David Willetts Introduction

Our university sector has a proud history and a world-class reputation, attracting students from across the world. Higher education is a successful public-private partnership: Government funding and institutional autonomy. This White Paper builds on that record, while doing more than ever to put students in the driving seat.

We want to see more investment, greater diversity and less centralised control. But, in return, we want the sector to become more accountable to students, as well as to the taxpayer.

Our student finance reforms will deliver savings to help address the large Budget deficit we were left, without cutting the quality of higher education or student numbers and bringing more cash into universities. They balance the financial demands of universities with the interests of current students and future graduates. Students from lower-income households will receive more support than now and, although many graduates will pay back for longer, their monthly outgoings will be less and the graduate repayment system will be more progressive. No first-time undergraduate student will have to pay upfront fees. We are also extending tuition loans to part-time students, increasing maintenance support and introducing a new National Scholarship Programme.

But our reforms are not just financial. We want there to be a renewed focus on high-quality teaching in universities so that it has the same prestige as research. So we will empower prospective students by ensuring much better information on different courses. We will deliver a new focus on student charters, student feedback and graduate outcomes. We will oversee a new regulatory framework with Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) taking on a major new role as a consumer champion. We will tackle the micro-management that has been imposed on the higher education sector in recent years and which has held institutions back from responding to student demand. We must move away from a world in which the number of students allocated to each university is determined in Whitehall. But universities will be under competitive pressure to provide better quality and lower cost. Responding to student demand also means enabling a greater diversity of provision. We expect this to mean more higher education in further education colleges, more variety in modes of learning and wholly new providers delivering innovative forms of higher education. The Coalition will reform the financing of higher education, promote a better student experience and foster social mobility. Our overall goal is a sector that is freed to respond in new ways to the needs of students.

One Response to David Willetts Introduction

  1. The reference to the decline of the sandwich degree and the announcement of a review by Professor Sir Tim Wilson is interesting and timely, but has been overshadowed by the financial reforms in media reporting. I’ll look forward to a wider conversation between the sector, government and employers on new models for placement learning and internships.