28 Jun 2011

Universities shake-up aims for value for money

As students face paying up to £9,000 a year for their undergraduate degrees, the Government sets out plans it hopes will ensure they get their money’s worth from university.

The Government’s long-awaited White Paper on higher education in England is expected to contain measures to open up the sector, encourage competition between universities, and give more power to students.

The plans, published on Tuesday, are linked to the Coalition’s controversial policy of tripling tuition fees to £9,000.

Universities could be forced to give prospective students more information about job prospects, the quality of teaching, service and facilities, and the views of current students about the new measures, allowing them to make more informed choices about where to study.

There could also be inspections of universities if there are concerns about teaching standards or the quality of courses.

Growth encouraged

The package is is expected to contain measures permitting universities to take in any student who gains at least two A grades and a B at A-level, allowing these institutions to grow.

Universities charging lower fees will also be told they can grow – seen as a bid by ministers to encourage institutions to cut their prices. In addition, the higher education regulator, the Office for Fair Access, is set to be given more power to ensure poorer students are not being priced out by higher fees.

What fees are universities charging? Check out the Channel 4 News mapThe White Paper could contain proposals to make it easier for more
private universities to expand. But the University and College Union
warned against reforms that would allow this to happen.

UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt said: “The Government’s higher education policy is already in complete disarray after it got its sums wrong on fees. However, bringing in for-profit providers is not the answer to the current funding crisis in higher education.”

A Business Department spokesman said: “The Government will shortly publish its Higher Education White Paper which will set out how we will sustain our world class universities, improve higher education opportunities and increase social mobility.”