Future tuition fee rises to be pegged to teaching quality

6 Nov 15

Universities will only be able to increase tuition fees above £9,000 in line with inflation if they meet standards in a new national Teaching Excellence Framework, universities minister Jo Johnson has said today.

Under a series of regulatory reforms to the higher education sector in England set out in a green paper today, Johnson also announced the creation of a new Office for Students to promote the student interest and value for money. This will merge the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Office for Fair Access to bring together existing functions on quality, teaching excellence, market entry and social mobility.

Johnson said the reforms would ensure that the time and money students invest in higher education was well spent.

“Our ambition is to drive up the quality of teaching in our universities to ensure students and taxpayers get value for money and employers get graduates with the skills they need,” he said.

“The new Office for Students would have a clear remit to champion value for money and the student interest in its decision-making. And by opening up the sector to new universities and colleges, students will have more choice than ever when they come to apply to university.”

Under the plans for the Teaching Excellence Framework, universities will be judged on measures including student satisfaction, student retention rates and graduate job prospects to determine the quality of teaching. Those that fail to meet set standards will not be able to increase fees, in a measure intended to incentivise quality teaching.

Responding to the report, Universities UK, which represents the higher education sector, said it welcomed the green paper’s emphasis on protecting the interests of students and demonstrating the value of a university education.

President Dame Julia Goodfellow said: “The recognition of high quality teaching in our universities is a welcome step, but we must ensure that this exercise is not an additional burden for those teaching in our universities and that it provides useful information for students, parents, and employers. “Universities are already improving the amount of information to students about courses to ensure that their experience matches their expectations.”

The National Union of Students said it would be examining the proposals in the 10-week consultation period to ensure the Office for Students was built around the student voice.

However, it said an improved focus on teaching should not be linked to higher tuition fees.

“Change should be driven by the people at the heart of the system – students, teachers and staff. It will not be good enough for the government and institutions to decide what is in students’ interests without asking them,” NUS national president Megan Dunn said

“Teaching should always be a key focus of higher education but NUS is adamant that the Teaching Excellence Framework should not be linked to an increase in fees. Students should not be treated like consumers.”

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