Universities Minister David Willetts has unveiled a white paper setting out proposed changes to higher education in England. The paper entitled 'Students at the heart of the system', published on 28 June, covers four broad areas: reforming funding; delivering a better student experience; enabling universities to increase social mobility; and reducing regulation and removing barriers for new providers. The paper aims to encourage competition among universities and give students better value for money. It will lead to the creation of 85,000 extra university places by 2012-2013.

Following the stricter student visa controls announced in April 2011 by the Home Office, there was concern among education providers that the higher education reforms would impose restrictions on students entering the UK from outside the EU. Willetts made it clear in his speech, however, that the number of non-EU students permitted to study at higher education institutions in the UK would remain uncapped.

As part of the proposals to remove barriers for new providers, students enrolled at for-profit institutions will be permitted to apply for state-supported loans; the regime for obtaining and renewing degree awarding powers will be simplified; the use of the title 'University' will be reviewed and education providers will be able to award degree powers without teaching them.

A full consultation on the proposals will be carried out by the Government and it is expected that the 'Higher Education' bill will be put forward in 2012.

For the white paper, please click here.

For a detailed overview of the higher education reforms, please click here.