Report of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (Dearing Report) - (1) to No 4449



<br /> Oxford University Gazette: University Response to Dearing Report<br /> (supplement)

Oxford University Gazette

Report of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher
Education (Dearing Report)

Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4449

Wednesday, 15 October 1997

As reported in the Gazette of 31 July 1997, the
National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (the Dearing
Committee) published its report on 23 July 1997. Subsequently,
the Department for Education and Employment invited
representative bodies and others to submit comments on the report
by 6 October 1997. Council has now considered the University's
proposed response and has agreed that the final version of the
comments should be published, with the summary of the Dearing
recommendations, in the Gazette for the information
of members of the University.

Set out below are the recommendations of the Dearing Committee
followed by the comments which have now been forwarded to the
Minister of State for Education and Employment (Baroness
Blackstone).

Notes:

1. The full text of the
Dearing Report
is also available.

2. In this supplement, links are provided (a) from each
recommendation of the Report to the University's response (where
one is given), and (b) from the University's response to
the chapter of the Report in which the recommendation appears.



To Gazette
No. 4450 (16 October 1997)

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SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE DEARING
COMMITTEE:


COMMENTS BY THE UNIVERSITY ON THE DEARING
REPORT:

General comments

Comments on particular recommendations:

| 8-9

| 10

| 13

| 14

| 20

| 21-2

| 24-5

| 29

| 34

| 39

| 46

| 47

| 50

| 54-5

| 59

| 60

| 61

| 71

| 73

| 74

| 78

| 79

| 88
|



SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE
DEARING COMMITTEE


Chapters 1--5

None.

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supplement



Chapter 6

1. We recommend to the Government that it should have a long
term strategic aim of responding to increased demand for higher
education, much of which we expect to be at sub-degree level; and
that to this end, the cap on full-time undergraduate places
should be lifted over the next two to three years and the cap on
full-time sub-degree places should be lifted immediately.

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Chapter 7

2. We recommend to the Government and the Funding Bodies that,
when allocating funds for the expansion of higher education, they
give priority to those institutions which can demonstrate a
commitment to widening participation, and have in place a
participation strategy, a mechanism for monitoring progress, and
provision for review by the governing body of achievement.

3. We recommend that, with immediate effect, the bodies
responsible for funding further and higher education in each part
of the UK collaborate and fund—possibly
jointly—projects designed to address low expectations and
achievement and to promote progression to higher education.

4. We recommend that the Funding Bodies consider financing,
over the next two to three years, pilot projects which allocate
additional funds to institutions which enrol students from
particularly disadvantaged localities.

5. We recommend to the Government that:

—it considers the possibility of restoring to full-time
students some entitlement to social security benefits, as part
of its forthcoming review of the social security system. This
review should include consideration of two particular groups in
current difficulty, those who temporarily withdraw from higher
education due to illness and those with dependent children aged
over 16;

—the total available to institutions for Access Funds
should be doubled with effect from 1998/99 and that the scope of
the funds should be extended to facilitate participation by
students who would otherwise be unable to enter higher education.

6. We recommend:

—to the Funding Bodies that they provide funding for
institutions to provide learning support for students with
disabilities;

—to the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher
Education (see Recommendation 14) that it includes the learning
needs of students with disabilities in its research, programme
accreditation and advisory activities;

—to the Government that it extends the scope of the
Disabled Students Allowance so that it is available without a
parental means test and to part-time students, postgraduate
students and those who have become disabled who wish to obtain
a second higher education qualification.

7. We recommend that further work is done over the medium
term, by the further and higher education Funding Bodies, the
Higher Education Statistics Agency and relevant government
departments to address the creation of a framework for data about
lifelong learning, using a unique student record number.

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supplement



Chapter 8

8. We recommend that, with immediate effect, all institutions
of higher education give high priority to developing and
implementing learning and teaching strategies which focus on the
promotion of students' learning.

[See comment by the University]

9. We recommend that all institutions should, over the medium
term, review the changing role of staff as a result of
Communications and Information Technology, and ensure that staff
and students receive appropriate training and support to enable
them to realise its full potential.


[See comment by the University]

10. We recommend that, over the medium term, the
representative bodies, in consultation with other relevant
agencies, should seek to establish a post-qualification
admissions system.


[See comment by the University]

11. We recommend that:

—institutions of higher education, over the medium term,
integrate their careers services more fully into academic affairs
and that the provision of careers education and guidance is
reviewed periodically by the Quality Assurance Agency;

—the Government, in the medium to long term, should
integrate careers advice for lifelong learning, to complement
services based inside higher education institutions.

12. We recommend to students' unions and institutions that
they review, on a regular basis, the services offered to their
students and adapt them as necessary, in particular to meet the
needs of part-time students.

13. We recommend that institutions of higher education begin
immediately to develop or seek access to programmes for teacher
training of their staff, if they do not have them, and that all
institutions seek national accreditation of such programmes from
the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.


[See comment by the University]

14. We recommend that the representative bodies, in
consultation with the Funding Bodies, should immediately
establish a professional Institute for Learning and Teaching in
Higher Education. The functions of the Institute would be to
accredit programmes of training for higher education teachers;
to commission research and development in learning and teaching
practices; and to stimulate innovation.


[See comment by the University]

15. We recommend that the Institute should:

—develop, over the medium term, a system of kitemarking
to identify good computer-based learning materials;

—co-ordinate the national development, over the medium
and long term, of computer-based learning materials, and manage
initiatives to develop such materials;

—facilitate discussion between all relevant interest
groups on promoting the development of computer-based materials
to provide common units or modules, particularly for the early
undergraduate years.

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Chapter 9

16. We recommend that all institutions of higher education
should, over the medium term, review the programmes they offer:

—with a view to securing a better balance between breadth
and depth across programmes than currently exists;

—so that all undergraduate programmes include sufficient
breadth to enable specialists to understand their specialism
within its context.

17. We recommend to institutions of higher education that,
over the medium term, their admission procedures should develop
to value good levels of competence in communication, numeracy and
the practical use of information technology.

18. We recommend that all institutions should, over the medium
term, identify opportunities to increase the extent to which
programmes help students to become familiar with work, and help
them to reflect on such experience.

19. We recommend that the Government, with immediate effect,
works with representative employer and professional organisations
to encourage employers to offer more work experience
opportunities for students.

20. We recommend that institutions of higher education, over
the medium term, develop a Progress File. The File should consist
of two elements:

—a transcript recording student achievement which should
follow a common format devised by institutions collectively
through their representative bodies;

—a means by which students can monitor, build and reflect
upon their personal development.


[See comment by the University]

21. We recommend that institutions of higher education begin
immediately to develop, for each programme they offer, a
`programme specification' which identifies potential stopping-off
points and gives the intended outcomes of the programme in terms
of:

—the knowledge and understanding that a student will be
expected to have upon completion;

key skills: communication, numeracy, the use of information
technology and learning how to learn;

—cognitive skills, such as an understanding of
methodologies or ability in critical analysis;

—subject specific skills, such as laboratory skills.


[See comment by the University]

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Chapter 10

22. We recommend that the Government, the representative bodies,
the Quality Assurance Agency, other awarding bodies and the
organisations which oversee them, should endorse immediately the
framework for higher education qualifications that we have
proposed.


[See comment by the University]

23. We recommend that:

—the Quality Assurance Agency should specify criteria for
franchising arrangements;

—these criteria should rule out serial franchising, and
include a normal presumption that the franchisee should have only
one higher education partner;

—franchising partners should jointly review and, if
necessary, amend existing arrangements to ensure that they meet
the criteria, and should both certify to the Agency that
arrangements conform with the criteria;

—there should be periodic checks by the Agency on the
operation of franchise arrangements to verify compliance;

—after 2001, no franchising should take place either in
the UK or abroad except where compliance with the criteria has
been certified by the Quality Assurance Agency.

24. We recommend that the representative bodies and Funding
Bodies amend the remit of the Quality Assurance Agency to
include:

—quality assurance and public information;

—standards verification;

—the maintenance of the qualifications framework;

—a requirement that the arrangements for these are
encompassed in a code of practice which every institution should
be required formally to adopt, by 2001/02, as a condition of
public funding.


[See comment by the University]

25. We recommend to the Quality Assurance Agency that its early
work should include:

—to work with institutions to establish small, expert
teams to provide benchmark information on standards, in
particular threshold standards, operating within the framework
of qualifications, and completing the task by 2000;

—to work with universities and other degree-awarding
institutions to create, within three years, a UK-wide pool of
academic staff recognised by the Quality Assurance Agency, from
which institutions must select external examiners;

—to develop a fair and robust system for complaints
relating to educational provision;

—to review the arrangements in place for granting
degree-awarding powers.


[See comment by the University]

26. We recommend to the representative bodies and the Funding
Bodies that the Board of the Quality Assurance Agency should, as
soon as possible, include a student and an international member.

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Chapter 11

27. We recommend that the Funding Bodies, through the joint
Information Systems Committee (JISC), should continue to manage
and fund, on a permanent basis, quality and cost-effective
Communications and Information Technology (C&IT) services for
researchers and should, in due course, introduce charges for
services on a volume-of-usage basis.

28. We recommend to the Funding Bodies that the Joint
Information Systems Committee (JISC) should be invited to report,
within a year, on options to provide sufficient protected
international bandwidth to support UK research.

29. We recommend to the Government that a new Arts and
Humanities Research Council (AHRC) should be established as soon
as possible.


[See comment by the University]

30. We recommend that companies should take a strategic view of
their relationship with higher education and apply the same level
of planning to it that they give to other aspects of their
operations.

31. We recommend to institutions of higher education that they
should, over the next two years, review their postgraduate
research training to ensure that they include, in addition to
understanding of a range of research methods and training in
appropriate technical skills, the development of professional
skills, such as communication, self-management and planning.

32. We recommend that the Funding Bodies and the Research
Councils commission a study to evaluate the funding of
interdisciplinary research, including the incentives and
disincentives. The report should be ready to inform the next
Research Assessment Exercise.

33. We recommend to the Funding Bodies that, in the interests of
transparency and applying international standards properly, the
practice of including one or more international members in all
Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) panels, wherever possible,
should be introduced to the next RAE.

34. We recommend:

—to the Government that, with immediate effect, projects
and programmes funded by the Research Councils meet their full
indirect costs and the costs of premises and central computing,
preferably through the provision of additional resources;

—to the Funding Bodies that the next Research Assessment
Exercise is amended to encourage institutions to make strategic
decisions about whether to enter departments for the Exercise or
whether to seek a lower level of non-competitive funding to
support research and scholarship which underpins teaching;

—to the Government that an Industrial Partnership
Development Fund is established immediately to attract matching
funds from industry, and to contribute to regional and economic
development;

—to the Government that it promotes and enables, as soon
as possible, the establishment of a revolving loan fund of
£400 to £500 million, financed jointly by public and
private research sponsors, to support infrastructure in a limited
number of top quality research departments which can demonstrate
a real need.


[See comment by the University]

35. We recommend to the Government that it should establish, as
soon as possible, a high level independent body to advise the
Government on the direction of national policies for the public
funding of research in higher education, on the distribution and
level of such funding and on the performance of the public bodies
responsible for distributing it.

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Chapter 12

36. We recommend to the Government that institutions of higher
education should be represented on the regional bodies which it
establishes, and that the Further Education Funding Council
regional committees should include a member from higher
education.

37. We recommend to the Government that funding should continue
to be available after April 1998, when the present provision from
the Higher Education Regional Development Fund is due to cease,
to support human capital projects which enable higher education
to be responsive to the needs of local industry and commerce.

38. We recommend to higher education institutions and their
representative bodies that they examine, with representatives of
industry, ways of giving firms, especially small and medium sized
enterprises, easy and co-ordinated access to information about
higher education services in their area.

39. We recommend:

—to the Government that it considers establishing a
modest fund to provide equity funding to institutions to support
members of staff or students in taking forward business ideas
developed in the institution, and to support the creation of
incubator units;

—to higher education institutions that they establish
more technology incubator units within or close to the
institution, within which start-up companies can be fostered for
a limited period until they are able to stand alone.


[See comment by the University]

40. We recommend to higher education institutions that they
consider the scope for encouraging entrepreneurship through
innovative approaches to programme design and through specialist
postgraduate programmes.

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Chapter 13

41. We recommend that all higher education institutions in the
UK should have in place overarching communications and
information strategies by 1999/2000.

42. We recommend that all higher education institutions should
develop managers who combine a deep understanding of
Communications and Information Technology with senior management
experience.

43. We recommend to the Government that it should review existing
copyright legislation and consider how it might be amended to
facilitate greater ease of use of copyright materials in digital
form by teachers and researchers.

44. We recommend to the Government and the Funding Bodies that,
to harness and maximise the benefits of Communications and
Information Technology, they should secure appropriate network
connectivity to all sites of higher education delivery and
further education colleges by 1999/2000, and to other relevant
bodies over the medium term.

45. We recommend that institutions of higher education,
collectively or individually as appropriate, should negotiate
reduced tariffs from telecommunications providers on behalf of
students as soon as possible.

46. We recommend that by 2000/01 higher education institutions
should ensure that all students have open access to a Networked
Desktop Computer, and expect that by 2005/06 all students will
be required to have access to their own portable computer.


[See comment by the University]

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Chapter 14

47. We recommend that, over the next year, all institutions
should:

—review and update their staff development policies to
ensure they address the changing roles of staff;

—publish their policies and make them readily available
for all staff;

—consider whether to seek the Investors in People award.


[See comment by the University]

48. We recommend to institutions that, over the medium term, it
should become the normal requirement that all new full-time
academic staff with teaching responsibilities are required to
achieve at least associate membership of the Institute for
Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, for the successful
completion of probation.

49. We recommend that all institutions should, as part of their
human resources policy, maintain equal opportunities policies,
and, over the medium term, should identify and remove barriers
which inhibit recruitment and progression for particular groups
and monitor and publish their progress towards greater equality
of opportunity for all groups.

50. We recommend to the higher education employers that they
appoint, after consultation with staff representatives, an
independent review committee to report by April 1998 on the
framework for determining pay and conditions of service. The
Chairman should be appointed on the nomination of the Government.


[See comment by the University]

51. We recommend to the Government, institutions, and the
representative bodies of higher education, that, over the long
term, the superannuation arrangements for academic staff should
be harmonised by directing all new entrants to the Universities
Superannuation Scheme.

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Chapter 15

52. We recommend to institutions that, over the medium term, they
develop and implement arrangements which allow staff and external
bodies to have access to and understand the true costs of
research.

53. We recommend that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and
Principals, in collaboration with other institutional
representative bodies, reviews the functions of the Universities
and Colleges Information Systems Association to ensure that it
can promote the implementation of Communications and Information
Technology in management information systems.

54. We recommend that the Government, together with
representative bodies, should, within three years, establish
whether the identity of the governing body in each institution
is clear and undisputed. Where it is not, the Government should
take action to clarify the position, ensuring that the Council
is the ultimate decision-making body, and that the Court has a
wider representative role, to inform decision-making but not to
take decisions.


[See comment by the University]

55. We recommend to the Government that it takes action so that:

—individuals may not serve as members of a governing body
for more than two terms, unless they also hold office;

—it is a requirement for the governing body at each
institution to include student and staff membership and a
majority of lay members;

—an individual may not chair a governing body for more
than two terms of office.


[See comment by the University]

56. We recommend that the Government takes the lead, with the
Privy Council, in discussions with institutional representatives
to introduce, within three years, revised procedures capable of
responding more quickly to an institution requesting a change in
the size of its governing body. The intention should be to ensure
a response within one year.

57. We recommend that each governing body should systematically
review, at least once every five years, with appropriate external
assistance and benchmarks:

—its own effectiveness and, where there is in excess of
25 members, show good reason why a larger body is needed for its
effectiveness;

—the arrangements for discharging its obligations to the
institution's external constituencies;

—all major aspects of the institution's performance,
including the participation strategy.

58. The outcomes of the review should be published in an
institution's annual report. The Funding Bodies should make such
a review a condition of public funding.

59. We recommend that, over the medium term, to assist governing
bodies in carrying out their systematic reviews Funding Bodies
and representative bodies develop appropriate performance
indicators and benchmarks for families of institutions with
similar characteristics and aspirations.


[See comment by the University]

60. We recommend to the Funding Bodies that they require
institutions, as a condition of public funding, to publish annual
reports which describe the outcomes of the governing body's
review and report on other aspects of compliance with the code
of practice on governance.


[See comment by the University]

61. We recommend to institutions that, over the next two years,
they review and, if necessary, amend their arrangements for
handling complaints from students, to ensure that: they reflect
the principles of natural justice; they are transparent and
timely; they include procedures for reconciliation and
arbitration; they include an independent, external element; and
they are managed by a senior member of staff.


[See comment by the University]

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Chapter 16

62. We recommend to the Government and the Funding Bodies that
diversity of institutional mission, consistent with high quality
delivery and the responsible exercise of institutional autonomy,
should continue to be an important element of the United
Kingdom's higher education system; and that this should be
reflected in the funding arrangements for institutions.

63. We recommend to the Government that it takes action as soon
as possible to end the scope for a confusion between the title
and the name used by institutions, either through clarifying the
legal position or by ensuring that conditions can be placed on
the flow of public funds so that these go only to those
institutions which agree to restrict their use of a name and
title to that to which they are legally entitled.

64. We recommend to the Government that, in the medium term,
there is no change to the current criteria for university status;
but that, for the future, there should be a period of relative
stability in the number of universities with the weight accorded
to the numerical criteria reduced and greater emphasis placed on
a distinctive role and characteristics in awarding this status;
and that the Government should give notice of this.

65. We recommend to the Government that it takes action, either
by amending the powers of the Privy Council or by ensuring that
conditions can be placed on the flow of public funds, to enable
the removal of degree-awarding powers where the Quality Assurance
Agency demonstrates that the power to award degrees has been
seriously abused.

66. We recommend to the Government that it takes action, either
by clarifying the legal position or by ensuring that conditions
can be placed on the flow of public funds, to restrict the use
of the title `University College' to those institutions which are
in every sense a college which is part of a university under the
control of the university's governing body; and to those higher
education institutions which have been granted taught degree
awarding powers.

67. We recommend to the Government and the Funding Bodies that
there is greater clarity about where responsibility lies for
decisions about the establishment of new universities; and that
criteria are developed for deciding such cases and allocating
public funding.

68. We recommend to the Government and the Funding Bodies that,
in the medium term, priority in growth in sub-degree provision
should be accorded to further education colleges; and that,
wherever possible:

—more sub-degree provision should take place in further
education colleges;

—higher education provision in further education colleges
should be funded directly;

—there should be no growth in degree level qualifications
offered by further education colleges.

69. We recommend to the Funding Bodies and the Research Councils
that they review their mainstream teaching and research funding
arrangements to ensure they do not discourage collaboration
between institutions; and that, where appropriate, they encourage
collaboration. We recommend to the Funding Bodies that they be
prepared to use their funds on a revolving basis, bringing
forward and offsetting annual allocations in support of
collaboration which has a strong educational and financial
rationale.

70. We recommend to the Quality Assurance Agency that, as it
develops its arrangements, it ensures that these arrangements do
not discourage collaboration between institutions.

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Chapter 17

71. We recommend to the Government that it reviews annually the
total level of support for student living costs taking into
account the movement of both prices and earnings.


[See comment by the University]

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Chapter 18

72. We recommend to the Government that, over the long term,
public spending on higher education should increase with the
growth in Gross Domestic Product.

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Chapter 19

73. We recommend to the Government that it shifts the balance of
funding, in a planned way, away from block grant towards a system
in which funding follows the student, assessing the impact of
each successive shift on institutional behaviour and the control
of public expenditure, with a target of distributing at least 60
per cent of total public funding to institutions according to
student choice by 2003.


[See comment by the University]

74. We recommend to the Government that the public funding for
higher education institutions should be determined on a rolling
three year basis.


[See comment by the University]

75. We recommend to the Government that variations in the level
of public funding for teaching, outside modest margins, should
occur only where:

—there is an approved difference in the provision;

—society, through the Secretary of State or his or her
agent, concludes, after examining an exceptionally high level of
funding, that in relation to other funding needs in higher
education, it represents a good use of resources.

76. We recommend to the Funding Bodies that they should explore
the possibility of setting aside some of their total grant, as
soon as possible, to establish revolving loan schemes to fund:

—projects to refurbish buildings (to improve fitness for
purpose) or to undertake large scale long term maintenance
projects;

—expensive equipment purchases (for teaching or
research);

—collaborative projects which will facilitate access for
staff and students in a region to teaching or research facilities
which could not otherwise be provided on a viable basis.

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Chapter 20

77. We recommend to the Government that:

—from 1998/99 it should enable institutions to waive
tuition fees for part-time students in receipt of Jobseeker's
Allowance or certain family benefits;

—as part of its forthcoming review of the social security
system, it should review the interaction between entitlement to
benefits and part-time study, with a view to ensuring that there
are no financial disincentives to part-time study by the
unemployed or those on low incomes;[
hold]it should extend eligibility for Access Fund payments to
part-time students from 1998/99, and additional funding should
be made available for this purpose.

78. We recommend to the Government that, once the interim bursary
scheme expires, it establishes permanent arrangements for the
equitable support of students of dance, drama and stage
management at institutions which are not in receipt of public
funds.


[See comment by the University]

79. We recommend to the Government that it introduces, by
1998/99, income contingent terms for the payment of any
contribution towards living costs or tuition costs sought from
graduates in work.


[See comment by the University]

80. On a balance of considerations, we recommend to the
Government that it introduces arrangements for graduates in work
to make a flat rate contribution of around 25 per cent of the
average cost of higher education tuition, through an income
contingent mechanism, and that it ensures that the proportion of
tuition costs to be met by the contribution cannot be increased
without a review and an affirmative resolution of both Houses of
Parliament. The contributions made by graduates in work in this
way should be reserved for meeting the needs of higher education.

81. We recommend to the Government that it looks urgently at
alternative and internationally accepted approaches to national
accounting which do not treat the repayable part of loans in the
same way as grants to students.

82. We recommend to the Government that Scottish students who
have had only one year's education after statutory schooling,
many of whom under current arrangements would choose to take a
four year honours degree, should not make a tuition contribution
for one of their years in higher education. Beyond that, this
would be a matter for consideration by the Secretary of State for
Scotland.

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Chapter 21

83. We recommend to the Government that the Inland Revenue should
be used as the principal route for the collection of income
contingent contributions from graduates in work, on behalf of the
Student Loans Company.

84. We recommend to the Government that it establishes, as soon
as possible, a unified Student Support Agency with responsibility
for:

—assessing the eligibility of individuals for various
kinds of public support;

—administering graduate contributions on an income
contingent basis;

—means testing and paying grants for students' living
costs;

—making per capita tuition payments to institutions
according to the number of students they enrol.

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Chapter 22

85. We recommend to the Government that the tradition of
institutional separation from national and sub-national levels
of government is firmly maintained; and that this principle is
extended to Northern Ireland.

86. We recommend to the Government that, with immediate effect,
it brings together the representative bodies of students,
schools, colleges, higher education institutions and the
organisations offering careers services to identify what better
information is needed by students about higher education
opportunities, their costs and benefits; and to work together to
improve timely dissemination of the information.

87. We recommend to the Government that the division of
responsibility between the further and higher education Funding
Bodies in England and Wales should be such that the higher
education Funding Bodies are responsible for funding all
provision defined as higher education.

88. We recommend to the Government that the Teacher Training
Agency continue its remit in respect of teacher training in
England but that the respective responsibilities of the Higher
Education Funding Council for England and the Teacher Training
Agency are reviewed in drawing up proposals for the role of a
General Teaching Council.


[See comment by the University]

89. We recommend to the Government that, in five years' time and
subsequently every ten years, it constitutes a UK-wide
independent advisory committee with the task of assessing the
state of higher education; advising the Government on its
financing and on ways in which, in future years, it can best
respond to national needs; on any action that may be needed to
safeguard the character and autonomy of institutions; and, in
particular, on any changes required in the level of student
support and contributions from graduates in employment.

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Chapter 23

None.

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Chapter 24

None.

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COMMENTS BY THE UNIVERSITY ON THE
DEARING REPORT

The University strongly endorses the main thrust of the Dearing
Committee's report. We welcome the call for further expansion of
higher education, provided that this is properly funded, and we
warmly support the Report's argument that the nation's future
prosperity depends on the development of a `learning society'.
We support proposals to improve access to higher education on the
part of all who can benefit from it. We note with approval the
commitment to preserve the high quality of UK higher education.
We welcome the emphasis placed in recommendation 8 on the
importance of student-centred teaching. In this connection, we
particularly endorse the spirit of paragraph 35 of the Summary
Report. We also strongly endorse the Report's recognition that
previously projected cuts in higher education funding cannot be
maintained without serious damage to quality and that a way has
to be found to increase public spending on, and/or other sources
of funding for, higher education.

We also welcome the Report's recognition that diversity of
institutional mission, consistent with high quality delivery and
the responsible exercise of institutional autonomy, should
continue to be an important element of the United Kingdom's
higher education system. We welcome also the recognition that
such diversity should include institutions of world renown and
that it must be a conscious objective of national policy that the
UK should continue to have such institutions. We are however
concerned that a number of the proposals in the Report would have
the effect of driving the system towards uniformity.

Whilst recognising the merits of facilitating multiple entry
and exit points, particularly within the context of life-long
learning, we believe strongly that within the diverse system the
opportunity must remain, through the offering of full-time,
three- or four-year residential undergraduate courses, to study
a subject in depth, to concentrate on it, and to allow
understanding to grow over the period of the course. This process
is of great importance in the intellectual development of the
individual. Certainly lessons can be learned from industry and
commerce but it may too readily be assumed that education (at all
levels) is akin to a manufacturing process. The purpose of higher
education is much more subtle. It enables students to develop to
their highest level so that they can identify, analyse, and solve
large and abstract problems. It involves the advancement of
knowledge and the general development of the intellect. It
involves the search for truth.

Similarly, whilst recognising the importance of IT in higher
education and welcoming the emphasis on its potential, we believe
that it is necessary to recognise its limitations also. It
provides opportunities for the improvement of the quality of
teaching, including small-group teaching, for innovative
teaching, and for distance-learning and the reinforcement of
part-time learning. It cannot, however, replace direct contact
between teachers and the taught. Assessments by HEFCE of the
quality of teaching at Oxford have confirmed the value of the
Oxford tutorial system, in which a teacher regularly and
systematically engages with individual students (no more than one
or two at a time) and takes personal responsibility for their
academic work over a whole course or a substantial part of it.
Advancement of learning and the training of minds are best
achieved through regular contact between students and teachers;
the process is in many ways as beneficial to the latter as to the
former.

We are somewhat concerned that the Report appears to pay
inadequate attention to the position of university teachers in
the system and, in particular, that the proposals on governance
take no account of the contribution which university teachers are
able, and should have the opportunity, to make to the policies
and decision making of institutions. This omission seems
particularly inappropriate given that the Report attaches great
importance to a learning society; structures in such a society
should surely be open.

On funding, we fully recognise that many details of the
funding option likely to be adopted by the Government have yet
to be decided and others require further clarification. Lacking
other means of sustaining the universities we accept the Report's
proposal for student tuition fees associated with
income-contingent loan repayments by graduates. We consider it
essential, however, that the student fee should benefit directly
and in full the university at which he or she is studying. It is
also essential to clarify how any abatement of fee on the basis
of means-testing will be made good to the institution concerned.
We note that the Dearing Committee recommends (rec. 72) that
funding should increasingly follow students so that the balance
of funding shifts from grant to fees. If this happens, different
institutions should be allowed to charge their own fees at a
level appropriate to the courses they offer, subject to
safeguarding access (e.g. through scholarships schemes). It is
more efficient, and a logical corollary of diversity of mission,
that students should be provided with adequate funding through
the medium of loans and be allowed to decide the university of
their choice, than to seek to impose a uniform level of funding
on all institutions; we therefore welcome recommendation 61, to
the effect that diversity of mission, subject to appropriate
safeguards, should be reflected in funding.

We have a number of general concerns about aspects of the
Report. We note its argument that there is a serious shortfall
of resources even to meet current demands on higher education.
At the same time the Report contains many (often welcome) calls
for new initiatives, but it must be acknowledged that these will
require additional resources if they are to be implemented. This
makes it all the more essential that graduates' contribution to
tuition costs should result in additional resources for higher
education. We are not convinced that the development of IT offers
the scope for the sorts of savings identified in the Report; and
overall we fear that the financial arithmetic in the Report is
over optimistic. We are also very concerned at reports that the
treatment of publicly funded loans as additions to the PSBR may
jeopardise the Report's intention of securing early easement of
the system's projected reductions in funding: it is essential
that the Government's accounting practices be adjusted. Finally,
we note again that while underlining the value of diversity the
Report also contains proposals which tend in the other direction,
for example through proposals for greater standardisation,
centrally administered.

In the paragraphs which follow we comment on a number of the
Report's recommendations. Unless otherwise indicated we are
content with the recommendations; in some cases we support
recommendations but have comments on them, and in other cases we
express concerns.


Recommendations


8--9. We warmly endorse these recommendations.


[For the recommendations referred to, see in
Chapter 8 of the Report, above
]

10. We can see a number of advantages in a post-qualification
system in reducing uncertainties both for candidates and
universities, and we would welcome further consultation about how
this might be achieved: in previous discussion it proved
impossible to reassure a number of universities (including this
one), which were not hostile in principle to such a system, that
practical and timetabling problems could be satisfactorily
resolved. We would hope that any new system would be driven by
a desire to ensure that the admissions system operates to the
greatest benefit of candidates and also reflects the diverse
nature of institutions. The opportunities to compete for a place
at a number of universities should not be unduly restricted,
especially at a time when students will themselves be paying more
for higher education. Universities with highly competitive
courses must have time to consider candidates on their individual
merits and to interview if they wish. A mechanistic tariff system
would not be appropriate for universities with many equally
well-qualified candidates. Sufficient time must be available for
full consideration to take place: hence the concern about
timetabling. Any new system must be based on fairness and choice
for both students and institutions.


[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 8 of the Report, above
]

13. We strongly welcome the fact that the Report both advocates
the accreditation of an institution's own programmes for teacher
training and argues against imposing common requirements for core
competence across the system as a whole, which would fail
inevitably to recognise and respond to the diversity of the
system.


[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 8 of the Report, above
]

14. We note that there is a cost issue, for consideration by the
CVCP for the sector as a whole, on the funding of this
initiative, i.e. by diversion of funding from the current (HEFCE)
Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning and the
Teaching and Learning Technology Programme, and we see the need
for reassurance that this would indeed be a cheaper and more
cost-effective operation than the current arrangements.


[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 8 of the Report, above
]

20. We note that this is again an issue for the sector as a
whole, to be pursued through the CVCP, and think that it is not
self-evident that it would be possible to arrive at a common
format which would be applicable to all institutions within a
sector as diverse as higher education currently is and yet result
in a meaningful and valid transcript.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 9 of the Report, above
]

21--2. We are much concerned that these two recommendations, and
the text which explains them, reflect a view of the structure of
higher education courses which may be accurate for a great many
universities but is not accurate for others. Recommendation 21,
with its reference (for example) to stopping-off points, is
further developed in the following paragraphs which report
`widespread support' for a system of credit-ratings and Credit
Accumulation and Transfer, with reference to standardised
nomenclature, common credit points, and ready movement between
programmes. We share the committee's concern that there should
be maximum clarity regarding courses, to assist students to
decide which programmes may best suit their needs, but we are
anxious that `a national framework of qualifications to provide
a structure which will be common across the UK' may be conceived
without due regard to those universities who do not operate
courses on a modular basis. This would be inimical to the
`diversity' which the Report rightly recognises as a very
important element of higher education provision in this country.



[For the recommendations referred to, see in Chapters
9 and 10 of the
Report, above
]

24--5. We fully endorse the need for a more streamlined process
than the current system of subject-based quality assessments and
institution-wide quality audits, but are strongly opposed to the
further erosion of institutional autonomy by making the adoption
by each institution of an appropriate code of practice in this
regard a condition of funding. The adding of further `conditions
of funding', as reiterated from time to time within the Report,
should be resisted strongly, since universities are funded by a
formula based on their delivery of teaching and research, and the
addition of extraneous conditions is therefore totally
inappropriate. We do have serious concerns that these
recommendations will add unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and
burdensome administrative procedures, particularly through the
establishment of a UK-wide pool of academic staff recognised by
the Quality Assurance Agency from which institutions will be
required to select external examiners. Given the diversity of
mission of HE institutions we think it essential that the pool
should adequately mirror that diversity, and it is not
self-evident that that could be achieved.



[For the recommendations referred to, see in
Chapter 10 of the Report, above
]

29. We stand by our previously expressed opposition (pace the
CVCP) to the establishment of an Arts and Humanities Research
Council (AHRC). We remain extremely doubtful whether it would
result in new public funding being made available, and fear that
a new council would be funded by transfer from existing budgets,
and probably from the Funding Council itself; and we do not
believe that there would be advantages in transferring control
of expenditure away from the universities to a council envisaged
as the instrument of a `national policy' for research in the arts
and humanities—a concept which raises real concern about
dirigisme and state control. None the less if such a council were
to be established, our primary concerns about this recommendation
relate to the level of resourcing, structure, and membership of
the proposed AHRC.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 11 of the Report, above
]

34. We strongly endorse the first two items in this
recommendation. On the first we also urge that the same principle
should be applied to other funding bodies, not least government
departments. There is a particular problem about charities, which
must be addressed either by their providing proper overheads
costs or through additional block grant to cover such costs from
public funds. Additional funding is in any case required if the
back log in funding the infrastructure of research in the
universities is to be addressed. Without this, there will be a
further damaging shift towards short-term employment even of key
technical staff. We offer a qualified welcome to the fourth item
in that such a fund would be valuable only if interest rates were
low (or non-existent), and would welcome clarification of what
constitutes `a real need'.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 11 of the Report, above
]

39. We endorse this recommendation.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 12 of the Report, above
]

46. We welcome this recommendation but are conscious of the
resource implications.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 13 of the Report, above
]

47. We are not convinced that the Investors in People awards are
relevant in this context.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 14 of the Report, above
]

50. We welcome this recommendation but are concerned about its
implications for individual institutions. It will be important
for any such review to take into account the need to preserve
institutional autonomy, and to avoid a situation where
institutions are obliged to implement unfunded salary
settlements.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 14 of the Report, above
]

54--5. It is not clear how far these recommendations are meant
to apply to Oxford, whose ultimate governing body is
Congregation, comprising some 3,000 academic and senior
academic-related staff. While we accept the need for clarity in
identifying an institution's governing body, and for openness and
accountability in the way executive bodies operate, we do not
accept that uniformity across all universities in their structure
of governance is the way to achieve these objectives. There are
effective ways of delivering sound governance other than those
proposed by the Report, and we see no need to change existing
systems where they work well, especially if this would reduce the
opportunity for democratic involvement, which is a valued aspect
of Oxford's present arrangements. Our present system is also
based on the principle of democratic self-government by all
members of the academic community. As indicated earlier, we think
it important that account be taken of the contribution which
university teachers are able (and should have the opportunity)
to make the policies of their institutions. We would not
therefore suggest any move in Oxford to a position where ultimate
authority was exercised by a body comprising a majority of `lay'
or external members.



[For the recommendations referred to, see in
Chapter 15 of the Report, above
]

59. We are strongly opposed to the principle that, as a condition
of funding, institutions be required to publish such reports on
compliance with codes of practice on governance.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 15 of the Report, above
]

60. The broad objectives behind this proposal are welcome, but
we believe that our present system meets these in ways which are
different from those envisaged in the Report.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 15 of the Report, above
]

61. We strongly endorse this recommendation, the more so in that
we fear that the effect (though clearly not the intention) of
some other of the Report's recommendations may be to undermine
it. We warmly welcome the recognition of the positive value of
diversity, and we applaud the concept of `responsible exercise
of institutional autonomy'. We share the anxiety recorded in the
report that current funding arrangements will exert a pressure
towards homogeneity, and we therefore welcome the Report's
recognition that funding arrangements should reflect
institutional diversity. A number of the country's universities
are of high international standing and if they are to retain
their position may need resources greater than universities whose
missions are different.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 15 of the Report, above
]

71. We recognise the importance of this recommendation and fully
endorse it.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 17 of the Report, above
]

73. Any movement in this direction is to be welcomed, though the
practical benefits will depend on how far resources are genuinely
committed beyond one year.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 19 of the Report, above
]

74. We are content with the two criteria by which the case for
a higher than `normal' level of funding should be assessed. We
note the reference in paragraph 19.46 to the proposed review, on
the basis of these criteria, of college fees. That review is now
getting under way, and at this stage we wish to comment only that
we are confident that there is a strong case for sustaining the
present level of funding of the two major collegiate
universities, particularly bearing in mind that the report
identifies as a `national objective' that teaching and management
of learning in HEIs should be world class (see para. 31 of the
Summary Report). We note that, given that dealing with some
seventy legally independent institutions is a matter of some
inevitable complexity, an adequate review will take some time to
complete.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 19 of the Report, above
]

78. We welcome this recommendation and strongly endorse the
proposal for a loan system with income-contingent repayments.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 20 of the Report, above
]

79. We also welcome this recommendation, but note

(a) that the Government reaction to it has seriously
muddied the water: and clarification of Government intentions is
clearly needed;

(b) that there are dangers, despite the reference to
parliamentary control, that having found this new source of funds
Governments may in future exploit it more and more; and

(c) that (as recommended) it would be wholly
unacceptable if the additional funding to be contributed through
payments by graduates were not to be applied wholly, and without
claw back, to the support of higher education.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 20 of the Report, above
]

88. Regular and independent review of the state of higher
education seems sensible.



[For the recommendation referred to, see in
Chapter 22 of the Report, above
]

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