Higher Ideas — what’s new for autumn 2017

Higher IdeasAs well as the September update of Higher Ideas for 2018 entry, you may have noticed that we have added more information about the courses. We've now got a lot of extra data from the Destination for Leavers from Higher Education survey (DLHE), the National Student Survey (NSS), and other statistics collated by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). These performance indicators can be helpful in pointing students towards the questions they need to ask when shortlisting courses. You can see these on the course details pages in Higher Ideas for most courses, and we are adding information for more courses all the time.

The statistics can be hard for students to understand. We have thought carefully about which ones to include and how to present them. Without context, analysis, and a questioning approach, some statistics could even be misleading. So we have added a new 'performance indicators' section in the factsheets of Higher Ideas, to help students make sense of the information. You can find this by clicking on the Help icon in Higher Ideas, and looking at the Factsheets list. We recommend that students read and understand this set of factsheets before making choices influenced by HE course statistics. These factsheets can be useful for teachers and advisers too, and can form the basis of tutorial sessions aimed at helping students make smart choices.

TrianglesOne of the new measures added to Higher Ideas this year is the actual entry grades at A-level and equivalent that students arrive with at the start of their degree course. Sometimes this is quite different to the published entry tariff for those courses. In the case of some of the most selective universities, we see lots of students arriving with qualifications much higher than, say, the AAA the establishment was asking for. At other universities we often see students starting the course with lower grades than those in the published entry tariff.

There can be several causes for this. Universities can make lower offers than their published minimum if they want to. In the summer when the exam results are known, universities may let in students if they miss the asked-for grades, if those courses still have vacancies. And when student numbers fall, as was the case for 2017 entry, many courses have vacancies to fill through Clearing, whereupon entrance grades can be lower than the published tariff from earlier in the year. It may well be that some universities don't like to publish the actual lowest entry grades they will accept, for fear of looking 'cheap' or less academically rigorous than their competitors.

We know too that some universities make ‘contextual offers’, based on factors from the applicant’s background other than their exam results at school or college. The Sutton Trust’s Admissions in Context report earlier this month makes a case for universities to engage in much more of this sort of contextual approach to making offers.

The information about actual entry grades can be useful in showing students what their peer group is likely to be in terms of previous academic attainment. A course where a lot of people did less well than you in their A-levels will feel quite different to one where you are amongst people at the same sort of level as you or higher.

TrianglesActual entry grades are just one of the new performance indicators in Higher Ideas this autumn. We also have information on the proportion of students who leave during or after the first year of the course, classifications of degree attained on graduation, the types of jobs that graduates go on to do, and the students' assessment of the course for things like access to resources, feedback on work, and overall satisfaction. All of these need interpretation and context in order to understand their significance, and we have provided factsheets to help with each.

We've also added a new factsheet that explains the background to how the statistics are compiled and presented. It explains, for example, why things sometimes don't add up to 100%, and why some statistics relate to one course only while others relate to a number of similar courses. This provides useful insight and is called 'understanding the statistics'. It is part of the performance indicators factsheet set, and like the others you can find it by clicking on the Higher Ideas help icon.

We've updated the rest of the factsheets for recent changes, too. At the beginning of this year it was looking like tuition fees would rise for students in England and Wales. But the loss of the Conservative majority in parliament following the June election changed that. Following a surge in youth support for Corbyn's vision of a future under a Labour government, there is a new note of caution in decisions that affect students. The DUP, relied upon by the Conservatives for a working majority to govern, are against increases in tuition fees. It is now confirmed that tuition fees for the 2018-19 intake will stay at the 2017-18 level.

The "something must be done about the student vote" impetus has also led to a significant change in the repayment terms for student loans. Currently, students pay back their loans at 9% of income above a £21k threshold. But the Government has announced that from April 2018, the threshold for repayment of student loans will rise to £25k. This will put many more graduates below the repayment threshold, and for those earning £25k or more it will mean a cut of £30 per month in their repayments.

The repayment threshold for postgraduate loans, however, will remain at £21k. This is something for students to bear in mind when weighing up whether to do a bachelors degree followed by a separate masters degree, or an integrated masters degree. Choosing the latter option, where available and appropriate, could save them a lot of money in the long run. Based on the current formula, we reckon that most students who do a four-year integrated masters degree will end up repaying no more than those who do a three-year bachelors degree. Their monthly repayments will be the same, and for all but the very highest earners the repayments will continue for 30 years. At the end of the 30 years, any remaining loan gets written off. In the case of the four-year student, the amount written off at the end will be greater than for a three-year student. But in nearly all cases where a student does a masters degree separately from a bachelors degree, it is going to end up costing them more. This is because these graduates end up with two loans, each with repayments to make every month. The Higher Ideas factsheets on 'integrated masters degrees' and 'paying for postgraduate study' have more details.

TrianglesThose are some of the highlights of what is in Higher Ideas this autumn. Have a look at the course details and the factsheets to see it in action. We trust that you and your students continue to make good use of Higher Ideas, and that the young people you advise are making smart choices for their futures.

As ever, we welcome all comments, compliments, questions, and criticisms.

www.careersoft.co.uk/higherideas

Last updated 31 October, 2017