Since the rise of the tuition fees there has been an increased amount of noise regarding universities and what they provide for students, and it’s not something being ignored by politicians. In fact the Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson
recently gave a speech where he outlined his hopes and plans for universities that he’s put in a green paper (a paper that outlines proposals and then gets discussed in parliament).
Here are the highlights...
Things Have Got Better
Good news if you’re heading off to university, you’re already in a better position than previous graduates. Universities are being clearer about what they offer students, there’s more financial help and more university choices to pick from. Woo hoo.
Better Value for Money
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With high fees but over 20% of graduates not finding a relevant job within 3 years of leaving university, Mr Johnson is keen for universities to up their teaching quality and provide better help generally.
You Should Know What Your Money is Being Spent On
Do you know what your money is being spent on? You may soon find out as the MP wants universities to be clearer about what your tuition fees are actually being spent on.
This includes what you’ll get for your money and what you’ll learn along the way, so you can make the right choice and invest in the best uni for you.
More Choice For You
In order for you to make the right decision about your education, you need choice, lots of it in fact.
So Mr Johnson is proposing to make things easier for places that want to become universities. Not only does he hope that you’ll have more diverse options to choose from, but he also hopes it’ll encourage competition and therefore give you a rise in the quality of teaching.
He also wants small but high quality schools who want to offer degree courses to have a new and quicker route to achieve this status and grow their student numbers.
More Opportunities For a Range of Backgrounds
This is a huge proposal, and one that both the Prime Minister and UCAS have already got behind so it’s the part most likely to happen, so pay attention to this bit...
Mr Johnson wants to increase the amount of people who are able to go to university and in particular, students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Prime Minister seems to agree with this, as he plans to double the entry rate for students with disadvantaged backgrounds by 2020.
Mr Johnson said, "To make our work on widening participation effective, we need the best possible data", which is why he asked UCAS for help.
And it seems that UCAS are willing to, as they are going to publish admissions data. They’ll break it down by ethnic group and institution to find out how the current admissions process stands and which universities are being the most selective.
Will Any Of This Happen?
It depends on a number of factors, including whether other ministers agree with these proposals and the amount of monies the government has to play with after the next spending review is announced November.
However, the fact that UCAS are so keen to help out and analyse student figures is definitely a step in the right direction.
So, What Do Lecturers Think About It?
Despite praising good teachers in his speech, Mr Johnson called for even better value teaching, and it’s safe to say it’s ruffled a few feathers in the teaching world.
The University and College Union (UCU) general secretary, Sally Hunt, said:
"Everybody agrees that teaching, alongside high quality research, should be at the heart of higher education. Our high standards are one of the reasons so many overseas students continue to choose to study here.
"If the minister wishes to facilitate further improvement he needs to avoid creating a false battle between research and teaching and eliminate the problems of
widespread job insecurity, and the low pay and status of academic staff, despite our excellent global reputation.
"The reality is that over two-fifths of university teaching staff are on temporary or zero-hours contracts. Academic pay has fallen by more than 15% since 2009 and promotions, particularly at a senior level, focus on research."
We’ll find out the future of universities for sure later on in the autumn when the proposal hits parliament’s ears. We’ll keep you updated of course!