Pass notes for the new universities framework

04 Nov 2009

 For those without the time to read the full 120 pages of Lord Mandelson's new framework for higher education, here are some of the key points and quotations:

Higher Ambitions:  The Future of Universities in a Knowledge Economy

Lord Mandelson’s foreword:

‘we still need to do much more to make access to higher education wider and fairer’.
‘The question we face now is how we continue to widen access and sustain
and improve standards of university excellence in an increasingly pressured
international context and in a more constrained public spending environment.’
‘So we need stronger ladders of opportunity through vocational and
work-based routes into Foundation Degrees, including advanced
apprenticeships and new technician qualifications.’
‘In all likelihood that will mean more research concentration where
institutions are strongest.’
‘We will enable universities to compete for funds to provide courses
in subjects relevant to Britain’s economic future, working in partnership
with business. Institutions unable to meet such strategic needs can expect to see their funding reduced to provide resources for those who can.’
Who pays?
First, business and employers need to contribute more.
Second, universities themselves will have to be more efficient and effective.
Finally, it is necessary to look afresh at the contribution who benefit from
higher education –taxpayers, students, and the private sector.
Executive Summary:
'Access to higher education remains significantly correlated with parental income and wealth. Too many people with the ability to benefit from higher education are still not entering the system.'
Many of top institutions not made enough progress on access. 50% target remains but not always entering straight from school to traditional 3-year degree. Focus will be on more work-based, part-time, distance, and foundation degrees.
Current student numbers:
First degree full-time 1,108,685
First degree part-time 198,155
Other undergraduate full-time 123,320
Other undergraduate part-time 374,810
Postgraduate full-time 248,380
Postgraduate part-time 252,755
1: Early advice and encouragement for pupils to apply to university. Package of measure to support able pupils from deprived background (details in 2010).
2: ‘we hope’ all universities will consider using contextual data in relation to admissions.
3: ‘We are asking Sir Martin Harris, the Director of Fair Access, to consult Vice
Chancellors and advise the Government by Spring 2010 on further action that
could be taken to widen access to highly selective universities for those from
under privileged backgrounds – and to ensure that measures for wider access
are prioritised most effectively and do not suffer in a time of greater fiscal
4: HEFCE to devise funding incentives to promote skills development. This means enhanced support for STEM programmes.
‘There will be a greater element of competition between
universities for funding, with the winners being those universities who
can best respond to these evolving economic challenges.’
5: All universities to describe how they enhance employability.
6: Businesses should be active partners with HE.
7: Greater recognition of potential benefits of research concentration.
‘In future this should mean more research concentration, not less, especially in the high cost scientific disciplines’.
‘…a more sustainable model for the future may involve new
forms of collaboration between universities so that the best researchers
can cooperate rather than compete against each other for scarce funds.’
8: REF will reward those institutions that can demonstrate ‘impact’ of their research.
9: All universities should publish exactly what students can expect in terms of nature and quality of teaching. Should include what past students have gone on to do.
10: Strengthen the external examiner system.
‘Universities may need to withdraw from activities in which they
cannot achieve excellence in order to focus on the areas where they can.
The Government will need to direct funding more strategically if the
resources provided are to achieve public policy goals. In future, new
priorities will be chiefly supported by redistribution of existing funds and
leverage of private investment rather than provision of new money.’
‘In future the burden of financing higher education’s diversity of excellence
will need to be more equitably shared between employers, the taxpayer, and
Following the publication of these proposals we will launch a review
of the fees structure in English universities, as promised at the time
of the establishment of variable fees for full time undergraduate students
in 2004.

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