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Higher Education

Business, Innovation and Skills written question – answered on 8th June 2011.

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Photo of Katy Clark Katy Clark Labour, North Ayrshire and Arran

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

(1) with reference to the report of the Higher Education Funding Council for England on “Diverse provision in higher education: options and challenges”, if he will take steps to ensure that higher education courses provided by private providers are subject to the same standards of (a) transparency, (b) assessment and (c) measures of student satisfaction as publicly-funded higher education institutions;

(2) with reference to the report of the Higher Education Funding Council for England on “Diverse provision in higher education: options and challenges”, what steps he plans to take to maintain the reputation of higher education;

(3) with reference to the report of the Higher Education Funding Council for England on “Diverse provision in higher education: options and challenges”, if he will take steps to ensure that private providers of higher education have a duty to widen participation;

(4) with reference to the report of the Higher Education Funding Council for England on “Diverse provision in higher education: options and challenges”, whether private providers of higher education will be subject to the same quality assessment regime as publicly-funded higher education institutions;

(5) what assessment he has made of the report of the Higher Education Funding Council for England on “Diverse provision in higher education: options and challenges” in relation to private provision of higher education;

(6) if he will take account of the risks identified by the Higher Education Funding Council for England in its report on “Diverse provision in higher education: options and challenges” in further consultation on private provision of higher education;

(7) what discussions he has had with representatives of the higher education sector on the report of the Higher Education Funding Council for England on “Diverse provision in higher education: options and challenges”;

(8) if he will (a) undertake and (b) publish an assessment of the risks to the public higher education sector of the expansion of private higher education providers;

(9) if he will bring forward proposals to mitigate the risks associated with an expansion of private provision in higher education identified by the Higher Education Funding Council of England in its report on “Diverse provision in higher education: options and challenges”.

Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Minister of State (Universities and Science)

The future regulatory regime for all providers of higher education will be considered in the forthcoming White Paper. This will set out the Government’s proposals to encourage a more diverse and competitive higher education sector alongside an appropriate regulatory regime, which ensures high standards and protects students. An impact assessment covering any proposed regulatory changes will be published alongside the White Paper.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) report “Diverse provision in higher education: options and challenges” was sent to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, my right hon. Friend Vince Cable, on 28 July 2010. The Department welcomed the report as a valuable contribution to our thinking on how to encourage high quality and diverse provision that offers students a wider choice. The Secretary of State and I requested that the report be made publicly available in the annual grant letter to HEFCE on 20 December 2010. HEFCE published the report in February and is available at:

http://www.hefce.ac.uk/learning/flexible/statement.htm

The Secretary of State and I have not held specific discussions on the HEFCE report with representatives of the higher education sector.

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