NPC´s Response to the Higher Education White Paper

Following the Ordinary General Meeting and Policy Workshops in Bristol on the 15th and 16th February, NPC has agreed policies as summarized below. These policies will be used to formulate the formal response to the higher education white paper due for submission at the end of April 2003. The source of the white paper can be found at:

http://www.dfes.gov.uk/highereducation/hestrategy/

Research

Research funding is covered by chapter 2 of the white paper with new proposals to improve state support. While NPC supports increase in funding of emerging research units, there were concerns raised over concentration of research funding towards higher rated research units. A consequence of this is that postgraduate degree awarding powers could be kept within successful research consortia. It was noted though that high research ratings do not necessarily relate to high teaching quality and so this is a disadvantage to the postgraduate experience in research degree programmes. While increased support for successful research institutions is encouraged, NPC has concerns that decreased support for lower rated research units will remove research units currently available that otherwise provide good peer support for research students.

Knowledge Transfer

Knowledge transfer, covered in chapter 3, does present many merits, which NPC acknowledges. It was identified that courses at postgraduate level such as law, management, teaching, medical practise and social work are of knowledge transfer nature not requiring any vital link to research. A vast majority of postgraduate taught degrees and obviously research degrees would require access to academic research. Therefore NPC raises concern as to how knowledge transfer institutions will facilitate postgraduate degree programmes and what level of intake they will have. This is seen therefore as a disadvantage in terms of the support of research being a necessity in cases of knowledge transfer taking place at postgraduate degree level.

Training for Research Students

NPC commends the proposals that acknowledge the need to enhance the training of research students recommended by the Roberts Review. We will therefore continue to work with the funding councils as new standards are developed for postgraduate training.

National Student Feedback

While the principle national student feedback is supported, the NPC recognises this has a focus towards undergraduates. Therefore there is a disparity here with quality and cost of tuition being significantly higher at postgraduate level.

Learning and Teaching

Another area where little mention was given towards postgraduates was learning and teaching outlined in chapter 5. The proposals are praised by NPC in terms of the proposed national professional teaching standards and increased measures to recruit and retain academic staff. However, NPC has concerns over postgraduates who teach as well as the necessity for teaching standards to be maintained in postgraduate taught courses.

Undergraduate Funding

Under past existing policy, NPC is not in support of extensive undergraduate debt that will deter graduates from continuing to postgraduate education. We will therefore continue to raise our concerns in light of this.

Other Issues

Other smaller issues with less direct significance to postgraduate education, which NPC has taken stance on:

  • We support to the merger proposals of ILTHE, HESDA and LTSN.
  • While we support increasing access to encourage endowment funds, we do not support proposals to rely on endowment funds.
  • While the removal of the Privy Council to change university statutes may remove excessive bureaucracy, we request an explanation as to what suitable alternatives should exist while not granting extended autonomy to institutions.
  • Our support for for AHRB to become a research council.
  • Our backing to move towards the independent adjudicator as a means of reforming the procedure for student complaints.