Assignment White Paper Critique: Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice

Hello and thank you for viewing this post! In this post, I’ll be exploring the higher education white paper that was released in May 2016, in which I’ll be critiquing the paper using other sources as evidence, whilst including personal examples and opinions of the paper.

Higher Education White Paper

The minister of state for universities and science Jo Johnson MP, highlighted universities as national assets, in which creating a strong economy and society, whilst providing young adults with critical thinking capabilities and valuable skills for future life endeavors; furthermore, reform actions required include the removal of a lack of clear information to applicants when applying to university, a better variation of quality and outcomes to students, including more strategic research and innovation funding, whilst providing more choice and university success to students of disadvantaged backgrounds.

Disadvantaged Backgrounds

The white paper states that young adults from deprived backgrounds are 2.4 times less likely to progress to higher education, in which I believe this statistic to be absolute. In my experience, there are many factors that affect a young adults progression into higher education, especially those from deprived backgrounds, as the potential cost-benefit analysis is much more limited.

The white paper states that a target is to double the proportion of people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering university by 2020, thus supporting social mobility. Prior to this paper, the student maintenance grant was abolished, but student living loans raised to £8,200 for an undergraduate course; furthermore, after this paper the student tuition cap has been raised to £9250 per year, alongside the repayment cap to £25,000 a year and interest rates rising to 6.1%.

U.K. universities are falling down the ranking tables in comparison to international institutions, which sources state could be due to the policy of accepting students from disadvantaged backgrounds, whom have lesser knowledge than those from public educated backgrounds, in which requiring less intellectual teaching; furthermore, the pressure from government bodies, including this white paper, to admit students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those of differing ethnicity, may be distracting universities from focusing on the innovative research that helps build the institutions reputation, thus creating an ethical paradox.

The target may be to double the proportion of people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering university, but to warrant the large accumulation of debt that follows higher education, more university equality must be adhered, thus providing students with a meaningful education to progress their careers and begin to pay off this interest accumulating debt; furthermore, policies not mentioned on the white paper should be revisited, such as the requirement for students to pay prescription charges, whilst earning little to no income.

Dynamic Institutions of Innovation

The white paper denotes that incumbent Russell group universities must face competition from other institutions, to drive more student choice and better quality products at a lower cost; furthermore, attempting to put less emphasis on establishment record, defining universities by ability and not reputable arrogance. To facilitate this, new entrants will be able to award their own degrees, or call themselves a university, via a reform to the degree awarding powers (DAP). The legacy DAP system favoured large faculties, but the revised system will enable degree status to be obtained within three years, in which allowing specialist institutions to prosper.

The possibilities of this change are revolutionary, in which specialisation institutions could be created, for example areas of engineering, computer science or journalism, in which growing with specialised research and tutors, thus providing students with an alternative avenue to specialise in an institution of study; however, for this to work, the government must ensure the awarding process is still scrutinised, thus protecting students from potential enrollment into poor institutions, self-sabotaging their future career paths.

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