In response to the government’s new Higher Education white paper, Success as a Knowledge Economy, SMF Director Emran Mian commented:
“Higher education is too much like a club where the rules are made for the benefit of universities. These reforms will begin to change that.
“Students will have access to more information when they’re making application choices; and universities will be under more pressure to improve the quality of teaching.
“The White Paper gives more detail on how new providers will be regulated. There have been problems with quality among new providers in the past and Government now recognises that a tougher approach is needed. At the same time though the sector has risked seeming complacent about quality among incumbents. The measures to ensure ‘student protection’ in the White Paper begin to show a new direction. The right approach for the future is a level playing field for new and old. As participation in higher education rises, students should have the opportunity to choose from the widest range of courses; and feel confident that complaints will be taken just as seriously by the regulator wherever they are studying.
“The Government might have gone further in offering variability in fees for the future. Almost every university charges the same amount despite large differences in the quality and intensity of teaching. The proposals in the White Paper will largely leave that status quo in place.
“The test for these reforms will be whether the quality of teaching among universities at the bottom of the league tables improves. Through a combination of new entry and tougher regulation, the pressure on these universities will increase. Now the onus is on them to respond.”