Inside Track - 18 May 2016 - Vice-Chancellor’s initial response to the HE White Paper

Sir Alan Langlands responds to the HE White Paper: Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice.


The University welcomes the White Paper’s continuing commitment to institutional autonomy and academic freedom alongside the intention for more coherent and consistent policies and regulation of higher education. Of course, in common with the rest of the sector, we will need to be confident that its good intent is delivered through well-judged legislation, clear policies for implementation and sound decision-making on future resource allocation.

Related to this, the long-term sustainability of the current student loan system remains a cause for concern. It will also be important to ensure that market entry is well regulated - efficient and fair but with no compromise on quality and standards.

Safeguarding the dual support system for research funding through legislation is particularly important. This approach – of providing block grants alongside funding for specific research projects – is world-renowned, delivering stability with dynamism and responsiveness. It underpins the international success and exceptional economic impact of the UK’s research.

It is also welcome that academic leadership will continue to be the main guiding factor in the distribution of research funding and that the Haldane principle – that researchers decide how funding is spent - will remain intact.

We believe that the new over-arching research funding body, the UKRI, has the potential to retain the best of the current individual research councils, while bringing greater strategic oversight and direction. Its focus on both tackling global challenges, through interdisciplinarity and on business collaboration and commercialisation, aligns strongly with the University of Leeds’ own approach.

The objectives of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), with its focus on teaching excellence and positive student outcomes, also resonates strongly with the approach and priorities of the University of Leeds.  We welcome the more measured approach to TEF implementation outlined in the White Paper and, in particular, the proposed model for co-development, and the intention to pilot and reflect on each phase ahead of full implementation. 

The commitment and ambitious targets to widening access and participation are also welcome, but careful consideration will need to be given to how these can be delivered in a context of more vulnerable careers advice and guidance provision in schools, alongside the continuing shift from grants to loans, changes to disabled students allowance, and declining student opportunity funding for universities.

As we have consistently argued, the symbiotic relationship between teaching and research is essential to the continued success of the sector. The intention to legislate to ensure that the new OfS and UKRI work effectively together on matters of mutual interest will be essential to delivering the vision set out in this White Paper.

Download a copy of the White Paper.

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