1. The membership of each of the Committees Working Groups is given below.
Economic Role of Higher Education
Teaching, Quality and Standards
Staff and Use of Resources
Funding of Higher Education and Student Support
The Structure and Governance of Higher Education
*Members of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education
Those who worked full or part-time in membership of the
Secretariat are listed below, together with, where
appropriate, the names of the organisations from which
they were seconded.
to the Committee:
Assistant Policy Advisers:
Written consultation exercise
3. One of our first actions and one with which many readers of this report will have had some involvement was to embark on a large-scale written consultation exercise. A substantial questionnaire was issued to around 2000 organisations and individuals in July 1996, with a deadline for responses of 15 November. It was also made available on the World Wide Web. We were delighted with the response. Not only were there a large number of replies 840 but a great deal of careful thought had gone into them. Many of the organisations who responded set up arrangements of their own to ensure that their responses reflected the views of their members. But we were also pleased that so many individuals took the trouble to send in contributions.
4. A shorter version of the main consultation questionnaire was sent to a representative sample of schools with pupils in the 16-19 age range. The response to this aspect of our consultation was disappointing only 18 out of the 300 who were sent a questionnaire replied. We have not attempted therefore to draw any conclusions about the views of schools from this exercise but their responses were included in the wider analysis of the evidence.
5. Every piece of evidence submitted was sent to at least one member of the Committee, so that we all had a good sense of the nature of the responses coming in and could draw the attention of our colleagues to particularly pertinent contributions. To give us a wider sense of the main themes emerging and the balance of opinion, we commissioned a team from the University of London Institute of Education, led by Professor Ron Barnett, to analyse the responses for us. The report from the Institute is being published with this report (Report 1). Their analysis included most responses which arrived after the 15 November deadline except those received in late December and beyond. The latter were fed into the Committees work on an ad hoc basis depending on the issues raised in them.
6. A few of those who submitted evidence asked for it to be kept confidential. All other written submissions are being placed in the Public Record Office and will be available for scrutiny shortly. In addition the University of London Institute of Education library has a full set of the non-confidential responses in its archive.
7. Because of time constraints we could not take oral evidence from all those who might have liked to appear before us. Twenty-nine organisations were invited to give evidence to a panel of members in London, and a further eight were seen by a panel of Scottish Committee members in Edinburgh. Full transcripts of those oral evidence sessions were taken and circulated to all members of the Committee. Copies are being placed in the Public Record Office.
8. Although our written consultation exercise was extensive, we also wanted to debate issues in more depth with a range of people. To do this, we arranged seven consultation conferences:
9. We invited a range of people to each including:
10. Although there was generally an enthusiastic response to the conferences, we found it hard to persuade employers to attend, despite issuing invitations to them through a variety of routes.
11. We started each conference with a plenary session where the Chairman outlined some issues for discussion. At most, though not all, of the conferences those present then divided into small groups to talk about a particular set of issues of which they had had prior notification. Each small group was chaired by a member of the Committee, of one of its Working Groups or of the Secretariat, and a note of the discussion was kept. At the end of each conference, the Chairman summarised the main points which had arisen and offered the opportunity for further questions and debate. We all received summaries of the discussions.
Seminars for small and medium sized enterprises
12. We knew that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have little time for filling in questionnaires, but that their views were crucial because of their growing importance as a source of jobs for those with higher education qualifications. We asked a range of Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs) to arrange small seminars with groups of SMEs at times and places they felt were convenient. Six such seminars were held as follows:
13. Each seminar was attended by at least one Committee member and a member of the Secretariat, who kept a record of the main points arising. At the end of each seminar the SMEs were given a copy of our employer questionnaire and asked to complete it. Completed responses were added to the analysis described below in paragraph 18.
Those who have higher education qualifications
15. Important as the views of current students are, we also wanted to know how those who had been through higher education had fared since and what they felt, in retrospect, about their higher education. We found that others were already planning work in this area so, rather than duplicate what they were doing, we worked in co-operation with them. The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) and the Department for Education and Employment funded a survey of graduates in employment with a wide range of different types of employer. We are grateful to them for allowing members of our Secretariat to join the steering committee for that project and to influence the questions which were asked in the study, which was carried out by Professor Lee Harvey and colleagues at the Centre for Research into Quality, University of Central England. The findings of that study have been published.
16. The Higher Education Funding Council for England had already planned a large-scale survey of two English graduate cohorts from 1985 and 1990. We agreed to contribute funding so that the survey could be extended to cover the UK, holders of Higher National Diplomas and graduates of the Open University and the University of Buckingham. Most of the results of that survey have been published in respect of the Open University and the University of Buckingham because confidentiality assurances were given at the beginning of the survey. Committee Members have, however, seen the results of that part of the survey and its findings have been taken into account in our work.
Staff in higher education
17. The unions representing staff in higher education gave us written and oral evidence and were interviewed by our Working Group which looked at staff matters. We also conducted two surveys to find out the views of staff. The Policy Studies Institute carried out both surveys for us. The first was a large-scale telephone interview survey of 800 academic staff. The second was a small study of support staff which used focus groups. The results of the surveys can be found in Reports 3 and 4 respectively.
18. Since we found it difficult to attract a good representation of employers to our consultative conferences, we used other approaches to find out their views. The large- scale study by the Association of Graduate Recruiters, mentioned above, examined the views of graduates in work and also of their employers. To complement that survey, which concentrated mainly on the changing world of graduate career opportunities and the range of knowledge, skills and attributes that will help graduates to acquire jobs, we sent our own questionnaire which dealt with skills, research and development and continuing professional development to a range of large and small employers. Although our sample was not statistically representative, it gave us a good flavour of employers views and showed quite clearly that employers have very diverse views and requirements. An analysis of the results of the survey can be found in Appendix 4.
Other research commissioned by the Committee
19. We made use of a wide range of statistical information from the Higher Education Statistics Agency which is now publishing the first comprehensive and comparable information on higher education. Previously, data from the various parts of the higher education system were collected separately by a range of different organisations including the then Department for Education and Employment, the Universities Statistical Record and the then Scottish Office Education Department. While the establishment of a unified set of statistics is a welcome advance, we were inevitably handicapped by the lack of a consistent series of figures over several years under the new arrangements.
20. We also had the benefit of research, analysis and modelling by economists and statisticians from the Department for Education and Employment on the economic returns achieved from investment in higher education and projections of student numbers. Evidence on the labour market demand for graduates, returns to higher education and the economic impact of higher education on regions was tested with a group of economists at a seminar held at the Barbican on 11 December 1996. We are grateful to the Department for Education and Employment, who organised the seminar for us.
21. We commissioned:
22. Where we found that other organisations were already interested in carrying out research into a particular subject, we sought to work with them rather than duplicate their work. Particular thanks are owed to the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals in this respect. In some cases we contributed funding in order to extend studies to cover additional aspects of particular interest to us. In other cases, a member of our Secretariat was allowed to join the steering group for projects or to have early sight of the findings of them. Examples include:
The Higher Education Quality Council made a helpful
analysis of European qualifications frameworks for us
which can be found in Report 11.
24. Some of our most technically complex work was in the area of funding. We commissioned London Economics, working jointly with Coopers and Lybrand, to design and build a model on which we could test specific funding options and to assist us in identifying and testing a range of options for funding the activities of higher education and the support of students. Professor David Robertson was commissioned to examine options for learning accounts or a Learning Bank in parallel. Such work was supplemented by a range of small seminars to help us tease out the technical issues on funding learning, student loans and learning accounts/learning banks. The outcomes of that work can be found in Reports 12, 13 and 14.
25. There were a large number of countries which we would have liked to visit but, given the time constraints, we decided to confine our visits to a relatively small number of developed countries and to send only a small number of members on each visit. We arranged two visits to the United States because its system is so diverse and large and because it has a long history of mass participation in higher education. The Chairman went to Japan as another example of an economically successful country with a long history of mass participation. Members visited three of our European neighbours, France, Germany and the Netherlands, and two countries, Australia and New Zealand which are culturally like the UK and have recently introduced major reforms of higher education funding. In each case, we received excellent support from the British Embassy/and/or British Council in the country concerned to help us arrange an interesting and relevant programme. Our aim was, where possible, to have discussions with representatives of those responsible for policy-making at national or regional level, representatives of higher education institutions, employers and students, and to visit several institutions of higher education. This often resulted in a packed programme. Reports from our visits are in Appendix 5.
26. The visits were supplemented by other sources of information. Many of us had knowledge of other countries higher education systems from our normal work. We sent questionnaires to a large number of embassies of overseas countries in the UK. Although we are conscious that the responses we received from them may, in some cases, represent official aspirations rather than the current reality, there was a refreshing degree of honesty and willingness to question current approaches in some of the replies. Summaries of what we learnt about the Asian tiger economies, and about some European countries which we did not visit, are in Appendix 5.
27. While we were undertaking our work, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was making a thematic review of the early years of higher education based upon detailed studies in a number of countries. One of their study teams visited the UK in September 1996 and their report (unpublished) has informed our thinking.
Visits to institutions
28. We visited a range of universities and colleges across the UK. For most of the visits we identified a particular aspect of the institutions work which we wanted to see and then invited the head of the institution to arrange a programme to include other areas which he or she felt we ought to see. In almost all cases we were able to meet a group of students as well as a range of staff from the institution. We appreciate the effort and thought which universities and colleges put into those visits and the warmth of welcome that we received everywhere. The places we visited were:
30. Throughout the course of our work we had many meetings with individuals and organisations, some at our request and some at theirs. We have not listed the meetings but are grateful to those who have given their time so freely. We would like particularly to thank Professor Bruce Chapman, Professor Claus Moser and Professor Martin Trow, each of whom joined one of our meetings.