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Premier League predictions 2019-20 August 9, 2019

Posted by AaronPorter in Uncategorized.
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Predictions for 2019-20

1st) Man City

They were pushed all the way last season by Liverpool. The loss of Vincent Kompany may be significant, as much for his contribution behind the scenes. But Pep has taken steps to strengthen the squad further, that depth means I think they will be the first team since city rivals United to secure 3 back-to-back titles.

2nd) Liverpool

To have finished on 97 points and still not won the title, Liverpool fans might be forgiven that the footballing Gods are conspiring against them. Remember the Gerrard slip, and then to get 97 points and still not win. Their squad is strong, but it’s not really been strengthened. I sometimes worry about the depth in midfield. Another season as runners up.

3rd) Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs under Pochettino have been wonderful. An excellent brand of football, lots of bright young (English) talent and a manager who seems much less egotistical than many of his counterparts in the division. The financial prudence which they have operated has made their success all the more impressive. The purse strings have been loosened a little this summer and the signings of Ndombele and Lo Celso should give them even more.

4th) Manchester United

In a short period of time the peaks and troughs in form under OGS were striking. An amazing start, followed a woeful run of form toward the end of the season. In Wan-Bissaka they have a bright, dynamic and energetic full back whose tackling is second to one. Maguire for £80m on the other hand looks like robbery, for the size of fee, but he will bring some steel. I look through much of the team and it still isn’t title challenging, let alone world class. United’s new level appears to be a fight for the Champions League, not the Championship. Will OGS last the course? I suspect not, my money would be on a mid-season managerial change.

5th) Chelsea

Constrained by a transfer embargo, this could be a blessing in disguise for Chelsea. Talented youngsters like Rueben Lotfus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odio, Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount could all be poised to rack up 20+ appearances each this season. None of them are quite the finished product, but they are exciting prospects who could yet surprise. I don’t think this will quite be a case of upsetting Alan Hansen’s “you can’t win anything with kids”, but these could be good foundations from which to build once the squad can be added to next year.

6th) Arsenal

Unai Emery’s first season came in fits and starts. There were moments of fluid, attractive, flowing football that had shades of a Wenger team at their brilliant best. But the old flaws of dropping points to teams they shouldn’t (Palace twice, Brighton, Southampton…) still hasn’t been eradicated. £137m has been spent this summer, notably £72 on the winger Pepe. Defensively they still resembled a sieve last season, and I’m not sure the acquisition of David Luiz will do much to give them solidity. Another chance for Emery to qualify for his trophy, the Europa League.

7th) Leicester City

Brendan Rogers finished the campaign in good form as Leicester City manager, and the team were playing with a freedom that was not present under Claude Puel. More smart action in the transfer market, and crucially the permanent addition of Youri Tielemans give Foxes fans really optimism heading into the new campaign. Tactically, I still have grave doubts about Rodgers as a manager, but this a young, talented squad who could do well.

8th) Everton

This has to be the year that Marco Silva delivers. His CV is still mixed in England; a relegation with Hull (albeit with improved form), followed by an up and down rollercoaster with Watford. He has spent big with Everton this summer. With over £100m spent on Moise Kean, Andre Gomes, Alex Iwobi and Jean-Philippe Gbamin. Defensively I still get the impression that Silva isn’t really bothered, but going forward they should be more of a threat. 8th would represent a good finish, the top 6 look a cut above.

9th) Wolverhampton Wanderers

I correctly predicted Wolves as the surprise package last season, and whilst repeating that feat won’t raise nearly as many eyebrows it will still be a huge achievement. The extravagant spending of last summer has been somewhat tempered this, perhaps the FPP rules have started to dawn on them. Balancing Europa League commitments with the rigours of the PL will be tough for a first team that is excellent, but perhaps a squad that doesn’t quite have the depth. I still expect a strong finish in the top half of the table.

10th) West Ham United

More big spending this summer from the Hammers, a luxury they can afford from their tax-payer funded stadium. A lot will rest on the shoulders of Sebastian Haller who has been brought in to lead the line and replace the goals from Arnautaovic now departed to new Chinese pastures. Manuel Pellegrini is an experienced manager and let’s not forget he led Man City to the title and runners-up spot in successive season. They should just sneak into the top half.

11th) Watford

Last season began so well, but it began to fade. Watford have been a team that have often had good half seasons, a little more consistent last campaign they still need more stability. They have at least appear to want to stick with the same manager for successive seasons, not an approach the owners have historically taken. Their transfer business was relatively low key, with the big signing being highly rated winger Ismail Sarr from Stade Rennais for £27m. Danny Welbeck on a free could be a good signing, if he can stay fit.

12th) Burnley

Sean Dyche continues to prove himself to be the leading English manager, on a small budget consistently delivers above expectation. Why a bigger club hasn’t come in for him, I do not know. Defensively organised and committed, you know exactly what you will get with the Clarets. Dyche will no doubt have been disappointed with their campaign last year, after the heady heights of Europe the season before. I suspect a middle ground of a 12th place finish feels about right.

13th) Crystal Palace

Wiley old Roy Hodgson will lead Crystal Palace into another campaign after a solid 12th placed finish last season. A safe pair of hands, Roy organises his teams well and they are hard to beat. Telling that the usually mild mannered manager went on the record stating that he was expecting more incoming transfer to strengthen the squad. Defensively they are weaker without Wan-Bissaka, and starting the season with your only out and out strikers as Benteke and Wickham could be disastrous. Whilst Zaha and Ayew are also options up top, it isn’t their preferred position. Goals will likely be the problem again this season for Palace, and the decision not to spend money to bring someone in could damped sprits in SE25. But with Roy at the helm, the Eagles should still survive.

14th) Aston Villa

Villa have gone extravagantly in the transfer window spending in excess of £130m. Some commentators are describing this as the “Fulham strategy” which ultimately ended in relegation last season. For me, Dean Smith has spent a little more wisely bringing in a combination of younger, hungrier players along with lots of players he has worked with previously. So whilst initially it may seem like a compete overhaul, it’s a little more subtle than that. Still, gelling together so many new players will be tough and this could be an up and down season. But if the season ends up with survival, I suspect Villa fans will be happy.

15th) Bournemouth

Eddie Howe continues to do a solid job with Bournemouth. He spends more money than many expect, and another £50m has been spent this summer. Although they recouped a large chunk with the sale of Tyrone Mings to Villa. Another season of survival should be on the cards, but will Howe be tempted by a bigger job if one comes along?

16th) Southampton

Ralph Hussenhattl appears to have settled in well at Southampton, and their form under him last season was impressive. Yet they still only finished 16th. The standard in the league this season is higher, and whilst some improvements have been made to the squad I am predicting another 16th placed finish for the Saints.

17th) Sheffield United

The rise and rise of teams under Chris Wilder has been exceptional. The Blades fans are thrilled at a return to the top flight, and with a supporter at the helm who has had such a mangificant start to his managerial career I believe they have a fighting chance. The quality and depth in the squad won’t be as strong as some of the other teams around them, but I am going to stick my neck on the line and predict a final day survival at St Mary’s against Southampton.

18th) Brighton and Hove Albion

The finish to last season was dreadful. The goals dried up and crucial mistakes were made at the back. I still feel Hughton was a little harsh to be sacked, and in Graham Potter the Seagulls have taken a slight step into the unknown. Their transfer business seems solid, but not inspired and this could be the season where their luck finally runs out.

19th) Newcastle United

The last few years under Rafa Benitez the team were performing above expectations. Spending very little, and tactically astute the Toon will really miss their favourite Spanish waiter, who is now at the Chinese buffet. If they are to have a hope of survival, they will need goals from £40m Joelinton. The appointment of Steve Bruce does not fill me with confidence, and this could be end of the Premier League merry-go-round for Newcastle United.

20th) Norwich City

Daniel Farke and Norwich were a revelation last season. They surprised the pundits and even their fans when they won promotion to the Premier League. Going into this season, they are showing faith with the team that got them up. The gulf between the divisions though is steep, and lacking real depth and any notable signings, I suspect the Canaries might find themselves rooted to the bottom of the cage.

Higher Education Power List & governance September 17, 2018

Posted by AaronPorter in Higher Education, Uncategorized.
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It’s a bit of fun, but enjoyable to help judge the 2018 Wonkhe Higher Education Power List published today: https://wonkhe.com/he-powerlist-2018/

I’ve written an accompanying piece on the shifting power of higher education governing bodies: https://wonkhe.com/b…/power-list-2018-the-rise-of-the-board/

Premier League prediction 2018-19 August 9, 2018

Posted by AaronPorter in Football, Uncategorized.
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1) Man City

Last season they stormed to the title. They seem unstoppable once more. A couple of extra signings, they are surely hot favourites to be the first club to win back to back titles since their city rivals did in the 2007/08 and 2008/09 campaigns.

2) Liverpool

The Klopp project is progressing quicker than many anticipated, and they surely have the most exciting attack in the division. I still worry about them defensively, but they may push City close.

3) Spurs

Once again they haven’t strengthened the squad, and this counts against them. Kane is surely a banker for 25+ goals if he stays fit, I tip them for 3rd partly because I fear the next 3 teams are in decline. But Pochettino will surely be hot property should a huge job come up in Spain.

4) Man United

Mourinho teams have a habit of combusting after 3 seasons. It doesn’t seem a happy ship, and whilst they finished 2nd last year I can’t see them matching that this year. Clear disappointment they haven’t brought in an additional centre back.

5) Chelsea

New manager Maurizio Sarri did a terrific job at Napoli, but he’s not been backed hugely in the transfer market. A front line of Giroud or Morata won’t scare too many defences, a new goalkeeper may take time to settle. This is likely to be a year of transition.

6) Arsenal

The end of an era, and sometimes things get worse before they get better (just ask Man U or Liverpool). New manager Unai Emery has gone about his business quietly, and in many ways Arsenal have gone under the radar. This could help them, but their squad lacks real quality and that hasn’t been addressed in the transfer market.

7) Leicester City

Hard to predict. Arguably they have lost their best player (Mahrez), and toward the end of last season manager Claude Puel looked like he was clinging after some abject performances. Their transfer business looks smart (Periera, Evans & Maddison) in particularly stand out. If they players are behind Puel, I can see a comfortable top half finish. Equally, it could all fall apart.

8) Wolverhampton Wanderers

My surprise tip to do something special. They stormed the Championship last season, and have in Moutinho, Jota (permanently), Traore, Boly and Rui Patricio they have signed some exciting players which I predict to translate into a top half finish. Not sure the Molineiux hierarchy have read the FPP fine details though….

9) Everton

Everton are a club in transition, and the Board and fans believe they have their man in the Marco Silva. He was backed in the transfer market with significant funds. His short spells at Hull and Watford were turbulent with wonderful performances, but ultimately at both clubs he failed to deliver. Everton will hope it’s third time lucky in England for the new Portuguese special one.

10) Burnley

Last season they were the surprise package. Sean Dyche’s stock continues to climb (had Gareth Southgate failed in Russia, he surely would be the front runner for the national job). I suspect that balancing European fixtures, together with the league may see them drop back a little. But this is a club that is no longer the relegation dead certs most have perennially predicted them to be.

11) Crystal Palace

7 games, no goals, no points last season things looked ominous for the Eagles. But the turnaround under Roy Hodgson was spectacular. Defensively organised, and with some great movement up front with Zaha in particular at times unplayable led them to mid table safety. The loss of Cabaye and Loftus-Cheek are big blows, without breaking the bank the additions of Meyer and Kayoute could do a job. Palace fans would snatch your hand off for a dull mid table finish.

12) West Ham United

Former league winner Pellegrini is in the West Ham dugout, and he has been backed with significant transfer funds (Felipe Anderson £30m, Issa Diop £20m, Yarmalenko £20, and Jack Wilshere’s wages & medical bills) will all dent the Hammers coffers. I suspect it may take time for the new team to gel, and they have a tricky start with games at Anfield, Goodison and the Emirates in the first 6 their home form (which hasn’t been great) will be important.

13) Brighton & Hove Albion

A terrific first season in the PL under the very likeable Chris Hughton (hard to admit as a Palace fan). Once again, they look like they have worked the transfer market well and building on defensive solidity their first target will be to reach 40 points once again – which I think they will.

14) Watford

Watford seem to put together great spells for half a season, but never 2 good halves in the same campaign. Javi Garcia did enough to keep them up last year, but I predict if they have a bad start he’ll be for the chopping block.

15) Fulham

The first promoted team to spend over £100m, with some exciting summer signings (Serri, Schurle, Mitrovic) to add to an already promising squad. Jokanovic is an impressive manager, and I think they have enough to stay up – but expect some ups and downs along the way. Another club who will probably need to the Financial Fair Play rules explained to them at some point….

16) Newcastle United

Rafa Benitez over delivered last year to get Newcastle into a top half finish. His reward, practically no backing whatsoever in the transfer market. Rumours abound that the playing squad are unhappy, if Rafa walks I fear Newcastle are toast. A long, hard season ahead.

17) Southampton

They looked dead and buried and Mark Hughes pulled off the impossible last season. They have a decent squad, but there is a vulnerability which worries me. I’m not convinced by their summer signings (although Ings could be crucial if he can stay fit), but I fear another relegation dogfight ahead.

18) Bournemouth

In the last few seasons, Eddie Howe and Bournemouth have done enough to survive. But with Wolves and Fulham coming up, I suspect the standard required to survive will be higher this year. That coupled with some poor runs of form last season, give me a cause to predict that the PL merry go round for the Cherries might finally come to an end. Another team who have also surely flouted the Financial Fair Play rules.

19) Huddersfield Town

Last season was wonderful for Huddersfield. A likeable manager, who pulled off some quite unforgettable wins (who could forget that win over Manchester United). Sometimes second season syndrome can catch you out, and reluctantly I feel this may be the case for the Terriers.

20) Cardiff City

Neil Warnock has retired about 7 times. But he keeps coming back for more. The achievement last season to get Cardiff City promoted was sensational, and it probably would have been a perfect moment to genuinely retire on a high. But who can blame the man for wanting one more chance in the big time. He’s never kept a team in the top flight, and I suspect he won’t break that duck. But there will no doubt be fireworks, controversies, arguments with referees and touchline bans along the way.

Other predictions:

Top scorer – Harry Kane

Manager of the Season – Pep Guardiola

First manager to be sacked – Javi Garcia

How did I get on? My Premier League predictions – 17/18 August 8, 2018

Posted by AaronPorter in Football, Uncategorized.
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Last season I made the following Premier League prediction. 12 months on, how did I get on:

Tomorrow I will predict my table for 2018-19, but first here’s how I got on last year…

Premier League Predictions 2017-18 (my prediction)

Their actual finish

1 – Manchester City

Correct. Spot on.

2 – Manchester United

Correct. Spot on.

3 – Chelsea

5th (2 places off) – who’d have thought the Conte would drop off so badly.

4 – Arsenal

6th (2 places off) – a sad end for Arsene Wenger.

5 – Liverpool

4th (1 place off) – Klopp’s project progressed slightly quicker than I thought.

6 – Tottenham Hotspur

3rd (3 places off) – I worried about a lack of transfer activity, but a terrific performance.

7 – Everton

8th (1 place off)

8 – Stoke City

19th (11 places off) – Spectacularly wrong.

9 – Leicester City

Correct. Spot on.

10 – West Ham United

13th (3 places off).

11 – West Bromwich Albion

20th (9 places off) – I remain convinced had they stuck with Pulis they would have survived.

12 – Southampton

17th (5 places off) – more dramatic than their fans would have wanted.

13 – Bournemouth

12th (1 place off).

14 – Crystal Palace

11th (3 places off).

15 – Newcastle United

10th (5 places off).

16 – Burnley

7th (9 places off) – Hugely wrong. But at least I wasn’t alone.

17 – Swansea City

18th (1 place off). Rightly predicted they would be in a relegation dogfight.

18 – Watford

14th (4 places off)

19 – Huddersfield Town

16th (3 places off) – confounded mine, and the expectations of most others.

20 – Brighton & Hove Albion

15th (5 places off) – hat off, they did much better than I expected.


On average I predicted the finish of each club to within 3.4 places.

I correctly predicted the finish for 3 clubs (1st Man City, 2nd Man Utd, 9th Leicester) and

And predicted the following 4 clubs; Liverpool, Everton, Bournemouth and Swansea to within 1 position of their final finish.

The biggest errors were Stoke City (out by 11 places), Burnley and West Brom (both out by 9 places).

If you remove Stoke, Burnley & West Brom I correctly predicted the other 17 teams to within 2.3 places of their final finish.

Other predictions:

Top scorer – Romelu Lukaku

Finished 6th with 16 goals. A long way behind Mo Salah with 32 goals.

Manager of the season – Pep Guardiola


First manager to be sacked – Marco Silva

Was actually Frank de Boer (Crystal Palace who got 4 games). Although Silva survived until January, it was clear his relationship with Watford was stuttering by November.

Open letter to the Prime Minister regarding the promised higher education funding review January 11, 2018

Posted by AaronPorter in Uncategorized.
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Thursday 11th January 2018

Dear Prime Minister,

The issue of higher education funding has proved to be a difficult one for successive governments. In 2004 Tony Blair’s huge majority came to within just 5 votes of being defeated as he sought to increase fees to £3000. Similarly the Coalition government came under intense scrutiny over their proposals to treble fees to £9000, which only passed with a majority of 21.

The case for a major review

To that end, your announcement at the 2017 Conservative Party conference on October 4th to commission a major review of higher education funding and finance should be welcomed. In keeping with the speech that you made outside Number 10 Downing Street when taking office in July 2016, you rightly prioritised delivering a fairer society where social mobility would be an important tenet of your government’s approach. Higher education plays a critical role in delivering social mobility, and whilst it is not the silver bullet it makes perfect sense to independently evaluate the contribution the HE sector is making toward social mobility and a fairer society: what it is achieving and what more it can do. Equally, government should evaluate whether students are receiving value for money under the current funding system, does the state make an appropriate contribution and do other beneficiaries of our world class HE system contribute adequately too.

Your decision to raise the threshold for repayment to £25,000 deserves particular praise. This will ensure that low paid graduates are relieved of making a contribution, and will make a material difference to their available disposable income.

Impact of the 2012 reforms

More than seven years have now elapsed since the Coalition government won Parliamentary approval for the significant changes to the way in which higher education is funded (an 80% cut to the teaching grant, coupled with the opportunity for institutions to increase their full-time undergraduate fees from £3,000 to £9,000 per year). During the Parliamentary passage which led to the vote to increase tuition fees in December 2010, you will note there was concern that this would lead to a drop in participation particularly amongst students from disadvantaged backgrounds. For full time undergraduate students this appears not to have materialised. To that end institutions, the Office for Fair Access (now to be part of the Office for Students) and to an extent government should be congratulated.

However the government made a number of other assumptions about what the impact of the new system would be. The then Business Secretary, Vince Cable stated in the House that £9,000 fees would only be charged in “exceptional circumstances”. He was wrong. The combination of a large cut to the university teaching budget, alongside no real disincentive to charge the maximum has of course meant that £9000 fees have proved to be the norm rather than the exception. This probably should have been predicted, not least because when tuition fees were previously trebled (from £1000 to £3000) the behaviour of universities mirrored almost exactly what happened after the Coalition government reforms.

A much more unintended consequence though has been the impact on part-time students. There was widespread acclaim when the Coalition government committed to extending loans to part-time students (studying to at least 25% intensity), previously only available to full time undergraduate students. There was a hope that the extension of loans to part-time undergraduate study would help to reverse the decline in PT students which had already started to set in. The factors behind the decline were not well understood, although given a significant proportion of part time study was employer funded the impact of the 2008 economic downturn certainly played a role in contracting demand (from employers and individuals). Sadly hopes that demand for PT study would recover have fallen flat. Indeed figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) would suggest that part time study has fallen 56% since 2010 (from 243,355 in 2010/11 to 107,325 in 2015/16). Lord Willetts is rightly lauded for the style, approach and dedication he brought to his time as Universities and Science Minister. And in characteristic fashion has been gracious enough to state that the decline in part-time provision to have been “his biggest failure and regret” during his time as a Minister. There is of course much else from his tenure the higher education sector can thank him for.

Other changes since 2012

There have also been a number of other significant changes to the higher education sector since 2012, all of which add to the case for a major review. In the 2013 Autumn budget, the then Chancellor George Osborne announced the abolition of the student number controls which has brought a new and largely welcome competitive dynamic to student recruitment. It allows successful and popular universities to expand, and more students will therefore be able to choose their first choice university. It has though led to greater turbulence in the distribution of where students study, and therefore greater volatility and less predictability for university income year to year.

In 2016, the decision to abolish student maintenance grants to be replaced with loans is also a significant change which has come into effect recently. This means that students from the poorest backgrounds will now graduates with the largest debts. The reforms to nursing bursaries have also had a major impact on participation for this vital profession. More positively, the introduction of a postgraduate loan has been welcomed and helped to stimulate demand and access at PG level.

Lessons from Browne and other reviews

The 2012 reforms were taken forward following an independent review under the chairship of Lord Browne of Madingley. Lord Browne was well served by the civil servants who supported his review, and the process for consultation and engagement with the sector was extensive. Although an independent review, he appeared too concerned with meeting the political priorities of the day (namely deficit reduction) and structured his model to meet Treasury demands rather than evaluating the evidence about where the consensus lay for who should contribute. The work of his review also focussed far too heaviliy on full time undergraduate provision, and was largely silent on postgraduate funding.

The absence of a legitimate student representative on the review panel was also a missed opportunity, and helped to stoke student opposition to the eventual proposals. The upcoming review should ensure student representation on the review itself, which logically would come from a nominee from the National Union of Students. Lord Browne’s final report did however construct a coherent system, and it was subsequent political changes which made it a less sustainable model for the long term.

The government may wish to consider the experience of Professor Sir Ian Diamond’s review of higher education funding in Wales as a source of inspiration for the review you will commission. In Sir Ian, the review was led by someone who had a thorough understanding of higher education, and benefitted hugely from sophisticated financial modelling and clarity on the biggest issues it wanted to resolve or improve. The result was a proposal which was largely supported by the Welsh government, university leaders and student representatives.

Areas of focus for the upcoming review

Leading a major review in any area is not easy, particularly when the sector is complex and operates within a funding environment which continues to be challenging. It is vital that the review has requisite blend of skills with a thorough understanding of higher education being central, high quality civil service support and genuine political independence to undertake their work. The review would benefit from having legitimate student representatives in its governance, and although not entirely within your gift would benefit from being supported on a cross-party basis.

Based on the lessons of previous reviews, and other changes which have come to the fore since 2012, the themes below would be important considerations for the review to address in order to deliver a sustainable, robust and ultimately fair system:

  • Take a holistic view of higher education funding at both undergraduate and postgraduate level
  • What can be done to reverse the decline in part time study
  • Understand the value for money which students receive from their education
  • A clear understanding of the cost to an institution of undergraduate and postgraduate provision
  • The role and function of cross-subsidy to ensure the viability of multi-discipline institutions
  • Takes into account the diversity of institution types in England, and ensures the continued viability of small, specialist institution
  • The current value for money from for-profit institutions, and whether tax payer funds/student contributions should be used to build assets for institution owners or dividends for shareholders
  • Seek to make a judgement about the appropriate balance of contributions between the state and the individual
  • Consider how business can make a structured contribution to higher education, as major beneficiaries
  • Consider the effectiveness of the Student Loans Company
  • The potential implications of Brexit on funding and support for EU students and what can be done to ensure England remains an attractive destination for EU students
  • Whether there is a case for students who make a significant financial benefit from higher education over-contributing to lessen the burden for less wealthy graduates
  • Seek to understand the impact of the graduate repayment on the lifestyle of low earning graduates (including the ability for low earning graduates to gain access to the property ladder and how else the 9% repayment impacts graduate expenditure)
  • Understand the wider costs of higher education to students beyond tuition fees and maintenance loans including the appropriateness and transparency of hidden course costs
  • Whether government should further incentivise strategically important subjects beyond the remaining teaching grant
  • How excellent teaching can be financially rewarded in the context of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)
  • Consider the impact of the removal of student maintenance grants, and the appropriateness of students from the poorest households graduating with the largest debt
  • The feasibility of a credit based funding system (rather than the existing course based system)
  • The merits and drawbacks of other major national higher education funding systems (including but not limited to the systems in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), and how they may apply in an English context

The promise to undertake a major review of higher education funding is important for so many reasons; not just to ensure that England can maintain a world class and competitive system, but also to strike a fair deal for students, the tax payer and government. Given the complexity it will not be easy, but it can be achieved.

I wish the government well in its endeavours and the decisions you have to make. Given that more than 7 years have already elapsed since the vote to sanction the 2012 reforms, that any major review will take at least one year, the necessary Parliamentary scrutiny that will be required for any changes to a new system it will likely be more than a decade before any new changes come into effect. To that end, I would encourage you to act swiftly with your new Ministerial team to think carefully about who you appoint to lead the review, how they are supported and the terms of reference they are able to operate within.

Yours faithfully,



Mr. Aaron Porter




Uni Numbers – March 2017 update March 6, 2017

Posted by AaronPorter in Uncategorized.
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Partly out of curiosity, but also a sign that I clearly have too much time on my hands, I thought I’d tot up how many UK universities I have managed to visit.

To my surprise, I’ve been to 134 UK universities and have 10 still to visit.

Although the debate of what should be on/off the list can of course be contested!

Visited – 134
Anglia Ruskin University
Aston University
Bangor University
Bath Spa University
University of Birmingham
Birmingham City University
Bishop Grosseteste University
BPP University
Bournemouth University
Brunel University London
University of Bradford
University of Bristol
Buckinghamshire New University
University of Cambridge
Canterbury Christ Church University
Cardiff University
Cardiff Metropolitan University
Central School of Speech and Drama
City University
Courtauld Institute of Art
Coventry University
Cranfield University
De Montfort University
Durham University
University of East London
Edge Hill University
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh Napier University
University of Exeter
Falmouth University
University of Glasgow
Glasgow Caledonian University
University of Gloucestershire
Glyndwr University
Goldsmiths, University of London
University of Greenwich
Harper Adams University
Heriot-Watt University
University of Hull
Imperial College London
Keele University
King’s College London
Kingston University
Lancaster University
University of Leeds
Leeds Beckett University
Leeds Trinity University
University of Leicester
University of Lincoln
University of Liverpool
Liverpool Hope University
Liverpool John Moores University
London Business School
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Birkbeck, University of London
Institute of Education
London School of Economics
Queen Mary, University of London
Royal Academy of Music
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
University College London
London Metropolitan University
London South Bank University
Loughborough University
University of Manchester
Manchester Metropolitan University
Middlesex University
Newcastle University
Newman University
University of Northampton
Northumbria University
University of Nottingham
Nottingham Trent University
University of Oxford
Oxford Brookes University
University of Plymouth
Queen’s University Belfast
Regent’s University London
Roehampton University
Royal Agricultural University
Royal Holloway, University of London,
Royal Veterinary College
University of Salford
University of Sheffield
Sheffield Hallam University
University of Southampton
Southampton Solent University
University of South Wales
University of St Andrews
University of St Mark and St John
Staffordshire University
St George’s, University of London
Swansea University
University of Strathclyde
Teesside University
The Arts University Bournemouth
The Open University
The Robert Gordon University
University for the Creative Arts
University of Aberdeen
University of Abertay Dundee
University of Bath
University of Bedfordshire
University of Bolton
University of Buckingham
University of Brighton
University of Central Lancashire
University of Chester
University of Chichester
University of Cumbria
University of Derby
University of Dundee
University of East Anglia
University of Essex
University of Hertfordshire
University of Huddersfield
University of Kent
University of Law
University of Portsmouth
University of Reading
University of Stirling
University of Surrey
University of Sussex
University of the Arts London
University of Ulster
University of Warwick
University of the West of England, Bristol
University of West London
University of Westminster
University of Winchester
University of Wolverhampton
University of Worcester
University of York
York St John University


Not visited – 10
Aberystwyth University
Heythrop College
Institute of Cancer Research
Norwich University of the Arts
Queen Margaret University
Royal College of Art
University of Sunderland
University of the Highlands & Islands
University of the West of Scotland
University of Wales, Trinity Saint David

My articles November 8, 2016

Posted by AaronPorter in Uncategorized.
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Higher education governance is under the spotlight and the sector needs to respond (Advance HE, 14-Aug-19)

Wonkhe Power List 2018 – The rise of the board (Wonkhe, 17-Sep-18)

The case for a major review of higher education (Wonkhe, 15-Jan-18)

Wonkhe Power List 2017 – The general election effect (Wonkhe, 17-Sep-17)

Brexit will hit demand for UK HE differently across the globe (Wonkhe, 8-Nov-16)

Blogs for the Guardian (various)

Blogs for The New Statesman (various)

Blogs for Left Foot Forward (various)


Premier League Prediction 16-17 August 13, 2016

Posted by AaronPorter in Football, Uncategorized.
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It’s that time of the year, to pin my colours to the mast and predict 1-20 for the new Premier League season.

Arguably, this is the hardest season to predict for decades with by my count 7 teams standing a credible chance of winning, and 10 teams who could go down.

1 – Chelsea

Another new start for Chelsea. They still have a quality squad, finished the season strongly and the absence of European football could see them crowned 16-17 Champions. Success will likely depend on the durability of John Terry, and goals from Diego Costa and Michy Batshuayi.

2 – Manchester City

Probably the strongest squad on paper, but unconvinced that even with £47m Stones that defensive frailties have been addressed. But the world’s best coach, and a quality squad should see them challenge for the title right down to the wire. The Manchester derby

3 – Manchester United

Four huge summer signings should start to change the fortunes for Manchester United. Mourinho will no doubt bring his usual grit and organisation to the team, but this is still a team in transition and imagine it make take the team a little while to gel.

4 – Tottenham Hotspur

An outstanding season last campaign, which fell away at the final furlong. So Spurs. I fear they will struggle to repeat the feat of last year, but this is a young team which is still improving. So far only Wanyama and Janssen have been added which gives them stability. But 4th would still represent a good season, particularly if the next prediction is correct…

5 – Arsenal

This might finally be the year when Arsenal fall shout of Champions League qualification. Arsene is, and has been a great coach. But his stubbornness in the transfer market is baffling. Surely a world class centre back and centre forward away from challenging for the title, football has a horrible way of sending managers out without a bang. In the last year of his contract, this would be stain on a pretty remarkable 20 years for Msr Wenger.

6 – Leicester City

Last season was incredible, and Ranieri is right in many ways to say that to retain the title would be an even bigger surprise than winning it for the first time. Kante has been replaced with Mendy, so the formula will be much the same as last year. But can the magic be repeated? European nights at the King Power will surely be memorable.

7 – Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp has brought a new lease of life into Anfield, and a new style of play. They are a team moving in the right direction, but whether they can leapfrog the teams above them remain to be seen. There has been a huge overhaul of the squad, and surely it will take time to gel.

8 – West Ham United

Had it not been for the Leicester fairytale, Slaven Bilic would surely have been manager of the season (in a tight contest with Pochettino). 9 new signings have bolstered the squad, but not obviously the first XI. Their biggest signing was keeping hold of Payet, who will be one of the most feared players this campaign.

9 – Stoke City

Mark Hughes has taken Stoke to a new level, surpassing the feat of the solid if uninspiring Tony Pulis team. Other than Joe Allen, it’s been a fairly quiet summer, although they have publicly stated their interest in Saido Berahino. Defensively solid, and competitive in midfield, their front line is the weakest link in an otherwise good Stoke team.

10 – Everton

Everton have left their transfer business late in the summer, only opening the cheque book once John Stones had been sold. Koeman was clearly an astute manager, efficient and impressive at Southampton. Toffees fans will hope he can replicate this at Goodison. Perhaps the most important acquisition might be Steve Walsh (as Director of Football) from Leicester, but we may not see the returns on this in the first transfer window.

11 – Southampton

Southampton have continued to surpass expectations, managing to overcome the loss of key players (and successive managers). Claude Puel is an unknown quantity in England, but his credentials at Monaco, Lyon and most latterly Nice has been impressive.

12 – Crystal Palace

At the start of 2016, the Eagles were 5th in the league and Alan Pardew was the nailed on replacement to Roy Hodgson. But a terrible run of league form in 2016 has caused concern among Palace fans, and whilst Townsend and Mandanda are sound acquisitions beginning the season with a forward line of Connor Wickham and Frazier Campbell doesn’t scream goals. If Benteke (as rumoured) can be signed, 12th would be plausible. Otherwise I fear 40 points might not come until toward the end of the season.

13 – Swansea City

Swansea finished the season well, and now a busy summer of incoming and outgoing transfers. Now an established team in the Premier League, Swans will be hoping they can glide into the top half, but I fear they may fall just short.

14 – Bournemouth

The rise and rise under Eddie Howe has been incredible. Last season was particularly impressive as they survived with games to spare, and were without some of their most influential players for much of the season. Second season blues has caught many clubs over the years, but I think the Cherries could better their finish from last campaign. With Arsene Wenger set to retire at the end of the season, another solid finish could see Howe linked with a big move.

15 – West Bromwich Albion

With Tony Pulis at the helm, there shouldn’t be a problem with relegation, but they might not hit 40 points until May. So far they have only signed Matt Phillips, but TP has said he wants another 5 players at least. Will the new Chinese investment arrive in time for Pulis to get the players in he wants?

16 – Watford

The forward line of Deeney and Ighalo last year was incredible, as was the tactical approach from Flores. Much will fall on the shoulders of the forward line once again, but like Crystal Palace their league form in 2016 was not great. Another team with a new manager (Walter Mazzarri), we wait to see how they will set out their stall.

17 – Middlesbrough

Defensively Aitor Karanka organised a formidable team in The Championship last season, and that was the bedrock of their promotion success. Much will depend on goals from Negredo, and if they can continue to be tight at the back I think they might do enough to survive.

18 – Sunderland

Sam Allardyce pulled off a great late season recover for the Black Cats, when they looked down and out. David Moyes did a terrific job at Everton, but it simply hasn’t come off for him then. Summer signings don’t inspire confidence, and I fear this might be the season their luck finally runs out.

19 – Burnley

Burnley won plaudits for their determined approach 2 seasons ago. Dyche managed to get the team straight back to the top flight, but summer signings have been limited so the team will be much the same as the promotion winning team from last season. However I fear they may be a little short in quality and depth. But last season, I predicted Leicester City would finish 19th.

20 – Hull City

The only surprise would be if Hull City don’t finish bottom. The money which had been pumped in under the Alam chairmanship appears to be drying up, and what was already an uphill climb would seem insurmountable. Just 1 signing (from AFC Wimbledon) they are arguably weaker than last season. I expect to see them fall back into The Championship.

Other predictions:

Top scorer – Sergio Ageuro

Manager of the season – Antonio Conte

First manager to be sacked – David Moyes


PS – if you’re interested here is my prediction for 2015-16:


Premier League 2015-16 Prediction August 8, 2015

Posted by AaronPorter in Uncategorized.
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  1. Chelsea – although they haven’t strengthened the squad (as yet), surely the team to beat.
  2. Arsenal – matched Chelsea from January onwards last season. Cech also improves the team, but still look like a world class centre forward and centre back away from the title.
  3. Manchester City – like Chelsea they haven’t appeared to improve their squad as yet. And some key players may be past their best (Toure, Kompany). But any team with the likes of Aguero and Silva will still grind out results.
  4. Manchester United – LVG has overhauled the squad again, and more business likely. Their success will depend on how quickly some of the new signings can bed in.
  5. Liverpool – Rodgers has made a raft of signings, but tactically he is often outsmarted. The pressure could mount if they make a sluggish start.
  6. Stoke City – my prediction for the surprise package this season. Under both Pulis and now Hughes, Stoke have steadily improved. This summer some exciting additions could take them to the next level.
  7. Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs are building a team of young, homegrown talent many of whom have promise for the future. But this is a long term project and some of the signings might not come off just yet, also Kane will under pressure to replicate his goals from last year.
  8. Southampton – Koeman managed to confound critics with another stunning season last campaign, now with added Europa league commitments the top 6 might be beyond them. But 8th will still be a good return.
  9. Crystal Palace – the transformation under Alan Pardew has been sensational. Cabaye is a quality addition, and if one of Connor Wickham or Patrick Bamford hit a rich vein of form the Eagles could improve on their excellent 10th placed finish.
  10. Swansea City – Gary Monk has continued to get the best out of a good squad, playing great football. Expect another solid season.
  11. Everton – last season was a little underwhelming for the Toffees. But as yet, Martinez has not really been given the funds to strengthen the team. May be another slightly under par season ahead.
  12. Newcastle United – Steve McLaren is a good manager, and perhaps he will bring some much needed stability to a club who seem in constant self inflicted turmoil.
  13. West Bromwich Albion – Pulis will surely deliver comfortable mid table safety. Well organised and disciplined, expect them to pull off some outstanding results against some of the ‘bigger teams’ and maybe be a Cup run too.
  14. West Ham United – being unceremoniously dumped out of the Europa League by Romania’s Astra Giurgiu might be their salvation. Bilic is obviously unproven at Premier League level as a manager, a crucial season ahead for the Hammers before the (tax payer funded) move to the Olympic Stadium.
  15. Aston Villa – the loss of Delph and Benteke will be significant. Sherwood has brought in reinforcements, and despite a decent run under him last season I remain unconvinced that a manager who appears built on bravado alone will really set the world alight this season.
  16. Bournemouth – the rise and rise of The Cherries has been formidable. Eddie Howe has developed a philosophy and approach which might even prove successful in the top tier. They will surely be everyone’s second team this season.
  17. Watford – able to draw on a quite sublime scouting network, they have made some impressive acquisitions. Survival will surely depend on bedding in the new players quickly, and Deeney being able to step up a division.
  18. Sunderland – Dick Advocaat pulled off a great escape last year, but I can see some of the luck they had last season running out this campaign.
  19. Leicester City – the appointment of Claudio Ranieri is a gamble for me. Although Nigel Pearson appeared at times to be mentally unstable, the unity and performance he got from the Foxes last season was incredible. I can’t see that the Tinkerman is the right man for Leicester. I hope to be proved wrong. Somehow I can imagine Sam Alladyce in the dugout at the King Power before the end of the season.
  20. Norwich City – the progress under Alex Neil was sensational last season. Some experience in the squad, but currently Cameron Jerome will be relied upon to score the goals to keep them up. I’m not sure that will be enough.


Is another tuition fee hike on the horizon? May 11, 2015

Posted by AaronPorter in Uncategorized.
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Originally posted on Progress website:


Is another tuition fee hike on the horizon?

In 2010, the first big flashpoint for the coalition government was the very public and very brutal, at least for the Liberal Democrats, clash over whether to increase tuition fees. The independent Browne review suggested no fee cap whatsoever. The Liberal Democrat manifesto had promised their abolition, the National Union of Students campaign pledge signed by all Liberal Democrat candidates opted for a freeze on fees and the Tories had not really said anything at all. Eventually the coalition opted for a fee cap of £9,000 a year, the Liberal Democrats broke their promise and the rest, as they say, is history, a bit like most of the Liberal Democrats members of parliament who broke the pledge.

But as soon as the vote to increase fees squeezed through parliament, passed by 21 votes, it became clear that issues of sustainability were coming to the fore. The resource accounting and budgeting charge for the new fee regime continued to rise steadily, and well beyond projections from BIS. By the end of the parliament, the latest figures suggested that for every £1 loaned to a student, 48p would never be paid back. Figures from the public accounts committee suggest that by 2042, the tuition fee black hole could be as big as £90bn, a system which critics described as costing students and the taxpayer more money than the previous regime, while part-time enrolments fell by 40 per cent during the last five years and universities are, privately at least, very concerned about the first generation of £9k students and their willingness to stump up yet more fees for postgraduate courses.

Labour’s policy on tuition fees in the last parliament was always unclear. In their respective leadership campaigns, both Ed Miliband and Ed Balls suggested they preferred a graduate tax. During the fees debate in parliament the Labour position was simply that it opposed what the coalition was proposing and then after months and months of uncertainty and internal wrangling over the feasibility of a graduate tax, the manifesto finally opted for a reduction to £6,000. In opposition, Labour should have had an easy time criticising the coalition on tuition fees, but without a clear and compelling alternative it always felt like they did not exploit that advantage. Liam Byrne was impressive as the shadow minister for higher and further education. He engaged thoughtfully with the sector and seemed prepared to think about the wider challenges for universities beyond the headlines generated by tuition fees. When the Times Higher Education magazine polled academics just before the 2015 election, nearly 46 per cent cited they would back the Labour party. Byrne’s robust and evidence based approach will have been a large contributor to that. However, it was not clear that the thoughtfulness demonstrated by the shadow minister made its way into the Labour manifesto on higher education.

So against this backdrop, and with a strong body of opinion that higher education funding is already unsustainable and wider questions about regulation of the university system there will be some pressure to look at the question of tuition fees once again. Speaking at a post-election briefing hosted by Pearson and the Financial Times this morning, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA and formerly head of the Number 10 policy unit in the Blair years, suggested that a further increase in the fee cap would be likely this parliament. He went on to say, that it appeared the government really only listens to the Russell Group of universities and a number of their vice-chancellors have already gone on record as saying that the cap should increase further.

Whatever the new government might be thinking, Labour needs to be more thoughtful than simply arguing against whatever might be proposed. Labour’s approach needs to consider the interplay between schools, further and higher education policy, and the contribution that employers can make toward both funding and appropriately contributing to curriculum and assessment. There needs to be a credible position on funding, but that should not just focus solely on full time undergraduates. There is a crisis in part-time funding, and the postgraduate system is also under pressure and shows signs of being woefully underrepresented by those from non-traditional and working-class backgrounds, these all need to be taken into account.

The Labour party has much to be proud of for the way it oversaw a significant rise in students from the poorest background going to university and the development of a sustainable footing for British universities to compete with the best of the world during their time in government. But with new pressures ahead to find a sustainable funding model, the same level of thought needs to be given to universities once again.