BIS eyes shake-up of university regulation

New "Office for Students" and Teaching Excellence Framework among measures in business department's Green Paper

By Josh May

06 Nov 2015

The government is proposing to establish a new regulator for universities as part of a shake-up of the higher education sector. 

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will on Friday publish its Green Paper on higher education. As well as a new regulator called the ‘Office for Students’, the document will outline how the Teaching Excellence Framework could operate, and will unveil plans to make it easier for new institutions to receive the power to award degrees. 

The universities minister said the Office for Students would have “a clear remit to champion value for money and the student interest in its decision-making”.

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“We must do more to ensure that the time and money students invest in higher education is well spent,” Jo Johnson added. “Our ambition is to drive up the quality of teaching in our universities to ensure students and taxpayers get value for money and employers get graduates with the skills they need.”

All the measures in the Green Paper will be discussed in a consultation that will close in January.


The new Teaching Excellence Framework will use financial incentives to “encourage a greater focus on high quality teaching and graduate employment prospects”.

The Green Paper says universities will be assessed against student satisfaction, student drop-out rates and graduate employment prospects. Universities that are judged to be passing these tests will be allowed to increase tuition fees in line with inflation.

The Green Paper also proposes that universities should introduce a ‘grade point average’ system alongside degree classifications which would take account of work through the degree course, rather than just exams.


The proposed new regulator will include the merger of the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Office for Fair Access. The Office for Students will be responsible for quality, teaching excellence, the entry of new universities into the market, and social mobility. Alongside this, the government would set up a new Social Mobility Advisory Group to report to the universities minister on how to meet the Conservatives' 2020 target of doubling the proportion of disadvantaged students and boosting by 20% the number of BME students.


BIS also plans to make it “less bureaucratic” for new institutions to join the higher education sector by allowing them to award degrees and be given the title ‘university’ more quickly. If a university closed down, students would be protected – either through financial compensation or an assurance that they could continue their studies elsewhere.

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