Tuition fees set to rise every year, and Facebook allowed to award degrees

Tuition fees will rise beyond £9,000, and companies like Facebook and Google will be allowed to set up universities, the Government have announced today.

In major new reforms outlined in a white paper today, universities will be allowed to raise tuition fees every year, with no set upper limit.

In order to be allowed to charge more, universities will have to show that they are providing high-quality teaching. Unis that meet these criteria will then be able to increase their fees in line with inflation.

The NUS have said that students will be "understandably outraged" by the reforms, which also include proposals to let "challenger companies" award their own degrees.

"Mickey Mouse" courses

Ministers say they will try to end "Mickey Mouse" courses, in the same paper they announced that companies like Facebook will be allowed to award their own degrees.

The government say they will force all universities to publish information about student contact time (including time sent in lectures and seminars), the jobs their graduates end up in, and their average earnings. The aim is to highlight universities that won't provide many contact hours

Universities that don't provide high-quality teaching will also not be allowed to raise their fees.

For the first time, companies will also be allowed to set up universities. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said this could include companies such as Google and Facebook.

“Our universities are engines of economic growth and social mobility, but if we are to remain competitive and ensure that a high-quality education remains open to all, we cannot stand still," Universities minister Jo Johnson said.

“Making it easier for high-quality challenger institutions to start offering their own degrees will help drive up teaching quality, boost the economy and extend aspiration and life chances for students from all backgrounds.”

Universities will be forced to

"Students will be outraged"

Critics of the reforms have focussed on government plans to allow tuition fees to rise every year.

“Students will understandably be outraged at any suggestion universities could be allowed to put fees up even higher in order to improve teaching quality. It was only four years ago tuition fees were trebled and students now face debts up to £53,000 when they graduate," Sorana Vieru, NUS vice president (higher education), said.

“Universities, students and staff have all been very clear the proposed teaching excellence framework should not be linked to any rise in fees and the influential BIS Select Committee urged the government to do some serious rethinking before taking this forward. The government should urgently reflect on this and drop this muddled proposal.”

Sorana also expressed concern about allowing new institutions (including companies) to award their own degrees.

“The government has serious questions to answer before it can make it easier for new providers to enter the sector. We need to know what protections they will be required to give to students, to ensure they are not left in the lurch and ripped off by institutions that may be focused on shareholders rather than students’ interests.”

The NUS supported the proposals outlined in the white paper forcing all higher education institutes to reveal the gender, background and ethnicity of their students, aimed at "shining a spotlight" on universities failing to recruit from diverse backgrounds.

The government have also said students could be allowed to switch courses more easily, if they are unhappy with teaching on their current course, in a move welcomed by just about everyone.

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