Terms of reference of the National Committee

To make recommendations on how the purposes, shape, structure, size and funding of higher education, including support for students, should develop to meet the needs of the United Kingdom over the next 20 years, recognising that higher education embraces teaching, learning, scholarship and research.

The Committee should report by the summer of 1997.

The Committee should take account of the context in Annex A.

The Committee should have regard, within the constraints of the Government's other spending priorities and affordability, to the following principles:

  • there should be maximum participation in initial higher education by young and mature students and in lifetime learning by adults, having regard to the needs of individuals, the nation and the future labour market;
  • students should be able to choose between a diverse range of courses, institutions, modes and locations of study;
  • standards of degrees and other higher education qualifications should be at least maintained, and assured;
  • the effectiveness of teaching and learning should be enhanced;
  • learning should be increasingly responsive to employment needs and include the development of general skills, widely valued in employment;
  • higher education's contribution to basic, strategic and applied research should be maintained and enhanced, particularly in subjects where UK research has attained international standards of excellence or in Technology Foresight priority areas;
  • arrangements for student support should be fair and transparent, and support the principles above;
  • higher education should be able to recruit, retain and motivate staff of the appropriate calibre;
  • value for money and cost-effectiveness should be obtained in the use of resources.

The Committee should take account of the following context:

  • demand for higher education from suitably qualified applicants of all ages is growing as more people achieve qualifications at level 3 and more of those who already have higher level qualifications look to upgrade or update them;
  • there is a growing diversity of students in higher education with a growing number of mature entrants, part-timers, and women students;
  • higher education continues to have a key role in developing the powers of the mind, and in advancing understanding and learning through scholarship and research;
  • the UK must now compete in increasingly competitive international markets where the proliferation of knowledge, technological advances and the information revolution mean that labour market demand for those with higher level education and training is growing, particularly in business, and that there is a greater premium on the products of the country's research base;
  • many of our international competitors are aiming to improve the contribution their higher education systems make to their economic performance;
  • n higher education has a key role in delivering national policies and meeting industry's needs for science, engineering and technology in research and postgraduate training;
  • a flourishing higher education system is important for all sectors of the economy and essential to the NHS and the education service, supplying qualified manpower, research and innovation, and continuing professional development;
  • through scholarship and research, higher education provides a national resource of knowledge and expertise for the benefit of our international competitiveness and quality of life, and provides a basis for responding to social and economic change through innovation and lifelong learning;
  • higher education continues to have a role in the nation's social, moral and spiritual life; in transmitting citizenship and culture in all its variety; and in enabling personal development for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole;
  • higher education is a major contributor to local, regional and national economic growth and regeneration;
  • there are distinctive features of higher education in different parts of the UK;
  • links between higher education and other parts of the education and training system, particularly further education, are increasing in importance;
  • links between higher education in the UK and elsewhere in the world are growing, as the international mobility of students and staff increases;
  • higher education is an important educational export in its own right;
  • new technology is opening up the possibility of new forms of teaching and learning, and higher education is increasingly delivered in the work-place and in the home through distance-learning;
  • the Government has legislated to enable private financial institutions to offer loans to students on similar terms to those offered by the Student Loans Company; there have already been reviews of a number of areas likely to be of interest to the Committee, for example of the national framework of qualifications and of credit accumulation and transfer, of postgraduate education, and of the dual support arrangements for research funding.

Membership of The National Committee

Professor John Arbuthnott
Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde (formerly Brenda Dean)

Sir Ron Dearing
(Chairman)

Ms Judith Evans
Departmental Director of Personnel Policy, Sainsbury's

Sir Ron Garrick
Managing Director and Chief Executive of Weir Group

Sir Geoffrey Holland
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter

Professor Diana Laurillard
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Technology Development) of the Open University

Mrs Pamela Morris
Headteacher, The Blue School, Wells

Sir Ronald Oxburgh
Rector of Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine

Dr David Potter
Chairman of Psion plc

Sir George Quigley
Chairman of Ulster Bank

Sir William Stubbs
Rector of the London Institute

Sir Richard Sykes
Chairman and Chief Executive of Glaxo Wellcome plc

Professor David Watson
Director of the University of Brighton

Professor Sir David Weatherall Regius
Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford

Professor Adrian Webb
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan

Mr Simon Wright
Education and Welfare Officer, Students Union, the University of Wales College of Cardiff