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The new regulatory framework for universities will have “an unflinching focus” on students but not reduce English higher education to a “crude transaction between buyer and seller” said Sir Michael Barber as the government published a 181-page consultation report on its proposals.
Tuition fees should be capped at as low as £5,000 and the interest rate on student loans lowered to match inflation levels, according to a report published by the free-market think tank the Centre for Policy Studies.
The Higher Education Statistics Agency has published the specification of student data to be returned by higher education providers from the 2019/20 academic year. The release represents the biggest change to the way student data is collected since the Cheltenham agency’s first data collection in 1994.
The Government’s higher education reforms may have led to a decline in more flexible forms of study and hampered innovation in teaching, according to responses to a Universities UK inquiry.
A paper that updates the findings and conclusions of evidence gathered by a Student Funding Panel chaired by UUK President Professor Sir Christopher Snowden says the increasing dominance of full-time three year degrees spells inflexibility for students.
At the same time, respondents have suggested that the reforms have given universities little incentive to try out innovative teaching methods – such as using new technology and experimenting with ways in which teachers interact with students.
Higher fees have led to a greater awareness among institutions of factors that demonstrate value for money, such as graduate employment and better teaching and learning facilities and student accommodation, the paper says.
But many respondents felt that while the new fees and loans system is progressive, the total amounts to be repaid by students is “very significant”, and some suggested the loans repayment period is too long.
The Panel, which launched its inquiry in August last year and is still taking evidence for a full report in the Spring ahead of the general election in May, is urging policy makers and stakeholders to consider whether the level of tuition fees and repayment periods could be cut down to improve students’ sense of value for money while meeting the Government’s needs for financial stability.
Professor Snowden said: “There has been a lot of commentary recently about the long-term financial sustainability of the current funding and fees system in England.
“We need more evidence on how the system can best deliver value for money for students, encourage greater participation of part-time and mature students and provide a stable funding environment for all universities.”
Further views and evidence can be submitted to the Panel by emailing: email@example.com
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