https://dfemedia.blog.gov.uk/2019/06/27/universities/

Universities

three university students walking in a lobby area

Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at the disparity in outcomes for graduates at different institutions studying the same course. The blog also discusses the inaugural National Relationship and Sex Education day and HEPI’s report on free speech in universities.

Graduate Outcomes

Today, the Education Secretary has called on universities to address the disparities in outcomes between courses, following graduate outcomes data released today. The data shows the median earnings of graduates one, two and five years after graduating and is broken down by course and provider. The story was covered in the Telegraph (p10), I (p7) and FT.

The Education Secretary has talked about how today’s data is helping young people choose a course that is best for them, and drawing on how earnings are not the only mark of success but the enriching qualities of cultural and social value.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

Studying at university has the potential to expand horizons, enrich understanding and transform lives, and we have more data available than ever before to help students make the right decision to achieve that. We know that potential earnings is a driver for many when it comes to choosing a university, and today’s data will help thousands choose the right course for them.

Of course, future earnings aren’t the only marker of a successful degree, we need to also look at employability, social impact and the important cultural value which enriches our society.

What I am concerned about though is how a course at one university can generate drastically different outcomes and experiences compared to another one offering the same subject, whether that’s potential earnings, employability and even teaching quality.

It cannot be right that students studying the same subjects at different institutions, and paying the same fees, are not getting the same positive outcomes which are evidently achievable. All students should feel they are getting value for money and the stark disparities between some degrees show there are universities that need to improve and maximise the potential of their courses.

Free Speech

Today, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) published a report titled Free Speech and Censorship on Campus. The report claims the single biggest threat to free speech on UK campuses currently comes from the Government’s own Prevent programme. The report was covered in the Independent (p16) and Guardian (p16).

The Education Secretary has made his support for free speech on campus clear and the importance of the counter-terrorism work through the Prevent programme.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

The Government fully supports free speech on campus, which is evidenced by our collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to develop new guidance that protects this right for students. It is incorrect to suggest otherwise.

We have been clear that freedom of speech should be upheld at every opportunity and it is vital to the independence and innovation that embodies the higher education sector. No university should ever feel like they have to stop a debate simply because there are people who disagree with it.

Prevent is a vital part of our counter-terrorism work which safeguards vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism. The universities regulator recently found no cause for concerns on how institutions balance their free speech responsibilities and the Prevent duty.

Relationship and Sex Education Day

Today is the first national Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) Day, which has been designed to celebrate RSE that educates children and young people about healthy relationships and positive sexual health. It is an initiative from Nottingham City Council who have with the Sex Education Forum to increase the profile of the day across the country.

Minister Gibb has spoken about the importance of good RSE and reflected on why the Department has updated the guidance so that children and young people foster positive relationships and have respect for all.

Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, said

Growing up and adolescence are hard enough, but the internet and social media add new pressures that weren’t there even one generation ago. So many things about the way people interact have changed, and this new world, seamless between online and the real world, can be difficult to navigate. It is almost twenty years since the last time guidance on sex education was updated.

Good-quality Relationships and Sex Education is vital to ensure children are equipped with the knowledge they need to grow up healthy, happy and safe in the modern world. It’s also important that sex education at secondary school is grounded in a firm understanding and valuing of positive relationships, and respect for others, from primary school age.

Positive relationships are connected with good mental health, which itself is linked with physical wellbeing. This is why we are making health education universally compulsory alongside relationships and sex education from 2020. These subjects will help young people to be resilient as they chart a course through an ever more complex world.

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