Policy conference - Just who does Higher Education work for?

Press Releases

24 Sep 2012

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) annual public policy conference will be held in London on the 28th of November and will focus on the value of Higher Education.

Called "The value of higher education: From higher skills pipeline to social mobility passport?", it will provide an opportunity for representatives from the HE sector, graduate employers, policy makers and researchers to debate the value of HE and question for whom it is working best.

The conference will be held in London on the 28th of November, and will be unique in bringing skills suppliers and buyers together to explore the future for HE and the value of HE to individuals, the economy and society.

As we start to see the effect of one of the greatest reforms the higher education sector has seen for decades, now is the perfect time to take stock of where we are. Delegates will consider topics such as the demand for higher-level skills, where does this come from, and are there now too many graduates; how does higher education in the UK compare with that of our international competitors, are we keeping abreast or lagging behind; what are the best ways of meeting employer demand for high-level skills, and is higher-level vocational training a viable alternative to higher education?

Jim Hillage, Director of Research at the Institute for Employment Studies, comments:

‘The new university fee structures which start this academic year have really turned a spotlight on higher education. The personal costs of going on to university or college are higher than ever before which raises expectations, but holding a degree no longer guarantees a good job, and there are many questions around whether a degree is still a passport to labour market success. Meanwhile the debate continues to rage around whether graduates leave university with the skills employers actually need, and whether university is disconnected from the economy.

‘With rising graduate unemployment and underemployment, increasing individual and government student loan debt and the potential for unmet expectations on all sides, it seems timely to debate the benefits of higher education for individual students, for employers and for the wider economy and society, and to consider just who is actually getting value from HE.’

Speakers at the conference include:

  • Professor Les Ebdon, Director, Office for Fair Access
  • Martin Williams, Director of Education Policy, Department for Business Innovation and Skills
  • Professor Nigel Thrift, Vice Chancellor, University of Warwick
  • Deborah Roseveare, Head, Skills beyond Skills Division, Directorate for Education, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
  • Shabana Mahmood MP, Shadow Minister for Higher Education
  • Louis M M Coiffait, Head of Research, The Pearson Think Tank

The conference is being held on the 28th of November from 9.30am - 4.30pm at The Commonwealth Club, London.

IES recently completed a key study for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) which explores some of these issues of demand for and supply of higher education. The report entitled "Expanding and Improving Part-time Higher Education" maps the size and nature of part-time undergraduate study and explores the feasibility of expanding part-time provision for a younger market.


Notes to editors

The Institute for Employment Studies is the UK's leading independent centre for research and evidence-based consultancy in employment, labour market and human resource policy and practice. It is apolitical and not-for-profit, its activities being funded through research and consultancy commissions, and from its corporate membership programme. The Institute aims to improve employment policy in the UK and internationally by carrying out authoritative research of practical relevance to policy makers and those responsible for implementing policy programmes and initiatives.

The Institute continues to maintain its profile and research presence in HE-focused research and is currently:

  • undertaking the latest wave of the Student Income and Expenditure Survey that will set the benchmark against which to measure the forthcoming changes to tuition fees;
  • exploring the experiences, outcomes and impact of research postgraduates using the latest data from the Longitudinal Destinations of Leavers from HE survey data;
  • and exploring the feasibility of undertaking an NSS-style survey of taught postgraduate students to collect information that could help prospective postgraduate students make their study choices.

IES's other recent research focusing on the HE sector in the UK has included:

  • a unique study to evidence the value and impact of a creative higher education;
  • research to explore how early doctoral graduates' careers develop in order to demonstrate potential career pathways;
  • work to explore adults' attitudes and orientations towards HE;
  • research with young people to understand potential applicants' perceptions of and intentions towards HE and detailed aspects of their HE choices, and specifically to understand the role of finance in the decision-making of HE applicants and students;
  • and work with institutions to assess the impact of the 2004/05 changes to student support arrangements.