Page last updated at 17:53 GMT, Tuesday, 28 June 2011 18:53 UK

Higher education shake-up statement

Universities minister David Willetts has announced plans aiming to reform higher education in England by giving students more information about courses and boosting the role of the private sector.

In a Commons statement on 28 June 2011, Mr Willetts said that proposals in the government's higher education White Paper would "drive universities to focus on the student experience".

Employers and charities should be able to offer sponsorship for extra places, he said, and universities should work more closely with businesses to improve the job prospects of their graduates.

"Prospective students also need to know far more about the academic experience on offer," he added, declaring that ministers aimed to "transform" the availability of information on courses such as contact time with tutors and future job prospects.

"These reforms put students in the driving seat," he said, arguing that there should be "greater diversity" of institutions to choose from.

"We will therefore remove the barriers to more provision from the Open University, further education colleges and private providers," he told MPs.

"We will simplify the regime for obtaining degree-awarding powers. We will also review the artificial barriers to smaller higher education institutions taking the title 'university'."

But shadow universities minister Gareth Thomas denounced the White Paper as "a desperate drive to cut fees, no matter what the effect on quality".

He said higher education teaching had been cut by 80% and far more universities were planning to charge the maximum £9,000 fees than ministers had expected, causing "huge political embarrassment and creating a funding crisis for the Treasury".

"This is another example of the government failing to think things through, disregard for the consequences, the wrong choices being made for this country's future," he said.

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