IFF Research leads redevelopment of the UK Employer Skills Survey for the Department for Education

IFF is delighted to have been commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to continue our long running involvement with the UK Employer Skills and the UK Employer Perspectives Survey series. This is one of, if not the largest business-to-business survey conducted in the UK (and further afield), and the 2019 study will involve a survey of over 80,000 employers.

We have been commissioned to undertake a major review of the sampling and questionnaire design, using our many years of experience to merge the previously two separate surveys (the UK Employer Skills Survey and the UK Employer Perspectives Survey) into one. Later this year we will resume our role as Lead Contractor (responsible for delivering and quality assuring all aspects of the study from sampling, piloting, fieldwork, through to data reduction, analysis and reporting) and one of three fieldwork contractors. We are looking forward to continuing these roles, which we have previously held for past iterations of the UK Employer Skills Survey in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

This is a very exciting win for IFF. This is in no large part because of it is size, scale and importance: in measuring employer demand for skills, the recruitment challenges employer face, and their training response, and by enabling detailed analysis by region, LEP, sector and occupation, the research will provide valuable insight to develop and assess labour market policy in what are likely to be challenging years ahead.

Results of the previous UK Employer Survey and UK Employer Perspectives Survey can be found here:

UK Employer Skills Survey

UK Employer Perspectives Survey

IFF’s sixth report on research among post-16 providers published by DfE

The report from the latest wave of the Post-16 Institutions Omnibus, which IFF conducts for the Department for Education, has just been published. This is the sixth wave that IFF has conducted. It presents the findings of telephone interviews with Head Teachers and Principals of over 400 post-16 institutions (FE colleges, sixth form colleges etc.) and almost 250 private training providers in England. This wave covered such topics as AS and A level reform, careers education, mental health, provision at Level 4 and 5, teacher workloads, and the Prevent Duty and Fundamental British Values.

Click here for the full report.

IFF’s School Snapshot Study report published by the DfE

We’re very pleased that the findings from the second wave of the School Snapshot study that we undertake for the Department for Education has just been published. Involving over 750 interviews with school leaders and 1,000 interviews with classroom teachers, this wave explored a wide range of hot topics in education including the English Baccalaureate, GCSE reform, curriculum planning, teacher workloads, systematic synthetic phonics, pupil behaviour, access to nutritious food, sanitary products, mental health, and careers education.

The full report can be found here.

For more information speak to Mark Winterbotham.

E: mark.winterbotham@iffresearch.com

Deciding where to study – Findings from IFF’s high profile evaluation of the TEF

This week, the annual mid-January scramble for students to finalise their UCAS applications has once more come and gone, with one key question causing stress in households across the country:  where should I study? The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) seeks to help students make this decision, assigning Gold, Silver and Bronze awards to HE providers across the UK that denotes the relative quality of the teaching that they provide, and the outcomes of their students. IFF are delighted to see that our evaluation of the 2016-17 provider-level TEF has been published by the Department for Education today, see here for the full report.

This research evaluated the second year of the provider-level TEF against its objectives, considering the views of two key stakeholder groups: applicants to Higher Education courses for the 2018/19 academic year (close to 3,000 were interviewed) and Higher Education providers (311 staff participated, covering 195 unique institutions).

The applicant side of the research evaluated applicant awareness of the TEF, how the TEF is used by applicants and its role in their decision-making processes. We found that around a third of all applicants to HE courses had some knowledge of the TEF at the time of their application while 15% of all applicants used the TEF in their decision making. A further 11% of all applicants reported that they changed their application choices as a result of seeing the TEF awards, for example submitting their choices in a different order of preference. These are promising signs for the TEF and, should awareness of the TEF increase as anticipated, it suggests that the framework could become a widely used tool to inform future applicants’ choices around where to study.

The provider side of the evaluation explored how providers felt the TEF was performing and what impacts had occurred as a result. While there was some debate regarding its design and the criteria that inform the TEF, a majority of providers felt that TEF will be able to achieve most of its objectives: for example, 68% thought the TEF would raise esteem for teaching while a further 57% felt that it would better inform student choice. More pertinently, the study showed that the TEF has already contributed to changing practices within institutions, especially among institutions that received a Bronze TEF award. As a result of the TEF award that they received, a number of providers had already started to develop and invest in new initiatives aimed at boosting the student experience and student outcomes.

On the same day that the report was published, the DfE announced the TEF independent review and IFF will be keenly following its progress in the wake of today’s report.

For more information speak to blog authors Andrew Skone-James and Sam Whittaker.

E: andrew.skonejames@iffresearch.com

E: sam.whittaker@iffresearch.com

Seven aspects of engagement pilot (Qualitative Evaluation) – Findings from IFF and the University of Derby published by the Department for Education

The findings from IFF’s qualitative evaluation of the seven aspects of engagement pilot have recently been published by the Department for Education, see here. We completed this study in partnership with Dr. Deborah Robinson at the University of Derby.

In 2017 an independent review led by executive headteacher Diane Rochford recommended removing “P scales” as the statutory assessment tool for pupils working below the standard of the national curriculum assessments. For pupils with profound and complex learning difficulties and disabilities, it suggested replacing “P scales” with assessment against the 7 aspects of engagement for cognition and learning. DfE piloted this new assessment approach during 2018 before deciding on whether to introduce it on a statutory basis.

The pilot was evaluated by IFF and the University of Derby, using depth interviews with teachers, and a series of school-based case studies. Pilot schools were largely enthusiastic about using the 7 aspects of engagement for formative assessment as it enabled them to deepen their knowledge of pupils’ responsiveness and identify ways they could increase engagement levels in a pupil-centred way. Where schools had concerns these were around resource requirements, how best to interpret the results of the assessments, and how to communicate these to parents.

On the day the report was published, the schools Minister, Nick Gibb, announced that this new assessment approach for pupils with complex disabilities will replace “P-scales” from 2020. Informed by the pilot findings, Diane Rochford will now lead an expert group to refine the approach before it is rolled out nationally.

Creative Spark: IFF’s Elizabeth Shepherd contributes to Higher Education Enterprise event in Georgia

IFF’s Elizabeth Shepherd is providing a UK sector overview on driving Creative Enterprise Research and best models from the higher education sector at the British Council’s Creative Spark: Higher Education Enterprise Programme.

The event brings together representatives from the UK and all participating countries involved in Georgia today to kick off their plans.

Each country will be granted a maximum of £50,000 across the 35 new international partnerships between higher education and creative institutions in the UK, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

The winning partnerships including Georgian cultural institutions are: Creative Georgia and Tbilisi State Academy of Arts to partner with Advantage Creative; Georgian Technical University with Keele University; Creative Georgia with University of East Anglia, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University and V. Sarajishvili Tbilisi State Conservatoire with University of Essex Change School and Ilia State university with University Of The West Of England in Bristol.

The initiative aims to address to an underdeveloped creative sector and a demand for entrepreneurship training in these countries. The UN has previously recognised the creative economy as being one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy. Creative Spark aims to give the next generation opportunities to develop skills required to compete in a global job market.

IFF’s Elizabeth Shepherd is speaking at a number conferences across the UK and Europe this month with the contributing to the Graduate Employment Conference on November 22nd and the University Market Insight Conference on November 27-28. Click here for details of IFF’s Higher Education work and these upcoming dates.

Perceptions of the UK’s unique Higher Education offer – views from international students

A new report published today by IFF Research, conducted in partnership with UK NARIC, aims to uncover current international opinion of the UK’s unique qualification offer, including the existing provision of one-year Master’s courses and the possible increased future provision of Accelerated Degrees.

The report provides unique insights into how international students perceive UK qualifications. In collaboration with UK NARIC, via their unique database of individuals around the world seeking educational services, we have been able to evidence current international attitudes and perception of UK HE qualifications.

Key findings from the Perceptions of the UK’s unique Higher Education offer – views from international students are:

  • 59% of the international respondents had not heard of Accelerated Degrees
  • Once introduced to the concept, 44% said they would consider studying on an accelerated programme
  • 56% of respondents believe the government in their home country does recognise a UK one-year Master’s degree

Lifelong learning

In late 2017 the UK Government launched a consultation into the provision of accelerated degrees. There is little existing evidence to suggest that accelerated degrees would appeal to international students. Advocates of this new type of higher education provision suggest that studying for a UK degree in a 2 rather than 3-year period would appeal to a broad spectrum of students, including mature students who want to retrain and enter the workplace more quickly, and those who do not take a traditional A-level route into higher education.

Headline findings from key regions
The research highlighted potential demand for accelerated degrees from individuals in the following region/countries. Survey participants gave an above average positive response when asked if they would consider studying for a UK fast track degree:

  • Sub Saharan Africa (62.23%); Zimbabwe (73.7%), Nigeria (59.2%), Ghana (53.8%);
  • Brazil (65.5%)
  • The Philippines (58.3%)

‘The perceptions towards the UK higher education system highlighted through this research are a useful reminder that even those who would choose to study in the UK are not always certain that the final qualification will be recognised in their home country.

While recognition in the home country is only one of many factors in deciding where to study amongst international students, a greater focus on the international acceptance of UK qualifications would support increased student recruitment.’

Paul Norris, Deputy Managing Director, UK NARIC.

‘Our study has shown UK Higher Education qualifications are still held in high regard internationally. It has also revealed a significant opportunity for the sector to provide access to qualifications in response to contemporary education and employment needs. Communicating the benefits of accelerated degrees, including potential cost and time saving, whilst maintaining UK quality standards, is key’.

Elizabeth Shepherd, Director, IFF Research.

IFF’s Elizabeth Shepherd will be presenting findings from this report at its launch at the UKNARIC2018 annual conference in Westminster today.

Access the full report here

Investigating alternative provision – Findings from high profile IFF study published by the Department for Education

We’re delighted that the findings from IFF’s large-scale, high profile study investigating alternative provision have just been published by the Department for Education, see here.

Alternative provision (AP) is, in essence, provision for pupils who, because of exclusion, illness or other reasons, would not otherwise receive suitable education. It includes education arranged by schools for pupils on a fixed-term exclusion, and pupils who are directed by schools to off-site provision to improve their behaviour. The research investigated current practice in AP, from how schools identify pupils at risk of being referred to AP, right through to the reintegration of pupils into mainstream provision, or on to post-16 destinations. It explored how schools support pupils at risk of exclusion, how schools use alternative provision, and how AP providers support pupils placed in their settings.

This was a very large-scale qualitative project, with IFF undertaking semi-structured telephone interviews with 275 schools and 200 alternative providers, as well as 25 in-depth case study visits to AP providers (encompassing depth interviews with heads, staff, pupils and parents). IFF worked with academics at UCL and the University of Nottingham who undertook a rapid evidence assessment of the literature on alternative provision, to inform and contextualise the research.

On the same day the report was published:

  • The Education Secretary Damian Hinds spoke at a roundtable event on alternative provision and exclusions, saying that while schools will still have the right to exclude as a last resort, where pupils are excluded, the quality of education they receive should be no different than in mainstream settings, and further he would not rule out legislation to ensure more accountability for schools that permanently exclude children and place them in alternative provision, see here.
  • The government published its response to the recommendations laid out in the Education Select Committee’s report, Forgotten children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions
  • The DfE published a companion report to our research, examining system-level issues in alternative provision: ‘Alternative provision market analysis’

Blog written by Mark Winterbotham and Claire Johnson

IFF works with EAIE to launch comprehensive study on the state of internationalisation in Europe

Today marks the launch of the 2nd EAIE Barometer, the research study that signposts trends in Higher Education internationalisation throughout Europe. We were delighted to work closely with the EAIE team to design and administer the research, which achieved responses from 2,317 university staff working in internationalisation across 45 countries.

The findings are of particular interest here in the UK, where the current dynamic political situation has exacerbated existing uncertainties regarding the future of international students wanting to study here. Global competition to attract the brightest and best international talent continues to grow at an unprecedented pace. Rival destinations such as the United States and Australia have witnessed a surge in international student numbers, whilst the UK is in danger of being left behind.

What do the Barometer findings tell us about internationalisation practices among UK universities, and how does this compare with their European counterparts?

In short, the EAIE Barometer highlights that this is a worrying time for UK universities developing and implementing strategies for internationalisation. One in eight (13%) UK respondents said that they felt negative about the future of internationalisation; this was more than triple the European average (4%). The reasons behind this despondency are clear, with fingers pointed firmly at Westminster:

  • Six in ten (61%) UK respondents feel that restrictive national legal barriers are a key challenge in their pursuit of internationalisation (compared to 27% European average)
  • Three in ten (31%) identified political nationalism evoking anti-international sentiments as a challenge to internationalisation (vs. 10% average)
  • Nearly a half (45%) feel that national policies have a negative impact on internationalisation (compared with just 10% average).

As a result, UK universities are focussing more and more on internationalisation practices outside of the UK: 32% reported that over the next 3 years their institution will focus more on distance or blended international learning opportunities, while 29% are prioritising branch campuses and other transnational education activities.

We Are International

Contained within this week’s publication of the UK Migration Advisory Committee’s report was the recommendation that – counter to the anticipated outcome and hope of the sector – international students should not be removed from net migration statistics, which will no doubt come as a significant blow to the sector. However, the continued proactivity of individual institutions, and the sector as a whole, to welcome international students to the UK via initiatives like #weareinternational, shows great strides are being made to illustrate and maintain the UK’s commitment to internationalisation.

The IFF Higher Education team will be presenting highlights from the UK EAIE Barometer data at the Knowledge Partnership University Market Insight Conference 27 – 28th November.

Blog co-authored by Andrew Skone James and Elizabeth Shepherd

ESS 2017: The UK Employer Skills Survey has been published by the Department for Education

We’re delighted that the report for the flagship study, the UK Employer Skills Survey, has just been published by the Department for Education. This very large-scale study (comprising over 87,000 interviews with employers across the UK) provides the definitive picture on recruitment difficulties and skills gaps experienced by employers, the extent to which they train their staff in response, and overall employer investment in training.

We’re very proud that IFF has been the lead contractor and report author on all four occasions the study has been conducted (in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017).

A link to the survey findings can be found here