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July 2008/27
Policy development

Responses should be made online by Friday 17 October

A new 'University Challenge': consultation on proposals for new higher education centres

This consultation invites a debate on the approach we are taking to support the development of new higher education centres in the light of the Government's policy framework set out in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills publication 'A new "University Challenge"'.

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions
Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges
Heads of indirectly funded further education colleges with higher education provision
Of interest to those responsible for: Senior management, policy development, finance, planning
Reference: 2008/27
Publication date: July 2008
Enquiries to: Ruth Tucker
tel 0117 931 7367
Expressions of interest HEFCE regional consultants or regional advisers

Table of contents and executive summary (read online)

Consultation events


  • Executive summary
  • Background
  • What HEFCE has been asked to do
  • HEFCE priorities
  • The priorities of other funding bodies
  • Criteria for establishing successful HE centres
  • Assembling evidence for new HE centres
  • Making a case for new HE centres
  • Timetable
  • Annex A - Some examples of existing HE centres
  • Annex B - Higher education centres: capital and revenue funding
  • Annex C - List of abbreviations
  • Annex D - Consultation questions

Executive summary


1.   This consultation invites comment on the approach we are taking to support the development of new higher education (HE) centres in the light of the Government's policy framework set out in 'A new "University Challenge"'1.

Key points

2.   The publication 'A new "University Challenge"' sets out the Government's plans to open up opportunities for towns and cities to bid for new university campuses and higher education centres. It underlines the importance of universities and HE provision to national economic and social success.

3.   The Government's objectives for new HE centres are that they should:

  • unlock the potential of towns and people
  • drive economic regeneration
  • demonstrate an ability to deliver.

4.   The Government has asked HEFCE 'to lead a debate with a wide range of organisations to develop a transparent mechanism for communities to put together a bid for funds for a higher education centre or university campus'.

5.   The new HE centres are intended to support wider benefits to communities and business. Crucial to their development and success will be the combined investment in them made by the range of bodies with a role in regional and local developments. These include the Regional Development Agencies, local authorities, the business community, education partners and community groups.

6.   For its part, HEFCE expects the new HE centres to offer a high-quality HE experience to all learners and contribute to the Council's strategic aims. Specifically it will look at the extent to which proposals for centres address the creation of a highly skilled workforce with relevant skills for the local business community, increase higher-level skills particularly for those with no previous experience of HE and support appropriate progression arrangements. Also, proposals will need to be supported by evidence of new, sustainable demand for studying.

7.   Subject to receiving high-quality bids, HEFCE is asked to take decisions to support 20 new HE centres by 2014.

8.   This consultation focuses on HEFCE's approach to assessing proposals for the new HE centres, the priorities of other funding bodies, a common evidence base, and the criteria and process for making a case for a centre.

9.   HEFCE's funding contribution to support capital and infrastructure costs for the new centres will be allocated from the Strategic Development Fund (SDF). The total amount of money in this fund to support this and other initiatives, for the period up to 2010 11 is 150 million.

10.   HEFCE's funding will be provided through the lead institution. Where there is a substantial capital investment in an HE centre, HEFCE will channel the funds through a higher education institution (HEI) to satisfy the formal accountability requirements. During the period of this initiative, some further education colleges (FECs) may gain foundation degree awarding powers and may wish to lead a proposal for a more focused HE centre, in partnership with an HEI and other local partners. We will consider such proposals.

Action required

11.   Responses to this consultation should be made by Friday 17 October, using the online response form. Lead institutions that wish to lodge an expression of interest in making a proposal for an HE centre during the consultation period should contact their HEFCE regional team.


The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills publication 'A new "University Challenge": unlocking Britain's talent' can be read on the DIUS web-site.