Alex Proudfoot makes the case for the Office for Students to be the ‘validator of last resort’ in the Higher Education and Research Bill, in order to ensure further high quality new entrants to the higher education market.
Last night The Guardian kicked off a major new investigation in to how some private HE colleges are abusing student loans. These revelations, along with those that are planned to follow it over the coming days, are damaging to the whole sector. With the Queens Speech just days away, the Government has one final chance to provide the legal underpinning to allow respectable institutions to thrive, and crack down on those that are exploiting the system.
There is no doubt that, as with most changes, the £9,000 fee system introduced in England in 2012-13 created winners and losers. We know that applications are back up for full-time undergraduates – and we know this includes students from non-traditional backgrounds, which is great. But that is not the whole story. On the day the Public Accounts Committee confirm the rising costs of writing off loans, Libby Hackett looks at the winners and losers in the current system, and calls for a fundamental rethink.
I carry with me at all times a 2009 report for Universities UK prepared by the legal firm Eversheds. Why? On page 7 of ‘Developing future university structures’, you will find a diagram entitled ‘A model for university buyouts’. I suggest you look at that diagram and then read the stories about London Metropolitan University’s intentions to ‘outsource’ all staff besides teaching staff and vice-chancellor. What they are doing is something new; they aim to create a vehicle to run universities across the UK.
The College of Law put out a press release on 17 April to announce the expected conclusion of the sale of their legal education business to the private equity firm Montagu. The sale of a private HE provider with degree awarding powers isn’t unprecedented, but it is unusual enough to have made the news. Unfortunately, the news reports have got some significant aspects of the story wrong because they don’t understand how degree awarding powers are regulated, and the College’s press materials on the issue were unhelpfully worded.
There’s a long tradition of student politics and activism at university. Sometimes it has been in response to wider political concerns such as wars or cuts. But other times it has been specifically targeted at university management in order to force a change in policy. The past twenty years have seen a step-change in the professionalisation of university leadership, with modern governance practices embedded, clearer lines of accountability drawn and more transparent systems of change deployed. At roughly the same time, students’ unions have undergone a similar process of professionalisation. This has resulted in a very different campus culture emerging over the past twenty years – where it was once an adversarial relationship, students’ unions are now seen as partners in ensuring a high-quality student experience.
It was reported in the Sunday papers that A.C. Grayling is setting up a new university in the mould of the American liberal arts colleges – and charging £18,000 per year in fees. He’s attracted some of the UK’s best-known academics – Richard Dawkins, Niall Ferguson et al – the lineup reads like a fantasy university teaching league. Based in London’s brain; Bloomsbury, the venture (a bone fide David Willetts fantasy) is bound to draw significant interest. Grayling has stated that he wants his new university to rival Oxbridge – though there are a number of reasons why he might struggle to provide genuine competition with the ancients.