Magazine article Public Finance

Degrees of Uncertainty

Magazine article Public Finance

Degrees of Uncertainty

Article excerpt

For students, the beginning of a new university year is usually characterised by a mixture of excitement and trepidation. This autumn, vice-chancellors in England could be forgiven for sharing similarfeelings asa new era in higher education begins.

After one of the most acrimonious political debates in recent memory, the first undergraduates paying up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees will arrive on campus. Almost inevitably, there will be pressure on universities to be clearer about they offer as students and, in some cases, their parents become more demanding.

In a positive development, the Key Information Sets, which all universities have to publish from September, will provide data on areas such as courses, student satisfaction, accommodation costs and the students' union. This will allow prospective students to make meaningful comparisons between universities. All of this will supplement the amount of 'chatter' that already exists on social media sites.

But the conversation is not all oneway. Universities need, in turn, to have greater expectations of students as higher education is not merely an extension of school, but a significant step-up in academic terms. Devetopinga culture of independent learning and acquiring higherievel research skills are as important as sitting passively in a lecture acquiring new knowledge, in this respect, universities need to work more closely with schools to ensure students are well prepared for a qualitatively different experience.

A greater degree of volatility is nowafeature of the system. In 2012/13, universities are free to recruit unlimited numbers of Students hokJingAAB grades or higher at A-tevel. From 2013/14 onwaids, that freedom will be extended to ABB grades.

Universities charging under £7,500 will have access to 20,000 'additional' places that are being taken off the sector as a whole. In 2013/14, another 5,000 places will be added. …

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