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Good morning. The government is today publishing its HE White Paper. Just in time, peace breaks out in the quality wars. And NUS disaffiliation campaigns gather pace. 

It's a nice day for a White Paper

Later this morning, the government will publish its HE White Paper: Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility & Student Choice. At time of writing, it is still being laid before Parliament. But there’s already much we know about its content. We’ll be analysing the document in full when it's published - follow our White Paper live blog here which we'll be updating all through the day. 

From what we can tell, the White Paper does not radically depart from the Green Paper - the thrust of the proposals remain largely unchanged. But today’s document offers much more detail and a solid plan to roll out the proposed changes. We'll have to wait for the final document to confirm any measures, but this is what we understand so far:


The Teaching Excellence Framework is going ahead as widely expected. The controversial link between TEF awards and fees has been nuanced a little bit: the fees increase will only apply to early levels of TEF award. The higher awards will only deliver reputational uplift. The link to variable caps is also being gradually phased in: it will be introduced in year 3 of the scheme and be based on RPI rather than CPI which looks like a shrewd compromise as it all but guarantees that universities will enter the TEF as the prospect of financial reward is real. Year 2 of the TEF will be run as a voluntary pilot and will allow those successful in it to raise their fees along with inflation. A technical consultation on TEF2 is also being published today.


The biggest news for quality is that the Secretary of State will designate a quality body (certain to be QAA). OfS will hold the quality contracts, but this ensures that there can be no more quality wars in the future and also gives QAA a clearer operating framework and more accountability to government. OfS will also have the statutory responsibility for standards and a new quality regime will come into being for 2018.

Student Mobility

Fitting a missing piece into the market reforms puzzle, the White Paper will call for evidence on whether students should more easily be able to switch provider or programme after starting a course of study. This presents a subtle but significant change to the nature of UK degree awards as this could signal an abandonment of elements of the existing Framework for Higher Education Qualifications reviving ideas for degree awards for credit accumulated across a number of providers. It’s a concept that’s been mooted several times before and always resisted by the sector.


HEFCE is closing to be replaced by an Office for Students which starts work on 1st April 2018. It will only be partly funded by subscriptions from the sector (the Green Paper proposed it would be fully funded that way). The Office for Fair Access will be subsumed into OfS. HEFCE and OFFA staff will transfer across to OfS which will also have a fresh board. It is believed that HEFCE’s Chair Tim Melville-Ross and CEO Madeleine Atkins will both stay on to oversee the transition.

New universities

As expected, market entry is to be streamlined with provision to create several new universities. Language has clearly developed as everything we’ve seen so far emphasises that the expansion of private providers must be “high-quality” - but as ever, the devil will be in the detail. New providers will be allowed to offer their own degrees from the day they open and they can charge up to the full £9,000 (they are currently capped at £6,000).


A new body - UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will replace Research Councils UK and following the Nurse recommendations, will merge the research councils and Innovate UK into this “single, strategic research funding body”, although the research councils will keep some of their own identity. A brand new body called Research England be created under UKRI and take responsibility for managing the REF and delivering QR although it will maintain its own governance structure to ensure that the dual support system is maintained. 

Widening Participation

A “transparency revolution” is now upon us - the White Paper will call for UCAS and institutions to publish details of application, offer and progression and - one would hope - success data by ethnicity, gender and socio-economic background. This could provide a long-overdue kick to addressing inequity for students once they have arrived at university.

Next steps

There is no consultation on the White Paper - the document represents official government policy on HE from now on. Some elements of it do need primary legislation and we believe the Queen will announce an HE Bill on Wednesday. The government will then seek to introduce this to Parliament, perhaps very soon indeed. We’ll be covering every step in detail.

The live blog of the day has now begun - featuring all the best analysis and commentary. 

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Building a future for graduate outcomes

Wonkhe and HESA are hosting a conference to follow HESA's consultation on the future of the DLHE and measuring graduate outcomes. 4th July 2016, London.

Registration now open

Peace in our time? The other future of quality assessment

On Friday, HEFCE announced the successful bids for the six streams of the new quality assessment model. QAA have come out of this strongly, securing the work for gateways into the HE system, verification of review processes, unsatisfactory investigations, and international activities. The Leadership Foundation will take on the stream related to governing bodies, and the HEA secured the work on degree standards. After battles over this issue running in the sector for nearly two years, today on the site, we ask is this the end of the quality wars? With the White Paper expected to give QAA a clearer role, what future for quality assessment as we transition to a new system? Read our analysis in full here.

Will they stay or will they go?

Four students’ unions held votes on NUS membership last week, with an even score of leavers and stayers. In referenda with a low turnout, both Lincoln Students’ Union and Newcastle University Students’ Union elected to leave. Both unions currently have leaderships that were unhappy about NUS’s more radical political direction and campaigned for an out vote. However, there has been a great deal of misinformation about the referenda due to take place on campuses up and down the country. We’ve published our own analysis of what's going on in the student movement right now here.

You might have missed on Wonkhe

HESA have published a wide-ranging consultation on the future of the DLHE and measuring graduate outcomes - something that becomes even more important following the White Paper as we know this data will ultimately be used to inform the TEF. On Policy Watch, we have a look at this wide-ranging consultation and its themes - The Politics of Data Collection

Martin McQuillan asks: where is the Labour Party and official opposition in this big HE debate? Tom Bailey responds to Dean Machin on the vexed issue of differential fees and argues that his proposals are unfair and unworkable. 

We gathered a selection of leading HE experts’ views on the coming White Paper who set out their hopes and biggest fears. Elsewhere, I wrote for the Guardian about the relative lack of sector input in this cycle of HE reform.

A fiery debate was had over the issue of male access and underachievement. Nick Hillman argued that it's an issue that needs more attention, while Sorana Vieru offered a critique of the underpinning report, arguing that the debate risks starting a "battle of the sexes".

Paul Greatrix completed his account of the mid-90s quality wars and the work of the Joint Planning Group. New Wonkhe Deputy Editor David Morris argued that the sector needs to rethink its assumptions about the labour market and employability.

On Policy Watch, we covered Offa’s report on 2014-15 access agreements.

Have a great day, 
Mark Leach, Editor

The rest of the week’s HE agenda

It’s national student voter registration week

Monday 16th May

HE White Paper Published - Success as a Knowledge Economy

Tuesday 17th May

REPORT: University Alliance ‘Opportunity Ecosystems’ from regional leadership series
EVENT: UUK The Prevent duty: Ensuring compliance
EVENT: Universities Human Resources Annual Conference 2016, Brighton
EVENT: QAA Evolving Student Engagement, Manchester
EVENT: UCL Institute of Education discussion/book launch: Betraying a Generation: How Education is Failing Young People, London

Wednesday 18th May

PARLIAMENTARY: Queen's Speech (state opening of Parliament) 11.30am  
MEETING: GuildHE Council meeting
EVENT: LFHE Implementing the Prevent duty for alternative providers
EVENT: QAA Employer Engagement, Employability and Higher Apprenticeships, London
EVENT: Jisc Research data network workshop - Cardiff
STATS: ONS UK Labour Market  

Thursday 19th May

STATS: ONS Social Capital across the UK
EVENT: HEFCE National collaborative outreach programme, Bristol
EVENT: QAA workshop: Focus on managing collaborative activity, Glasgow
EVENT: HEA Senior fellow writing retreat, London
EVENT: LFHE Research Team Leadership (Spring 2016) workshop, London
EVENT: HEA Principal fellow writing retreat, London
EVENT: Sussex Centre for HE and Equity: Including Roma Communities in European HE
EVENT: UKCGE Good Practice in Research Ethics 2016 workshop, York

Friday 20th May

EVENT: Hull University Union and Cambridge SU complete NUS affiliation referendums
EVENT: UCU 'Not Quite So Simple: Living on an Intersection' exploring research and practice on LGBT+ experiences, Manchester
EVENT: AHUA Scotland Regional Meeting, Dundee

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