Willetts: Students deserve more information
David Willetts, minister for universities and science, speaking on the Today programme outlines his policies on higher education:
"Money will go with students, that's one of the features of our funding reforms and we hope that those universities which are successful in attracting students will be able to expand. I'll be explaining the details to the House of Commons later today but the basic principle is that we want students in the driving seat. We want well informed students taking decisions about courses that are best for them and then universities that are properly funded and able to respond to student demand.
"This is public money that is being provided to students, no students are having to pay up front. As we dismantle some of the very detailed controls over universities that we've inherited we have to set about it steadily because we don't want disruption in the system. We're going to do it step by step but the crucial thought is that we want students to have more information. The money will go with the choices they make so this will give a real incentive for universities to focus on the quality of the teaching experience for students.
"I think what we do see in higher education is that you've got in the student a beneficiary of higher education who is entitled to expect to be able to take a well informed decision looking across a whole range of different universities. One of the problems we've had so far is that the level of information for students has not been good from what level of contact hours you're going to have with academics at university to what steps they're going to take to improve your prospects of getting a job afterwards. I think we also should remember that competition, as in the NHS, comes in all shapes and sizes, part of it will be on fees but part of it will be on the quality of the experience. As we ease that system of quotas and fines we're hoping to see universities competing with each other on which can offer the best type of student experience to prospective students.
"Universities are strictly speaking private independent institutions, they never have been officially part of the public sector. One of the things I want to remind our universities is that I respect their autonomy, I want our universities not to be in the mindset that they are part of the public sector."