Willetts confirms university title changes (UK)

By Simon Baker

Ministers are to move forward with plans to lower the qualifying threshold for university title from 4,000 to 1,000 students, the government has confirmed.  As reported by Times Higher Education last month, the proposals – first put forward in last year’s higher education White Paper – will be implemented without the need for a change in the law. David Willetts, the universities and science minister, made the announcement today as the government finally published its response to public consultations on the White Paper and its plans for regulatory reform of the sector.

In a Parliamentary statement, he says there were more than 200 responses to the White Paper consultation, and at least 150 to the “technical consultation” on the proposed regulatory changes.  “The response includes an announcement that we will reduce the ‘numbers’ criterion for university title from 4,000 higher education students to 1,000,” he says. “This will widen access to university title for smaller, high quality providers, and is expected principally to benefit many of the long-established colleges represented by GuildHE.”

He confirms in the statement that although the White Paper set out many proposals for changes in the law to create a new regulatory framework, there would be no primary legislation in the near future. “Many responses to the White Paper stressed that we do not yet know the full effect of the new funding arrangements, which will come into effect for academic year 2012-13. Hence, it cannot be clear what form of regulatory framework will be appropriate,” he says.  “We will therefore not at this stage be introducing changes to primary legislation, but will move our reform agenda forward primarily through non-legislative means.”

However, the statement did say the government would move forward with plans for “alternative providers” like private colleges to be subject to student number controls. Private providers are currently able to recruit as many undergraduates as they wish even when they have access to the taxpayer-funded student loans system. “We will consult later this year on the process for applying these changes,” Mr Willetts says in the statement. “We strongly support both existing HE providers and the entry of alternative providers and FE colleges into the HE market, and these measures will create a more level playing field.”

Source: Times Higher Education http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=420245&c=1