14 Jan 2016
A focus on quality, continuous improvement and the incentivisation of excellent teaching is at the centre of every university’s ambitions for its students. The Green Paper is shining a light on this ambition of every university and enabling them to demonstrate the transformative power of diverse, high quality, excellent higher education. We welcome the recent focus this debate has enabled on the strengths and benefits of UK universities.However, the government must proceed with caution and work with the sector to ensure that changes are in the interests of students, institutions, employers and the UK as a whole.
Linking fee increases with a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) based on metrics that are proxies for teaching quality, is unlikely to provide students or employers with an accurate picture of the rich and varied teaching and learning environments that universities provide. This risks damaging the reputation of the higher education sector in the UK and is why we recommend that the government defer the introduction of a multi-level TEF in 2018 until further work has been completed to determine the best way to promote teaching excellence.
Universities are autonomous institutions and the new Office for Students (OfS) must remain as a buffer body between the sector and Ministers and have full oversight over the sector. UK university title and degree awarding powers are highly valued and have been hard-earned, underwriting our international reputation for high quality higher education based on the breadth and depth of both teaching and research. It is clear that Ministers want to incentivise the market for new providers but we believe that this should not be achieved by lowering thresholds for award of the university title or disaggregating core components of what universities deliver
Although focused on universities and higher education providers in England, the Green Paper has implications for universities throughout the UK and the UK’s global reputation in the international market in which institutions across the sector and the UK engage. The government will need to consider carefully the impact its proposals for universities and higher education providers in England will have on those in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.