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Higher Education and Research Bill - Committee (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 6:00 pm, 25th January 2017

My Lords, we agree that it is necessary to have a holistic overview of the sector to understand if our aim of encouraging high-quality, innovative and diverse provision that meets the needs of students is being achieved. However, I do not agree that to achieve this an independent standing committee is necessary. There are already a number of provisions in the Bill that allow the Secretary of State, the OfS and other regulatory or sector bodies, where necessary, to work together to consider these important issues.

For example, Clause 72 enables the Secretary of State to request information from the OfS, which, as the regulator, will have the best overview of the sector. Clause 58 enables the OfS to co-operate and share information with other bodies. And, as we have discussed at length, the Secretary of State can give guidance to the OfS to encourage this further.

We have already debated the issue of new providers at length, but let me reiterate that there is a need for new innovative providers. The Competition and Markets Authority concluded in its report on competition in the HE sector that aspects of the current system could be holding back greater competition among providers and need to be addressed. In a 2015 survey of vice-chancellors and university leaders, 70% expected higher education to look the same in 2030. This risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We must not be constrained by our historical successes, because if we place barriers in the way of new and innovative providers we risk diminishing the relevance and value of our higher education sector to changing student and employer needs, and becoming a relic of the last century while the rest of the world is moving on.