White Paper on the future of higher education

The government's White Paper on the future of higher education has been published (28 June 2011).

Download a copy of the White Paper.

For further information and background documents, go to our new page on the White Paper and higher education reform.

Universities UK's response to the white paper

Universities UK responded to the publication of the government's higher education white paper. The proposals relating to higher education in England were presented to parliament by universities minister David Willetts.

Professor Sir Steve Smith, President of Universities UK, said: "It's important that government has put students at the centre of these proposals. The focus on transparency, consumer protection and accountability are all positive steps.

"The move to a funding system that is flexible and responsive will help ensure greater student choice. However, the government must ensure that the detailed proposals on student number controls do not result in unintended consequences that could be damaging to students and universities' efforts to widen participation. For instance, proposals to create more places for students with at least AAB A-level grades should explicitly allow universities to use contextual data in the admissions process. We must also ensure that by allowing only universities charging average fees of less than £7,500 as part of the 'core and margin' proposals, this does not undermine the quality of the higher education system. This is uncharted territory and will have to be monitored closely.

"The UK has one of the best higher education systems in the world. Our rigorous quality assurance system has been vital to this success. It's encouraging that government is seeking to strengthen this system while lightening the bureaucratic burden on universities. It is crucial that this tough quality assurance system applies in the same way to any new providers of higher education.

"The government's focus on providing transparency and more information for students and their families is extremely important. Universities are committed to providing prospective students with more information about what they can expect from their studies.

"The priority now for everyone involved - government, universities, schools - must be to make sure that people understand the new system and no one is put off from applying due to poor information about the costs and benefits of university."  

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