The long awaited Green Paper Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice starts a consultation process which will formally end on 15 January 2016 but is likely to continue for months and years to come.
Its primary stated aim is to “reshape the higher education landscape to have students at its heart”. (It begs the question as to what the government thinks is the current focus of the Higher Education sector.)
The core aims of the Green Paper are to “raise teaching standards, provide greater focus on graduate employability, widen participation in higher education, and open up the sector to new high-quality entrants.”
The proposals by which the government will achieve those aims include:
- The introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework to “recognise and reward high quality teaching” and “deliver better value for money for students, employers and taxpayers”. This is a key focus for the Green Paper. It will start with an early version next year enabling those universities who have achieved the current quality assurance threshold to raise fees in line with RPI (currently 0.8%) in 2017.
- The creation of the Office for Students (OFS) through the merger of Hefce and Offa which will operate as a single regulator for the sector. It will be funded by Universities but it will have a duty to consider issues “primarily from the point of view of students, not providers” with wide powers over access, teaching, quality, data and regulation.
- The OFS will operate a single entry route into the higher education sector which will create an entry route for new entrants to create “a level playing field for all providers and a faster route to becoming a university”. To help achieve this aim the government has proposed that a wider range of providers should have access to the university title through the removal or reduction of the student numbers requirement. It is also proposed that new entrants have an accelerated route to degree awarding powers and quicker access to student funding.
There is a huge amount of detail in the Green Paper (which runs to 100 pages), which you can read online.
The Green Paper is the start of the debate about the future of our ‘national success story’ and it is important that everyone engaged in the sector needs to ensure that their voices are heard.