The HE Act in a Nutshell

Now with added Brexit


Privatising Colleges

The HE Act allows private for-profit companies with no track record in education to

  • call themselves a ‘University’ and award degrees
  • charge £9,000+ fees, with loans paid for by taxpayers (to rise to 11% of GDP by 2040s)
  • ignore Academic Freedom and Student Unions – and not bother with libraries
  • shut if they don’t make a profit, leaving students stranded (as in the USA)

Wrecking Education

  • The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) will spur ‘teaching to the test’ and grade inflation
  • TEF has nothing to do with teaching excellence – e.g. graduate salaries correlate with wealthy, well-connected students and students in business-oriented subjects
  • Subject-based TEF will be introduced in 2 years – playing departments off against each other
  • Student choice is declining as modules are closed


Raising Costs

  • The TEF will cost an estimated ~£500m to run – paid for by student tuition fees
  • TEF scores will be used to increase tuition fees
  • The TEF could be used to cap student numbers – the Home Secretary has already said she wants to use it to cut overseas students
  • Student fees are rising, the repayment threshold has been frozen – but VCs are silent

Attacking Academics and an Informed Society

  • Research-intensive universities are cutting professors, building new campuses and hiring low-paid teaching staff in fashionable subjects
  • Some universities (Coventry, London Met) are copying private-sector competitors
  • The HE Act will end state protection for Academic Freedom – would VW emissions data be public if scientists could be threatened?


  • The HE Bill was passed in a modified form in a pre-election negotiation between the political parties in June 2017. It is now an Act. Although we failed to stop the Bill from being passed, the public awareness and scrutiny of the Bill has blunted some powers, on paper at least.
  • The campaign to defend Higher Education from market madness must continue. The HE Bill (Act) is the most recent in a sequence of damaging changes to the way the UK Higher Education sector is funded.
    • The ‘Willets Plan’ started with the introduction of £9,000 undergraduate tuition fees and new student loans, and the removal of direct funding for many subjects in 2011.
    • It was intensified with the removal of limits on undergraduate recruitment in 2014. This encouraged universities to expand in direct competition with each other.
    • The HE Act now allows companies with no track record in higher education to enter this market.
  • We published a detailed critique of this process in The Alternative White Paper for Higher Education. The arguments in this short book are as relevant now as they have ever been.
  • As existing universities direct their efforts to this new market in undergraduates there will be new flashpoints. The latest of these is the attack on the pensions of staff in the ‘old’ universities.