The business secretary has struck a conciliatory tone over concerns that universities are being rushed into adopting a new assessment of their teaching quality.
Sajid Javid, questioned today by the House of Commons business, innovation and skills select committee, said that his priority for the proposed teaching excellence framework (TEF) was to “get it right”.
Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, put it to Mr Javid that the sector had concerns that meeting the 2017 deadline for the TEF’s introduction could be overambitious, and the wrong implementation could damage university reputations.
Mr Javid said that while he thought a 2017 introduction was “workable”, the concerns were “understandable”.
“We won’t rush it,” he said.
Pressed on the issue by Mr Blomfield, he said he thought 2017 was an “achievable” deadline and added: “I wouldn’t want to say to the sector ‘don’t worry, it’s all flexible’.” However, he said “the priority is to get it right”.
Mr Javid was also grilled by the Labour MP on whether the terms of student loan repayments would be changed further to the current proposal to freeze the threshold at which graduates must start to repay their debt.
He responded by saying that there were “no current plans” to change terms such as interest rates but could not commit to leaving them unaltered during this Parliament.
Later on Twitter, Mr Blomfield said that he was “concerned” that the secretary of state had not ruled out any further changes in student loan repayments.
During the session, Mr Javid also said that the RAB charge – a measure of what proportion of student loans will never be recovered by the government, and currently estimated to be 45 per cent – was sustainable. He added that there was “no reason for me to think that the RAB charge is going higher”.