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Mandelson Outlines the Future of Higher Education


BIS Department for Business Innovation and Skills - Expert Author

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Issued 03 November 2009

The Government has today unveiled a new framework for the future success of higher education, setting out the important role universities will play in securing the country’s economic recovery and long term prosperity.

Lord Mandelson’s vision to sustain university success in more challenging and competitive times sets out the Government’s approach on the major issues facing universities, including the need to make greater contributions to the economy, widening access and strengthening our research capacity.

The higher education framework, Higher Ambitions , sets out a strategy for universities to remain world class, providing the nation with the high level skills needed to remain competitive, while continuing to attract the brightest students and researchers.

Key measures set out in the framework include

More competition between universities, giving greater priority to programmes that meet the need for high level skills;Business to be more engaged in the funding and design of programmes, sponsorship of students, and work placements; Creating more part-time, work-based and foundation degrees to make it easier for adults to go to university’s, with routes from apprenticeships through to Foundation Degrees and other vocational programmes;Encouraging universities to consider contextual data in admissions, as one way of ensuring that higher education is available to all young people who have the ability to benefit;Universities setting out clearly what students can expect in terms of the nature and quality of courses offered; Sustaining our world class research base by continuing to focus on excellence, concentrating research funding where needed to secure critical mass and impact; and Encouraging collaboration between universities on world class research, especially in high cost science.

In the House of Lords today Lord Mandelson said:

“Able people and bright ideas are the foundation stones of a thriving knowledge economy and in the next ten years we will want more, not fewer people in higher education, and more not less quality research.

“We have made great progress in the number of young people going to university at 18 or 19 to do a three year degree. But the challenge for the next decade is to offer a wider range of new study opportunities – part-time, work-based, foundation degrees and studying whilst at home – to a greater range of people.

“All students must continue to enter higher education on their merit. But I believe this means taking account of a student’s academic attainment, their aptitude and their potential. Many universities are already developing their use of contextual data in admissions and we hope that all universities will look at their examples and consider incorporating such data in their admissions processes.

“The Government also want universities to make an even bigger contribution to Britain’s economic recovery and future growth.

“We have therefore decided to give greater priority to programmes that meet the need for high level skills, especially in key areas such as science, technology, engineering and maths. There will be a greater element of competition between universities for new contestable funding as an incentive to fulfil this priority. With employers and universities, we will identify where the supply of graduates is not meeting demand for key skills. And we will seek to re-balance this, by asking HEFCE to priorities the courses and subjects which match these skills needs.

“We will look to business to be more active partners with our universities. We want employers to be fully engaged in the funding and design of university programmes, the sponsorship of students, and offering work placements.

“In the decade ahead we will expect more from our universities than ever before. They will need to use their resources more effectively, reach out to a wider range of potential students and devise new sources of income, at the same time as they maintain teaching and research excellence.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills also announced that Sir Martin Harris, the Director for Fair Access, will consult with Vice Chancellors and provide the Government with a report on what further action could be taken to widen access to highly selective universities for those from under privileged backgrounds.

Lord Mandelson added:

“Wider and fairer access to university is a question of basic social justice and it is right that able students with the talent and ability to attend highly selective university are given a fair chance to do so, regardless of where they live or the school they attend.”


1. Higher Ambitions can be found online at

2. The Higher Education Debate began in February 2008 when former Universities Secretary, John Denham, commissioned ten academics to report on key issues facing the sector in the next 10 to 15 years. A further six reports were commissioned from employers and key users of higher education, to give a rounded view of what was needed for the country’s higher education provision to remain world class in the future. Further detail and copies of the reports can be found online at

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Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our future.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-11-06 13:41:01 in Economic Articles

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