Policy Update – February 2022

Sharon Witherspoon MBE FAcSS, Head of Policy, Academy of Social Sciences 

It’s obviously a particularly febrile time in politics, so events may alter things.

UKRI consultations on research impact and EDI

UKRI has launched a survey about research impact, to inform its application and  review processes, and possible resourcing of this work.  Though billed as a consultation, it is in fact aimed at researchers who have applied for UKRI funding.  We are encouraging Fellows and other social scientists to put in responses, since it is important that the social sciences are included, as their pathways to impact are likely to be somewhat different from those of STEM sciences.

AcSS is also planning a response to the UKRI consultation on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, again likely in conjunction with our Learned Society members.

If Fellows have any particular points they wish us to consider for any consultation responses, please email policy@acss.org.uk.

Policy debates and developments in higher education

On 17 January, Universities UK issued a ‘framework’ statement on how universities (primarily in England but with knock-on effects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) should measure and make statements about the issue of ‘low value/ low quality’ courses.

On 20 January, the Office for Students (OfS) issued its own policy proposals for addressing quality and value for university courses.  (The Academy responded to the preliminary OfS consultation early last year.)  The proposals cover university-based issues (like continuation from year one to year two; completion/ graduation rates; and others) and issues related to labour market outcomes.

The proposals are somewhat fiercer than some hoped, are highly technical (the guidance is over 600 pages long in total) and the statistical burden on English universities will be high.  There is no direct allowance for different student intakes or employment structures in different parts of the UK, though OfS says it will take these ‘contexts’ into account in deciding about any regulatory activity it undertakes as a result of the metrics.  AcSS will issue a response (the due date is March 17th), working together with Social Science Learned Societies, and focussing particularly on the employment benchmarks.

OfS has also released its proposals for a revised Teaching Excellence Framework.  It has confirmed that it is not proceeding with subject-level TEF. AcSS does not generally reply to TEF consultations, but Fellows will wish to be aware of the proposals.

We await any sign of a government response to the Augar proposals on student funding, and possibly other HE funding issues.

Levelling Up 

The Levelling Up White Paper was launched on 2 February.  It contains some concrete goals, and debate is now started about whether and how these may be achieved.  AcSS is will of course issue a response, possibly along with social science Learned Societies.

Contact us
Write policy@acss.org.uk and let us know if you have suggestions or ideas about our message, or to suggest future topics we should explore.