News story

Putting students at the heart of higher education

Government releases a Higher Education White Paper - Students at the Heart of the System.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

In future, graduates will pay more towards the cost of their degrees, but - in return - the Government’s proposals will improve their experience as students, expand their choices and make universities more accountable to students than ever before.

The proposals contained in ‘Students at the Heart of the System’ cover four broad areas: reforming funding; delivering a better student experience; enabling universities to increase social mobility; and reducing regulation and removing barriers for new providers.

These reforms will ensure that universities are held accountable for an improved student experience. The HE White Paper published today will:

  • Ensure better information for students before they apply, better teaching while at university, greater transparency in areas such as feedback on their work and better preparation for the job market
  • Ask Professor Sir Tim Wilson to undertake a review into how university-industry collaboration can excel. The review will look at how the decline in sandwich courses can be reversed.
  • Encourage universities to engage actively with employers to accredit or “kitemark” courses to indicate to students that they are valued by them.
  • Make universities more accountable to students on teaching quality, who can trigger quality reviews where there are grounds for concern.
  • Review the extent to which Student Charters are adopted and whether they should be made mandatory in the future.
  • Free up student number controls by making around 85,000 places contestable among universities in 2012/13: through unrestrained recruitment of high-achieving students who typically get AAB grades, and by creating a flexible margin of places to reward quality providers charging an average of £7,500 or less for tuition.
  • Ensure that the Office for Fair Access is properly resourced so that it can go further and faster to drive fair access for students from lower income families and widen participation.
  • Enable a wider range of providers to join the sector to offer more choice for students.
  • Promise less regulation and bureaucracy for universities.

The White Paper comes as part of the wider government agenda to put more power in the hands of the consumer. The Government has launched a major programme for public sector modernisation by cutting waste and bringing choice, encouraging competition and opening the market up to new providers. For higher education, this means that in future funding will follow the choices of the student.

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, said:

“Our university sector has a strong history with some world-class institutions attracting students from across the globe. Higher Education is a successful public-private partnership; combining Government funding with institutional autonomy.

“This white paper builds on that record, while doing more than ever to put students in the driving seat. We want to see more investment, greater diversity, including innovative forms of delivery from further education colleges and others, and less centralised control over student numbers. But, in return, we want to the sector to be more accountable to students, as well as to the taxpayer.”

Universities Minister, David Willetts, said:

“The Government will reform the financing of higher education, promote a better student experience and foster social mobility. Our overall goal is a sector that is freed to respond in new ways to the needs of students.

“Responding to student demand means enabling a greater diversity of provision. This may mean more higher education going on in a wider range of different settings, such as Further Education colleges and other alternative providers offering innovative types of course.

“We must move away from a world in which the number of students allocated to each university is determined in Whitehall. But universities will be under competitive pressure to provide better quality and at lower cost.”

The full press notice

The Higher Education reform website

The Higher Education White Paper - Students at the Heart of the System (PDF, 711 Kb)

Published 28 June 2011