David Willetts

Change at the top

by Alistair Jarvis on July 29, 2013

In the short lull between the buzz of graduation ceremonies in July and the (likely to be manic) clearing week in mid-August, speculation on university campuses has focussed on the runners and riders for arguably the two most influential jobs in UK Higher Education. Alistair Jarvis assesses the prospect of a new dynamic at the top of the sector as David Willetts faces the axe, and Madeline Atkins arrives at the helm of HEFCE.

Between Public and Private

by Newell September 7, 2011

Yesterday saw BPP University College announced their 2012 fees are set at £5,000. This could be a game changer. It is the first announcement from the David Willetts-endorsed ‘new wave’ of private providers, putting BPP under a considerable amount of scrutiny.

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Globalisation: Where on earth does HE start?

by Martin Hughes June 27, 2011

Universities Minister, David Willetts, recently said that the HE sector is only at the beginning of globalisation.

Willetts, speaking at the launch of the book “Blue Skies”, assured that change will happen as the sector focuses more on globalisation. He suggested that previously small players may be growing massively, but the balance hasn’t yet set in. The UK and other players have yet to play their cards in a big way.

Does this mean that Willetts is banking on an easy — or, at least, steady — overtaking shot at an opportune time?

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Freeing-up student numbers: the implications

by Richard Brabner May 20, 2011

The opprobrium from parts of the sector and the Westminster Village as a result of David Willetts (either intentionally or being forced to by a ‘leak) exploring the idea of off-quota places meant that the idea was quickly watered-down, to only include business and charity-sponsored off-quota places.

Nevertheless, the Government is clearly looking for more ways to open up the student numbers cap, but in a way that would result in evolutionary rather than revolutionary change. Cameron insider Benedict Brogan in his Telegraph Blog suggested that the White Paper will include ways to let universities recruit more AAB students outside of their cap, whilst also allowing cheaper charging courses to expand outside of student number controls.

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What did we learn from the BIS Business Plan?

by Mark Leach May 17, 2011

The answer is; not a great deal, but some useful morsels of information can be found with a bit of digging. One of the transparency initiatives of this Government has been to make Departmental business plans publicly accessible. They have all just been updated for May 2011 and the BIS plan is certainly worth a scan from an HE perspective, even though it’s not setting the world alight.

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Off-quota places – another unforced HE policy error?

by Mark Leach May 10, 2011

This morning David Willetts took the airwaves to float the idea of ‘off-quota’ places at university. Not a new idea by any means, but an interesting indication of the direction of travel for the HE White Paper which most now expect in the first half of June. On the one hand, there is a sound political argument for leaking out policy initiatives in this way; it can have the effect of softening up the ground for when the big one drops later on.

But David Willetts has underestimated the toxicity of a policy like this which touches a very raw nerve indeed. Still wounded by the fees and funding settlement, this policy will feel like a kick in the teeth to those still clinging on to the idea that access to HE should never depend on the ability to pay. The ‘free at the point of use’ principle, still hanging on by its finger-nails, ensured that there was always going to be the greatest strength of feeling against the deep cuts to the teaching grant. The ensuing high fees for many felt like the sad, but necessary consequence of this – softened by continued commitment not to charge up-front fees.

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How do you solve a problem like Vince Cable?

by Mark Leach May 4, 2011

Vince Cable’s journey from opposition darling to spent political force embodies the story of his party over the past two years. In the run-up to the election, and failing to predict ‘Cleggmania’, he was given equal footing with the party leader in the election campaign. He was seen to be an essential electoral asset – trusted, well-liked, credible (even witty as his devastating ‘Stalin to Mr Bean’ jibe showed). But as Secretary of State, he failed so completely to negotiate a settlement for higher education funding that wouldn’t enrage, divide and aliente everyone – not least his own conscience, better judgement and previous political promises.

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A new threat from the right?

by Mark Leach April 6, 2011

The Government’s friendless higher education policies may have another enemy that has been previously lying low; the Tory right. Yesterday the Government announced their Social Mobility Strategy which has been broadly welcomed by most. But right-wing Tory, and one-time leadership hopeful David Davis, used the opportunity to further his libertarian argument that would see the retreat of the state in almost every aspect of life, including laws designed to rebalance unfair socio-economic realities. Included in his complaint are measures to ensure that universities take state school applicants through what many view as the discredited and largely toothless OFFA regime which in any case allows institutions to set their own benchmarks for success, rather than complying with a Whitehall edict.

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David Willetts’ elitist folly #516

by Mark Leach March 14, 2011

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that David Willetts is to organise a direct mail campaign to target top A Level students that do not choose elite institutions in order to “chivvy up their ambition”. He told the Sunday Times that he would write; ‘Congratulations, you have done so well, the world is your oyster. Some of our most competitive universities would love to have someone with your qualifications applying to them. Have you thought about it?’

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The winning move is not to play: Game Theory and the Willetts funding model

by David Kernohan February 25, 2011

During a speech at the Universities UK Spring Conference, David Willetts (UK Secretary of State for Universities) reiterated his warnings about the high potential cost to the taxpayer of universities electing to charge fees reflecting the full range of that which is permitted to them. It is now an open secret that the new funding model for universities is certain to cost the taxpayer more within this parliament, and is very likely never to cost any less than the current model. Bearing this in mind, Willetts has warned senior university staff that money may be taken from other university income streams (for instance the research budget) in order to be able to fund the additional loans that would be required to meet these fees.

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A safe bet

by Mark Leach February 9, 2011

Both Oxford and Cambridge have let it be known this week that they intend to charge the maximum £9000 fee. Absolutely no one is surprised by this news.

However the details about the new access requirements that will come with fees will be announced later this week and Oxbridge have taken a gamble that their measures (such as Cambridge’s ‘discount’ for the poorest students) will more than meet the new regulatory requirements.

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