Reforming higher education

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

Vince Cable addresses the HEFCE conference on the need for universities to provide students with value for money.

Business Secretary Vince Cable today spoke to the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) Annual Conference.

He discussed some of the challenges ahead of the incoming funding system and of making higher education more responsive to students.

He began by looking at what the Government had achieved already: finance reform that guarantees a good level of funding, maintaining the ring-fenced science and research budget at £4.6 billion per annum over the next four years, and achieving a sensible outcome on international students.

Managing change

But addressing recent reports that universities were charging maximum fees of £9000, Dr. Cable said “our view on the levels at which universities can deliver high-quality teaching doesn’t tally with some apparent bunching of proposed charges at the higher end of the scale.”

Urging them to think carefully about what a student would be prepared to pay and the signals being sent to potential students and their families, he reiterated one of the main purposes in reforming the HE system was ensuring applicants had all the necessary information to make the best choice for their education. This includes providing the best value for money.

“We want a system that’s more responsive to demand. In circumstances where places are unfilled, we might then withdraw those places, and institutions should not assume they will easily get them back.”

The future

Concluding, the Business Secretary summed up where he wanted the sector to be by the end of this Parliament;

“I want to see a sector whose global reputation is enhanced beyond current high levels; whose contribution to economic growth is commensurate with its potential to stimulate growth;

“A competitive sector - with a healthy presence among FE colleges and private providers - where institutional autonomy means more than it does now, because there are fewer price or number controls;

“And a sector in which student choice extends beyond subject and location to mode and length of study.”

Read the speech in full


Student finance

Higher education at BIS