The Queen’s Speech 2016: higher education sector responds

Key figures respond to the Queen’s HE announcements

May 18, 2016
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The Queen has announced the Higher Education and Research Bill at the state opening of Parliament.

“To ensure that more people have the opportunity to further their education, legislation will be introduced to make it easier to form new universities and to promote choice and competition in the higher education sector,” the Queen said.


Find out what was said about HE in the Queen’s Speech


Key figures from the HE sector have been responding to the announcement:

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation

“We welcome the stronger focus on teaching quality in a new higher education bill, but remain concerned at the impact that the abolition of grants from this autumn and changes to the repayment terms of fees will have on access. With the new Office for Students, we welcome the independence promised to the director of fair access but are concerned that he is not being given the powers to ensure that access targets are delivered. As a matter of urgency, consideration should also be given as to how to reverse the massive decline in part-time (down 40 per cent) and mature students (down 18 per cent) as these are engines of social mobility.”

Megan Dunn, NUS national president

“The government claims social mobility is a priority but the time has come for it to take meaningful action. Some proposals announced in the Queen’s Speech are promising, but we must now make sure the government delivers on its rhetoric of wanting to help the most disadvantaged in our society. Higher education is facing its biggest overhaul in decades and it’s crucial the government gets this right. The higher education white paper revealed a number of concerning proposals and NUS will be fighting against the further marketisation of the sector.

“We strongly oppose any further rise to already exorbitant tuition fees, particularly if they are linked to a teaching excellence framework, and we believe new providers must meet strict requirements so students aren’t ripped off.”

Ryan Shorthouse, director of thinktank Bright Blue 

“Despite successive rises in tuition fees over the past decade, the available evidence suggests that, on average, teaching quality has not got better in universities – for example, class sizes and contact time have not improved. So the government is right to incentivise institutions to improve their teaching. However, higher fees means students and potentially government – through its subsidy of student loans – paying out more, again. Universities should take on more risk for the fees they charge. If they charge above £9,000 and have lots of graduates with earnings profiles that mean they are unlikely to pay off their loan in full, universities should pay a levy to contribute to the subsidy of student loans.”

Petra Wilton, director of strategy and external affairs, Chartered Management Institute

“Embedding professional qualifications in university courses and enriching the curriculum through closer dialogue with business will shape a new generation of work-ready graduates. Driving up excellence in education will help develop highly educated, business-ready graduates. “Worryingly, our research shows that employers have a low awareness of how courses have moved on, with two-fifths lacking confidence that business schools understand their needs. We’re keen to act as interpreters to bridge this gap, and look forward to building on our current work with HE partners to help them meet TEF requirements and deliver courses that through real-world experience better prepare students for working life.” The CMI partners with UK higher education institutions to equip students with the skills they need to meet the needs of employers. 

More to follow

Read more on the higher education White Paper

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Reader's comments (2)

In response to Petra Wilson, most undergraduates are working many hours each week in the service sector to contain their debts. In those situations, they come into contact with the 'real world' of customer service, teamworking (different attributes, as Belbin), punctuality, commitment, application, taking responsibility and initiative, giving recognition to colleagues, exercising their numeracy skills in dealing with cash, and so on. The most important position which business can take is to help them to elicit and recognize these skills in the workplace rather than just using them as cheap labour.
I absolutely agree with davep's comment. I would like to add that those that complaint the most about graduates not experiencing the 'real world' come from completely different generation that was entering hugely different job market. I would like to see their amazing 'real world' skills when they were entering their 20s.

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