Higher education White Paper: Success as a Knowledge Economy

Everything you need to know about the HE white paper and the Higher Education and Research Bill

May 16, 2016
The government has published its plans for UKHE

The UK government has published its 2016 HE White Paper, entitled Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice. But what does it mean for universities, colleges and higher education institutions? What does the Higher Education and Research Bill look like?  

The teaching excellence framework (TEF) has made headlines, and the White Paper expands on the plans to introduce this in England. But the proposals, confirmed in the 2016 Queen's speech, are far more wide-reaching, and address: widening participation; opening up the higher education market; and boosting research and innovation.

Visit our dedicated TEF page for more detail on the teaching excellence framework.

- Download the HE White Paper 2016 in full
- Download the Higher Education and Research Bill in full

According to universities and science minister Jo Johnson and his team, the proposals outlined in the White Paper will:

  • Make it easier to set up "high quality" universities in order to give students more choice
  • Drive institutions to improve the quality of teaching and ensure they are producing employable graduates
  • Ensure universities deliver higher education that is value for money


What do the higher education White Paper and HE Bill mean?

HE Bill / Queen's Speech 2016


HE White Paper news

  • Higher education White Paper: key points at a glance
    Your HE White Paper 2016 cheat sheet. Everything you need to know about the Conservative government's higher education proposals. 
  • GPA adopted more widely, but White Paper may dampen interest
    More UK universities are set to start operating the grade point average system, but the higher education White Paper may have dealt a blow to hopes that it could be adopted widely
  • HE White Paper: tuition fees could go down as well as up under TEF
    Vice-chancellors remain concerned about reputation impact of dividing universities into three tiers: meets expectations, excellent, and outstanding. Tuitoin fee caps will be based on institutions’ current performance in the TEF, the paper says, meaning that providers will not be able to “bank” positive performance in previous years. 
  • What the higher education White Paper means for research
    Research councils, Innovate UK and QR funding will be brought under one new body. A “common research fund” is to be set up to promote interdisciplinary research as part of a shake-up to the research system.
  • TEF link to fees stays, but will be phased in
    Link between performance in the teaching excellence framework and tuition fees has been retained in the White Paper, but will be phased in more slowly. The second year of the TEF is now set to be a pilot exercise, with all institutions that volunteer to participate and who meet basic standards being permitted to increase their fees in line with inflation.
  • Quality plans back QAA, appear to criticise Hefce
    Government says it could designate sector quality body in future to protect co-regulation. White Paper praises the QAA, and pledges to retain the “most positive” aspects of the current quality system.
  • Degree powers from 'day one' for new providers
    Alternative providers should also be able to charge £9,000 tuition fees from the day they open, says government. Alternative providers currently have to offer degrees validated by a partner institution for five years before they can apply for their own degree-awarding powers.
  • HE White Paper: Moves to boost private providers 'dangerous'
    Supporters back easing of degree powers and university title as step to 'innovation'.White Paper also proposes that the minimum student numbers requirement for institutions hoping to gain university title – currently 1,000 – be scrapped.
  • The higher education sector responds
    Key figures from the university world respond to the higher education White Paper, Success as a Knowledge Economy
  • Will Google and Facebook really offer degrees in the UK? 
    Experts mull over Jo Johnson’s aim. What sorts of companies or institutions can we really expect to try to offer degrees in England under the government’s plan to bring in new providers to compete with established universities?
  • Elect more academics to university boards, say public HE advocates 
    Academic freedom is under threat from forthcoming plans for higher education, says ‘alternative white paper’


Higher education White Paper: analysis


More HE White Paper-related developments

The government has published a review of data sources for metrics to assess teaching quality and student outcomes. Download it here. 

A technical consultation on the how the Teaching Excellence Framework will operate is now open. Take part here (closes 12 July, 11:45pm).  

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