I am today laying before Parliament a Green Paper on Higher Education entitled Fulfilling Our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice. The paper sets out a broad range of proposals to:
- raise teaching standards in higher education and encourage greater emphasis on graduate employability;
- make further progress on widening participation and improve outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds;
- open up the higher education market to new high-quality providers so that students have more choice; and
- reshape the higher education landscape and move to a more risk-based system to reduce the cost of the regulatory burden on the sector and the taxpayer.
We committed in our manifesto to introduce a framework which recognised universities offering the highest quality teaching: the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The TEF will shine a spotlight on excellent teaching, ensuring parity of esteem with excellent research. The Green Paper sets out our proposed approach to the TEF, including its principles, design and high level operation.
In the July Budget, we announced that high quality higher education providers would be allowed to increase their fees in line with inflation from the 2017/18 academic year. We propose to use recent, successful review by the Quality Assurance Agency (or equivalent review) as the mechanism to deliver this in the first year, and TEF level assessments in subsequent years once the framework is operational.
As a One Nation Government we will continue to ensure that everyone with the potential has the opportunity to benefit from higher education. The consultation sets out how the TEF will recognise higher education institutions that welcome students from disadvantaged backgrounds and support them through to employment or further study.
The Green Paper proposes a new single gateway for entry to the sector and a faster and simpler process for obtaining degree awarding powers and university title. We will also reduce the overall burden of regulation and reform the regulatory landscape so that students are at the heart of the system. Funding for higher education courses now flows predominantly through students. That is why we are consulting on plans for a new Office for Students. The new body would bring together functions on market entry, fair access, quality and teaching excellence; have a duty to promote the student interest when making its decisions; and will be responsible for ensuring value for money for students and taxpayers.
The paper also considers the implications of these reforms for the research funding landscape.
A copy of the Green Paper will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available on GOV.UK. The consultation is open until 15 January 2016.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords