V-cs promise deal on standards, access, etc

September 26, 1997

Consultation on the Dearing inquiry ends in ten days' time. These are some of the latest submissions

The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals says in its submission to the Department for Education and Employment that the Dearing report is "one of the most significant social policy reports in recent years". It endorses the Government's decision to introduce tuition fees for students who can afford it. But it says this must lead to more money for higher education.

In return, the CVCP has vowed to offer a new deal, "a set of clear commitments for the millennium", to fulfil its part of the Dearing compact.

This will mean extending the role of universities in lifelong learning, improving the quality of higher education and the services universities offer, safeguarding standards and providing an effective base for research.

Vice chancellors have promised to encourage lifelong learning through the University for Industry, through expanding sub-degree provision where demand and funding exists, and by using information technology.

They say they will support Government efforts to improve school standards. And they have promised to lobby for more equality in financial support between part-time and full-time students.

In the next two years, the CVCP intends to introduce better monitoring of students' backgrounds to provide institutional benchmarks. It promises that, if given extra resources, universities will give students more time with staff and better access to resources.

The CVCP wants to establish Dearing's planned Institute for Higher Education Learning and Teaching by September next year. It also plans to invite the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association to examine new ways of rewarding high-quality staff.

It supports Dearing's suggestion for an enhanced external examiner system, but wants this to cost no more than the current system.

Vice chancellors say each institution should commit itself to specific codes of practice on quality. They expect the new Quality Assurance Agency to develop a general framework for higher education qualifications, with a credit, accumulation and transfer scheme.

The QAA should help establish threshold standards for degrees in each academic discipline and ensure that, by 1999, institutions have specific quality criteria for franchising arrangements.

Plans for a post-qualifications admissions system, which have been under discussion for months, should now be brought forward.

By the end of next year, the CVCP will have a new code of practice on student support and guidance and will call for a lifelong careers guidance service. It supports Dearing's suggestion of incorporating work experience into study programmes "as far as possible".

Vice chancellors want the dual support system to stay but insist it will only be effective with more money for indirect costs. They say the same about a new Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Delegates to the CVCP's annual conference last week were divided over Dearing's suggestion that low-scoring departments should opt out of the research assessment exercise. The committee decided it would "seek to ensure adequate selective funding for individual research" as an alternative to the RAE.

PRINCIPALS LIKE PRINCIPLES, WORRY OVER DETAILS

Like vice chancellors, the principals of higher education colleges want to treat Sir Ron Dearing's recommendations as a package.

The Standing Conference of Principals supports his report as a compact between institutions, students and government. But it is concerned about some of the details.

It is looking for further consultation on Dearing's suggestion that some departments should opt out of the research assessment exercise in return for a lump sum. It also wants to ensure it has a voice in the new Institute for Higher Education Learning and Teaching.

Scop has already written to higher education minister Baroness Blackstone in support of Dearing's recommendation that institutions should only be able to use the word "university" in their titles if they have degree-awarding powers.

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