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News 2019

  • Blog post: Big wheels keep on turnin’ - Research and innovation – a Vision for Wales
  • Date:  16 August 2019
  • Followers of HEFCW might have noticed that we have recently published what we informally call “the Vision”.
  • It’s a new path for HEFCW – to make such a bold statement about our hopes for the future – and it’s taken a lot of time, head-scratching and patience to produce the final document (including some time spent discussing its disco-ball style cover!)
  • So why did we do it?
  • If you are familiar with the research and innovation (R&I) landscape across the UK (and possibly if you aren’t), UK Research and Innovation – UKRI - was set up in April 2018. Those paying attention to Welsh university R&I policy will also recall that Professor Graeme Reid’s review of government funded research and innovation was published last year. Brexit preparations were ramping up and among other challenges already facing the UK, there were lots of new ideas and recommendations floating around that created a perfect storm of influences in Wales.
  • In May 2018 the Chair of our Research, Innovation and Engagement (RIE) Committee changed. Professor Sir Robin Williams passed on the challenge to the new Chair, Professor Mark E Smith, for the committee to seize this opportunity.
  • That settled it then.
  • Our committee went on to hold a workshop bringing together universities and other key stakeholders, collaborators and others interested and involved in R&I in Wales to work out where we wanted Wales to be, and how we could make it happen.
  • The result was the Vision.
  • HEFCW is regulator and funder first and foremost, but also a supporter and partner of our higher education institutions. We are starting to move on: from being only able to offer QR funding - as part of the dual support system - to support research and innovation in Wales, towards a more engaged and supportive approach in the changing times we face (whilst obviously still including the dual support system). The Vision aims to capture imaginations, recognise the challenges and create a plan that we can support, and deliver in collaboration with higher education sector.
  • It seems to be going down well, and we have made good progress in hitting our short-term goals:
  • • The RIE Committee has been replaced with the Research Wales Committee, shaped to more easily demonstrate our alignment to our counterparts east of the border, Research England, and to better engage across the R&I sector to ensure stronger advice to our Council.
  • • We’re currently consulting on the reintroduction of innovation funding for Welsh universities, which will take the form of the Research Wales: Innovation Fund from 2020/21. And
  • • In an effort to respond to the Reid recommendation to incentivise providers to win external grant money, Research Wales: Strengthening the research base funding, enabled though additional funds from Welsh Government, means our first year is going to take some beating.
  • As a relatively new R&I team at HEFCW we hope we’ll bring something new to the table. We’d also love to hear from you about your own hopes for R&I in Wales, while you join us on the journey over the next few years.
  • And of course please tell us what you think is actually on our Vision’s disco-ball style cover!
  • Jennifer Evans, Senior Research Manager, HEFCW
  • HEFCW Research Wales Committee: vacancies for two independent members
  • Date:  13 August 2019
  • The Research Wales Committee (RWC) advises Council on its strategies for research, innovation and engagement in Wales. The RWC produced Research and Innovation: the Vision for Wales setting out HEFCW’s ambition for the research and innovation with an ambition for how our universities will contribute to local, UK and international challenges. As a member of the RWC, you will advise on the priorities for funding, and mechanisms that will strengthen and sustain a successful research and innovation environment for Wales. Members are encouraged to lead working groups on key areas of interest and policy relevance, to provide enhanced advice to Council. Your contribution will ensure Wales is in the strongest position to exploit its strengths and overcome challenges and be a recognised leader in research and innovation.
  • We have two vacancies on the Research Wales Committee to bring an independent, external perspective to the Committee’s work:
  • • Expert in research and innovation (academic or industry vacancy)
  • • Early career academic
  • All applications will be treated the same and appointments will be made on merit.
  • More information
  • UK Research Partnership Investment Fund
  • Date:  11 July 2019
  • The latest round of UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) represents a £200m+ fund supporting large-scale research collaborations across the UK. Each project receives twice as much investment again from non-public sources. This is the sixth round of UKRPIF, the second award to Swansea University, and the third overall in Wales.
  • Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of HEFCW, said: “It is excellent news that the semiconductor portfolio in Wales continues to grow, strengthening our research capacity and offering real innovation opportunities for companies working in Wales. This award shows the strength of our research collaborations with industry, and demonstrates the value of programmes such as Sêr Cymru, through which Professor Paul Meredith’s vision and commitment made this possible. We are excited to see the work progress.”
  • Blog post - Reviewing the Quality Assessment Framework
  • Date:  05 June 2019
  • I wrote recently about reviewing our Student Charter guidance – well, we are also reviewing our Quality Assessment Framework!
  • This is because the context of higher education continues to change. Since we published the framework originally, the Office for Students was formed, the revised Quality Code for Higher Education and associated guidance have been published, the ways in which international provision is assessed are under review, and work on degree standards progresses, with the recent publication of the UK-wide Degree classification: statement of intent.
  • We’re amending the framework to reflect these developments, as well as referencing our new procedures for assessing the quality of education.
  • As you might expect, this led us to consider other aspects of the framework, specifically the requirements for external quality assurance reviews. Those who are about to commission such a review will be pleased to know that we aren’t adding much, other than including updated references to the quality code and associated documents.
  • However, we have agreed with QAA, commissioned by universities in Wales to carry out the external quality assurance reviews using the Quality Enhancement Review method, that it doesn’t make sense for them to carry out this review against all elements of the baseline for the quality assessment framework, for example the relevant code of governance. We have therefore proposed to make it clearer that we expect external quality assurance reviews to consider quality and standards, including the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, and the expectations and core and common practices of the Quality Code for Higher Education.
  • As the changes to the Framework aren’t substantive, we are carrying out a ‘soft consultation.’ That means we are asking for the views of the QAA Wales Quality Network, the Universities Wales Pro Vice-Chancellors Learning and Teaching Advisory Group, the HE in FE network, NUS Wales and student unions.
  • If anyone else is interested in seeing the draft proposals and would like to comment, please contact me at cliona.oneill@hefcw.ac.ukby 12 June. We hope to have the final guidance approved and published in July 2019.
  • Cliona O'Neill, Head of Student Experience, HEFCW
  • Higher education groups underline commitment to fair and transparent academic standards
  • Date:  20 May 2019
  • The UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) has published its Statement of Intent to ensure transparent, consistent and fair academic standards in UK higher education.
  • The Statement, outlining higher education’s commitment to protecting the value of UK degrees, has been signed by sector representative bodies including Universities Wales, and endorsed by the UKSCQA, which includes regulated providers, National Union of Students, and funding and regulatory bodies such as HEFCW.
  • The Statement also includes assurances that qualifications should be based on clear criteria that demonstrate academic, and that diverse institutions must demonstrate comparable academic practices to protect the sustainability of the degree classification system.
  • Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of HEFCW, said: “We very much support the commitments in the Statement and the steps providers are taking to ensure transparency and parity. Our main consideration is assuring the quality of higher education, and the outcomes of higher education, for the benefit of students. We recognise that students have worked hard for their qualifications, and we cannot make blanket judgements about an individual’s attainment based on an upward trajectory in institutional grades. However, we must maintain confidence in the value of the UK degree and this statement is an important step to ensure consistency in degree classifications.”
  • Kirsty Williams, the Education Minister, said: “I welcome higher education institutions in Wales and across the UK working together to guarantee transparency and fairness when awarding qualifications. Consistency is essential to provide students with assurance that the degrees they’ve worked so hard for are rightly valued by universities, future employers and their peers and given the respect they fully deserve.”
  • Statement of intent
  • Blog post:  A word about student charters
  • Date:  8 May
  • We are in the process of updating our student charter guidance. We’re doing this to integrate well-being and health into the charters, as it didn’t seem meaningful for institutions to develop mental health charters which were separate to the student experience charters.
  • We’ve taken this addition of well-being and health as an opportunity to review the student charter guidelines more broadly, as there is a risk of continuing to add new requirements without taking anything away - resulting in a very long shopping list!
  • We worked on the updated guidance with a task and finish group, which included sector representatives, mental health experts, and student representatives, and we are very grateful for their help in shaping the proposals.
  • The updated guidance proposes that the charters should include a statement on the institutional commitment to student well-being and health, including mental health, and that they should link to related strategies that could impact on this area – for example, around safeguarding.
  • Other changes we are proposing include clarifying that the student charter isn’t a legal document, but that it sets out mutual expectations of institutions, staff and student unions.
  • We’ve also emphasised the need for institutions to communicate the charter in ways that are easily understood, and to continually adapt this.
  • Finally, we’ve proposed that the charters include a statement on the need for the institution to meet its statutory responsibilities, such as those around equality and diversity.
  • We’re having to do this work fairly quickly to give institutions and their student unions the time to make these changes in time for the 2019/20 student cohort. Therefore, we’re aiming to publish the revised guidance the week of 20 May 2019, or as soon as possible thereafter.
  • If you want to contribute your views before we publish the guidance, please contact me at cliona.oneill@hefcw.ac.uk before 15 May.
  • Cliona O'Neill, Head of Student Experience, HEFCW
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