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Ben Howlett: Conservative Future welcomes today's Higher Education reforms which will make universities more accountable and transparent

Picture 2 Ben Howlett is the National Chairman of Conservative Future.

Today's reforms proposed in the Higher Education White Paper, as explained by David Willetts here on ConHome earlier this afternoon, ensure students get their money's worth.

With progressive reforms to the higher education system proposed earlier this year, it is only fair that if students are asked to pay more once they graduate, Universities have an obligation to deliver more for students.

Under the white paper plans set out today, Universities will become more accountable and more transparent about what they are offering for students. The Government has been listening to students about how Universities should improve and the results in the White Paper set out today will benefit all students. There will be greater choice, better information before students apply, better teaching at university, more feedback on their work and better support for getting a job at the end of their courses.

As Conservative Future Chairman I have met with students across the UK and listened to their concerns about higher education. Their concerns were that under 13 years of Labour students were not trusted with their own choices. The White Paper proposes reforms that put power in the hands of students to make higher education institutions more responsive to their demands and choices.

Today's proposals look at fairer student funding for the first time. There will be absolutely no upfront fees for students and graduate contributions will be more affordable with the poorest better off than before. Over the past decade money was spent without teaching in mind, in response the teaching grant will now be targeted for courses where it is needed. There will be more help with living costs for all poorer students and a new £150 million National Scholarship Programme. As a result the Institute for Fiscal Studies has given its thumbs up, 'the Government's proposals are more progressive than the current system'.

For the first time the White Paper offers a system that produces better courses and better qualified graduates. The quality of teaching will improve through greater competition, resulting in greater participation in higher education. There will be more opportunities for other education providers and charities to sponsor courses as a result. In March, the OECD said 'The increase in the tuition fee ceiling is reasonable and should pave the way for higher participation in tertiary education'. Access and
quality will increase by removing the target on student numbers to make Universities responsive to student demand.

By far one of the biggest complaints about higher education by students came from the lack of support from the Labour Government on the Careers Service. The Government is proposing a new, all-age Careers Service. They want to improve the quality of careers advice supporting schools to provide a good careers advice.

Conservative Future believes these proposals are a progressive and fair alternative for higher education. For the first time in decades today's proposals give real support to students and ensure that they get their
money's worth.


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