The Higher Education and Research Act 2017

The Higher Education and Research Bill received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017.

The Bill has been described as "the most important legislation in the sector for 25 years" (Viscount Younger concluding his remarks in the House of Lords).

Key features of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 include provisions for the establishment of:

  • the Office for Students as the new sector regulator and funding body;
  • a new Register of Higher Education Providers;
  • a new 'transparency duty' in respect of information about categories of applicants and outcomes;
  • a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF); and
  • a new body to champion research and make funding allocations for research - UK Research and Innovation.

The House of Lords had passed amendments to the legislation to:

  • define the functions of a university;
  • prevent the TEF being used for ranking higher education institutions;
  • prevent a link between the TEF and the ability of an institution to increase undergraduate tuition fees; and
  • take international students out of the official net migration statistics. 

These amendments were not accepted by the Government in the final 'wash up' stage of the proceedings before the dissolution of Parliament ahead of the general election. However, various amendments and statements were made 'in lieu'. The Government confirmed that it welcomed international students and that it would refresh its international engagement strategy.

It was confirmed that there would be an independent review of the Teaching Excellence Framework and that the link to the fee increases would be delayed for a year so that differentiated fees as a result of a TEF rating would not apply earlier than the 2020/21 academic year. This year's TEF outcomes will be published after the general election on 8 June 2017 and comprise Gold, Silver and Bronze ratings for each higher education institution which submitted itself for assessment.

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