From September this year, Glasgow University will be required to pay an increased annual fee of £65,000 towards the Higher Education Academy (HEA), a national body focused on improving the quality and reputation of teaching in higher education.
The HEA is set to double fees for more than half of all subscribed universities, although a banding system will determine how much an institution’s rate will rise depending on its size.
The rise in costs largely stems from the decision of UK funding councils to withdraw their support for the HEA in April last year, a move that led to the near-halving of the workforce and will likely result in a complete loss of the organization’s central funding by 2016-17.
According to Dr Mark Jones, chief operating officer of the HEA, the “hard message” for universities is that the council's grants had been a major source of financial support for the organization.
“We have done our bit to reduce our costs and focus on the stuff that institutions see as being valuable but it is going to cost more than we were able to generate [from subscriptions] previously,” he said.
Dr Jones has said that his organization’s strategy for retaining support would be to focus more closely on teaching quality and invest more heavily in subject-level support.
He acknowledges that “institutions have got a choice" about whether or not to remain subscribers, but argues that the HEA's focus "on an agenda which is crucial to universities and their students means we should be in a very strong position to retain their support”.
In addition to the rate change, there will be a new requirement for Fellows of the University to demonstrate continuing professional development (CPD) in order to retain their prized Fellowships, replacing the current practice of keeping Fellowships indefinitely after achieving one.
Dr Jones has said that this new measure would “raise the bar” of professional standards in UK higher education.
He also announced that the HEA will be seeking chartered status in order to become a professional membership body and so increase the prestige of its qualifications.
At some point in the future, all members of staff at subscribing institutions will be eligible for “affiliate” fellowships, enabling them to access CPD and subject support, whereas previously only academics pursuing or in possession of fellowships would have this option.
From 2017-18 (at the earliest), there are plans to incorporate "modest" membership fees for academic staff, but those at subscribing institutions may be exempt from this depending on whether or not said institutions choose to pay their employees’ costs.