Higher Education

Department for Education written question – answered on 15th September 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Non-affiliated

To ask Her Majesty's Government what recent discussions they have had with representatives of the higher education sector in (1) Northern Ireland, (2) Wales, (3) England, and (4) Scotland.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The Department for Education is in regular contact with representatives of the higher education system throughout the United Kingdom and has weekly interactions with Universities UK and the Office for Students (OfS).

We have also recently established a Higher Education Taskforce, which is looking at the admissions processes following recent changes to exam results. This taskforce includes representatives from UCAS, the OfS and a wide range of university groups. Following these changes, my hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities, has also had bilateral calls with the Vice Chancellors of many universities in England.

The Department has also had regular contact with its counterparts – both at ministerial and official level – in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland throughout the summer.

Officials from the department have weekly calls with colleagues from the devolved administrations on a number of policy areas, including on the COVID-19 response and higher education admissions.

At a ministerial level, there are both bilateral discussions on a regular basis and quadrilateral meetings between my hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities, and her counterparts in the home nations.

These are all supplemented with ad hoc discussions on emerging policy. To give an example, there were discussions regarding the recent results day and subsequent move to centre-assessed grades in England, which also led to the removal of student number controls, an area of interest to each of the devolved administrations.

We are also working directly with representatives of the higher education sector throughout the UK. An example of this is a recent conversation my hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities, had with the Vice Chancellors of Queens University, Belfast, the University of Edinburgh and Cardiff University.

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