20 May 2016
The government’s White Paper is significant in that it is seeking to alter structures in the higher education sector in England which have been in place since 1992. The Queen’s Speech referred to the Higher Education and Research Bill as providing ‘new universities’ and the promotion of competition and choice in the HE sector. In principle these could be regarded as laudable ambitions. However, the White Paper makes clear that Ministers intend to do this by reducing the criteria for degree-awarding powers and university title with a presumption that UK universities should be allowed to fail and exit the market. This new approach in England has the potential to impact adversely on student and taxpayer interests as well as on the global reputation of current universities and the UK’s university system.
In many respects the reforms challenge the idea of what a UK university is and divorce the core pillars of teaching, research, knowledge exchange and an underlying commitment to the public good from university title in England.
This briefing highlights some overarching questions for Parliamentarians to consider in advance of legislation.