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Student pressure changes face of HE Bill

Wednesday 26-04-2017 - 19:19

Over the past eighteen months NUS and students’ unions have fought for changes to the Government’s controversial Higher Education and Research Bill. Today we have been heard as the Government concedes to pressure on core elements of the Bill.

NUS and students’ unions have worked with members of Parliament and the House of Lords to push for a raft of amendments to be included. The Bill is still far from what students want or need but, together, NUS and students’ unions have campaigned successfully to make a bad Bill better.

Together we had already won concessions to:

  • Ensure there will be a student representative on the board of the Office for Students
  • Require universities to publish data on attainment gaps according to ethnicity, gender or background, within their institutions
  • Improve protections for students from risks within the HE system such as course closures
  • Expand ‘access agreements’ in universities to cover participation and retention, as “Access and Participation Plans”

Students have been explicit and united in their call for the government to respond to their additional demands. Our actions have included boycotting the National Student Survey, which would make their data a key component in the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework and subsequent fee rises.

Today we have seen further concessions on these demands, including:

  • A delay in the controversial link between the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and tuition fee levels until 2020/21.
  • A requirement for universities to facilitate student voter registration.
  • A requirement for brand new universities to maintain high levels of quality once they are given the power to award degrees to students, protecting students from shoddy quality.
  • An independent evaluation of the TEF, including of the relevance of its metrics. These metrics include the National Student Survey, which has been successfully boycotted by students’ unions across the country because of its link to the TEF.

Sorana Vieru, NUS Vice President (Higher Education) said:

“Without the hard work of students and students' unions over the past eighteen months, this Bill would have been even more harmful for the future of higher education in this country.

"NUS' hard won amendments including securing a student representative on the board of the Office for Students, heightened scrutiny to new providers and a legal requirement for institutions to publish attainment gaps go some way towards putting students' interests in the Bill, but still this is not the Bill students want or deserve.

"The Teaching Excellence Framework does little to deliver excellence in quality teaching and learning; simply acting as a vehicle to drive forward a competitive system and opening the door to further marketisation. It's only a slight relief that the implementation of the TEF has been pushed back until 2020/21, but we will not let up our efforts on campaigning for a higher education system run for the public good.

"Just yesterday at NUS Conference delegates have voted to come up with a “manifesto for teaching excellence” - created by students and that works for students. We look forward to campaigning for our vision of teaching excellence and getting the support of the sector to push for a system that actually serves our academic communities.”

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