At the state opening of parliament, the government used the Queen’s speech to restate its plans to introduce minimum eligibility requirements for students in England accessing tuition fee loans.
Prince Charles delivered the speech to both houses of parliament on behalf of his mother, the Queen, who is suffering “episodic mobility problems”. The address written and approved by ministers sets out the government’s legislative agenda for 2022-2023.
The Prince of Wales said the government would bring forth “reforms to education [that] will help every child fulfil the potential wherever they live, raising standards and improving the quality of schools and higher education”.
Documents published by the government following the speech stated that ministers planned to write a Higher Education Bill, pending the conclusion of the HE reform consultation, which closed on Friday, 6 May. The bill would, as expected, consider minimum qualification requirements for student finance. The government has, so far, proposed two qualifications: grade 4 GCSEs in English and Maths or at least two E grades at A-level.
The bill would also consider recruitment caps to “control numbers of students entering higher education at specific providers in England”. The government says these caps are necessary “so that providers can refocus” on those degrees deemed the most valuable to students and society.
These two proposals were the most controversial put out for consultation earlier this year. University mission groups last week remonstrated fiercely against them.
Universities were enthusiastic about the transformative potential of the government’s lifelong learning entitlement, which also received mention in official documents published at the opening of parliament. The govenrment hopes to have the LLE operational by 2025 – and a bill underpinning should be expected this year.
Next, the government said it will pursue the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill in this parliament, having introduced the bill before the recess.