Better regulation in higher education
The Government's Better Regulation policy will reduce bureaucracy to an absolute minimum with effective accountability and quality assurance.
Striking the right balance between what is essential in order that HE institutions can demonstrate effectiveness and provide accountability and what is an unnecessary burden on them is not an easy judgement.
We want to reduce regulation and bureaucracy, enabling businesses, public sector and voluntary organisations to get on with their principal activities, reduce their costs and giving greater scope for enterprise, innovation and localised decision-making. This is vital in Higher Education, so that the massive investment from Government and from all other sources - not least the students' own fees contributions - is used for teaching and research, rather than wasted in unnecessary bureaucracy.
The Higher Education Regulation Review Group (HERRG)
A key vehicle for reducing bureaucracy in HE in recent years has been HERRG. HERRG was the independent "gatekeeper" group for HE that was established by the then DfES HE Minister in summer 2004. The members were largely senior managers from HEIs - registrars and directors of finance - and it had an independent chair (Steve Bundred, Chief Executive of the Audit Commission, took over this role in summer 2006, when HERRG was reconstituted; his predecessor and the first chair was Dame Patricia Hodgson, who became Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge). Both HERRG and its chair were appointed for a two year period, but this was extended for another two years in 2006. HERRG made significant progress during its four years and substantial improvements have been seen in the regulation of universities and HE colleges and the Government's Principles of Better Regulation have become embedded within the approach of the sector's key funders and regulators.
This is spelt out in Steve Bundred's final HERRG report, delivered to Ministers in August 2008, together with important recommendations for a new phase of our strategy, to ensure HERRG's successes can be built upon. The main thrust is that it is now time for the HE sector itself to take on a greater role in driving forward better regulation in their sector. Universities need to work together with their regulators, in a spirit of trust and openness. This is already happening: Universities UK, Guild HE and HEFCE are working together to establish a forum which will have universities and regulators working side-by-side.
Read Steve Bundred's report from HERRG (PDF, 254 Kb)
The Government's response to HERRG
Read the Government's full response to Steve Bundred's report (DOC, 49 Kb)
In line with Steve Bundred's recommendation that there should continue to be a senior civil servant within DIUS with a clear responsibility to champion better regulation, we have appointed Andrew Battarbee, Deputy Director for HE Shape and Structure to fulfil this responsibility. To contact Andrew by email: Andrew.Battarbee@bis.gsi.gov.uk