Commenting on his first Hepi report, Unfinished Business? Higher education legislation, the new Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), Nick Hillman, said:

“The Coalition promised a level playing field for all higher education providers. But that has not happened. Critical features of English higher education are different depending on the type of provider. They include fees and loans, the treatment of international students, VAT, degree-awarding powers and student complaints. In place of a level playing field, we have an unkempt meadow.

“There is still a case to be made for having the same rules for different providers. There is also a case to be made for an equitable, rather than equal, system with risk-based differences. But the case for maintaining the messy status quo is not nearly as strong.

“Political parties need to say whether they will support a new legal framework for higher education. The answer may not affect their short-term electoral fortunes but it will affect the educational fortunes of students, as well as the long-term reputation of our higher education sector.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The funding for different types of higher education providers has converged in recent years and the forthcoming removal of student number controls will apply to higher education institutions of all types.
  2. In Unfinished Business? Higher education legislation, the new Director of Hepi notes the absence of a fresh legal framework to underpin the changes and lists eight specific pinch points where different rules have emerged without a clear rationale. These are:
    1. Tuition fee loans
    2. Tuition fee caps
    3. Research funding
    4. Degree-awarding powers
    5. The working rights of international students
    6. VAT exemptions
    7. External degrees
    8. Student complaints
  3. A full copy of the report is attached.
  4. Nick Hillman became the Director of Hepi in January 2014. He was previously Special Adviser to the Minister for Universities and Science (David Willetts).
  5. The Higher Education Policy Institute was founded in 2002 as a registered charity with a mission to ensure that higher education policy-making is better informed by evidence and research.  It is UK-wide, independent and non-partisan.
  6. For further information please contact n.hillman@hepi.ac.uk.