Give and take on national student-charter agenda

July 22, 2010

The development of a national student charter took a step forward last week as a group was convened to examine the idea.

Expectations on feedback, learning facilities and student welfare will be set out in an "outline student charter" that could be used by universities "to inform a new basic standard", the government said.

But the document is also likely to set out responsibilities on the part of students, including the amount of private study expected of them.

Universities UK is working with the National Union of Students on the project. The group, which met for the first time last week, will take into account evidence arising from the ongoing review of public information on higher education.

It will examine the possibility of publishing more data about graduate earnings, the costs of study and student-satisfaction levels for different university courses.

Co-chaired by Aaron Porter, president of the NUS, and Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, the group also includes Anna Vignoles, professor of economics of education at the Institute of Education, and Chris Brink, vice-chancellor of Newcastle University.

Many universities now have student charters or contracts, and the group will examine current practice. In the past, the NUS has expressed concern that some are too "one-sided", while Baroness Deech, former head of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, has warned that student contracts can inject "too much legalism and too little trust" into the relationship between students and institutions.

But Mr Porter said the group aimed to come up with a balanced set of principles covering both students' rights and responsibilities.

"We think there is value in institutions having to be more explicit about what students can expect," he said.

David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said he looked forward to receiving the group's report at the end of the year.

"Students have high expectations of what their university should provide, and want to know how to put things right when those expectations aren't quite met," he said.

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