A Universities UK (UUK) and GuildHE review of higher education sector agencies has been ongoing throughout 2016. The review led by Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor of Reading University, today published its recommendations.
With the changes in the regulatory and policy environment and further changes ahead, it was considered to be timely for a review of the sector agencies.
One of the recommendations of the review is that the "core functions of the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) should be merged into a single body to create a new, more responsive and holistic sector agency.
This new body will support institutions to meet strategic challenges as they relate to equality and diversity, learning and teaching, and leadership and governance." A transition group between the three organisations to be chaired by a member of the Bell Review Group will be established to help coordinate the delivery of the proposed merged body.
The Bell Review recommends that "the proposed transition group is urged to consider retaining the ECU identity as a fully integrated equality and diversity function within the new body. This will ensure that the important focus on equality and diversity issues is retained."
ECU Chief Executive David Ruebain said: “We welcome the ambition of the Bell Review recommendations in achieving better complementary and efficiency of work between the sector agencies.
“We are particularly pleased that equality and diversity will be a central focus of the new merged body and look forward to working with the transition group. In the transition period, we will continue to offer our members the same range and high-level of service they have received from us.”
Also welcoming the recommendations, Higher Education Academy (HEA), Chief Executive Stephanie Marshall said: “The Higher Education Academy wholeheartedly supports the aim of ensuring the sector agency landscape evolves to meet the future needs of the sector in a sustainable and coordinated way. We particularly appreciate the Review Group’s clear acknowledgment that agencies such as the HEA have been key partners in the system supporting universities to deliver world-class teaching, learning and research.
“A strategic focus on HE learning and teaching, equality and diversity, and leadership and governance is essential to ensure that UK higher education remains world-leading. In working with the Transition Group, the Higher Education Academy will remain fully committed to helping institutions to meet this challenge so students continue to receive the best possible academic experience and the UK’s reputation for world- class higher education is assured.”
Alison Johns, Chief Executive of the LFHE welcomed the report for its clarity and careful consideration of the issues raised throughout the consultation, and said:
“The bringing together of our three agencies at this time, with similar developmental objectives, can only be described as making good sense and best use of resources. It is essential that institutions can confidently call on the best quality support for strategic and organisational development which is provided in a coherent and most effective way. We look forward to working closely with UUK, GuildHE, ECU and the HEA to ensure a smooth transition into the new body to deliver this aim.”