The higher education sector has been a key topic throughout the past week – from the University and College Union (UCU) strikes where members were striking for fair pay within the sector, to the Higher Education paper and the changes to student loans. Many of these will affect students so as a student myself I wanted to write about the higher education paper and tell you what I think we should be doing.
There were a number of issues raised within the report and suggestions were made in order to tackle them. Among these issues was degree awarding powers, competition, course and university closure, teaching, student recruitment, Government bodies and research.
There were a number of proposed solutions put forward, some of which were:
- Continue with standards on quality to ensure value for money for students and taxpayers.
- Student numbers will continue to be lifted that can meet the Government’s high quality standard, including rigorous outcome measures. But will otherwise remain an important tool for protection.
- Introducing greater flexibility to degree awarding powers (DAPs)
- Requiring providers to have a student protection plan in place, in the event that the provider is unable to deliver their course of study.
- Implementing a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).
- Having a duty on institutions to publish application, offer, acceptance and progression rates broken down by gender, ethnicity and disadvantage.
- Putting a duty on the OfS to have regard to promoting choice in the interests of students, employers and taxpayers.
- Creating the Office for Students (OfS), a new market regulator, in place of HEFCE. Competition, choice and the student interest will be at the regulator’s heart.
- Uncoupling the link between higher education teaching and research.
Having read all 83 pages of the document I can understand some of the changes.
Standards at universities across the country need to be kept high. We have league tables that gather data from students and graduates that help future university students decide which universities are best for them and their subject. With tuition fees at an all time high, value for money is important. Is my course worth nearly £9,000? Or would I prefer to pay less? In all honesty I believe I’m getting value for my money. But I could do a whole other post on that.
Student numbers were capped once but were lifted – and I’m glad. If a student wants to go to university they should be free to do so without feeling like it’ll cost too much. Again that’s another post for another time but I think that if a university is performing well enough that it should be allowed to take in more students.
I also think other institutions should be able to have degree awarding powers. Some students don’t feel comfortable studying at university but may still want to study a degree in a college environment. If more colleges could award degrees many more students may take them up.
Getting a diverse mix of students can be difficult. The Government wants institutions to publish application, offer, acceptance and progression rates broken down by gender, ethnicity and disadvantage. Of course this is a great idea. It means universities and students both prospective and current will be able to see how diverse a university is. Are they doing enough to help adult learners? Are they supporting BME communities wanting to come to their institution? Are people from lower-income backgrounds accepting offers? I think questions like these are ones people ask, but not out loud. Publishing this data would give people answers and help students make an informed decision.
And finally, the point I want to talk about is uncoupling the link between higher education teaching and research. Research is an integral part to universities. It means the people teaching are active in their field and know what’s happening within it. I’d rather be taught by someone who is actively researching or has done research in the past. It helps solidify what they are telling me in lectures and seminars. I’d like to keep the link between higher education teaching and research. It bridges a gap and for me gives more value for money.
You can read the full report here.
Have you read the higher education paper? What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below or on my social media accounts.