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The higher education white paper: the key points

29 June 2011

A message from the Vice-Chancellor concerning the Government's white paper on higher education.

I thought it would be helpful to provide a brief summary of the key points.

The Government’s proposals cover four main themes: reforming funding; delivering a better student experience; enabling universities to increase social mobility; and reducing regulation and removing barriers for new providers.

Within these themes, the paper sets out a number of aims which can be categorised as follows:

Student experience:

  • Improving the information available to prospective students;
  • Reviewing the role of Student Charters and whether these should be mandatory;
  • Increasing transparency in areas such as feedback.


  • Encouraging greater engagement with employers to accredit programmes;
  • Reviewing how university-industry collaboration can excel, including an investigation into the potential to reverse the decline in sandwich courses.

Student numbers:

  • Freeing up student number controls by making approximately 85,000 places available competitively among universities in 2012/13. Both by enabling unrestrained recruitment of students who achieve the equivalent of AAB grades and above, as well as by creating a flexible margin of places for those providers that charge an average of £7,500 or less.

The paper also aims to create an environment in which a wider range of providers can participate, as well as to make more provision within the Office for Fair Access to support the drive for fair access and widening participation across the sector.

Of course, many of the important details will continue to emerge over the coming months, but it is clear that the white paper seeks to set out a landscape in which it will be even more important for us to be agile and to be able to respond to student need, while also being clear about what a student can expect from Bristol.

I think it is also important to stress that the environment set out in the white paper does not mean a significant change in the way we conduct ourselves, but that we should be encouraged to build on our many strengths. We will continue to thrive and develop and we will do so by remaining true to our vision. I believe that the white paper does herald an important era for our sector and I also believe that we are well placed to respond to the challenges and opportunities that will arise from it over the coming months and years.

Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor


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