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June 2009/21 (web only)
Core funding/operations

This report is for information

HEFCE strategic plan 2006-11
Updated June 2009

This plan sets out our strategy for the development of higher education in England to 2011. It has now been updated for 2009-10.

Foreword and introduction (read online)


[ Adobe PDF 951K | MS Word 1Mb ]


  • Foreword by Tim Melville-Ross, CBE, Chair
  • Introduction by Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive
  • Our strategic vision and role
    • Mission statement
  • Developing and monitoring the plan
  • Strategic aims:
    • Enhancing excellence in learning and teaching
    • Widening participation and fair access
    • Employer engagement and skills
    • Enhancing excellence in research
    • Enhancing the contribution of HE to the economy and society
    • Sustaining a high quality HE sector
    • Enabling excellence
  • Key strategic risks
  • Key performance targets and measures
  • References
  • Partners and related organisations

Foreword by Tim Melville-Ross, CBE

This is the latest update of our 2006-11 strategic plan. Much has changed since the plan's first edition: many of the goals we set ourselves have been achieved, priorities have evolved and the challenges we face have continued to increase in complexity. Nevertheless, the core of the strategy remains to a large extent what it was in 2006.

On the face of it, this might seem surprising. To say that conditions have changed since 2006 is a statement of the obvious and – as the evolution of this document shows – HEFCE has changed to reflect this. But I am also struck by the extent to which the core themes of the strategic plan remain central to what we do and seem likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. It would be very hard to argue that HEFCE should not be seeking to use its funding and influence to deliver high-quality learning and teaching; or to ensure that everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education can do so; or to support the sector to continue to make an outstanding contribution in research; or to ensure that higher education enhances our economy and society. We certainly face new challenges in meeting these aims – but the aims themselves remain relevant.

This year, we have a fifth core strategic aim – employer engagement and skills. This is not a new strand of work, as we and the sector have been doing much in this area for many years. However, we wish to emphasise further the importance of building strong relationships between higher education institutions and employers. This is, of course, all the more important in a time of economic recession, where employers are looking for the skills and knowledge that will see them through difficult times and provide them with new innovations for the future. We have already supported higher education institutions to respond to the economic difficulties in the allocation of our Economic Challenge Investment Fund, through which institutions will offer practical help to 50,000 people and 11,700 businesses. We are also investing significantly in developing higher education provision that is responsive to the needs of employers.

I believe that a healthy higher education sector is at the heart of the success our nation hopes to enjoy, both economically and socially, over the next 20 years. Even during economic downturn, higher education stands out as having the capacity to help us tackle the great global challenges, including those of climate change and social change as well as economic change. I believe that the case for supporting an autonomous higher education sector to the greatest degree possible through these difficult times is conclusive. We are committed to playing our part in providing this support.

Introduction by Sir Alan Langlands
Chief Executive

Universities and colleges are shaped by, and themselves shape, our economy and society. Through world-class teaching, research, and increasingly close interaction with businesses and communities, they are helping to create the conditions which will lead the country out of recession and to full recovery. Higher education is an engine of economic, social and cultural development, in local communities and across the country as a whole.

Every year 290,000 people leave university with undergraduate degree qualifications. Their knowledge, skills and qualities are vital building blocks of a high value-added economy. As well as specialist knowledge, graduates bring with them distinctive skills in critical thinking, the ability to manage complex information, communication and team working. But beyond this, graduates have the ability to change the jobs that they do and to solve the problems that organisations did not even know existed. Businesses employing graduates are more likely to innovate than those which do not: that is why employers pay more to graduates than to non-graduates.

Of course, not every student has the experience they hoped for at university or college. But most of them do. We know this because we ask students about their experience through the National Student Survey. In 2008, 81 per cent told us they were satisfied.

Whatever measure is used, the higher education system in England can demonstrate success. It is, after the USA, the world's most favoured destination for international students: their choice to study here has made higher education a major export industry. The UK’s research is also rated second in the world, after the USA, in terms of citations and over half the submissions to the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise were judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent. A recent evaluation estimates that close to £600 million invested in higher education, primarily through the Higher Education Innovation Fund, has generated a minimum of £2.9 billion in value (with the total value generated likely to be much higher).

HEFCE will continue to be an advocate for all that is good in higher education. We will ensure that we discharge our statutory functions effectively – administering funds, providing the Secretary of State with information and advice about teaching and research, and ensuring the proper assessment of quality in universities and colleges that we fund.

We respect the autonomy of universities and colleges. It is key to the success and resilience of higher education, but of course it comes with clear responsibilities and accountabilities. One of the clear roles for HEFCE is to work with the sector to ensure high standards of financial stewardship and the integrity of the degree programmes provided by universities and colleges.

Higher education has a very good story to tell. However, we know that in the current climate public funding cannot be taken for granted. It will depend on being able to show that the public money invested in higher education is used to maximum effect and that we are constantly striving for high standards through these difficult times.