University Alliance responds to HEPI’s ‘Guide to Student Number Controls’

University Alliance responds to a guide by HEPI on the removal of student number controls, and the impact this may have on our higher education sector.

On the issue of quality, ​Professor Steve West, Chair of University Alliance, said: 

“The reputation of the UK’s higher education sector lives and dies on its quality, particularly at a time when the sector is facing a highly competitive global market.  Students already have greater choice than ever before on where to gain their higher education qualification, particularly with the opening up of the sector to alternative, private providers. The growth of the HE sector means we need to ensure the way it is regulated is fit for purpose and suitable for a rapidly changing world.

“Our view is that there should be a single regulatory body for all higher education providers in England. This body would, ideally, commission the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to undertake quality assurance across the system. Whatever framework is developed, a balanced approach to quality, acknowledging the importance of both external accountability and self-regulation, is needed. ​Quality assurance and enhancement, as well as effective student choice, may be compromised because there are different data requirements ​for different providers.

“Although the Government expects to provide £900m in student support to alternative, private providers next year (2014-15), there is almost no comparable information about these providers’ satisfaction, retention or employability rates. We should move with all speed towards parity of information from different providers. Students in the great majority of alternative providers do not have access to external complaints moderation. This is not fair and requires legislative attention.  All student​s​ should have access to an independent complaints procedure once their provider’s procedure has been exhausted.”

On minimum academic entry bar, Professor West, Chair of University Alliance, said:

“We believe that the principle of universities receiving funding on the basis of retention will be an increasingly important part of the system as it expands. We believe that funding should be adjusted, or held back altogether, in relation to retention, based on a benchmark approach for different providers.”

​On the issue of funding and drop-out rates, Professor West, Chair of University Alliance, said:

“​W​e all need to recognise that quality costs.  University Alliance urgently calls on the Government to review how we can put the funding system on a sustainable long-term footing and ensure students from non-traditional backgrounds, who require additional support, succeed through increasing Student Opportunity Funding.”

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