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Conceptions of what is excellent in higher education are starting to change

Professor Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, outlines strategies adopted by NTU that are boosting social mobility and which helped it win the inaugural Guardian University of the Year award, a gong he believes shows how notions of excellence in HE are changing.

A house divided? Growing divisions and inequalities in HE

Mike Boxall, who has thirty years' experience as a consultant and commentator on strategic developments in higher and further education, finds evidence in recent news of growing and worrying divisions within UK higher education.

HE reforms have hampered flexible study and innovative teaching, says paper

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: student-funding@universitiesuk.ac.uk

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