The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) publishes its Response to the higher education green paper on 7 January 2016. It is a collection of contributions from experts in each of the main areas covered by the green paper.

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said:

‘The higher education green paper has lots of positive features. It is genuinely consultative, it has contributed to the debate over the quality of teaching and learning in universities and it recognises the need to address the regulation of higher education. It would be a tragedy if the chance to introduce a new Higher Education Bill was flunked for the second time.

‘The green paper’s biggest problem, however, is its lack of memory. The proposals are not sufficiently informed by past attempts to improve university teaching nor by past attempts to use metrics more heavily in assessing research and they ignore the proven benefits of routing public funding for English institutions via an arms-length body. The green paper also makes an unconvincing comparison between student unions and trade unions, and ignores the social and welfare benefits that student unions provide.

‘These issues, and more, are covered by the various experts we have brought together to respond to the green paper. They have eschewed the specific questions posed by the Government and instead provide some essential context and propose some alternative policies. Among the recommendations are: using process measures for the Teaching Excellence Framework; recognising the breadth of jobs that will need to be undertaken by HEFCE’s successor and naming it something other than the Office for Students; and taking a more ambitious approach to new providers.’

The collection includes a short ‘Introduction’ by Nick Hillman that refers to some new polling on what students regard as the most helpful indicators of teaching quality. There are six chapters:

  1. Teaching by Graham Gibbs, former Professor at the University of Winchester and Director of the Oxford Learning Institute, University of Oxford, and author of Dimensions of quality and Implications of ‘Dimensions of quality’ in a market environment: ‘Process measures of teaching quality provide better indicators than outcome measures, but are not yet sufficiently developed. Over-hasty implementation of the TEF could undermine its goals.’
  2. Research by Bahram Bekhradnia, President of HEPI and former Director of Policy at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE): ‘Making do is not a good basis for building research policy. Something needs to replace HEFCE if dual support is to continue. The green paper is unable to say what, one of the factors in its inability to do so presumably being that in other parts of the UK the Funding Council pillar of dual support will still exist and will still perform its functions.’
  3. Regulation by Roger King, Visiting Professor at the School of Management at the University of Bath, Co-Chair of the Inquiry on higher education regulation by the Higher Education Commission (2013) and Chair of the Board of Governors of the UK College of Business and Computing (UKCBC): ‘It would be better if the title of the lead regulator were to reflect the welcome and legitimate policy aspirations of the Government, particularly as its direct subscribers will be institutional customers. The Higher Education Council or similar would be a much better reflection as a title of the main purposes of universities and colleges than a name that appears to have been inappropriately borrowed from regulators in sectors very different to that of higher education.’
  4. Consumerisation by Gary Attle, Partner, Head of Education and Governance, Mills & Reeve LLP: ‘Public law and the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court will remain in respect of the decisions and actions of public bodies (including the Government and regulatory bodies). Public law is also likely to continue to apply to the legal relationship between students and certain types of higher education institution and in respect of certain functions. But, with the advent and encouragement of “alternative providers”, the law of contract and consumer law is likely to provide a more level playing field for students at all types of institution.’
  5. New providers by Roxanne Stockwell, Vice President of Higher Education Awards at Pearson UK and Principal of Pearson College London: ‘New providers can potentially contribute to the UK higher education sector and become high-quality institutions in their own right. Our aim should be to lay the foundations for a new provider sector that could one day become world class. Minimum criteria and consequences for poor provision are crucial, but equally important is a supportive on-boarding process that encourages new providers and maximises their chances of success.’
  6. Students’ unions by Emma Sims, Vice President, Liverpool Guild of Students: ‘The impact that students’ unions have spreads much wider than the public, and many in Westminster and Whitehall, think. The student movement is working hard to prove the difference we are making in the world. The value benefits individuals, our communities and the national educational landscape.’