Response to Higher Education Green Paper

15 January 2016

The Government’s 2015 Green Paper on higher education (Fulfilling our potential: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice) set out proposals to: 

  • introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to improve teaching quality in higher education; 
  • increase access and success for disadvantaged and under-represented groups; 
  • simplify the system for entry of new providers; 
  • establish a new Office for Students, replacing the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Office for Fair Access; and 
  • make changes to the research architecture informed by the recommendations of the Nurse review.

The Society welcomes this consultation process as the beginning of an ongoing public debate that should be accompanied by discussions with stakeholders and a process of evidence testing and measured policy development.

The Society’s response welcomes the Green Paper’s ambitions. Achieving them will be vital to filling the UK’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills supply gaps, and to ensuring that UK higher education builds on and supports the UK’s world-class research record. 

However, the response highlights challenges raised by the mechanisms that have been proposed to achieve those ambitions. In particular the Society’s response highlights the importance of providing discipline-specific information on teaching quality, and building on the work higher education institutions have already done to improve teaching and widen access. The response also argues that maintaining and strengthening the link between teaching and research will be vital to achieving the Government’s ambitions.

In addition the Society welcomes the recommendations of the Nurse Review, in particular, greater strategic coordination of research and innovation funding streams, the maintenance of the dual support system and the autonomy of Innovate UK. Similarly, autonomy of the funding councils’ leadership and their budgets must be maintained and protected.