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Higher Education

Volume 554: debated on Wednesday 28 November 2012

Following our higher education White Paper commitment I can today announce that I am satisfied that 10 higher education institutions have now met the criteria for university title.

The higher education White Paper “Students at the Heart of the System” (CM8122) and the associated technical consultation set out the Government’s vision for a world-class higher education sector that is free to respond to the needs of students. It set out specifically our intention to stimulate further competition in the sector by widening access to university title for smaller, high-quality higher education institutions.

We therefore announced in June this year that we were reducing with immediate effect the student numbers criterion for university title from 4,000 to 1,000 full-time equivalent higher education students. We have specified in the new criterion that of those 1,000 at least 750 should be registered on degree courses, including foundation degree programmes, and the number of full-time equivalent higher education students must exceed 55% of the total number of full-time equivalent students.

To be eligible to become a university an institution must meet several criteria.

It must have been granted powers by the Privy Council to award taught degrees. It must meet the student numbers criterion set out above. It must also be able to demonstrate that it has regard to the principles of good governance as are relevant to its sector.

I am pleased to say that, following the change to the student numbers criterion, 10 institutions expressed an interest in obtaining university title.

I have now considered the information these institutions have submitted in support of their applications and taken advice from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. I am able to announce today that I am satisfied that all 10 have met the criteria for university title.

They are:

The Arts University College at Bournemouth

Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln

Harper Adams University College

Leeds Trinity University College

Newman University College, Birmingham

Norwich University College of the Arts

Royal Agricultural College

University College Birmingham

University College Falmouth

University College Plymouth St. Mark & St. John

They are now able to take their applications forward to the Privy Council who are responsible for the formal process to approve university names in these circumstances.

University title is prestigious, desirable and precious and the Government protect and will continue to protect its integrity. The criteria are stringent and the application process rigorous. However, the previous numbers criterion was an arbitrary barrier preventing high-quality institutions, and in particular smaller and specialist higher education providers, from being able to call themselves universities. We are confident that this reform will open up access to a diverse range of institutions without compromising the idea of what constitutes a university either in terms of the higher education offer itself or the student experience involved.

As for these institutions themselves, they are all well known and highly regarded university colleges with long and distinguished records and histories. I am delighted that they have taken up the opportunity offered by our reforms.