Policy update from our Chief Executive

Houses of parliament-cropped

It has been a busy time, with many changes to the higher education environment. The HE Bill continues to be debated in parliament, with the Lords being particularly vocal; Sir Mark Walport has been appointed CEO of UKRI; the latest REF consultation being carried out; the Government’s Industrial Strategy being published; the Brexit white paper being debated with very little detail about matters such as Erasmus participation; and student applications fell for the first time since 2012.

In December, members of the Chartered ABS Council and the Research Committee met with David Sweeney, who is leading the REF review at HEFCE. The meeting took place the day after the release of the latest REF consultation and David was able to add some extra colour to the consultation document. There were some robust conversations held which will feed in to the Chartered ABS response to the consultation. As always, we will publish our response on our consultations page. David will join us again alongside representatives from HM Treasury, ESRC and Innovate UK at our Annual Research Conference in March.

There is rarely a month goes by at the moment without another consultation being launched and we have already responded to the call for feedback on the Draft strategic guidance for the Institute for Apprenticeships. We called for greater consideration for HE procedures as the systems have understandably been set up with FE Colleges in mind. For Degree Apprenticeships to be successful the IfA needs to recognise the different systems and procedures already in place in universities. Our response was partly informed by meetings held with the ‘shadow’ members of the IfA executive and board, and with really helpful input from a number of our members in Chester, Manchester Metropolitan, and Aston.

Hopefully you will have noticed that business schools, the Chartered ABS, and the Small Business Charter received mentions in the Government’s Industrial Strategy on pages 66 and 67. We will hold follow-up meetings with relevant people to carry forward the recommendations the Government wishes to undertake and to ensure the contribution that business schools make continue to be recognised, but more importantly supported and expanded.

To that end, members of the Council have a meeting with the Higher Education Minister - Jo Johnson - early in March. We will focus on the Industrial Strategy, international students, and the TEF. We also have a separate meeting with the TEF team at BEIS, to discuss the pilot of subject level TEF.

It isn’t all about Westminster - last week I meet with both Kirsty Williams, Education Minister in the Welsh Assembly, and Ken Skates, Minister for the Economy and Industrial Strategy. Both expressed specific support for the Small Business Charter and acknowledged the importance of business schools as anchor institutions.

Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams said “We are committed to supporting the growth and development of SMEs as they have a significant impact on the health of the economy. We are, therefore, fully supportive of the Small Business Charter which recognises the scale of the work of business schools in collaborating with and supporting SMEs to deliver value in local, regional and national contexts. Business schools drive economic growth through employment, investment and student income as well as providing a rich source of skills and capabilities. The Small Business Charter provides a critical interface between business schools and SMEs and it is important that it continues to develop its network of schools and SMEs nationwide.”

It was also a special pleasure for me to meet Huw Morris, Director at Skills, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning (SHELL), for the first time on my visit. Huw will be known to many of you as a previous business school dean and Chair of the ABS.

We also continue to build our relationships with institutions related to policy, not least HEFCE and the Scale Up Institute.