The Best Student Life. Bristol SU

Stand against the HE Bill

Friday 15-07-2016 - 00:00

The Government has announced that the Higher Education (HE) Bill, which will have a transformative impact on students and graduates, is having its second reading on Tuesday 19th July.  Now is a key time for students to act and to ensure there is thorough debate on a Bill that could see our tuition fees go up and our Universities become part of a market.

This blog details the background and implications of the Bill, what Bristol SU has done so far, and the actions that you can take before Tuesday to halt any negative changes.


1. What is the HE Bill and White Paper?

In July 2015, the Minister for Science and Universities, Jo Johnson, announced aspirations for a ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ (TEF).  This Framework would use data like the National Student Survey and graduate employment stats to work out the quality of teaching students received.

The Government  then announced the ability for high performing institutions to raise tuition fees in line with inflation which would happen through the TEF.  This meant that TEF went from grading universities on the quality of their teaching and setting them against each other, to becoming a justification for increased cost and more expensive degrees.

This has since evolved into the Higher Education Bill and White Paper which, alongside the TEF and fee increases, details some of the most significant changes to Universities in over a decade.

What do the Bill and White Paper include?

  • The implementation of a ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ and its connection to fee increases.

  • A new ‘Office for Students’, a body without student representation, that is responsible for promoting competition amongst Universities

  • Regulatory reform allowing private providers to gain easier access to awarding degrees, meaning an overall more marketised and more competitive HE sector (think Trump University)

As well as an emphasis on social mobility and widening participation:

  • A duty on Universities to publish their application and acceptance data

  • A duty on UCAS to publish data about the types of students that receive offers and rejections from Universities


2. What’s our issue with it?

Whilst emphasis on social mobility is welcome in a sector with such elitism, it is important to understand the HE Bill as first and foremost a tool to marketise Universities.  We believe universities will no longer strive to improve the excellence of teaching for the sake of giving students excellent teaching, but for the incentive of higher fees.  We think students will no longer discern a course as better quality because of what it offers, but because of its price tag.  Students will no longer enter University as a learner, but as a consumer constantly at risk of having the cost hiked and debt increased.  

As a Students’ Union that is mandated to campaign for free education, we stand against the reforms in the Higher Education Bill.  

We believe that:

  • Students should not have to pay more to have excellent teaching

  • Students deserve Universities that work on a model of partnership, rather than competition

  • Students should have a seat at the tables that represent them, like the Office for Students


3. What have we done so far?

We have already taken steps to limit the damage of these proposals.  We have:

  • Submitted a response to the national consultation on the Teaching Excellence Framework, which closed on Tuesday 12th July

  • Attended a roundtable on Monday 11th July with Jo Johnson in Westminster, in which I grilled the Minister alongside five other full-time officers from other SUs, cross party MPs and NUS’ Vice President for Higher Education, Sorana Vieru

  • Written a letter on behalf of students to Thangham Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West

  • Begun planning our #WTFistheTEF campaign that we will run in the new term to engage students on the implications of the TEF - let us know if you want to get involved!

  • Organised an ‘Activists Meet Up’ for Welcome Week for students to get involved and sign up for the National Demo on November 12th, co-ordinated with NUS in Canada and South Africa


4. What can you do?

  • Write to your MP with this template to ensure they attend the debate.  You can find their email address here.

  • Use the Tweets below to Tweet your MP to ensure they attend the debate.

         “@ThangamMP stand with Bristol students in saying that quality doesn’t grow on fees at the HE Bill debate on Tuesday. #TEFOff @Bristol_SU”

The Bristol MPs’ handles are:

  • @ThangamMP

  • @KerryMP

  • @karinsmyth

  • @CLeslieMP


  • Get in touch with us with ideas for the campaign or ways in which you’d like to be involved.


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Bristol, university, government, HE, higher education, Bill,

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