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Higher Education and Research Bill to be debated in the Lords

The Higher Education and Research Bill enters committee stage.

The Higher Education and Research Bill enters committee stage in the House of Lords today (9 January 2017).

It begins a process of debate crucial to the passage of any new legislation.

At the Bill’s heart is institutional autonomy and academic freedom. One of the main changes it will bring is to encourage competition and choice - making it simpler and quicker for innovative and specialist providers to set up, award degrees and compete alongside existing institutions.

It will help ensure students and taxpayers receive value for money and mean more people have a chance to study at the highest level, promoting social mobility and boosting our economy. The Bill also aims to further strengthen the UK’s world-class capabilities in research and innovation.

Central to the government’s pledge to create a society that works for everyone, the Higher Education and Research Bill will ensure that our universities are delivering for the students and families who invest so much in the opportunities that higher education provides.

Notable organisations, including education leaders, have been showing their support for the Bill, among them the Quality Assurance Agency, University Alliance and the Competition and Markets Authority.

Douglas Blackstock of the Quality Assurance Agency said:

It will promote competition while retaining rigorous checks on quality and students for new providers via an independent quality body.

Maddalaine Ansell, University Alliance said:

Higher education and research have undergone a huge transformation in recent years and it’s important that we have a regulatory framework that reflects this.

It is right that students should be at the heart of the system and we welcome the focus on teaching excellence and participation as well as access.

The Bill was debated in the House of Commons last year before entering the Lords.

Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Minister Jo Johnson said:

The Higher Education and Research Bill will deliver important reforms to ensure our world-class higher education sector remains one of our greatest national assets and delivers for everyone.

Since its introduction in May, I have been listening carefully to the views of students, universities, academics and parliamentarians and have already made some amendments in response to what I’ve heard.

These include being clear the government will not have the ability to tell institutions to prohibit or require the provision of particular courses and ensuring that the new regulator, the Office for Students, will always have a dedicated board member with experience of representing and promoting the interests of students, and that it will be given new duty related to monitoring the financial sustainability of the sector.

I now look forward to debates in the House of Lords as we take through a Bill which will provide more choice, promote social mobility and boost this country’s productivity.

Read more about the Higher Education and Research Bill