Late last night, Wonkhe was passed pages of what appears to be a forthcoming government White Paper Higher Education: Excellence At The Heart Of The System. The paper, apparently still in draft, would appear to point to a radical overhaul of the higher education sector. We have taken the decision to publish the paper unredacted and in full this morning so that the HE community can openly analyse and debate the proposals.
The document was found last night having been discarded in a popular Westminster pub, moments walk from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Although we have yet to confirm the veracity of its contents, we have little reason to doubt that the paper represents a genuine work-in-progress of a coming HE White Paper. Widely expected to be published this Spring, the White Paper is set to plot a clear path towards an HE Bill expected to be introduced to Parliament later this year.
If the contents of “Draft 4.1” (as this paper is labelled) accurately reflect the latest government thinking on HE policy, then we are likely to see a substantial departure from many of the Green Paper’s proposals as well as the introduction of numerous policies that are likely to prove hugely contentious.
We will attempt to analyse, digest and comment on the contents throughout the day and all through the weekend.
Several chapters from the paper are missing from the version in our possession. However a table of contents points to a lengthy final document that will be wide-ranging in scope. The chapter on regulation – ‘A resilient regulatory structure’ – appears nearly intact and contains a number of sensational policy proposals, including:
- The Green Paper proposal for an Office for Students has been scrapped in favour of a Office of Quality Student Experience (OfQSE).
- OfQSE will incorporate HESA, UCAS, QAA, OIA, OFFA, HEFCE, Jisc as well as the HE responsibilities of the Privy Council, the Home Office and the NHS creating a “one stop shop” for HE regulation, designation and entry to the sector.
- The new organisation will be funded by institutional subscription, have charitable status based on top of what is currently the QAA.
Other notable proposals include:
- A radical shake up to funding of non-STEM courses.
- In response to concerns over burden, the TEF is to be an automated process.
- The link between TEF and fees, as proposed in the Green Paper, will not go ahead.
- A formula-based Quality in Teaching (QT) fund will be introduced and be similar to QR funding.
- A hint that the Open University could be privatised.
More commentary and analysis will follow this morning and throughout the day.