A new white paper announced this week has paved the future for the higher education sector, including a higher quality of teaching coupled with increased fees and increased competition. The white paper, entitled “Success as a Knowledge Economy; Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility & Student Choice”, is focussing on creating more choice and equality for all to be able to access higher education and close the skills gap currently existing in some sectors.
Under the plans, from Autumn 2017 universities will be able to increase their tuition fees to above £9,000 in line with inflation, but only if they can prove they offer high quality teaching. This quality of teaching will be based on inspections, using criteria including the amount of time students spend in lectures, the jobs they enter once they graduate and their average earnings from those roles. Once the reviews of universities is undertaken, the government will then announce which universities can increase their fees, and which ones may be forced to reduce their fees if they perform badly. It’s proposed that a new organisation will be introduced over the next four years to regulate the teaching quality; the Teaching Excellence Framework.
Understandably, some students will be concerned about the rise in tuition fees when the feeling currently amongst some students is that the £9,000 fees are not justified. With this in mind, the BIS will establish a new market regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), which will be a consumer focused market regulator to ensure students are receiving the high quality education they are paying for. The group will have the powers to regulate all registered higher education providers. In order to monitor the success of the competition and choice for students, universities will have to become more transparent when it comes to the range of students they recruit, including ethnicity, gender and family income, focussing on recruiting from a wider range of social backgrounds.
The report also aims to encourage more new and innovative providers into the higher education system. Called “challenger institutions” these private organisations will be able to award degrees if they meet national standards and will be able to gain university status. This means there will be more choice for people of all backgrounds to access higher education. These plans are also drawing criticisms, as well as calls to ensure strict regulations are in force so that students get the education they pay for. There is a fear that if the institution is not a long lasting one, any qualifications students receive there will not be deemed out of date or unacceptable in the longer term.
Degree apprenticeships are also praised in the report with an emphasis that more work is needed to embed them into university structures. The success of degree apprenticeships will depend on employers and universities working together.
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