Higher Education and Research Bill returns to Lords

Students working in a group.
27 April 2017

The Higher Education and Research Bill returned to the House of Lords on Thursday 27 April for consideration of Commons amendments in 'ping pong'.

The House of Lords chose not to insist on its earlier amendments; some Commons amendments were made in their place. This means both Houses agreed on the final text of the bill and it progressed to Royal Assent.

Royal Assent took place on 27 April. Royal Assent is the monarch's agreement to make the bill into an Act of Parliament (law) and is a formality.

Lords third reading: Tuesday 4 April

Members discussed mandatory transparency conditions for certain higher education providers regarding age and the conditions for search warrants.  

Lords report stage day four: Wednesday 15 March

Members discussed representation of devolved administrations on the executive committee of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and UK research councils. There was one vote (division) on a proposed change (amendment) to the draft law.

Members discussed a change to require the OfS and UKRI to make decisions about degree-awarding powers and research students jointly. This went to a vote, with 101 members for and 142 against. This meant the change was not made.

Lords report stage day three: Monday 13 March

Members discussed Sharia-compliant student finance, student loans and freedom of speech at universities. There were three divisions (votes) on proposed changes (amendments) to the bill.

Members discussed a change to require the Department for Education (DfE) to publish a progress report on introduction of Sharia-compliant student finance. There was a vote on this change: 225 members were for, with 227 against, so the change was not made.

The next vote was on a change to stop repayment conditions of student loans being changed after loan payments start. 235 members voted for this change and 248 voted against. This change was not made.

The final vote was on a change with three sections. The first section was to encourage cooperation between UK and international universities and research institutions. The second was to change the migration status of students so they do not count as long term migrants to the UK for the duration of their studies. The final section was to ensure that students or academic staff from outside the UK are not subject to future restrictions on immigration. One vote decided all three sections. 313 members were in favour with 219 against, so this change was made.

Lords report stage day two: Wednesday 8 March

Members discussed a range of subjects including international students, Office for Students (OfS) annual reporting requirements and a scheme to assess the quality of education and teaching at HE providers. There were three divisions (votes) on proposed changes (amendments) to the bill.

Members discussed assessment of the quality of higher education. They voted on a change to remove a system of ratings and replace it with evaluation that must not be used to create rankings of HE providers. In the vote, 280 members were for and 186 were against, so this change was made.

Members then discussed a change to ensure the OfS only authorises providers established for four years or more. There was a vote on this change: 201 members voted for and 186 voted against. This change was also made.

The final vote was on a change to the appeals process against an OfS judgement that varies or revokes authorisation for a university to provide HE. The change was to add as a grounds for appeal that the judgement was wrong. Members voted 185 to 151, so this change was made.

Lords report stage day one: Monday 6 March

Members discussed HE providers, course fees, electoral roll registration for students and restriction of enrolments. There were four divisions (votes) on proposed changes (amendments) to the bill.

Members discussed a change to stop HE providers using OfS ratings to determine course fees. This change went to a vote, where 263 members were in favour of the change and 211 were against. This change was made.

The next vote was a change to require HE providers to give eligible students the opportunity to opt in to the electoral register when they enrol. Members voted on this, with 200 in favour and 189 against. This change was also made.

Members then discussed a change to allow the OfS to restrict enrolments at HE providers that do not meet quality standards. In a vote on this, 45 members were in favour and 140 were against, so this change was not included.

The final vote was on a proposed change to give the OfS a duty to seek alternative placements for students of HE providers that stop providing courses. Members voted 36 in favour and 128 against this change, so it was not made.

Lords committee stage day seven: Monday 30 January

Members discussed the reporting functions of UK Research and Innovation, the autonomy of research councils and the duties of the Secretary of State for Education.

Lords committee stage day six: Wednesday 25 January

Members discussed registrations fees, punishments for cheating offences and protection for students with certain immigration statuses.

Lords committee stage day five: Monday 23 January

Members discussed powers to restrict enrolment, equal opportunities for students and the representative bodies for HE providers.

Lords committee stage day four: Wednesday 18 January

Members discussed HE and care leavers, blind marking of dissertations and blind assessment of applications, and contingency arrangements if an HE provider's registration is suspended.

Lords committee stage day three: Monday 16 January

Members discussed enrolment and registration conditions, mental health support, and accelerated degrees and flexible provision.

Lords committee stage day two: Wednesday 11 January

Members discussed subjects including widening of access and participation within HE, part-time and distance learning, and the establishment of a joint committee between the OfS and UK Research and Innovation.

Lords committee stage day one: Monday 9 January

Members discussed subjects including the OfS, the functions of UK universities and the principle of institutional autonomy, and there was one division (vote) on a proposed change to the bill.  

Members of the Lords discussed an amendment that inserted a definition of the functions and principles of universities and their contribution to society. There was a vote on this change, with 248 members voting for and 221 voting against. This meant the change to the bill was made. 

Lords second reading: 6 December 2016 

Higher Education and Research Bill

This bill will aim to:

  • establish a new regulatory body called the OfS
  • integrate the current seven research councils, along with Innovate UK, into a new body called United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI)
  • establish non-interest bearing finance options for students
  • open up the higher education sector with the aim of encouraging more competition and choice by making it easier for new high-quality providers to start up and achieve degree awarding powers, and subsequently secure university status
  • put in place risk-based regulation with the aim that the HE sector serves its stakeholders: students, employers and taxpayers
  • recognise and reward high-quality teaching by enabling the Office for Students to implement a Teaching Excellence Framework
  • bring greater transparency to the data held by the HE sector, to inform choice and promote equality of opportunity

Further information

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