New plans have been unveiled by Universities Minister Jo Johnson to allow higher tuition fees for universities that offer high quality teaching.
The green paper released on 6 November also outlined the creation of a new Office for Students, which will be a regulatory body ensuring value for money and quality in university education across the country. Mr. Johnson said: “We must do more to ensure that the time and money students invest in higher education is well spent.
“Our ambition is to drive up the quality of teaching in our universities to ensure students and taxpayers get value for money and employers get graduates with the skills they need.”
The paper also recommends giving ministers the power to set tuition fee caps, bypassing the current need for secondary legislation and a vote in parliament. It suggests that universities should be grouped and graded on the quality of their teaching.
The highest performing universities would then be able to charge higher fees, within a tuition fee cap, set by ministers proportionally to inflation.
The Shadow Education Minister Gordon Marsden has raised concerns that the new recommendations are a pretext for raising tuition fees, and stated that the “green paper for higher education will effectively brand some universities as second class, impacting on their students’ life chances.”
The National Union of Students president Megan Dunn has said: “NUS and students’ unions will be going through the consultation in full detail, and we will make sure the student voice is too loud for the government to ignore.
“Change should be driven by the people at the heart of the system – students, teachers and staff. It will not be good enough for the government and institutions to decide what is in students’ interests without asking them.”
The paper is currently under consultation with a deadline of 15 January 2016 for responses and it is expected to go on to a white paper.