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Universities UK calls into question Government proposals on university title

Universities UK Media Release, June 3, 2003:

Universities UK will examine the Government’s instructions to the QAA and will respond to the subsequent consultation. Universities UK also awaits the response of the QAA. It remains seriously concerned about the proposals to grant university title to institutions without research degree awarding powers. This may devalue university degrees if the link between research and teaching is downgraded.

In its response to the HE White Paper, Universities UK emphasised the indivisibility between teaching and research and argued that the proposals to make university title dependent on taught degree awarding powers only need much more careful consideration.

The proposals may have other negative effects on the HE sector. These include the effect of increased state control on university autonomy, and on English universities’ ability to compete in the international market for the recruitment of students. Careful consideration needs to be given to the impact across the UK, for example in those nations that are not proposing to follow the English lead in this area.

Universities UK is also concerned by the incompatibility of the proposals with the Bologna Process; the potential damage to the international reputation of UK HE, and on the recruitment of international students. Internationally the designation of university title is understood to encompass both teaching and a strong research ethos, as outlined in the Magna Charta Universitatum. This emphasises the indivisibility in university education of teaching and research. European higher education is committed to this key Magna Charta principle, endorsed by 700 universities worldwide. Moreover the European Universities Association (EUA) defines the power to award all kinds of Doctorates as an essential characteristic of a university. This will become a cornerstone of mutual recognition of degrees (1).

Professor Roderick Floud, President of Universities UK said: "We are very clear that research and teaching are both fundamental to a university. Breaking this link would take us out of step with Europe. We are also clear that the existence of different definitions of a university in the nations of the UK will be extremely problematic. The Government is aware of the sector’s concerns on this issue. We are disappointed that Government should have published their intended criteria at this stage, without consultation. Further detail is required on the proposed changes to the criteria, for example the suggestion that degree awarding powers should be renewable via QAA audit."

Notes:

1. The European University Association, as the representative organisation of both the European universities and the national rectors' conferences, is the main voice of the higher education community in Europe. For further information: http://www.unige.ch/eua/

2. Universities UK’s response to the HE White Paper is available at: www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/consultations/responses.

June 2003

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