Higher Education and Research Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:29 pm on 26th April 2017.

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Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education) 3:29 pm, 26th April 2017

I thank the hon. Lady for raising that point, which enables me to discuss the amendment that the Government have tabled precisely to address those concerns.

I am pleased to present to the House a series of amendments that demonstrate our continued commitment to developing the teaching excellence framework iteratively and carefully. We have consulted widely on the TEF, and we want to continue drawing on the best expertise as we develop this important scheme. That is why I am pleased to have tabled amendment (c) in lieu of Lords amendment 23, as it requires the Secretary of State to commission an independent review of the TEF within one year of the TEF clause being commenced. Crucially, the amendment requires the Secretary of State to lay the report before Parliament, ensuring parliamentary accountability for the framework as it moves forward.

The report must cover many aspects that have concerned Members of this House and the other place, including whether the metrics used are fit for use in the TEF; whether the names of the ratings, to which the hon. Lady alluded, are appropriate for use in the TEF; the impact of the TEF on the ability of providers to carry out their research, teaching and other functions; and an assessment of whether the scheme is, all things considered, in the public interest. I am happy to confirm that the Secretary of State will take account of the review and, if he or she considers it appropriate, will provide guidance to the OFS accordingly, including on any changes to the scheme that the review suggests might be needed, whether in relation to the metrics or any of the other items the review will look at.

We have also heard concerns about the impact of the link between TEF and fees. We recognise the important role of Parliament in setting fee caps. That is why I am also pleased to propose amendments (a) to (g) in lieu of amendments 12, 209 and 210, which amend the parliamentary procedure required to alter fee limit amounts, to ensure that any regulations that would raise fees would be subject, as a minimum, to the affirmative procedure. That provides a greater level of parliamentary oversight on fees than the measures originally put in place under the Labour Government in 2004. I have also today bought forward a further motion to disagree with Lords amendments 183 to 185, which are no longer required as a consequence of these amendments. That is a purely technical change as a result of the wider set of amendments regarding fee amounts.

Furthermore, today’s amendments demonstrate our commitment to a considered roll-out of differentiated fees. Amendments in lieu (c ) and (d) will delay the link between differentiated TEF ratings and tuition fee caps, so that this will not come in for more than three years, with the first year of differentiated fees as a result of TEF ratings being no earlier than the academic year beginning autumn 2020.