Ethnicity trumps school background as a predictor of admission to elite UK universities

by Kurien Parel and Vikki Boliver (University of Durham)

 Last year an article in the Guardian newspaper described significant disparities in the success rates of white and non-white applicants to the University of Oxford, even among students who received top grades at A-level.  The article reported that, in 2010-11, offer rates were around 1.5 times higher for white applicants than for ethnic minority applicants with the same grades, and up to twice as high in relation to Oxford’s two most oversubscribed subjects, Medicine, and Economics and Management. This pattern was found to hold even for students with 3+ A* grades at A-level. Continue reading →

The idea of a single ‘tipping point’ for the RAB charge is misleading

by Claire Crawford, (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University of Warwick), Rowena Crawford (Institute of Fiscal Studies) and Wenchao Jin (Institute of Fiscal Studies)

The raising of the cap on tuition fees charged by English universities to £9,000 per year in 2012 (and the accompanying increase in student loans) means that students are now leaving university with considerably more debt than they did under the previous system. Most mid-to-higher earning graduates are also repaying substantially more. A recent report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that students will leave university with around £20,000 more debt under the new system compared to the old system, with graduates in the top half of the earnings distribution paying back between £8,000 and £22,000 more in today’s money than they did before.

But despite these huge increases in private contributions, it does not currently look like the government will save much money as a result of the reforms. Continue reading →

Why the Australian system is not the holy grail of HE

A recent report by the much respected Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI)  recommends that UK policymakers pay much closer attention to Australia’s ‘advanced’ university funding system, which shares many of the features of the UK system, but at considerably lower taxpayer expense.

It is easy to see why HE finance policymakers should be tempted to look at Australia for inspiration. The recent finding that the RAB charge – or the proportion of unpaid student loan debt, that is covered by the taxpayer – may reach 45% shocked many. An IFS report out on Thursday put the figure at 43.3%. This means for every £1 lent to students 45p is not recovered. By contrast, the Australian equivalent – at 25% for standard tuition fee loans – is a much healthier figure.

On the surface, this would seem reason enough to adopt the features of the Australian tuition fee system. But this could result in unintended consequences if not thought through thoroughly. Continue reading →

Towards measuring research supervision quality

By Richard TolUniversity of Sussex, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Tinbergen Institute and CESifo

Academics do many things. We teach, research, run departments, engage in public debate, and train young researchers. The outputs of some of these activities are routinely measured and thus play an important role in rewards and promotion. Other activities are rarely assessed and thus left to the intrinsic motivation of the academic. Research supervision is one. My recent work – summarized in this blog post – proposes a measure of the quality of advice to PhD candidates, the h1 index.

My proposed indicator of research supervision excellence shows that, by and large, good researchers make good advisors; but there are many people who excel at research but are less good at supervision, and many more that make great supervisors without being well published themselves. Continue reading →

2012 HE reforms reduce deficit but increase debt!

by Adam Wright, National Union of Students

The primary objective of the Coalition Government has been to tackle the UK budget deficit and reduce the national debt. Deficit reduction was a main justification for the Coalition’s reforms to higher education funding, which have shifted funding from teaching grants to tuition fees financed by government loans. Indeed, the reforms have achieved their goal in lowering the deficit, but have simultaneously ballooned the national debt. One could, therefore, question whether these reforms have achieved their goal.

How can the reforms have both reduced the deficit and simultaneously increased the debt? In simple terms, the government reduced the deficit by dramatically reducing teaching grants. These were replaced by increased tuition fee loans which, due to accounting rules, have a smaller impact on the deficit than they do on the national debt figures. Continue reading →


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