Govt to launch universities revamp

Ministers will on Tuesday set out their plans for a radical shake-up of the English university system the government says is aimed at increasing competition and giving consumer powers to students.The controversial higher education proposals are expected to enable universities to compete for places while opening the sector up to private competition.Universities minister David Willetts said the new measures also aimed to put “students in the driving seat” while helping students hold universities to account for the quality of their teaching.But Labour’s John Denham, the shadow business secretary, attacked the plans as “unfair and unsustainable”.The president of the National Union of Students (NUS), Aaron Porter, warned many students would face “complete market chaos and real uncertainty about their universities and courses”.The reforms are centred around to the government’s plans to triple tuition fees to £9,000 from 2012.The package is expected to contain measures which will allow popular universities to create more places for students who gain at least two A grades and a B grade at A-level.Universities charging low tuition fees, including higher education colleges, could also be told that they can increase their numbers.The plans could be seen as a bid by ministers to encourage institutions to lower their fees.

While the government had estimated that the average fee next year would be £7,500, so far around two-thirds of universities have said they want to charge the maximum of £9,000.At the same time, the government’s White Paper is likely to contain measures to boost the powers of the regulator, the Office for Fair Access (OFFA).The government watchdog is tasked with examining universities’ access agreements to ensure poorer students are not priced out by higher fees.The reforms could see OFFA given powers to fine those that fail to live up to their agreements. – Yahoonews