News story

Reforms to higher education sector announced today

Red-tape barring some smaller specialist institutions from being awarded the title of ‘university’ will be ditched. Previously, institutions…

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

Red-tape barring some smaller specialist institutions from being awarded the title of ‘university’ will be ditched. Previously, institutions needed 4,000 students to become a university, but from today this limit will drop to 1,000 - sweeping away an arbitrary piece of regulation which was preventing excellent institutions using the title. The change will come into effect immediately.

There will also be a review into how existing quality assurance arrangements affect alternative providers, including further education colleges offering higher education.

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

“We rightly have a global reputation for excellent teaching and research in the higher education sector. It’s vital that we preserve this.

“The measures we’ve announced today will do this. They will help ensure every student can be confident of the quality of teaching, wherever they study higher education.

“These reforms will increase competition and flexibility, and deliver on our promise to put students at the heart of the system.”

Commenting on the new proposals Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:

“By cutting away the red tape, we are freeing higher education providers from central Government controls.

“It is right to remove the red tape stopping good quality, smaller Higher Education providers calling themselves a University.”

Also announced today are plans to bring alternative providers and further education colleges that do not receive Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) funding, into the formal student number control system. We will consult later this year on the process for applying these changes.

**Notes to editors:


  1. The Government’s White Paper/Technical consultation response can be found at:
  2. For institutions of 1,000 students wanting to use the title university: * 750 of their students must be studying for a degree * More than 55 per cent of the overall student body should be enrolled on HE programmes * They must have Taught Degree Awarding Powers * They must meet criteria on good governance.
  3. The award of the title ‘university’ is granted by the Privy Council for publicly-funded providers. Other organisations must apply to Companies House to use the sensitive word ‘university’ in their name. Both routes involve meeting the above criteria.
  4. BIS’s online newsroom contains the latest press notices, speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See for more information.

Notes to Editors

Contact Information

Name BIS Press Office Job Title

Division Department for Business, Innovation & Skills Phone




Name Emma Griffiths Job Title

Division Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Phone 020 7215 5982 Fax



Published 11 June 2012