The Government today launched its technical consultation on a new regulatory framework for the higher education sector as outlined in the higher education White Paper. The consultation includes more information about proposals for change in the criteria for ‘university’ title.

GuildHE CEO, Andy Westwood, said,

“GuildHE welcomes the proposed changes in criteria for achieving university title. Reducing the threshold from 4,000 to 1,000 students on higher education programmes will allow many university colleges and other higher education institutions to become universities. A number of GuildHE members fit into this category and although they already have degree awarding powers and histories stretching back over hundreds of years, they have not been able to call themselves universities. This has long been out of step with other universities in the UK and internationally and unduly confusing to students and employers alike. We wholeheartedly welcome this change.”

Professor Peter Lutzeier, Principal and Chief Executive of Newman University College, Birmingham, said,

“Under existing regulations, university colleges need to recruit more than 4,000 students before they can obtain full university status. However, with Government-imposed caps on student numbers and substantial fines in place for exceeding those quotas, achieving significant growth has become almost impossible for smaller HE institutions such as Newman, despite its graduates enjoying one of the highest graduate employment rates of any UK university and consistently strong demand for its degrees.”

Professor Anne Carlisle, Rector and CEO, University College Falmouth, said,

“University College Falmouth welcomes the proposed changes to the criteria for confirmation of university title. High quality, well respected small and specialist higher education institutions deserve to be recognised as full universities. UCF offers a unique combination of creative arts provision, and is a key contributor to the massive expansion of the creative industries sector. University title will allow us to build a world class multi arts university in Cornwall.”


For more information and comment, please contact:
Helen Bowles
Deputy CEO – GuildHE
Tel: 020 7387 7711

Notes to editors

1. GuildHE is a recognised higher education representative body. Its 32 members are among the most dynamic and fastest-growing institutions in the sector. For a list of GuildHE institutions, please visit: 

2. The consultation, which can be found at proposes to reduce the number of students required before an institution can apply for university title to 1,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) higher education students of which at least 750 are studying for a degree alongside a requirement that more than 50% FTE of an organisation’s overall student body is studying HE.

3. The current criteria for the award of university title in England were established in 2004. Higher education institutions which have been granted the right to award their own degrees to students on taught programmes (undergraduate and masters’ programmes) have to have at least the full-time equivalent (FTE) of 4,000 students on higher education programmes (including at least 3,000 on honours degree programmes and 1,000 on other higher education programmes). The proposed new criteria would allow institutions to apply to the Privy Council for the grant of university title provided that they have at least 1,000 students on higher education programmes (750 students on degree programmes). Existing criteria for the grant of degree awarding powers and university title are at:
4. Examples of GuildHE members who could be eligible for university title under the proposals:

i) Newman University College (2640 FTE students in 2010/11) is a Catholic higher education institution based in Bartley Green, Birmingham and enjoys one of the highest graduate employment rates of any higher education institution in the country. Founded in 1968, Newman was awarded University College status in 2007, giving it the power to confer its own degrees. With a strong reputation for teacher training, the university college also offers a range of undergraduate, postgraduate and foundation degree courses covering a range of subjects, primarily in the fields of humanities and social sciences. Newman University College is named after Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801 – 1890), one of the intellectual greats of the nineteenth century. While proud of its Catholic heritage, the college welcomes staff and students of all religions and backgrounds.

ii) University College Falmouth is a leading specialist college with an international reputation for excellence in art, design, media and performance. In 2004 the Privy Council granted it the power to award taught degrees in its own name, and in 2005 it marked this new, higher status with a new name: University College Falmouth. The expertise offered ranges from the most traditional through to the most contemporary. In its 100-year history it has equipped artists, designers and media professionals with specialist skills that are valued by employers – and are equally valuable for those wanting to be self-employed. Falmouth graduates win prestigious competitions and awards; exhibit in major UK and international galleries; and publish in influential journals and magazines.

iii) Norwich University College of the Arts’ history dates back to 1845 when the Norwich School of Design was established to provide good designers for local industries. Its founders were the artists and followers of the ‘Norwich School of Painters’, the only provincial British group to establish an international reputation for landscape painting. In November 2007 the School was granted the power to award its own degrees up to Masters level and was re-named Norwich University College of the Arts. Today it continues to thrive as an established Higher Education Institution, with a national reputation for excellence and a strong ethos as a creative academic community of 2000.

5. Information on and contact details for other GuildHE member institutions available upon request.