Our response to government green paper

Friday 22-01-2016 - 00:00

In November last year the Government launched its plans for the future of higher education in its Green Paper.

A Green Paper is a report of government proposals that is published in order to provoke discussion.

The proposals included a range of measures to focused on the quality of teaching and getting more students from widening participation backgrounds into University.

These proposals came just weeks after another consultation assuring the standards of Higher Education in the UK.

We’re seeing the biggest changes to Higher Education in more than 20 years.

The measures and changes proposed in the Green Paper included;

  • the creation of a Teaching Excellence Framework (or TEF) which would allow Universities that demonstrate excellent teaching to raise tuition fees above £9,000 in line with inflation.

  • merging a number of existing organisations to create the Office for Students.

  • allowing the Secretary of State to raise tuition fee caps without a vote in parliament

  • requiring Universities to comply with Consumer Protection Law and ensure greater protections for students

  • making Universities exempt from the Freedom of Information Act

You can hear more about the proposals here and read a more detailed analysis here.

Universities, Students’ Unions, and other Higher Education organisations have responded to the proposals, and we wanted to provide you with a summary of our response after Student Council mandated Bristol SU Officers to respond - you can read the Student Council motion here.

Here are 10 headlines from our response -

  1. We reject any increase in tuition fees, particularly when the TEF would increase fees on an institutional level (for all students) despite not being able to ensure excellent teaching on all courses, for all students.

  2. We agree with creating an Office for Students, but want to see a commitment to ensuring that the OfS delivers in the interests of students, not employers. We think that it’s important that new organisations retain the expertise that currently exists within the sector.

  3. We reject any attempt to make it easier for government to raise tuition fees by removing the provision for a vote in parliament. Politicians need to be accountable to students.

  4. We welcome the focus on widening participation, teaching quality, the learning environment, student outcomes and learning gain but ask that the government delay the introduction of TEF until there are nuanced metrics in place to properly measure these and their contribution to teaching excellence.

  5. We reject any attempt to make it easier for new, for-profit providers to enter the Higher Education sector. Public funding to ‘alternative providers’ has increased but the doubts over the quality, rigor, and conduct of some of these providers is questionable.

  6. We are strictly opposed to making Higher Education providers exempt from the Freedom of Information Act - this is in contrast to the government’s focus on accountability and transparency.

  7. Students’ Unions, and the students that make up Students’ Unions, are committed to ensuring democratically accountable and transparent organisations, and SUs actively pursue this through a range of activities and functions.

  8. We welcome a greater emphasis on compliance with Consumer Protection Law and ensuring greater protections for students.

  9. We feel that any proposal that makes the failure of Universities a central pillar of ensuring standards in UK Universities should be of concern to Universities, students, and the public.

  10. Students must be actively engaged in deciding what excellent teaching looks like in the context of their course and University. Continuous enhancements to learning and teaching will be generated by ensuring that students are partners in their academic communities

You can read our full response here and feel free to email tom.phipps@bristol.ac.uk with any questions.

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