After much to-ing and fro-ing, debating and sector push-backs, the Government have passed the HE Bill (or to give its full and proper name, The Higher Education and Research Act 2017) after a number of concessions were made to the original proposal.
What was one of the most significant (and controversial) proposals in recent history is now law.
Aside from concerns about the timing of this move and the swiftness of its passing, the Bill undoubtedly presents both challenges (for established institutions) and opportunities (for private providers) within the legislation.
If you're a HE marketer or senior decision maker, no doubt you'll have had the HE Bill on your radar, and hopefully you are somewhat prepared for the implications that may arise now that it has been passed. If not, here are some of the key points:
- The Bill included provisions for a fee increase to 9,250 for providers who want to charge the maximum fee.
- The Bill introduces the controversial Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which opens the door for performance-related-increases to tuition fees in the future (subject to a consultation process and at least 3 years before it impacts differentiated fees).
- The creation of a new Office for Students which will take over from Hefce and OFFA (although this will be delayed till after the General Election), and changes to the way in which providers achieve degree-awarding powers and university status. The Office for Students will act as a market-style regulator for the Higher Education sector.
- A late (and surprising) rejection added to the Bill keeps international student numbers as part of the net migration target.
So what does this mean for education marketers?
To TEF or not to TEF, that is the question
The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) has been pretty controversial. The NUS is threatening disruption and boycotts of the National Student Survey, as participation could be deemed as supporting the TEF and in turn, supporting heightened tuition fees.
The impact of those who are able to take part in the TEF and those who cannot (or choose not to) will be felt.
For those who do take part - how will you fare in the TEF? And will you use the results and subsequent rankings in your marketing communications?
For those who do not take part - how do you think this will look to prospective students, parents or partner schools? Perhaps there are more opportunities here than you think...
We're always saying to our clients, 'be disruptive', 'be a challenger' and 'be different'. By subverting the narrative around the TEF can you position your brand as being cool, anti-establishment, on the side of the 'good guys' and therefore more appealing?
New players coming into the game
The potential opening up of the sector to new providers means we may see more private companies going for university status. Now if you are an organisation getting ready to enter this sector and you are reading this blog, this is obviously good news, as it opens up a world of funding, positioning and products. If you're an existing or traditional institution then watch out - because some big new threats to the establishment could be emerging.
We've said it a million times but now more than ever, you will need to adopt a content driven brand story that resonates and informs all your creative, collateral and campaigns. Be clear about who you are and why you are a great place to study. If you need any help with getting cut-through for your institution brand with the student audience, then get in touch.
And another blow for the global brand UK
Another blow for providers who were hoping for a glimmer of post-Brexit light? it turns out that international students will be included in the net migration targets set by the Government, despite earlier moves by the House of Lords to remove this part of the proposal.
The inclusion will create more competition amongst providers for international students and potentially, we will see new caps on international student recruitment. Combine this unpleasant news with the negative signals already being given out about the UK as a welcoming study destination, it ain't pretty, and providers will have to work really hard to counter this message.
This is still very controversial and quite complicated to push through and we suspect that the this matter will not end here - particularly if the General Election brings in an unexpected result.