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Jo Johnson plans university contracts

Minister shares his vision of a higher education sector that 'delivers real value for money' for students

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | July 21, 2017 | People

Students will have formal contracts with universities, so they can challenge them over too few teaching hours or if facilities are inadequate, the Universities Minister Jo Johnson, has said.

This means that universities could face the prospect of being sued if they fail to make the grade and renege on contracts they offer to their students, under government plans to reform the higher education sector.

Johnson said the newly established Office for Students would consider how to introduce contracts for all students. "Although contracts do exist in various forms in some institutions, most of them do not provide enough detail to be useful," said Johnson.

Johnson said such contracts would tackle problems of "non-delivery" for students and would give them "some form of redress", which could include "legal remedies". 

Speaking at the Reform think tank in London, yesterday, Johnson also warned universities to stop "excessive" pay for vice-chancellors.

I am still hearing students say that their course is poor quality. This is not good enough, especially when some vice-chancellors take home a wage that in some cases exceeds that of the prime minister

Johnson has made no secret of his concern about inflated vice-chancellor pay in the past. Now, in cases of exceptionally high pay, he wants the Office for Students, the higher education regulatory body that comes into force next year, to demand evidence that demonstrates a vice-chancellor merits the reward.

"When students and taxpayers invest so heavily in our higher education system, value for money should be guaranteed. Yet, I am still hearing students say that their course is poor quality. This is not good enough, especially when some vice-chancellors take home a wage that in some cases exceeds that of the prime minister."

In his speech, Johnson fought back against calls to stop the rise in tuition fees and interest rates on loans. 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that higher fees of £9,250 and interest rates rising to 6.1% will mean graduates leaving university with debts of more than £50,000 on average. while saying such charges would be kept "under review", he defended the principles underlying the current system as progressive and providing the funding for extra university places.

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