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NUS responds to the higher education white paper

Monday 16 May 2016

NUS is today responding to the government’s higher education white paper, Success as a Knowledge Economy.

The paper was published today (May 16) and the proposals include the establishment of the Office for Students as a sector regulator and a technical consultation on the introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework, which would enable institutions to raise fees according to assessments of their teaching standards.

The paper also proposes to make it easier for alternative providers to enter the sector with degree-awarding powers and introduces a number of ‘transparency duties’ on universities to boost access and participation.

Sorana Vieru, NUS vice president (higher education), said:

On the government’s focus on access:

“It is positive to see the calls from NUS and students’ unions for the need for progress on access and widening participation have been recognised, but clearly the government’s actions will need to match its rhetoric.

“We have consistently seen dramatic cuts to support for the most disadvantaged students, with the abolition of maintenance grants in universities only this year – and so the government certainly has a lot to do to prove it takes this work seriously.”

On the proposal to link a possible rise in fees with the teaching excellence framework:

“Students will understandably be outraged at any suggestion universities could be allowed to put fees up even higher in order to improve teaching quality. It was only four years ago tuition fees were trebled and students now face debts up to £53,000 when they graduate.

“Universities, students and staff have all been very clear the proposed teaching excellence framework should not be linked to any rise in fees and the influential BIS Select Committee urged the government to do some serious rethinking before taking this forward. The government should urgently reflect on this and drop this muddled proposal.”

On the plans to make it easier for new institutions to be given degree-awarding powers:

“The government has serious questions to answer before it can make it easier for new providers to enter the sector. We need to know what protections they will be required to give to students, to ensure they are not left in the lurch and ripped off by institutions that may be focused on shareholders rather than students’ interests.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  1. For more information please contact the NUS Press Office on 07866 695010 or pressoffice@nus.org.uk