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Report: Study UK Annual Conference 2015 - 14 October

5 November 2015

The Study UK Annual Conference 2015 was held on Wednesday 14 October at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London.

Photos from the Conference can be viewed in our online gallery (click on the photo below to view the full gallery):

Study UK Conference 2015

Sponsored by the QAA, this year's conference was our best attended yet, reflecting the success of last year's event and our growing reputation and reach within the sector. In his opening address, Study UK's Chief Executive Alex Proudfoot highlighted the Association's goal of shaping events and working proactively with government as "constructive partners in building a better education system for the benefit of all students". Referencing the successful launch of our 2015 Manifesto in the House of Commons in March, prior to the General Election, he noted that just seven months later a good half of our ten proposals (including a new Higher Education Bill; government support for access, equity and beneficial competition in the sector; a nationally available, independent alternative to bilateral validation agreements; and increased student protection) appear well on their way to realisation.

The conference also included a memorably lively keynote address by Sir Anthony Seldon, new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham and former Master of Wellington College, who spoke passionately about the need for greater pastoral care in higher education, and what HE providers can learn from schools.

In the morning plenary on immigration concerns in education, Exporting Education UK Chair and former Master of Dulwich College Graham Able contested the Home Secretary's claim that education providers are unconcerned with ensuring that their international students are visa-compliant, and contrasted Australia's rising international student numbers with the recent fall in UK numbers. Carl Lygo, Vice-Chancellor of BPP University, provoked debate in the following panel discussion by suggesting that the sector needed to take partial responsibility for the Home Office clampdown on international education providers, and get its own house in order.

The afternoon plenary on the future of quality assessment in HE saw Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) Director and former Special Adviser to David Willetts Nick Hillman predicting that change in the HE sector was likely to be as significant under the current Conservative-majority government as it had been under the Coalition. In the following panel discussion, Study UK's own Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Joy Elliott-Bowman, argued that the issue of student protection needs greater attention.

A HEFCE briefing on the new Counter-terrorism 'Prevent' duty served as introduction for the Study UK 'Prevent' training event that will take place on 9 December, while elective sessions covered Tier 4 in 2015, and HEFCE and BIS's relationship with 'Alternative Providers' (with Ian Coates, Deputy Director for Alternative Providers & HE Governance at BIS, forecasting that alternative providers will bring "new ideas and fresh perspectives" into HE), as well as sessions on online learning and international education marketing.

The conference received coverage in 'Study UK: providers weigh up impact of policy crunch' (The PIE News, 14.10.15) and 'UK independent sector debates visa challenges' (Study Travel Magazine, 19.10.15). The PIE News also published a gallery of photos from the conference which you can view online here. Resources from the conference, including presentation slides and videos of the individual presentation sessions, are available on our website here.

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