careers Enterprise Company (CEC).

Michelle Donelan: Minister of State for Universities–97

  • Strategy for post-16 education and skills (jointly with Gillian Keegan- see above)
  • Universities and higher education reform
  • Higher education student finance, including oversight of the Student Loans Company (SLC)
  • Widening participation in higher education
  • Quality of higher education, including the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)
  • International education strategy, including ‘education exports’ and international students
  • Technology in education.

Nick Gibb: Minister of State for School Standards

  • Raising school standards
  • Recruitment and retention of teachers and school leaders, initial teacher training, qualifications and professional development and reducing teacher workload
  • The Teaching Regulation Agency
  • School admissions and transport
  • School revenue funding, the Pupil Premium and oversight of the national funding formula
  • Curriculum and qualifications, including links with Ofqual
  • The Standards and Testing Agency and primary assessment
  • School accountability and inspection, including links with Ofsted
  • Support for raising school standards
  • Relationships, sex, and health education; and personal, social, health and economic education
  • Behaviour, attendance and exclusions.

Baroness Berridge: Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Schools System–128

  • Free schools, university technical colleges (UTCs) and studio schools
  • Academies, multi-academy trusts (MATs), faith schools, independent home education and supplementary schools
  • School governance
  • Intervention in underperforming schools
  • School capital investment, including pupil place planning
  • Counter extremism, integration and safeguarding in schools and post-16 settings
  • School efficiency
  • Departmental efficiency and commercial activities.

Vicky Ford: Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families

  • Children’s social care, including child protection, children in care, adoption, care leavers and local authority performance
  • Special educational needs, including high needs funding
  • Early years policy, including funding, providers, workforce, children’s centres, home learning environment and childcare entitlements
  • Alternative provision
  • Disadvantage, social mobility and free school meals including links to the Social Mobility Commission
  • Children and young people’s mental health, online safety, preventing bullying in schools and policy to protect against serious violence.

The DfE has announced that almost £14 million is to be made available to help improve leadership and governance in FE and sixth form colleges. Within this total:

  • £9 million is being made available to create a College Collaboration Fund. This is intended to build on the earlier Strategic College Improvement Fund (SCIF) which ended last year. Bids of between £80,000 and £500,000 can be submitted by groups of colleges to share good practice and expertise, but they will be required to provide 25% in matched funding between them. The maximum number of colleges allowed in each group is four. Applicant colleges are expected to be located in reasonable geographical proximity to each other. Each application for funding will require a lead college which should have at least a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted, and at least one other college with a graded as ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ or one that has ‘inadequate’ financial health. Merged colleges without a current Ofsted rating can still apply, as long as one of the two previous colleges meets the required criteria. Each application must address at least one of the fund’s three quality improvement themes. These are: governance and leadership, financial and resource management, and quality of education. The fund will have two application rounds throughout the 2020/21 financial year. Bids for the first round will close on 8 April and the second round is due to open on 15 June. Further information on how to bid for cash from fund is available at: the criteria used for assessing bids is available at:
  • £4.5 million is being made available to fund Continuous Professional Development Programmes (CPD) to provide FE leaders and governors with tailored support in a range of areas including strategic planning, finance and working with employers to address local and national skills needs. The CPD programmes will be developed jointly by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), the Oxford Saïd Business School, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the Association of Colleges (AoC). Further information is available at:
  • £220,000 is being made for two governance pilots.
  • The first £110,000 (£100,000 for delivery and £10,000 for evaluation) is for an ‘FE Colleges Governor Recruitment Services Pilot’, with successful bidder taking on responsibility for finding and recruiting ‘…at least 30 effective leaders to act as chairs, deputy chairs, and finance and audit chairs for colleges in the greatest need of help’. They will also be asked to find ‘…at least ten qualified and experienced candidates for short notice interim appointments to key governance posts’. More information and details of this invitation tender are available at:
  • The second invitation to tender, also worth £110,000 (and again £100,000 for delivery and £10,000 for evaluation), is to carry out around 30 board Capability Reviews of colleges in difficulty referred to the successful bidder by the FE Commissioner or the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). The reviews will include ‘…an assessment of the skills, experience and development needs of existing board members, with an analysis of their capabilities in respect of such things as strategic planning, operational structures and working practices to identify weaknesses and areas that can be developed’. Each capability review will be followed by a review report analysing any issues, making recommendations for change, and providing a ‘…robust action plan to secure improvements.’ More information and details of the tender for this bid are available at: general information on the overall funding package is available at:

The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, has set a goal for the ‘…quality of technical education in England to overtake that of Germany within a decade’. To examine the viability of this proposition, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has published a report entitled ‘An international comparison of technical education funding systems’ which undertakes a comparison of technical education at upper secondary level (age 16-19) in England with other developed countries. The research that underpins the report considers how far England is behind leading nations, and what reforms would be necessary in order to match their technical education offer. The key findings of the report include the following:

  • Funding for 16-19 education has seen a real-term reduction of 16% in the period between 2010/11 and 2018/19. The extra funding promisedto FE by the government in the recent budget will only reverse a quarter of the cuts the sector has experienced.
  • England has one of the largest funding gaps between academic and technical education. Technical education routes receive 23% less funding than academic routes. Against this, for example, funding per technical student in Austria is 26% higher than for academic students, and 37% higher in both the Netherlands and Germany.
  • Overall, the average spend on technical education of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries is 16% higher than in England (£8,080 compared with £6,990).
  • The lack of funding for technical education is reflected in less generous student support, with bursary funding (e.g. Education Maintenance Allowances) for students having decreased by 71% per student in the period between 2010/11 and 2018/19.
  • Technical courses tend to be of shorter duration than comparable courses in leading developed countries. England is an international outlier with an upper secondary education offer of just two years (including the new T-Levels), compared with Austria, where some programmes last as long as five years and Denmark and Norway, where they take four years.
  • Technical education in England costs the government comparatively less with far fewer students enrolling in high-cost courses such as engineering, manufacturing and construction. In addition, less generous subsidies are given to employers to pay for apprenticeship training compared to other leading nations. The technical education curriculum is one of the narrowest in the developed world. While leading nations allow students to continue to study languages, mathematics and other general subjects to help them prepare for the labour market or further study, there is no such universal requirement in England. This narrow curriculum may be depriving students of valuable skills.

The report recommends that to avoid the risk of falling further behind, the government should:

  • Review funding for technical pathways. The government says that it wants to address academic-technical imbalances, however the funding increases proposed in the recent budget still leaves funding at a lower level than in the past, and far lower than in other leading nations.
  • Increase the number of 16-19 apprenticeship starts. Apprenticeship starts among 16-19 students are already very low by international standards. Half of students opt for a technical pathway, but just 16% of these take up an apprenticeship, compared to 27% in other leading countries. The government should consider further redistribution of apprenticeship levy funds towards younger apprentices.
  • Review the adequacy of student support: Leading nations provide more generous student support at age 16-19 than in England. While targeted funding is still available for the most disadvantaged students, bursary funding has fallen significantly since 2010/11.
  • Reconsider curriculum breadth and the length of technical courses: There are positive developments, such as the introduction of T-Levels, including increased teaching hours and industry placements, however England’s 16-19 curriculum remains an outlier among developed nations for its narrow breadth. The government should commission an independent review to consider whether these narrow upper secondary pathways are providing the right skills for young people. Course length, quality and employer links must also be addressed if England is to match provision in high performing nations.

A copy of the EPI report can be found at:


The latest published DfE data (27 February) shows that:

  • The number of apprenticeship starts in England continued to decline, falling by 12% overall in December 2019 compared to December 2018.
  • Apprenticeship starts for those under the age of 19 decreased by 22% and Level 2 starts fell by 21%.
  • The number of higher apprenticeship starts increased by 4%.
  • Apprenticeship starts with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) fell by 40%, while starts with large employers have risen by 8%. (In January, Jennifer Coupland, the new Chief Executive of IfATE called for an additional £750 million to help support small business apprenticeships, but no extra cash for SME apprenticeships was mentioned in the recent Budget statement).
  • The overall number of apprenticeship starts for all employers has now dropped by 20%, from 449,830 in 2016/17 (when the levy was introduced) to 366,170 in 2018/19.

The DfE data can be found at:


The latest DfE data also shows that in the period between August and November 2019 alone, there were 2,324 levy-funded starts on the Level 7 senior leader masters’ degree apprenticeship (SLMDA) standard. This is a programme where virtually all of the apprentices are already employed. Each apprenticeship attracts up to £18,000 of levy funding, which means that around £42 million of levy funding has been spent on these programmes over this period, which in turn has led to Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, initiating a review of SLMDAs. In initiating the review, Mr Williamson said, ‘I am committed to maintaining an employer-led system, but I’m not convinced the levy should be used to pay for staff, who are often already highly qualified and highly paid, to receive an MBA’, and has set a deadline of 1 June for determining whether the programme will continue to be funded. Meanwhile, it has emerged that several government departments have re-designated their senior managers as apprentices and have placed them on SLMDA programmes, including Mr Williamson’s own, the DfE, which has 34 staff on the programmes. There also appears to be opportunities for progression from SLMDAs, with 23 HE institutions having developed an apprenticeship for their own staff which requires a PhD, or another level 8 qualification as an entry requirement. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the National Audit Office (NAO) and Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, have expressed concerns about the use of levy funding to support apprenticeships at this level for staff already employed, particularly if it depletes levy funding for apprenticeship programmes at Level 2 to 4, many of which are intended help young people obtain their first job or are critical to meeting local or regional skills shortages.

As perhaps might be expected, the Chief Executive of the University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC), Adrian Anderson has defended SLMDAs, saying that they had an important role in ‘…developing new progression routes and higher-level occupations for under-represented cohorts’. The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has also defended the programmes and has produced a report entitled ‘Management Apprenticeships boost productivity’ based on research which, it says, shows the socio-economic benefits of SLMDAs, including promoting diversity in higher-level apprenticeships. The CMI is approved to end-point assess seven apprenticeship standards from the Level 3 Team Leader standard up to the controversial Level 7 MBA and already has 28,350 registered apprentices. The levy cost of this is estimated to be more than £250 million, of which the CMI can be expected to have received fee income of around £26 million. A copy of the CMI report is available at:


Most of the controversy around funding apprenticeships at Level 7 and above has its origins in fears that the apprenticeship budget is at risk of being overspent after it was revealed that the average cost of an apprenticeship was double that which the government first predicted. This was a topic discussed at the recent Annual Apprenticeships Conference held in Birmingham, at which speakers including:

  • Neil Carmichael, the Chair of the Independent Apprenticeship Policy Group (IAPG) said that apprenticeship funding should focus on supporting the UK’s 2017 industrial strategy, adding that it was important ‘…to avoid situations in which the courses being provided are adding little, if anything, to the skills base of the economy’.
  • The Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman,who criticised the high take-up of management apprenticeship courses and called for the mismatch between the current composition of apprenticeship provision and the skills needed to deliver the strategy, to be ‘urgently addressed’.
  • Emma Hardy, Labour’s Shadow Skills Minister, who argued that although degree apprenticeships should continue to be fully funded from the levy, this entitlement should be restricted to people age 25 and under, in occupations on the shortage occupation list, and those who do not already have a degree equivalent qualification.
  • Mark Dawe, the Chief Executive of the AELP, who said that an extra £1.5 billion was needed so that non-levy paying SMEs ‘…could start investing in apprenticeships again’.

IfATE has launched a consultation on a proposal to move away from the current system whereby EQA is delivered by a wide range of different organisations, to one where EQA is delivered only by Ofqual or, for integrated degree apprenticeships, only by the Office for Students (OfS). Further information and a copy of the consultation document can be found at:


In partnership with the DfE, IfATE has commissioned an independent research agency IFF to undertake a research project into the actual costs of delivering apprenticeship standard training and assessment. Based on the report’s findings, IfATE says that it has used ‘…new evidence and insight to design a new proposed model for making funding band recommendations.’ IfATE goes on to say, ‘Once fully developed, this model will provide a process with more consistent, appropriate and transparent recommendations. IfATE goes on to say that, ‘At the same time, we have engaged widely with stakeholders to better understand what employers and other parties consider important in an apprenticeship funding model’ and launched a consultation on a new model for assigning funding bands to apprenticeship standards. Further information and a copy of the consultation document (which has to be returned by 6 April) can be found at:

And a copy of the IFF research document can be found at:


An analysis by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) cays that the number of cyber-attacks on FE college computer and data systems are increasing, becoming sophisticated and causing more disruption than ever before. Data collected by JISC reveals that colleges are now experiencing an average of 12 attacks a week. JISC also found that there was an increasing trend in attackers using multiple different attack methods designed to cause maximum disruption. These included distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks requiring multiple defences need to be put in place to mitigate them. JISC found that one of the biggest risks colleges faced was from their students. Colleges have campus networks with a very high band-width available that are relatively open and students often access these networks with devices that might not have been secured but nevertheless hold significant amounts of sensitive information such as email addresses and log in passwords. When they connect these devices to the college network, that data becomes available for harvesting from potential attackers. JISC also found that lack of funding was also major factor increasing the risk of colleges facing cyber-attacks. JISC says that assigning a sufficient budget to security measures is fundamental to mitigating, at least to some extent, all of these risks. More information from JISC is available at

…and at:

And ESFA guidance to colleges on cyber security is available at:


The Mixed Economy Group (MEG), which represents more than 40 FE colleges that offer HE programmes, has produced a very interesting collection of case studies on how HE is managed within their institutions. Colleges were not selected to participate in the case studies exclusively for the quality of their provision and delivery. Instead, they are meant to be a representative cross section of MEG members in terms of geographical location and size of HE student cohorts. They show how each College has attempted to adapt to its local context, environmentally, socially and economically and has developed its HE offer and management strategies accordingly. Many have faced stiff competition from local universities and most draw students from socially deprived areas. The case studies are available at:

And more information about MEG can be found at:

(Thanks go to Carl Flint, the MEG Webmaster, who provided details of this)


A recent report from the Policy Exchange claims that universities have ‘…lost the faith of the nation in some critical areas.’ The report goes on to argue that the HE sector is now ‘…a cause for concern at ministerial level’ (and a potential target for cuts) because of such things as the failure to protect freedom of speech on campus and to address such things as degree grade inflation, the increase in unconditional offers of places being made, the proliferation of low quality degrees that offer poor economic returns for students and the excessive level of remuneration and expenses being paid to some vice-chancellors and other senior staff. Meanwhile, a combination of the effects of strike action and the Coronavirus crisis means that since January, some HE students have received less than two weeks teaching despite the eye-watering tuition fees they have paid. As a general rule, if a person has paid for something, they have not received they are usually entitled to a refund. Vice Chancellors might want to consider this. A copy of the report is at:


The Office for Students (OfS) has launched a consultation that asks the for the views of students and staff at universities, colleges, schools and others with an interest in education on the future of HE admissions. The consultation asks for respondents to consider issues that include:

  • The use and accuracy of predicted grades and personal statements
  • The role of contextual information in admissions for students from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • The use of unconditional offers, particularly since their significant increase in recent years
  • The use of incentives and inducements in marketing courses
  • The overarching transparency, fairness and effectiveness of the system for all students.

The OfS says that, in the consultation, it is not offering a preferred model for the future but has put forward 3 possible options (although respondents are free to suggest any other system). In brief, these are:

  • Retaining the current system with reforms:If the system is seen as generally working well, to consider a series of reforms that would improve it further. As examples of such reforms, consideration could be given to increasing the use of contextual admissions, whether to retain personal statements, how to achieve greater transparency around entry requirements and how applications are assessed.
  • Post-qualifications offers for full-time undergraduate admissions:Under this option, applications would be sent to providers at broadly the same time as they are now. However, offers would only be made after students receive their A-levels (or other equivalent qualification).
  • Post-qualification applications for full-time undergraduate admissions:Various models for this option exist. For example, applicants might register their interest in particular universities ahead of receiving their results, but wait until they had their results before completing their application.

The deadline for responding to the consultation is 21 May and the OfS says that it will ‘examine next steps’ this autumn. A copy of the consultation document can be found at:


The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has produced a report commissioned by the DfE entitled ‘The impact of undergraduate degrees on lifetime earnings.’ The report shows that:

  • HE students in England graduate with an average debt of around £50,000 but that even after repaying fees, their higher lifetime earnings still make it financially beneficial for most to go to university, but that 20% are worse off after paying for their courses.
  • Over their working lives, male graduates on average gain by £130,000 and female graduates by £100,000 compared to non-graduates. These gains and losses are counted after the cost of going to university has been deducted, including the £9,250 per year in tuition fees, loans for living costs, interest charged on loans and lost potential earnings from studying rather than being in jobs.
  • There are wide variations in the financial winners and losers depending on the subject studied and at which university the subject was studied. These include the following:
    • For women, the financial gains of studying creative arts and languages are ‘close to zero’.
    • Medicine will bring an extra £340,000 for women, economics £270,000 and £260,000 for law.
    • Men studying creative arts subjects are projected to lose £100,000, compared to their counterparts who did not go to university.
    • For men in the top-earning subject areas of medicine and economics, the likely gain is £500,000.
    • For both men and women there are low financial returns for graduates in English and biology.
    • Individual universities are not identified, but more selective universities tend to lead to bigger earnings.
    • Graduates will earn on average 20% more over their working life than those who did not go to university.
    • The economy gains £240,000 per male graduate and £130,000 per female graduate on average over a lifetime.
    • More women go to university than men and a higher proportion of women, (85%, compared with 75% of men) will obtain a positive financial return from going to university. But female graduates have lower lifetime earnings than men, which the report says is likely to reflect women taking time off or reducing hours when they have children. The gender gap in earnings opens when graduates are in their 30s, although the data does not distinguish between part-time and full-time work.

A copy of the IfS report can be found at:


The Financial Times (FT) newspaper says that it is aware of the resource issues facing colleges and has now extended free access to the FT for all FE college students and staff. The FT already offers free access to all schools globally that teach 16-19-year-olds through its ‘’ website. Free access will be made available through FE college campus devices, but students and staff will also be able to set up user accounts of their own devices, using their college email addresses. More information is at:




In the wake of college closures, we are intending to suspend the regular monthly issue of the Click newsletter. However, we will be circulating short bulletins on key FE developments in general and the impact of the current crisis on FE provision, as and when they occur (whether you want them or not!).


A song to sing while you are self-isolating:

(Thanks for this go to Neil Bromley, former Principal of North East Worcestershire College)

Last one out, switch off the lights.

Alan Birks – March 2020

As usual, the views and opinions expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those held by Click.
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