The Higher Education & Research Bill

My thanks to those constituents that have contacted me about the higher Educations and Research Bill (or the ‘HE Bill’).

Though we are seeing incredible growth in the university sector, we must ensure that our higher education system is fulfilling its potential for students, employers, and the taxpayers that underwrite it. The new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) will see the sector become more competitive and accessible by recognising those universities which offer the highest teaching quality and providing students with more information to help them choose the course and institution that is right for them.

Though some are concerned that this will ‘water down’ our outstanding education system, rest assured that the high standards already used to judge our universities will be maintained, and no institution will be able to enter the market without meeting them. Institutions that want to obtain a University title or degree awarding powers must undergo a rigorous scrutiny process designed to ensure our higher education sector retains its prestige and world standing.

The TEF will also incentivise high standards by allowing the best universities to raise their fee cap in line with inflation. In real terms, the £9,000 annual fee cap for full-time students set in 2012 is now worth £8,546, meaning that fees are becoming less sustainable every year. Student loan entitlement will automatically adjust to cover this additional sum, ensuring that university funding can be maintained, whilst keeping the quality of teaching at the heart of our universities.

Everyone with the potential to benefit should have the ability to access higher education, regardless of their background and family income, and I will continue to do all I can to ensure that this remains at the core of our Government’s education policy.