By Samantha Johnston on 03 May 2017
The UK Higher Education sector is among our greatest national assets, remaining a global leader. England’s universities rank among the best in the world. They develop and generate the knowledge and skills that fuel our economy and provide the basis for our nation’s intellectual and cultural success.
The world of Higher Education has changed fundamentally since the last major legislative reforms of 1992. We have protected investment in our world class research base. By ending student number controls we are also ensuring that more people can secure a University place, and the application rate for students from a disadvantaged background is at a record level. This benefits not only the individual students, but the economy as a whole. However, we are still left with a university system that needs important reform to ensure it can continue to fulfil its potential and to sustain the world class standing it presently enjoys.
- Courses can be inflexible, based on the traditional three-year undergraduate model, with insufficient innovation and provision of two year degrees and degree apprenticeships.
- One third of undergraduates paying higher fees in England don’t believe their course represents value for money.
- Access remains uneven: despite recent favourable progress; students from the most advantaged backgrounds are still around six times more likely to go to the most selective universities than those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- At the same time as employers suffer skills shortages, especially in high skilled STEM areas, at least 20% of graduates are in non-professional roles three and a half years after graduating.
- Graduates are important for the economy. Between now and 2022 over half of job vacancies will be in occupations most likely to employ graduates.
- While the graduate premium has remained substantial, even as student numbers have expanded in recent decades, recent research suggests there is large variation in graduate outcomes across both providers and subjects, and even for those that studied the same subject within the same provider.
The new Bill will:
- Enable the establishment of more new high-quality higher education providers so students can choose from a wider range of institutions. It will now be easier for new providers to achieve degree awarding powers and secure university status.
- Raise teaching quality and standards so students and employers get the skills they need. There will be a new Teaching Excellent framework, which will introduce stronger incentives for universities to raise teaching quality and support students into employment.
- Put more information in the hands of students through a “transparency revolution”. The Bill will place a duty on institutions to publish application, offer, acceptance and progression rates broken down by gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background in order to promote transparency by opening up data held by the sector, informing choice and shining a spotlight on those that need to go further on social mobility.
- Place students at the heart of Higher Education regulation, replacing the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) with a new market regulator, the Office for Students (OFS)
- Invest strategically in world-class research and innovation and protect the research funding system. The dual support research funding system in England will be preserved and protected by law. There will be a new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), bringing together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and the England-only research and knowledge exchange functions of the Higher Education funding Council for England (HEFCE) into a single body, ensuring the UK is equipped to carry-out more multi-disciplinary research and to translate our world-class knowledge into world-beating innovations.
The above is the latest in our regular sector updates released by our specialist Education Team.
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