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Volume 201: debated on Wednesday 15 January 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the outcome of his consultations about university titles.

My Department and the Welsh Office are today writing to higher education institutions in the following terms:

University title beyond the present Polytechnics

1. The Education Department's paper, "Degree Awarding Powers and University Titles" consulted on the Government's proposals concerning:

  • (a) criteria for the extension of degree awarding powers beyond the present polytechnics:
  • (b) arrangements for the Secretary of State to secure advice on whether institutions meet those criteria; and
  • (c) criteria for extending the university title beyond the present polytechnics.
  • 2. My letter of 16 December 1991 set out the Government's conclusions on the first two issues. This letter sets out the Secretary of State's decisions on the extension of the university title in the light of comments received on the consultation paper.

    3. The Government's proposal was that the criteria for extending the university title beyond the present polytechnics should be that an institution would normally have:

  • (a) at least 300 full-time equivalent higher education students in a majority of the PCFC's nine academic programmes (or the Scottish equivalent);
  • (b) a higher education enrolment of at least 4,000 full-time equivalent students:
  • (c) at least 3,000 full-time higher education students on degree level courses;
  • (d) power to award its own taught course and research degrees.
  • 4. Three of the four criteria have been widely welcomed. Some concern was expressed that criterion (c) would act as a

    disincentive to institutions expanding part-time provision at degree level. The Secretary of State accepts this point. He has decided that the criteria which shall apply are those in paragraph 3 above except that criterion (c) shall read:

  • (c) at least 3,000 full-time equivalent higher education students on degree level courses.
  • 5. As explained in my letter of 16 December 1991, during the period up to the formal dissolution of the CNAA, the Government will look to the Council to advise on whether institutions validated by it meet the degree awarding criteria. The Government will, in parallel, appoint Ad Hoc Committees to look similarly at institutions which are validated by universities. The Secretary of State will announce later in the year the arrangements which will apply after the dissolution of the CNAA.

    6. The procedures by which an institution may change its title will vary between institutions. However, any institution which the Secretary of State by order specifies as competent to grant its own degree-awarding powers for taught-courses and research and which meets the remaining university title criteria will be able to seek the consent of the Privy Council to a "university" title. The Privy Council will write soon to all Colleges of Higher Education explaining the procedures and the timing of applications.

    7. A related issue to that of "university" title is that of the use of the title, "university college". This was not covered in the consultation paper because the Secretary of State did not see any cause to review the prevailing policy which was that an institution using a "university college" title should be a constituent part of a collegiate university. However, a number of respondents to the consultation paper commented to the effect that the "university college" title should be more widely available, possibly extending to all institutions of higher education which did not meet the university criteria.

    8. The Secretary of State has considered the points made on this matter and has concluded that there should be no change in the current policy. Extending the availability of "university college" to independent institutions which are not part of a university would cause confusion with established "university colleges". The Secretary of State believes nevertheless that Colleges of Higher Education which do not qualify for a university title will be able to maintain their successes over recent years.