Our work in education and with students’ unions continues to grow, including a range of interim management, governance, finance, research and policy pieces with students’ unions, national organisations and tertiary education providers themselves.
We frequently work on projects that link the academic sphere with arts, culture and heritage organisations – either through direct commissioning by institutes and partnerships or through creating conversations in these sectors to confront the many challenges and opportunities within cultural leadership both in the UK and internationally.
February saw the publication of the 17th edition of the Student Financial Support Handbook*, published by the Child Poverty Action Group in partnership with the National Union of Students. This annual publication is co-edited by David Malcolm, Lynne Condell MBE, Angela Toal and I.
The Handbook has provided a single-point of reference to the many specific forms of statutory support available to students following Higher and Further Education awards in Universities and Colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – with a separate edition published for Scotland.
It deals with the frequently shifting landscape of student support and over time can be a lens through which one can read national policy – be that through the mass expansion of HE throughout the 90’s under varying fee models, to the levelling up agenda of the mid-to-late noughties, where financial focus on Widening Participation rebalanced the HE funding compact. Alongside this central funding narrative is one of discipline and workforce development. The editions clarify the changing policies around dance & drama, teacher education, healthcare and postgraduate study.
The link between the support of students directly, the evolving policy landscape in student finance and our work beyond purely education, in arts, heritage and culture becomes increasingly important in the wide scope of our activity. In membership, commercial, audience development as well as strategic review, we know the importance of both an individual’s personal financial mobility as well as their social and cultural mobility. The former relies on a settlement for the individual, the latter for the development of professions and the content of the sectors themselves.
As of 2017/18, 50.2% of 17–30-year-olds had participated in Higher Education, and 22% of HE awards were at Masters level. Within Further Education, the Association of College reports 2.2 million people following college courses. Not only is student funding linked to workforce development, to the numbers of architects, curators or studio engineers we put into the world, it determines who moves into these professions. It also ensures that 50% of the population have either had the ability or are currently able to afford to live whilst they study and train.
Our work in students’ unions, education and student support both informs and influences the changing world we live in and is key to the important increase in focus on equality, diversity and inclusion across all sectors of society.
*The CPAG Student Support Handbook is available for download on the CPAG website and is distributed to students’ union advice services and student services in Higher and Further Education throughout the UK.