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Department for Education written question – answered on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to ensure that UK universities stay competitive with universities elsewhere in the world.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The UK has a world-class reputation, with globally renowned teaching and cutting-edge research and innovation. We want to deliver better outcomes and value for students, employers and taxpayers who underwrite the system.

The Office for Students (OfS) is now fully operational and puts students and student choices at the heart of the higher education (HE) sector and its regulation. By encouraging diversity and innovation in high quality provision, the government is supporting the sector to meet the needs of all students in HE, whatever their background or study choices, as well as opening up the sector to greater competition.

The OfS has formally adopted the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) as its scheme for assessing the quality of HE provision in England. Participation in the TEF is a condition of registration for English HE providers with more than 500 undergraduates. Participation is voluntary for smaller HE providers and for those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The TEF encourages excellent teaching to flourish by re-balancing the priority given to teaching and learning compared to research.

The TEF will provide strong incentives to HE providers to prioritise the student learning experience. In due course we will lay before Parliament the report of the independent review of the TEF, which has been conducted by Dame Shirley Pearce.

In August 2019, my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, announced a new fast-track immigration route aimed at allowing a wider pool of scientific talent to come to the UK. This route will ensure that those with specialist skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects can come to the UK and make an important contribution to our leading science and research sectors, significantly enhancing the intellectual and knowledge base of the UK. The route will be uncapped, ensuring that those with the required skill set can secure places.

The UK is a great place for research, accounting for 4% of the world's researchers, 11% of all citations, 14% of the world’s most highly cited articles and 4 of the world’s top 10 universities. The government recognises the important contribution of our universities to research, innovation and working with business. This contribution is critical to achieving the ambitions of our modern Industrial Strategy, including delivering 2.4% spend of GDP on research and development by 2027. In the autumn, the government will set out plans to significantly boost public funding on research and development, provide greater long-term certainty to our scientific and research community and accelerate our ambition to reach 2.4% of GDP.

Additionally, on 11 September, my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, announced a new graduate immigration route that provides an opportunity for international students who have been awarded their degree to stay and work in the UK at any skill level for 2 years. This represents a significant improvement in our offer to international students and will help ensure that our world-leading HE sector remains competitive internationally.

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