Memorandum from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors
and Principals (HE 41)
CVCP will take the lead in rigorous
debate with a range of stakeholders & with Government on future
funding options. Our guiding principles will be the need adequately
to resource the sector, to balance the contributions of the various
stakeholders, to ensure access for all who could benefit from
HE, and to enable UK universities to compete successfully in international
Universities have a strong record
of public accountability across the full range of their activities.
The nature and extent of accountability arrangements need further
scrutiny to avoid unnecessary burdens on universities. CVCP is
involved in a HEFCE project examining these arrangements and the
scope for rationalisation.
The UK leads the world in systems
for assuring quality and standards in teaching and learning. As
partners in the Quality Assurance Agency we are committed to developing
even more robust, streamlined mechanisms, which are fully cost
effective and minimise the additional burdens on institutions.
There is high quality across the sector with the evidence so far
showing that the vast majority of provision is serving students
Universities strongly support the
Government's pledge to increase participation of 18 year olds
in higher education (by the time they are 30) to 50 per cent by
the end of this decade and are developing strategies to achieve
this. They welcome the recognition of the contribution that part
time provision has to play in achieving this target.
The planned 1% cut in unit funding
for 2001-02 should be rescinded and funding per student held at
the 2000-01 level in real terms over the spending review period.
Future expansion should be funded at this resource level.
Substantial new investment in the
teaching infrastructure is needed if quality is to be protected,
access and lifelong learning goals realised, and the UK's international
market position maintained.
On access, the introduction of new
funding levers is welcome but more needs to be done to identify
and fund the additional costs of widening access for students
from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Universities will play a central
role in developing the proposed new foundation degrees. The emphasis
on vocational relevance with academic rigour, flexible modes of
study, and HE/FE collaboration is welcome. We identify issues
for further clarification and elaboration during the consultation
period; these include ensuring that they are properly integrated
with established part time programmes with a vocational emphasis.
We expect the new Institute for Learning
and Teaching to transform learning and teaching practice in HE.
Critical to its success is the proportion of teaching staff achieving
We strongly favour the dual support
system for research backed by rigorous research assessment. The
present level of research selectivity is broadly acceptable. Funding
should follow excellence wherever it is found.
The evolution of the research assessment
exercise should take account of the full range of research, including
applied research, without losing the focus needed to sustain research
excellence. An extension of HEROBAC would provide additional scope
for universities with close links to industry and the community.
The need for more equitable treatment
of part time and full time students so that their access to public
subsidies is equalised.
The impact of student support changes
in Scotland on cross border flows and student choice needs to
be carefully monitored. The fourth year fee anomaly should be
1. We welcome this timely opportunity to
submit evidence to the Education Select Committee Inquiry into
Higher Education. Our backdrop is the policy framework set out
by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, David
Blunkett, in his 15 February speech at the University of Greenwich.
He stated what the Government saw as the critical challenges for
universities, namely the need to strengthen and develop diversity
with excellence in order to respond to future global challenges,
without fracturing the higher education sector. He proposed an
ambitious programme in the medium term for all universities in
respect of teaching, research and work with industry (a "third
mission" for universities). We are committed to taking a
leading role in this programme, especially initiatives on the
e-university and foundation degrees.
2. Crucially, the Secretary of State acknowledged
that all parties need to consider how to resource the sector adequately
beyond 2001-02 given the challenges facing higher education. We
welcome the invitation to debate the likely impact of differential
fees as part of this. We will take the lead in rigorous debate
with Government on future funding options. Our guiding principles
will be the need adequately to resource the sector, to balance
the contributions of the various stakeholders, to ensure access
for all who could benefit from HE, and to enable UK universities
to compete successfully in international markets.
How is "quality" in teaching and learning
3. Universities have a strong record of
public accountability across the full range of their activities.
The nature and extent of the accountability arrangements need
further scrutiny to avoid placing unnecessary burdens on universities.
CVCP is involved in the HEFCE project examining these issues.
4. Higher Education in the UK has arguably
the strongest system in the world of assurance of standards and
quality in teaching and learning, both externally and within institutions.
Teaching is embedded in a culture of research or professional
expertise which provide firm referents for the aims and content
of taught programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels,
and programmes leading to research degrees.
Quality may be viewed as:
(a) The appropriateness of the programmes
available to individual students to meet their aims and aspirations
for progression from their degree or other qualification to obtaining
suitable employment ("fitness for purpose")
(b) The appropriateness of the programmes
provided and the assessment standards applied to the resulting
qualification and its naming as a degree of a particular kind
(ordinary, honours, postgraduate)
(c) The appropriateness of the manner of
delivery and student support to enabling students to gain the
qualifications at which they are aiming and of the admissions
arrangements for ensuring that they have a good chance of success.
5. Quality in the widest sense embraces
both the relation of a particular qualification to other qualifications,
most importantly those at degree level; and the effectiveness
with which programmes are delivered. In the jargon of quality
assurance in Higher Education, these features have been distinguished
as (academic) "standards" and (process) "quality"
respectively. Standards are addressed through programme approval
procedures and by the external examining function. Quality is
addressed through programme review and monitoring. Measures of
quality have to take account both of the diversity of programme
and programme aims, including intended progression to further
study or employment, and of the performance of the institution
in providing learning opportunities for students and in supporting
them through programmes. Completion rates, which are high by international
standards, suggest that institutions are generally performing
well in these respects.
How is teaching quality measured and assured?
6. The primary responsibility for standards
and for quality lies with the individual institution, exercising
its powers under statute or charter to award degrees. Institutions
with degree awarding powers are large, mature bodies with a spread
of disciplines and highly developed internal systems to ensure
that they operate effectively.
7. It is helpful to draw parallels with
procedures used by industry and commerce for the assurance of
quality and standards. Total Quality Management takes a systems
approach and assumes customer orientation in the supplier; and
in complex or technical matters, quality assurance makes reference
to minimum benchmarks established through British Standards and
expert peer review of the systems in place to maintain standards.
Students undertaking higher education programmes are making an
investment which is large whether assessed by the time and effort
involved, the income potentially foregone or the direct costs
to themselves or the State.
8. A key measure of quality is the satisfaction
of customers. This "market test" will be reflected in
the employability performance indicators which the Secretary of
State has required, and which are being developed by the Higher
Education Funding Council for England in co-operation with the
sector. A number of institutions are currently experimenting with
the methods used by the European Foundation for Quality Management,
which have been deployed with considerable success widely across
the public sector. This approach aims to support continuous improvement
by reviewing strategic planning, performance improvement and culture
change with a particular emphasis on customer satisfaction.
9. The role of external assurance in Higher
Education is primarily to ensure that institutions' internal procedures
are working effectively and that appropriate measures are being
taken to correct deficiencies or to track developments in educational
or professional practice or in scholarship and research. The external
approach to measuring and assuring teaching quality has evolved
significantly over the past decade and is still developing. This
is considered in more detail below.
10. Before 1992, the former Council for
National Academic Awards, which drew in expert staff from the
universities which already had their own degree awarding powers,
oversaw awards in institutions which then lacked their own powers.
The CNAA was charged with ensuring that its degrees were comparable
with those awarded in the (then) university sector. The latter
relied on the external examiner system, and its own comparatively
small size, to ensure the coherence of the sector and the equivalence
of the (by today's standards) narrow range of degrees which were
offered. As this sector expanded, CVCP carried out firstly a review
of academic standards under Professor Reynolds (1983 to 1986),
and a further review of the adoption of the Reynolds Committee's
recommendations in each of the years 1987, 1988 and 1989. This
work also included the production of an influential Code of Practice
on External Examining. Finally CVCP established an Academic Audit
Unit (AAU) in 1990 to carry out reviews in institutions.
11. Following the legislation that unified
the HE sector in 1992, the Higher Education Quality Council was
established. It absorbed the AAU. The HEQC was responsible for
institutional audit, an approach that uses senior academic peers
reviews and reports publicly on institutions' systems for managing
and ensuring standards and quality. The use of "audit trails"
ensures that selected issues are followed through in depth. Trails
identify how well issues needing action are picked up through
internal mechanisms and how well effective corrective action is
taken as a result. HEQC extended the audit approach to overseas
provision. It completed a first round audit of all HEIs in the
UK and executed a valuable series of investigations into issues
that led to significant enhancement in institutions. This included
notably the Graduate Standards Programme, which laid the foundations
for work now being carried out by the Quality Assurance Agency
(QAA) for Higher Education (see below paragraph 14). It is generally
recognised that this programme identified accurately the forward
agenda made necessary by the expansion and increase in diversity
of the HE sector since the late 1980's.
12. The audit approach has continued into
the present under the aegis of the Quality Assurance Agency. It
is now known as "Institutional Review".
13. The Further and Higher Education Acts
(1992) required the higher education funding councils to ensure
that provision was made for the assessment of the quality of the
education provided with the assistance of their funds. The funding
councils elected to establish their own teams to carry out this
task and their approaches, which differed in detail, came to be
known as teaching quality assessment. This reviewed all provision
under a limited number of subject groupings. The first cycle of
assessments has been completed in Scotland and Wales and will
be completed in England by 2002. Although the precise format of
reporting has varied as experience has been gained, the main finding
has been that the vast majority of provision is serving students
well. There is comparatively little that has been found to be
in need of significant improvement.
14. The National Committee of Inquiry into
Higher Education, chaired by Lord Dearing, noted the work of the
HEQC on graduate standards. It made a series of recommendations
aimed at further clarifying for all stakeholders in higher education
the precise nature, aims and levels of programmes of study on
offer and of student attainment in them. The Committee suggested
that this could best be achieved by extending and standardising
the contextual information available to students to enable them
to make more critical use of the detailed information which institutions
themselves provide. QAA is taking forward this work on behalf
of the sector. QAA has an UK-wide remit, reflecting the UK-wide
importance of standards and quality work.
15. The Quality Assurance Agency was established
by the bodies representing the heads of higher education institutions,
in co-operation with the funding councils, with the aim of ensuring
that the best possible information was made available to stakeholders
(students, employers, the funding bodies and Government) in the
higher education system. With the support of the sector, QAA is
developing systems to describe the content of programmes of study
on offer to, or undertaken by, individual students. QAA also aims
to integrate with its reports on the quality of broad areas of
academic provision information about academic standards. This
will be based on review against a system of benchmarking statements,
developed by leading subject practitioners from the HE sector,
and by experts in the provision of multidisciplinary and modular
16. The outcome of intensive design and
development work by QAA since 1998 should be an integrated and
more efficient system of external assurance about the standards
and quality of all institutional provision and the security of
the exercise by degree-awarding bodies of their powers, both at
home and overseas. The magnitude and urgency of the task which
QAA is executing in designing its new framework and review method
must not be underestimated. Institutions have found the predecessor
systems unwieldy and very time-consuming to service, and consider
that they have derived comparatively minor benefit from them,
at significant cost in lost time for teaching and research.
17. Review has now shown that there are
no systematic differences of quality between institutions or among
subjects. Institutions are therefore looking for significant improvements
in the efficiency of the review process both for the QAA and for
their own internal servicing of reviews. A more streamlined process,
drawing on robust internal institutional systems, and with an
emphasis on quality improvement, would also enable QAA to address
operational issues of concern to the sector. These include the
mix of reviewers by gender, social class, ethnicity and professional
expertise, and the quality of reviewers themselves, which has
been perceived to be under stress, arising from QAA's need to
recruit excessive numbers to support their current approaches.
In particular, there are insufficient reviewers drawn from the
professions at a time when the relevance of curricula to the professions
and employability is of increasing importance. This makes the
assessment of fitness for purpose difficult in programmes that
set out to meet the needs of employers.
Quality of teaching and the impact of continuing
increase in participation in higher education
18. On 28 September 1999 in his speech to
the Labour party conference, the Prime Minister pledged to increase
the participation rate of 18 year olds (by the time they reach
30) to 50% by the end of this decade. Universities welcomed this
announcementincluding the recognition of the role that
part-time study can playand are developing strategies to
19. In order to maintain and enhance quality
it is essential that any further expansion of higher education
is properly funded. CVCP acknowledges the additional investment
that the Government has committed to higher education since May
1997. However, we remain concerned at the continuing cuts in funding
for each student. The latest announcement of a 1% cut for 2001-02
comes on top of the well-documented cut of more than 35 per cent
in unit funding over the last decade. The most recent financial
forecasts published by the Higher Education Funding Council for
England (HEFCE) reveal a worrying decline in the sector's operating
position over the Spending Review 2000 (SR 2000) period and the
lack of surplus income to provide for new investment.
20. CVCP's SR 2000 submission argued that
the planned 1 per cent cut in funding per student for 2001-02
should be rescinded and funding per student held at the 2000-01
level in real terms throughout the spending review period. Future
expansion should also be funded at this level of resource per
student. Without this the quality of the student experience will
be diluted, the diversity of UK higher education will be constrained,
innovative approaches to teaching will be put in jeopardy, and
the staffing structure will not be able to support a diverse high
21. Over and above the issue of an adequate
level of resource to teach all students, the Government should
recognise the additional costs to institutions of widening access
to higher education from under-represented groups, especially
students from low-income families. Welcome steps have already
been taken to introduce new levers within the funding council's
formulae funding mechanism, which begin to recognise the additional
costs. We consider that more needs to be done to identify and
fund these costs.
22. Universities also require substantial
additional investment in the teaching infrastructure to safeguard
standards and the quality of teaching and learning. The investment
needs of £500 million in the spending review period are detailed
in our SR 2000 submission. In summary new funds are needed to
help extend HE to a wider population; to take advantage of advanced
information technologies; to offer additional opportunities for
lifelong learning; and to maintain a competitive position in international
23. In his 15 February speech at the University
of Greenwich the Secretary of State for Education and Employment
announced an initiative to introduce two-year foundation degrees,
mainly for those in employment, as part of the implemetation strategy
for the further student expansion proposed by the Prime Minister.
This announcement is broadly welcomed by the CVCP. Foundation
degrees offer an opportunity for a wider range of people to attain
HE qualifications and to improve their skills and employability.
Universities have a breadth and depth of experience to draw upon
in designing and implementing these new qualifications. Many universities
have well established part-time programmes with a vocational element
which, through the use of credit based curricula and assessment,
provide programmes leading to HE level 2 (diploma level) qualifications.
This experience could be applied productively to meet the requirements
of the proposed Foundation Degrees.
24. CVCP has identified the following issues
for further clarification and elaboration during the consultation
and pilots for foundation degrees:
(a) If a new qualification is to be taken
up by a sufficient number of students, higher education institutions
will need to develop and market provision that is attractive to
those not currently participating in higher education. If a substantial
proportion of these are to be already in employment and willing
to commence part-time higher education study, it is clear that
employers will also need to be fully committed to facilitating
this and to supporting foundation degrees. How will this be ensured?
(b) The majority of students currently undertaking
HNDs wish to progress to full honours degree programmes. If those
completing foundation degrees follow this pattern, how will this
increased demand for honours degree study be met?
(c) As universities are to validate the new
programmes and award the qualifications, and this normally involves
determining the curriculum, delivery and assessment modes, what
will be the role of the design group, which the DfEE is to establish,
in this area? What will be the role of the design group, the DfEE
or other bodies after the pilot stage in determining the acceptability
of new foundation degrees?
(d) It is the CVCP's view that funding for
the new programmes should be at least equivalent to current (1999-2000)
levels and should recognise the additional costs of supporting
new categories of student (see paragraphs 12 and 13 above). Will
the Government be prepared to cover the additional costs of supporting
non-traditional students and part-time distance modes of learning?
(e) How will the Government ensure that the
title of the new qualification fits into a meaningful national
(f) How will the existing provision of high
quality programmes that meet the requirement for two-year (full-time
equivalent), vocationally orientated qualifications, ie HNDs/HNCs,
be consolidated and recognised?
Institute for Learning and Teaching: impact on
25. The ILT was established in 1999 with
significant support from the CVCP, and is a major development
in the realisation of one of the Dearing Committee's main recommendations.
While it is a new initiative, it builds upon and accelerates current
developments, as well as commencing fresh ones. The professional
accreditation of teaching in higher education will help to sustain
and improve the quality of provision and students' learning experiences.
The ILT will provide to members a wide range of professional development
activities and resources. Much of this will be delivered online
to members' desktops to assure ease of reception and use. The
Institute's research, development and dissemination activities
have the potential to generate, bring together and communicate
a critical mass of knowledge and good practice in learning, teaching
and assessment in higher education, as well as commissioning research
on topics of special importance to the academic and learning support
community in higher education.
26. Crucial to the success of the ILT is
the proportion of HE teaching staff achieving membership during
the first five years of the organisation's existence. Discussions
within the ILT continue as to feasible targets for different categories
of staff, especially given that the Institute is a professional
body that does not confer a licence to practise by virtue of membership.
The issue is critical because the ILT will provide the forum in
which members can: (i) determine policy with regard to the criteria
of professionalism and the means of accreditation, and (ii) advise
upon the provision of support for its members to sustain that
professionalism and to develop it. "Ownership" of the
ILT and of the process of accreditation by its members is not
only critical to its success as a professional body, but will
also provide the foundation for accountability and the development
of the profession. The ILT's requirement that members undertake
continuing professional development in teaching and the facilitation
of learning as a continuing practice to remain in good standing
with the ILT will, in time, effect a major transformation in learning
and teaching practice in higher education.
27. The ILT's work has synergy with the
efforts of many other bodies, such as the higher education funding
councils, Government departments, representative bodies, other
professional associations (both discipline-specific associations
and those directly involved with the improvement of learning and
teaching, such as SEDA and UCoSDA) and the higher education unions.
It is important that the Institute collaborates with these bodies,
and the fact that it has been awarded responsibility for managing
the Funding Councils' and DENI's Learning and Teaching Support
Network, the Generic Learning and Teaching Centre and the HEFCE's
National Teaching Fellowship Scheme are promising first steps.
Their contribution to the quality of the teaching
and learning experience; the balance between research and teaching
and the way in which funding is allocated to higher education
affects the nature of teaching and research.
28. Universities in the UK engage in both
teaching and research, to the benefit of both. University teaching
is informed by cutting-edge research (and able staff are attracted
to university teaching by the opportunity to undertake research)
and interaction with students can help identify research questions.
The balance between teaching and research varies across universities,
partly in accordance with the mission of the university, partly
by the scale of research funds received.
29. Funding for researchboth public
funding, from funding councils and research councils, and private
funding, from industry and charitiesis highly concentrated
(some 25 universities account for 75 per cent of all research
funding). The selective allocation of public research funding
is made necessary by limited resources and by the wish to concentrate
resources in accordance with quality. The dual support system
of research fundinga balance of core and project funding,
of retrospective and prospective assessmentis a system
that has delivered acknowledged research excellence for the UK.
The system has also remained accessible to new players and to
the rewarding of improvement.
30. A consequence of the concentration of
research funds is a lack in many universities of adequate support
for research infrastructure, even though those universities may
be strong in technology or innovation and have good records at
attracting funding for near-market research or leveraging public
funding (as revealed in funding council performance indicators).
A substantial increase in funds to support university-business
links, under the HEROBAC scheme, would help to remedy this shortfall.
CVCP believes that rigorous research assessment is necessary to
justify the dual support system, that the present level of selectivity
is broadly acceptable, and that funding should follow excellence
wherever it is to be found.
31. The funding of teaching necessarily
operates on a different basis. While there is a clear argument
for concentrating funding on excellence in research, in the case
of teaching it is equality of public funding that is appropriate.
Although the system does not resource all universities to carry
out high quality research throughout the range of their provision,
there is an entirely legitimate expectation of high quality teaching
throughout. (The Transparency Review, the methodology for which
is currently being piloted, will clarify the use to which research
and teaching funds are put.)
32. It is a fundamental principle for universities
that access to research informs and maintains the quality of their
teaching. Familiarity with the generation of knowledge is a distinguishing
feature of study at higher education level, as students acquire
intellectual autonomy, i.e. the capacity for critical enquiry,
self-directed learning, etc. Teaching in higher education involves
motivating students and facilitating learning as much as authoritatively
imparting knowledge or skills. Familiarity with the latest developments
equips staff to convey the nature of critical enquiry, the excitement
that accompanies the generation of knowledge.
33. For teaching at postgraduate level,
and in the final year of first degrees that require project-based
assignments leading to theses, the link with research is particularly
close. This relationship is marked in those departments that provide
research training. In certain subjects (particularly in science
and technology), successful research training is dependent on
a supportive research environment. Students benefit from access
to equipment and facilities provided by research funding.
34. The relationship between research and
teaching is complex, however, operating at a systemic or cultural
level as much as at an individual level. Not every good teacher
engages directly in research; nor is an excellent researcher necessarily
an excellent teacher. Nevertheless, if research-informed teaching
is characteristic of higher education, it is the responsibility
of funders and policymakers to facilitate both direct engagement
with research and, more broadly, access to the findings of research.
The scale of contemporary higher education and the effects of
rigorous research assessment mean that not all teachers are funded
to do research. This has in turn led to the negotiation of new
relationships between research and teaching, including institutional
collaboration (which can allow staff to teach in one institution
and undertake research in another) and a greater emphasis on scholarship
to underpin teaching. The vital thing is that learning within
higher education takes place in an environment of intellectual
inquiry, where possible facilitated by staff who have themselves
had some experience of research during their careers, whose teaching
remains up to date with developments in their discipline and is
founded on secure pedagogy.
35. The Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)
has been progressively refined since its first introduction in
1986. Despite acknowledged limitations, it enjoys familiarity
and wide credibility among universities. It has certainly contributed
to improvements in the management of research. Nevertheless, it
needs careful scrutiny and refinement: assessment can disproportionately
favour one form of research output (eg scholarly publications),
with the result that much valuable applied research can be excluded.
It can also foster premature production, if the period between
exercises is too short. It can also encourage quantity rather
than quality, without an acceptable balance between sampling of
work and evidence of range of departmental activity. Any mechanism
is vulnerable to manipulative behaviour, but claims about the
widespread 'poaching' of staff, for example, rely more on anecdote
than on hard evidence. Some of the assessment panels have had
insufficient representation from the professions and industry.
At the same time it is hard to see how the funding councils could
distribute their research funds selectively without some form
36. Research activity in universities covers
a broad range, not all of which fits neatly into the standard
categories of research assessment, but which nevertheless makes
valuable contributions to the economy and quality of life. The
RAE is extremely influential, however, not only in the direct
revenues that it brings, but also indirectly, in relation to income
attracted from external sponsors because of RAE ratings or distributed
by funding bodies in special initiatives that draw on RAE ratings.
The evolution of research assessment (and the use of its ratings)
needs to take into account the full range of university research,
without losing the focus needed to sustain research in accordance
with excellence. It is possible that extension of HEROBAC funding
would provide additional scope for universities with close links
to industry and the community.
37. The funding councils are currently carrying
out reviews of their research funding and assessment policies.
CVCP is taking part in these reviews, which are fundamental and
far-reaching. They will be underpinned by and rest on the evidence
from commissioned research projects on a number of important issues,
including the relation of research, teaching and other activities
in higher education. CVCP believes that the outcome of the reviews
(expected in the summer of 2000) will make a major contribution
to informed policy making in these areas.
38. In its submission to the HEFCE review,
CVCP argued that research assessment should aspire to fairness
(towards both established and developing centres and disciplines),
to a light touch and a low distortion effect. There is a particular
need to refine the process so that it is responsive to the way
much research is conducted on an inter- and multidisciplinary
basis. (It is noteworthy that university organisation remains
largely subject-based, in order to facilitate the delivery of
education and training in core disciplines a sign of a commitment
to teaching structures even in research-intensive universities).
Research assessment also needs to pay more attention to how effectively
universities manage their human resources.
39. It is sometimes argued that emphasis
on research assessment distorts the estimation of other activities,
including teaching and work with industry and the community. This
should be seen in the context, however, that across the world
the generation of knowledge is an activity accorded high status,
and thus may be a feature of broader funding and cultural issues
than the result of research assessment alone. Nor is the way to
improve teaching to undermine the commitment to research. In our
view, the way to optimise a complementary approach to the generation,
transmission and application of knowledge is not by abandoning
or distorting research assessment mechanisms. It is preferable
to develop reward systems to balance those for research. These
should include the "third mission" funding streams referred
to by the Secretary of State in his Greenwich speech. These facilitate
improved knowledge transfer between universities and business
(for which CVCP has sought additional resources in the current
spending review) and opportunities for teachers to develop and
update their expertise (CVCP strongly supports the ILT here).
Institutional reward structures are also relevant: many universities
have clarified their formal promotion criteria, making expertise
in teaching or other activities an explicit criterion. This can
help to counterbalance the effect of a culture within which high
status is accorded to research.
Different modes of attendance
Their affect on the quality of the teaching
and learning experience (eg full-time, part-time, distance learning
via ICT and other forms of flexible learning, including credit-based
40. Part-time programmes linked to a credit
based funding system have been effective at widening participation
and delivering lifelong learning. Part-time provision requires
services to be delivered outside the traditional full-time pattern
of teaching, particularly during evenings and at weekends. Part-time
students have, until recently, received much less financial support
than full-time students, and so this mode has demanded greater
commitment. These programmes are not cheap to deliver and HEFCE
funding mechanisms are not sufficiently sensitive to the cost
of part-time provision, particularly at post-graduate level. Part-time
demand is higher in larger centres of population. Traditionally
it has been aimed at mature students, often in employment, but
recent changes to full-time student support now makes this more
attractive to the younger age group. However, part time study
takes longer to achieve a degree qualification, employers and
graduate recruiters should recognise the accomplishments of such
students and the significant commitment they have made. Part-time
students will, almost certainly, have a better understanding of
the demands of employment than full-time students.
41. The recent decline in the number of
mature students entering higher education has most affected demand
for non-vocational subjects in some but not all institutions.
Many full-time students now have part-time, term time jobs and
their employment may in some instances affect their academic work.
Institutions have to respond by recognising the reality of this
situation and adjusting their methods of delivery and expectations
42. Virtually all universities are closely
involved with their local communities, partly through professional
training that brings even the most traditional institution into
direct contact with some local professions. Some universities
have specific links with their communities through, for example,
widening participation projects, regeneration activities and small
business training. All universities contribute to their local
economies through employment and by using local suppliers and
traders. Students equally contribute in this way. For example,
it is estimated that London's universities contribute over £4
billion to the City's economy.
43. The effects of introducing distance
learning via ICT have not been investigated sufficiently. Innovative
projects have been undertaken, programmes of work have been established,
and new types of courses are being developed. Some individual
initiatives have been evaluated, but it is difficult to draw conclusions
about the cost effectiveness of particular techniques or forms
of course delivery. The effectiveness of a specific technology
will depend on a range of factors relating to the particular setting,
including the nature of the target learners, the aims and objectives
of the provision, the curriculum, technical issues, the administrative
structure and the level of available resources.
44. Nevertheless, there is evidence to suggest
that a greater flexibility and choice in modes of study and attendance
can support initiatives to improve the quality of teaching and
learning, widen participation and provide opportunities for lifelong
learning. Credit-based curricula have systematised modular provision
within institutions and provided evidence of comparability of
qualifications for employment and further study. A full credit
accumulation and transfer system, adopted throughout the HE sector,
would enable learners to move between full-time and part-time
study and between educational institutions, according to the pattern
of their lives. Work-based learning allows full-time students
to gain employment-related experience, but also enables employees
studying part-time to evaluate their workplace and work experience
as a focus of study and to apply their newly acquired knowledge
in their workplace, to the benefit of themselves and their employers.
Distance learning can benefit learners tied to a particular geographical
locality by family or work commitments, or due to lack of funds.
45. A UK-wide higher education credit accumulation
and transfer system would be an important component underpinning
strategies geared towards the development of lifelong learning
opportunities and more flexible and accessible routes into higher
education. Universities continue to build on the lessons provided
by existing credit schemes at regional and national levels, to
ensure that strong links exist between further and higher education
and that the various national, European and international qualifications
available to students are recognised and accommodated.
46. The QAA is now working towards the establishment
of a qualifications framework for England by October 2000. In
addition, the DfEE has funded the Inter Consortia Credit Agreement
(InCCA) project which aims to promote collaboration between regional
and national HE consortia in the UK towards the development and
acceptance of credit guidelines able to encompass all forms of
learning at higher levels. This work has highlighted that not
all HEIs have formal credit systems and that some would be currently
unwilling to introduce them.
47. CVCP policy to date, as set out in our
submission to Dearing and our response to Choosing to Change,
has been as follows:
(a) Strong support for lifelong learning
and a higher education qualifications framework;
(b) Recognition that a UK-wide HE credit
accumulation and transfer system will be an important step in
clarifying and simplifying routes for learners;
(c) Adjustments to the funding method should
be contingent on first establishing a credit framework;
(d) Smooth connections between FE and HE
and recognition of other qualifications are vital;
(e) Concern that within a credit framework
issues of equivalence and level need to be addressed, particularly
where a student seeks to transfer to another institution;
(f) Support for a more equitable distribution
of funding across full-time and part-time provision to help to
break down barriers between modes of study;
(g) Support for the principle of adjusting
funding mechanisms for teaching to make them sensitive to a credit-based
approach to learning, with care taken to ensure that this does
not lead to mechanistic reductions in the unit of resource;
(h) The need to recognise the non-teaching
elements (infrastructure, buildings, maintenance, administration
etc) which are not currently reflected in part-time funding;
(i) Careful consideration of the distributive
effects of any new funding methodology to ensure that it did not
result in institutional instability or place further restrictions
on longer term planning, and of respect for diversity and institutional
48. We strongly support the principle that
students should make a financial contribution to the cost of their
study on the grounds that graduates are a major beneficiary of
higher education. The income from these contributions provides
a vital new income stream for universities. Our support for the
current system of student support has always been based on two
principles. First that the impact of any funding changes on access
to HE should be closely monitored. Second, that students should
have sufficient funds to live on whilst they study, with loans
repaid on an income contingent basis by graduates once their earnings
reach an acceptable threshold. We welcome the recent Government
announcements on targeting funds on the most vulnerable students
via bursaries for mature students and those from low-income families.
However, whilst Government initiatives to target funding on part-time
students are welcome, there is still a need to achieve more equitable
financial treatment of part-time and full-time students so that
access to public subsidies is equalised.
49. We broadly welcome the Scottish Executive's
announcement on student support in Scotland but would be concerned
if the additional anomalies that this creates had an adverse impact
on cross border flows and hence students choice. This needs to
be carefully monitored. We also call on the Government to find
the £1.9 million needed to rectify the fee anomaly whereby
Scottish and EU students (but not English, Welsh and Northern
Irish students) on four years honours degree courses at Scottish
universities are exempt from paying a fee in the fourth year where
the equivalent course elsewhere in the UK would be completed in
50. We welcome the DfEE review of the administration
of student support in England and Wales post 2000. This is an
opportunity to streamline arrangements and ensure a high quality,
responsive service for students. We favour an approach that builds
on that of the Scottish Student Awards Agency whose strong performance
relative to that of some LEAs has been noticeable. The funding
needed to bring about changes should be found during the spending
review period. This should include recognition of the full cost
to universities of administering Access Funds and Hardship Funds.