Edition 121 - May 2011

UK: New roles for private higher education providers?

As the landscape of the UK public higher education sector continues to undergo marked changes in regards to funding, the latest report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) titled Private Providers in UK Higher Education: Some Policy Options brings attention to the role private higher education could play in the future. The study asserts that private institutions – both for-profit and non-profit – will undoubtedly play a significant role in meeting the country’s demand for more university slots as the government reduces its higher education expenditures. Regarding policy measures, the HEPI report proposes the creation of a Private Higher Education Act to coalesce the regulatory framework for all privately funded institutions. In addition, the report questions the ambiguous and conflicting regulatory framework currently in place for UK private higher education providers, asserting that equity regarding quality issues, such as accreditation, must be established to further prepare the private institutions for their expanding role within the overall higher education sector.

In the meantime, the Government is taking noticeable – and perhaps controversial – steps to address the public’s growing demand for modification of the newly reformed higher education funding scheme. Earlier in the month, David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, issued comments regarding the means to alleviate the impending public university funding quagmire. Specifically, Willetts proposed public universities be allowed to charge up to the maximum tuition (UK universities charged international students up to EUR 19 000 in 2010/11) to those students able to pay these rates. Under this plan, such students would be ineligible for publicly-funded loans, which would allow more public money to be distributed among the majority of students who could not afford such high fees. Later, Willetts issued a statement to explain his comments regarding off-quota university places and noted, “We will only consider allowing off-quota places where it contributes to the coalition commitment to improve social mobility and increase fair access”.

In addition, the coalition abandoned its standing austerity rule to ban the use of public money to finance government marketing campaigns by unveiling a website titled University: Make Your Future Happen, which is designed to clarify the forthcoming tuition structure, which comes into effect in autumn 2012.

Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI)

Department of Business, Innovation and Skills – David Willets comment

University: Make Your Future Happen

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