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Local and national student issue round up

We base our campaigning and representation work on evidence we gather here at Sussex and by following national developments affecting students here.

This report is circulated to staff and officers and now we’re sharing it so you can follow things here at Sussex and nationally.


Content note for this edition:


  1. Local developments and trends

1. Sussex University Freedom of Information (FoI) requests

2. Which? student survey


  1. National developments and trends

1. Subject TEF consultation

2. UCU Strike ballot

3. Race and History.

4. The (Knowledge) Bank of Mum and Dad

5. Living and lifestyle: the student perspective

6. OIA releases disciplinary procedures good practice framework

7. Opinion pieces    


1.1. Sussex University Freedom of Information (FoI) requests

We track publicly submitted requests for information from the University as they may reveal information we want to respond to.

A request was made to determine the university’s score in the forthcoming Global Health Ranking of leading UK universities by Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) UK. Questions included the number of full time students on Global Health MSc for academic year 2017-2018, the number of full time teaching staff on Global Health MSc for academic year 2017-2018, the budget for Global Health MSc for academic year 2017-2018 and the university budget on education for for academic year 2017-2018. All questions were answered except for the budget for Global Health MSc, as ‘school budget is not structured on a course-by-course basis’.

Another request was made on behalf of UAEM-UK  to make an assessment of the licensing and patenting practices of UK's leading medical research institution.


1.2 Which? University’s annual student survey

Students have voted the University of Sussex best for political scene and nightlife in a new survey of British universities.

Which? University’s annual student survey has revealed the best universities for sports, nightlife and students’ union, according to students themselves. The survey asked over 5,000 students across 127 universities what they loved about their university, focusing particularly on how students rated extra-curricular activities such as nightlife, sports, student’s union, creative and political scenes.

Northern universities topped the survey for the nightlife, with the University of Leeds, University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University, University of Manchester Manchester Met University, Newcastle University and Northumbria University leading the polls for their local pubs, clubs, restaurants and music venues.

The University of Sussex was the only south based university to top the best nightlife category, while Nottingham Trent University held the fort down for the Midlands, and the University of Strathclyde for Scotland.

The University of Sussex also impressed students with the diversity of opinions on campus and the opportunities to discuss important issues. It shares the top spot in the political scene category with Cambridge, Goldsmiths, LSE, Manchester and Oxford.


2.1 Subject-level TEF consultation response

The department for education have responded to the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF): subject-level consultation which put forward detailed proposals on the design of subject-level TEF earlier this year. Several refinements are to be made in the second year of the subject-level TEF pilot as a result of the comments, so that they can be tested before before subject-level TEF is fully implemented.


The following refinements to these elements will be tested in the second year of pilots:

• separating the TEF criterion ‘TQ1: Student engagement’ into two distinct criteria;

• introducing two new NSS metrics on learning resources and facilities and student voice

• bringing the LEO (Longitudinal Education Outcomes) metrics into the core metrics, instead of them being supplementary metrics;

• the feasibility of a new metric on differential degree attainment to measure attainment gaps.


Widely criticised plans to measure the “teaching intensity” of courses have also been dropped which could have seen universities assessed according to their “gross teaching quotient” – a measure of contact hours, weighted by class size, thus rewarding small-group teaching.

However, there are still concerns that a subject-level TEF will not work for all courses. For example, given the small numbers involved in assessments at subject level, there is a risk that outcomes could be determined by random year-on-year fluctuations as opposed to genuine variations in quality. Times Higher Education also posted an article expressing concerns about the additional administrative burden the STEF will present to HE institutions

Paul Ashwin, professor of higher education at Lancaster University, said that the revised proposals looked like a “massive undertaking”, requiring the formation of large numbers of assessment panels. “If they are going to assess every subject in the way they say then clearly that will be a big administrative burden, not just for institutions but clearly for the TEF itself,” Professor Ashwin said. “I don’t see how the OfS and the sector can afford to do that.”


2.2 UCU strike ballot

The results of the UCU pay ballot were released last week, where members voted on the decision to take part in further strike action over pay. The ballot comes after university staff – including lecturers, academics and researchers – rejected the Universities and Colleges Employers Association’s (UCEA) offer of a 2 per cent pay increase. UCU had said that this offer offer does nothing to address the falling value of higher education pay.

Only seven institutions (University of Nottingham, Heriot-Watt University, University of Huddersfield, University of Sheffield, University of Brighton, Coultard Institute of Arts and Leeds Arts University) would be eligible to strike or take action short of a strike, being the only branches seeing turnout of greater than 50%.

Here at Sussex, 73.5% of voters voted in favour of strike action, however the voter turnout was 44.2%, falling short of the 50% required for strike action to take place meaning no strikes will take place.

The vote comes after university staff staged 14 days of walkouts in February and March this year in a separate dispute over pensions – which affected more than one million students.

Read more:

UK HE staff back pay strike but turnout mostly falls short - Times Higher Education


2.3 Race and history

The Royal Historical Society has published a report titled “Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History: A Report and Resource for Change” that highlights the racial and ethnic and inequalities in the teaching and practice of history in the UK.  Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students and staff in university history programmes are greatly underrepresented, and the latter experience substantial levels of race-based bias and discrimination. For example, 93.7% of History staff are drawn from White backgrounds, with only 0.5% being Black, 2.2% Asian and 1.6% Mixed. Narrow school and university curriculums are also found to have a negative impact on diversity and inclusion. The report offers advice and guidance on taking positive action to address and diminish barriers to equality in the discipline.

The report is based on a year of research including a survey of over 700 university-based historians. It is part of RHS's 150th-anniversary programme, with a launch event tonight in London. There is coverage in the Mail Online, the Independent and the Telegraph.


2.4 The (Knowledge) Bank of Mum and Dad

The Office for Students has released new research that demonstrates how students turn to parents when making university choices. "The (Knowledge) Bank of Mum and Dad" poll, carried out by YouthSight, sought the views of over 2,000 current, prospective and previous students, and found that 71% per cent of prospective students say that parents are their first port of call for advice for choosing which university to attend, alongside teachers (68%), friends and peers (67%) and ahead of websites (60%). The report was released alongside a new report from CFE Research, which points to the importance of providing information about higher education directly to parents and carers - particularly for first-in-family students whose parents may not be knowledgeable about HE's benefits, the range of available degrees and courses, and practical considerations such as costs, funding and accommodation.


2.5 Living and lifestyle: the student perspective

The Students’ Union Research Group, made up of a collection of 26 Students’ Unions, have published a report on students’ views and experience of University. There were 8106 respondents from 124 different HE providers. Some of the key findings are as follows:

• Given the chance, 30% of students would change their choice of student accommodation.

• 1 in 5 students are not happy with their accommodation.

•14% of students say that they skip meals while they’re on-campus. Those who skip meals are more likely to be students from POLAR quintile 1 areas.

• 43% of students do not think that the cost of the food on-campus is reasonable.

• 18% of students do not think that the quality of the food on-campus is reasonable.

• 21% of students have considered dropping out of university in the last six months.

• 37% of female students said their wellbeing had worsened since being at university; 42% of lesbian, gay or bisexual students report worsening wellbeing, and 45% of students from quintile 1 (most deprived areas) report their wellbeing has worsened since starting university.

• Only 22% of students identify themselves as both a member of the local community and a student, while 77% of students identify themselves as solely a student.


2.6 OIA releases disciplinary procedures good practice framework

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) has published its good practice framework for disciplinary procedures. Draft guidance was published for consultation in June 2018 and submissions were received from providers, student representative bodies, and other higher education bodies, stakeholders and interest groups. The final version incorporates suggestions that were received in the consultation.

The document covers:

  • academic disciplinary procedures, for dealing with academic misconduct such as plagiarism, contract cheating, cheating in examinations or formal assessments, falsifying data, breaching research or ethics policies, and collusion;

  • non-academic disciplinary procedures, for dealing with misconduct such as antisocial, abusive or threatening behaviour, sexual misconduct, violence, harassment, hate crimes, behaviour likely to bring the provider into disrepute, damage to property or abuse of facilities, causing a health or safety concern, and other behaviour that might also be a criminal offence.

The guidance will inform the way that the OIA considers complaints relating to disciplinary matters from the 2019/20 academic year.


2.7 Opinion Pieces


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