Governance: UUK and NUS: report on BAME student attainment

Universities UK (UUK) and the National Union of Students (NUS) have published a report into the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) attainment gap in higher education and the action they propose is taken by universities to reduce it. The report, titled Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic student attainment at UK Universities: #closingthegap, states that it was produced after consultation with universities, student unions and external bodies, and: presents sector data on ethnicity and attainment discusses factors identified during the consultation as having an effect on ethnicity attainment differentials at degree level identifies steps that the UUK and NUS recommend are taken by universities as frameworks for accelerating progress provides brief guidance on how to implement positive action and ‘positive discrimination’ whilst complying with equality law, including examples of what types of action are likely to be lawful or unlawful. A number of briefings, reports and resources on BAME attainment, including equality and diversity data, are provided by the Office for Students (OfS) here.

Governance: EHRC ‘Freedom of Expression’ guide for HEIs

On 2 February 2018, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a guide on Freedom of Expression for Higher Education Providers and Students’ Unions in England and Wales (the Guide).  In its introduction, the guide states that it ‘provides practical advice on how to protect free speech and makes it clear to students what they should expect from their institutions’.  The guide is aimed principally at: governing bodies of universities and other higher education providers students’ union trustees It states that it may also be of interest to others including academic staff, students’ union elected officers, individual students and speakers. In 2017, the House of Commons and House of Lords Joint Committee on Human Rights held an inquiry into the state of freedom of speech in UK universities.  It was found that: ‘…while restriction of freedom of expression was not a widespread issue, there were concerns around increased bureaucracy, and potential self-censorship from students on campus as a result of the Prevent duty guidance. They also flagged intolerant attitudes and violent protest as potential obstacles to free speech, as well as a potential conflict in interpretation and grey areas in some existing laws and guidance.’ (see page 5 of the Guide) Following concerns raised by the inquiry, in May 2018 the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Read Full Article…

Governance: October deadline for publication of plans under British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015

The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015  (the ‘Act’) came into force in October 2015.  The Act aims to promote the use and understanding of British Sign Language (BSL) through the use of ‘National Plans’ to be published by the Scottish Ministers, and ‘Authority Plans’ to be published by each of the ‘listed authorities’.   Section 6 states that any reference to a ‘listed authority’ is to a (Scottish) public authority listed or described in the Schedule to the Act.  This includes ‘A body which is a “post-16 education body” for the purposes of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005.’   The Scottish Government Equality Unit has issued guidance and templates (the ‘Guidance’) specific to various types of organisation, including Scottish HEIs, to help them publish Authority Plans in accordance with the Act.   According to Section 3(1) of the Act, a listed authority must publish its first Authority Plan as soon as is reasonably practicable after the first National Plan is published, and in any case within no later than 12 months.  Scotland’s first National Plan was published on 24 October 2017.  Listed authorities therefore have until 23 October 2018 to publish their Authority Plans.   Section 2(2) states that an Authority Plan should: set out measures to be taken by the listed authority in relation to the Read Full Article…

IP/IT: UKIPO response to consultation on Trade Marks Directive 2015

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has published a response to its consultation on the implementation of the Trade Marks Directive 2015 (the Directive).  The consultation sought views on proposed wording of the  Trade Marks Regulations 2018 (the Regulations).  Further to the consultation, the Regulations have now been finalised and were laid before the UK parliament on 10 July 2018; however, they will not come into force until 14 January 2019.   The document summarises the responses received, none of which were submitted by UK HEIs, and outlines how the government intends to make the necessary amendments to UK law.  The most significant changes are:   Trade mark applications will no longer need to represent marks graphically.  The new requirement is that marks are represented in a ‘clear and precise manner’.  UKIPO has stated that it intends to facilitate the submission of applications ‘using the widest range of digital file formats that is technically possible with our current systems‘.  It is expected that relevant guidance will be published in the next few months.   Businesses will lose the ability to rely on the ‘own name’ defence against claims that they have infringed UK trade marks.  Currently, businesses can avoid liability for trade mark infringement if the trade mark concerned is for a word that matches their name, provided that their Read Full Article…

Office for Students launches new regulatory framework

The Office for Students (OfS) has published its regulatory framework for higher education in England and a number of associated documents, all of which are now available on its website. The framework, which is the result of the consultation launched by the Department of Education in October 2017 and reported in issue 87 of our newsletter, describes how the OfS intends to perform its various statutory functions under the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (HERA), and provides guidance for HEIs on conditions of registration. The framework is split into five parts: the OfS’s risk-based approach sector-level regulation regulation of individual providers validation, degree awarding powers and university title guidance on the general ongoing conditions of registration Key points from the framework include the following: the categories for registration are reduced from three to two, ‘approved’ and ‘approved (fee cap)’.  Only HEIs in the latter category will be eligible for direct funding provided by UK Research and Innovation under section 97, HERA.  The ‘registered (basic)’ category in the original proposal for providers that simply wished to be registered but would not have been entitled to research funding or student support has been dropped annual OfS registration fees for smaller providers are lower than those in the original proposal there will be a subsidy for providers with fewer than 300 students Read Full Article…

Personal data and exam scripts

In the ECJ case of Nowak v Data Protection Commissioner (Case C-434/16) EU:C:2017:994, 20 December 2017 it has been ruled that personal data under the Data Protection Directive can include a candidate’s handwritten exam script and the examiner’s comments on it.  It could, therefore, be recovered by the student as a subject access request. Mr Nowak was a trainee accountant who had failed four times an examination set by Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI).  He made a data access request to obtain all personal data relating to him held by the CAI.  Documentation was sent to him in response, but his corrected examination script was withheld on the basis that it did not contain personal data.  Mr Nowak challenged this decision before the Data Protection Commissioner (Ireland), but was refused again because the information contained therein did not constitute personal data. Mr Nowak sought to make a judicial challenge to this position, which was held inadmissible by each of the Circuit Court, High Court, and Court of Appeal.  Finally, the Supreme Court of Ireland, although deciding he was able to bring such an action, referred to the ECJ the matter of whether an examination script can constitute personal data.  The ECJ held that: a candidate at a professional examination is a natural person who can be identified, either directly, through his name, Read Full Article…