There must be no new divide between an elite group of institutions and the rest, lecturers' union Natfhe has told the Dearing inquiry, writes Harriet Swain.
Financial hardship has fuelled calls from many old universities for a superleague of institutions receiving most research cash while others concentrate on teaching. But in its submission to the inquiry, delivered this week, the union says all academic staff in all universities and colleges must have the opportunity to undertake research and every institution should have access to research funds.
The union says it supports institutions having different missions but only within the context of common standards. These should include accountability, staff and student representation, opportunities for research, recognition of careers in lecturing, support for access and equal opportunities.
The submission also recognises the value of vocational education but says undergraduate courses should not be focused too narrowly on particular occupations.
Modularisation and credit accumulation should provide flexibility and choice but not at the expense of academic coherence or progression within and between courses. Distance learning is not suitable for most students.
It argues that allocation of funding and student numbers should not depend on the outcome of quality assessments because these are not reliable enough.