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This paper has been written for the House of Commons Second Reading debate on the Higher Education and Research Bill 2016. The Bill was presented in the House of Commons on 19 May 2016. It seeks to bring forward a range of measures to increase competition and choice in the higher education sector, raise standards and strengthen capabilities in UK research and innovation. The Bill implements the legislative proposals in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) White Paper, Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching, Social Mobility and Student Choice and in Sir Paul Nurse’s report, Ensuring a successful UK research endeavour: A Review of the UK Research Councils by Paul Nurse, November 2015.

The Bill is in four parts:

  • Part 1 establishes a new body, the Office for Students (OfS); the OfS will act as the regulator and funding body (teaching) for the sector; the Higher Education Funding Council for England will be abolished and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) will be merged into the new body. This part also creates a new single entry system for higher education providers; this will operate through a new register of higher education providers and by changing criteria on the granting of degree awarding powers and university title (UT).
  • Part 2 contains measures to create new alternative payments; these payments will be non-interest bearing student finance. This part also contains provisions on the deregulation of higher education corporations.
  • Part 3 makes changes to research infrastructure which will enact some of the recommendations in the Nurse Review of the UK research councils. The provisions will create a new body, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI); the seven research councils and Innovate UK will be integrated into UKRI along with a new body, Research England.
  • Part 4 contains related general provisions.

This briefing paper provides background on the main provisions of the Bill, contains comment and raises issues. The Paper follows the outline of the Bill but is not intended to be an exhaustive clause-by-clause analysis; the Explanatory Notes to the Bill, published alongside it, provide explanation of individual clauses. The Bill and accompanying documents are available on the Parliament website at Higher Education and Research Bill 2016-17.

BIS has published the following accompanying documents:

The provisions in the Bill extend mainly to England and Wales, some apply to England only and Part 3 on research is predominantly UK wide. A detailed table showing the territorial extent of clauses in the Bill is set out in Annex A of the Explanatory Notes on page 57.

Library briefing paper, CBP 7399, Higher Education Green Paper 2015 Fulfilling Our Potential 10 November 2015, discusses the Green Paper proposals and CBP 7600, Higher Education White Paper Success as a Knowledge Economy, 18 May 2016, discusses the White Paper proposals.

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