As the Higher Education and Research Bill reaches the House of Lords, GuildHE is continuing its lobbying. Our briefing for Lords can be found here.
GuildHE welcomes the Higher Education and Research Bill. New primary legislation has been essential since the fee changes of 2012. Regulation has not kept up with the changes to funding, increased competition and the growth in alternative providers. The Bill allows financial, reputational and student protection risks to be addressed. And it allows all providers of higher education – old or new – to be regulated fairly, consistently and on the basis of risk.
We welcome government amendments in the Commons that addressed some of the concerns raised by GuildHE and others in the higher education sector, including:
- Requiring a dedicated Board member of the Office for Students (OfS) with experience of representing or promoting the interests of students.
- Requiring providers to publish student protection plans and bring them to students’ attention;
- Giving the OfS a new duty related to monitoring the financial sustainability of the sector; and
- Including postgraduate training explicitly in the list of UKRI’s functions.
But we do still have concerns about aspects of the Bill, in particular:
- Government amendments restricting the ability of the Secretary of State to frame guidance etc., in relation to particular courses of study don’t go far enough and still leave Ministers able to tell the OfS what courses they should and should not fund;
- The Bill’s treatment of quality and standards risks unintentionally damaging the principle of institutional autonomy;
- We think the Bill could do more to protect the existing diversity of the higher education sector and so enhance student choice;
- The potential risks to the student interest and the international reputation of UK higher education of speeding up the entry of new providers to the higher education market;
- The implications of separating teaching and research.