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Public Policy|Southampton

Higher Education Digest | Higher Education and Research Bill

Higher Education and Research Act receives Royal Assent
Higher Education and Research Act receives Royal Assent

Revisit Director of Public Policy | Southampton , Gavin Costigan's monthly briefings on the progress of the Higher Education and Research Bill progress through Parliament to Royal Assent in April 2017.

Please scroll down to review each update

Chart the progress from Bill to the Act
WATCH All stages of the Higher Education and Research Bill 2016-17

In April 2017, the Higher Education and Research Act received Royal Assent and became law. This followed a lengthy process through Parliament, the final stages of which were rushed through just before Parliament was dissolved in advance of the 2017 General Election.

The key elements of the Act are:

January 2017 Update

In January, the Higher Education & Research Bill completed its way through the Committee Stage of the House of Lords. The Bill sets up the Office for Students (OfS) and UK Research & Innovation (UKRI). It also introduces regulations to make it easier for new entrants to teach degrees and become universities. More than 500 amendments to the Bill – which had only very minor amendments following its passage through the Commons –were proposed in the Lords. The Lords forced a vote on the first of these amendments (an addition at the start of the Bill to define what Universities are – including statements on autonomy and freedom of speech) and won. It has not forced a vote on subsequent amendments but may well do so at the Report Stage of the Bill. Other than this first amendment, there have not yet been significant amendments agreed by the Government.

The Bill will move to the Report Stage in Lords, probably in the second half of February and in March, before returning to the Commons.

You can view video, read Hansard transcript and learn more about the progress of the Bill through the House of Lords here

For more updates follow Gavin on Twitter @costigangavin

November 2016 Update

The Higher Education and Research Bill has completed its passage through the House of Commons. Having completed the Committee stage with no substantive amendments accepted by the Government, the Universities Minister Jo Johnson proposed some changes which he stated were in response to some of the concerns expressed. The changes were:

The Bill, with these amendments, completed the Report Stage and Third Reading on 21st November.

It has now moved to the House of Lords, where it had its First Reading on 22nd November. The Second Reading has been scheduled for 6th December.

Comment: Whilst the Bill has only had minor amendments during its passage through the House of Commons, there is more significant opposition , and no Government majority, in the House of Lords. It is more likely that the Lords will agree more significant amendments.

October 2016 Update

On 18 October, the Bill completed the Committee Stage in the House of Commons. The Bill has been scrutinized line by line by a Committee of MPs. A number of amendments have been made, although these were relatively minor and all proposed by the Government. None of the proposals from the opposition members of the Committee were accepted.

The Bill is expected to move fairly quickly to the Report Stage (where all MPs on the floor of the House can debate it, and propose amendments), which will immediately followed by the Third Reading, which is the final stage in the House of Commons. Given the lack of success in getting amendments through the Committee Stage, the opposition are unlikely to achieve significant amendments to the Bill at the Report Stage, but many of the concerns they raise may be taken up once the Bill moves to the House of Lords.

September 2016 Update

The Higher Education and Research Bill has now reached the Committee Stage of the House of Commons. This is where a Public Bill Committee (made up of MPs) scrutinises the Bill line by line, and also hears oral evidence from relevant experts and stakeholders. Amendments to the Bill can be made during this stage.

The Public Bill Committee met for the first time on 6 September, and is due to complete this stage of the Bill’s passage by 18 October.

In the first week of meetings, the Public Bill Committee has heard evidence from a number of key stakeholders, including Vice-Chancellors, UUK, NUS, Mission Group representatives, Funding Councils, Research Councils, UCU, OFFA, UCAS, the Royal Society and QAA.

For more updates follow Gavin on Twitter @costigangavin

July 2016 Update

All Bills need to pass through 5 stages in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The five stages are:

They can start in either the Commons or the Lords. Once it has been through both Houses it goes to Royal Assent.

The Higher Education and Research Bill began in the House of Commons. Progress so far:

First Reading – 19 May 2016

Second Reading – 19 July 2016

The Second Reading debate happened just before the Parliamentary Summer Break. Points raised included the effect of Brexit, the link between TEF and fee increases, degree awarding powers to new providers, threats to quality, graduate debt, effect on students of potential closures of universities, student representation on the Board of the Office for Students, separation of teaching from research, widening participation, and the link between universities and schools. The text of the debate can be found here.

Committee Stage

The Committee stage has yet to happen. The Public Committee (MPs who will take part in the Committee Stage) has been appointed, and includes many people who spoke at the 2nd Reading Debate. The joint chairs of the Bill Committee are Sir Edward Leigh (Labour) and David Hanson (Conservative), and the committee includes both the Government and opposition spokesmen on higher education (Jo Johnson and Gordon Marsden). The full list of Committee Members is here .

Higher Education White Paper, Higher Education Bill & Related Documents - May 2016

Higher Education White Paper

On 16 May, the Government published the Higher Education White Paper. This follows on from the Green Paper which was published in

November 2015. The White Paper is divided into three main chapters – Competition, Choice and Architecture


2. This chapter sets out how all HE providers will be regulated and how the Government is proposing to increase competition. Key elements include:


3. This chapter is mainly about the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and widening participation. Key elements include:


4. This Chapter sets out the new HE structures. The key elements are:

Higher Education Bill

5. The Government introduced the Higher Education Bill to the House of Commons on 19 May. The Bill introduces the relevant legislation to enact those elements of the White Paper which need legislation,  including the establishment of the Office for Students, the regulatory framework for HE providers, the dissolution of HEFCE and OFFA, and the establishment of UK Research & Innovation. The Bill is likely to pass through the different stages within the House of  Commons before the summer recess in July, and then move to the House of Lords in the Autumn. It could be enacted by the end of 2016.

Technical Consultation on REF Year 2

6. The Government has published a Technical Consultation on the operation of the TEF in Year 2, with a response deadline of 12 July. It proposes the overall criteria for assessment, which metrics will be used and how, the contextual information which will be asked for  from Universities and how all the information will be assessed. An annex has a list of potential unintended consequences of the TEF and how they will be mitigated.

Call for Evidence on Accelerated Courses and Switching University or Degree

7. Two areas raised in the White Paper are accelerated degrees (completed in 2 years) and credit transfer, allowing students to switch courses and institutions. Both exist but both are very limited across the sector, and they have published a Call for Evidence with a deadline of 19 July. In both cases, they are looking to understand the barriers, both from the point of view of students and from institutions.

Responses to Green Paper Consultation

8. Only for die hard policy enthusiasts, the Government has published (as it is obliged to do) a summary of consultation responses to the Green Paper. There were 618 responses in total. The views expressed in the response from the University of Southampton seem to have been reasonably common across several HEIs.

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