New University Ranking System will Impact Fee Increases

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The Department for Education has announced that it will implement a ‘Gold, Silver, and Bronze’ ranking system for English universities in order to create new league tables based on teaching quality.

Part of the government’s new teaching excellence framework (TeF), the new system will do into effect in the middle of next year with a year long grace period for the universities, and the department, to adjust. Jo Johnson, the universities minister, told The Guardian: “The framework will give students clear, understandable information about where the best teaching is on offer and for the first time place teaching quality on a par with research at our universities.”

However, the new ranking system will determine with universities are allowed to raise their tuition fees. With gold universities being able to raise their tuition the most, followed by silver, the bronze universities will stay the most affordable. While all universities are allowed to raise fees for 2017 entry, further tuition raises will be dependent on ranking beginning as early as 2018. The current proposals say that for courses starting in autumn 2018, “all those achieving a rating of bronze, silver and gold will receive the full inflationary uplift”. The forecast for inflation for 2018-19 from the Office for Budget Responsibility is 3.2% – which would push the cost of fees above £9,500.

Beyond 2018, there could be different levels of fees charged, based on these assessments of quality. Johnson said in an interview with the BBC: “By setting out clear incentives for universities, the framework will drive up quality in the sector at the same time as improving student choice and crucially, graduate outcomes – so that we can be confident we have the skills employers need now and for the future.

“The framework will also give students clear, understandable information about where the best teaching is on offer and for the first time, place teaching quality on a par with research at our universities.”

But the new plan is not without opposition.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told the BBC: “Higher education needs to be funded sustainably but for Government to continue to let fees creep up year on year, so students are unable to get a clear picture of the debt they might face, is unacceptable.”

NUS Vice President (Higher Education) Sorana Vieru said in a press release: “it is disappointing to see the government trying to destroy the idea that education is a public good and attempt to divide the sector further by labeling universities with medals based on measures that have nothing to do with teaching quality.

“We remain opposed to the government’s arguments on driving up teaching standards by entrenching marketisation and rising tuition fees, and will continue our campaigning on securing a higher education system that works for students and universities.”

Professor Sharon Huttly, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) of the University told SCAN: “The government made clear in its consultation document that “The TEF will provide clear information to students about where the best provision and outcomes can be found and drive up the standard of teaching across the sector.” It is thus anticipated that TEF will affect university applications.

“Fee setting for future years will follow the University’s standard procedures, incorporating as appropriate its future TEF award status.”

As SCAN has previously reported, the University Press Office has said “Lancaster is not ruling out inflationary increases in tuition fees for 2017 entry. We consider fees and living costs carefully and engage with students each year on this.

“The Teaching Excellence Framework is the system being created to measure the quality of teaching in UK universities. The government plans to allow universities assessed as having high teaching standards to increase fees in line with inflation, calculated as 2.8% for next year.”

Students applying for fall 2017 are in a state of limbo from the government as well as individual institutions. Unable to see all expected fees, and unsure of rankings, questions for incoming students will be high until more information is released. Current students aren’t without questions as well, with questions of how university rankings will affect employability or risk a fee increase for them as well.


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