IUSS Committee report on 'Students and Universities'

02 August 2009

Responding to the report by the Innovation Universities, Science and Skills Committee report on ‘Students and Universities’, Director General of the Russell Group of Universities, Dr Wendy Piatt, said:

“We are rather dismayed and surprised by this outburst when VCs have engaged in hours of discussion with MPs over these issues. It is also disappointing to see MPs trying to cram universities into one-size-fits-all solutions.

On standards

“The world class reputation of Russell Group universities depends on maintaining excellence. But universities are not schools. An essential feature of a university is its academic freedom and autonomy, with the responsibility to award degrees and uphold standards. While our institutions are working hard to provide more information on what students can expect from their courses, introducing a university equivalent of ‘Ofsted’ will only add another layer of bureaucracy.

On widening access

“Social mobility and widening access is a key concern for Russell Group universities so we welcome the committee’s recognition that improving attainment in schools and colleges is vital in order to widen participation in universities.

On admissions

"Russell Group universities already draw on a range of factors and information in order to identify each candidate’s potential, as the report acknowledges. We agree that there is a need to continue to share information and have transparent processes in place, but imposing a one-size-fits-all code on diverse universities is going to be ineffective and stifle flourishing local initiatives.

On a national bursary scheme

“We already have a ‘national bursary scheme’ in the form of a guaranteed level of support for disadvantaged students through government grants, subsidised loans, no upfront fees and minimum bursaries set by OFFA for institutions.

“We know that some students are put off applying to leading universities because of lack of information, particularly about the costs and benefits, and low expectations and aspirations. Bursaries are one tool to help overcome these barriers and persuade students from non-traditional backgrounds to consider the best university and course for them.” 

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