By Émer O’Toole, Editor in Chief
English universities will be able to increase tuition fees with inflation if they can demonstrate high teaching quality, according to Universities Minister, Jo Johnson.
The Higher Education reforms also propose a new Office for Students, to ensure value for money for students.
Johnson said he wanted to make sure “the time and money students invest in higher education is well spent.”
The government’s consultation paper on higher education’s proposals include improving the standard of teaching, easier-to-open new universities, degrees with point scores as well as grades and targets to recruit more disadvantaged and ethnic minority students.
The plan to allow universities to raise tuition fees with inflation, above the £9000 limit, for those with “high quality” teaching was announced in July in Chancellor George Osbourne’s Budget Sppech.
Johnson said this would be an incentive to improve teaching standards, and referred to these as the “poor cousin” to research.
Each group would be able to raise their fees slightly at different levels within an overall cap of the rate of inflation. Those below the lowest level would risk losing some fee income, while those ranked most highly would be able to charge the most.
Labour’s university spokesman, Gordon Marsden, said this would create a “two-tier system” and “could brand some universities as second class, and damage the life chances of students who go to them.”
National Union of Students president, Megan Dunn, said it was “reassuring to see the government putting access to education at the heart of their proposals”.
However, she added that the NUS is “adamant that the Teaching Excellence Framework should not be linked to an increase in fees.”
An Office for Students, which will merge the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Office for Fair Access, has been proposed as a way of increasing the student consumer voice.
Johnson added: “For the first time, the main higher education regulator will have a duty to promote the student interest when making decisions and will be responsible for ensuring value for money for students and taxpayers.”