New research paper on higher education on-Island
The Policy Centre has published a new research paper University education on-Island. The paper describes what university-level education is available in Jersey, analyses data on participation in university-level education and educational standards in the Island, discusses the case for a “University of Jersey” and considers other options for increasing university-level education on-Island. Its purpose is to provide the evidence base and analysis of options to enable appropriate policy responses to be developed.The summary of the paper is reproduced below.
University College Jersey (part of Highlands College) and four specialist centres currently provide a limited range of university-level courses on-Island.
Jersey has a relatively poor record of attainment at A level, a seemingly low rate of progression to higher education and a low proportion of the Jersey-born population with university-level education.
The Faroe Islands and Gibraltar have their own universities, offering a limited range of courses. The distance from their home country is a principal reason for their existence. The more normal model for small jurisdictions is a relationship with a university or universities in the home country. Following a detailed study, Guernsey decided not to go ahead with plans for an ambitious “International University Guernsey”.
About 20% of UK university students live at home, but this option is not available for many Jersey students, because of the limited range of on-Island courses. This therefore limits the opportunity to access university-level education, particularly for those from low-income families, with disabilities or with caring responsibilities. This is important for social mobility as higher education is a key driver for helping those from less well-off backgrounds to become socially mobile into higher income brackets.
The issue of higher education on-Island has been the subject of a number of reviews in the past. A 2004 report for the Government by Dr Michael Goldstein proposed the concept of a University Centre for Jersey, which would provide facilities for a range of higher education institutions. A 2008 report by the Higher Education Development Group recommended that a “University Centre for Jersey” should be established. Neither suggestion was progressed. A 2017 report on skills strategy was silent on higher education but referred to “plans under development such as the Higher Education Strategy”. A 2019 report identified key objectives including “ensuring tertiary education on island is high quality and “fit for purpose”” and “creating tertiary education on island which has international appeal”. There has been no subsequent action and the issue does not feature in the current Government Plan. However, the Minister for Children and Education’s ministerial plan for 2024 does include “developing a strategy for on-island provision of Higher Education in partnership with local providers”.
There are three principal reasons for seeking to expand university-level education on-Island –
- Expanding choice for Jersey students, particularly those from low-income households, with a disability or with caring responsibilities, by giving them the option of having a university-level education while living at home.
- Enhancing Jersey’s competitive position by raising education standards generally and helping to keep entrepreneurs on-Island.
- Reversing the falling proportion of Jersey students who, after completing a degree course, return to the Island.
The 2019 Jersey Opinions and Lifestyle Survey demonstrated strong support for increasing higher education opportunities on-Island.
A “University of Jersey” is not a realistic short-term option but it could be longer term aspiration when one or both of the short-term options have a solid track record.
There are two short-term options, which are not mutually exclusive –
- Developing specialist centres. The Jersey International Centre of Advanced Studies (JICAS) already has ambitious expansion plans. Other centres could be attracted.
- Expanded provision for standard undergraduate courses either through University College Jersey or attracting a campus of a UK university.
Both options are now more feasible because technology facilitates remote learning and research.
Either option could be combined with establishing a “University Centre Jersey”, bringing together the current offerings, building on the Higher Education Advisory Board. A “quick win” would be a website bringing together what is currently available.
If there is a wish to pursue the issue then the following course of action would be appropriate –
1. Conduct a more comprehensive analysis of the relevant statistics than has been possible in this paper.
2. Conduct research, particularly among 16-19 year-olds, on attitudes to higher education provision on-Island so as to better assess the potential demand.
3. Commission a relevant expert to identify the reasons for Jersey’s relatively poor performance at A level and suggest appropriate actions to improve performance.
4. Formalising co-operation between the current higher education institutions, building on the Higher Education Advisory Board, possibly leading to the creation of a “University Centre Jersey”.
5. Urgently progress the development of appropriate facilities for Highlands College, with the option of providing facilities for other higher education institutions.
6. Explore the potential for expanded specialist higher education centres with JICAS/University of Exeter and possibly other universities.
7. Based on the research, explore in detail options for expansion of higher education provision by University College Jersey or by attracting a campus of a UK university.