Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee

30 October 2008

No. 82 (07-08)



The Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee has decided to hold an inquiry into students and universities. This will include admissions, the balance between teaching and research, degree completion and classification and mechanisms of student support and engagement. The Committee invites evidence on the following issues:


  • the effectiveness of the process for admission to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), including A-levels, Advanced Diplomas, apprenticeships and university entrance tests
  • the UK's ability to meet government targets for Higher Education participation and the relevance of these targets
  • the implementation and success of widening participation initiatives such as Compact agreements, and the impact of the current funding regime on these objectives
  • the role of the Government in developing and promoting fair access and admissions policies for the UK Higher Education sector

The balance between teaching and research

  • levels of funding for, and the balance between, teaching and research in UK HEIs, and the adequacy of financial support for the development of innovative teaching methods and teaching/research integration
  • the quality of teaching provision and learning facilities in UK and the extent to which they vary between HEIs
  • the suitability of methods of assessing excellence in teaching and research and the impact of research assessment on these activities
  • the availability and adequacy of training in teaching methods for UK academics and the importance of teaching excellence for the academic career path, including consideration of the role of teaching fellows
  • the responsibilities of the Government and HEFCE in assuring (a) the quality of teaching provision and learning opportunities in UK HEIs; and (b) the balance between teaching and research in HEIs

Degree classification

  • whether the methodologies used by UK HEIs to determine degree classifications and the distribution of degree classes awarded are appropriate, the potential methodologies for the standardisation of degree classifications within, and between, HEIs, and the effectiveness of the Quality Assurance Agency in monitoring degree standards
  • the advantages and disadvantages of the UK's system of degree classification and the introduction of the Higher Education Academic Record
  • the actions that universities, Government and others have taken, or should take, to maintain confidence in the value of degrees awarded by universities in the UK
  • the relationship between degree classification and portability
  • the extent to which student plagiarism is a problem in HE, and the availability and effectiveness of strategies to identify, penalise and combat plagiarism

Student support and engagement

  • the effectiveness of initiatives to support student engagement in the formulation of HE policy, and how the success or otherwise of these initiatives is being assessed
  • how the student experience differs in public and private universities
  • examples of reasons for, and potential strategies to reduce, the non-completion of higher education programmes by students
  • the adequacy of UK higher education (HE) funding and student support packages, and implications for current and future levels of student debt
  • any further action required by the Government and/or HEFCE to ensure that UK HEIs offer students a world class educational experience

The Committee asks for written submissions in accordance with the guidelines stated below by Thursday 11 December 2008.

Please note

Each submission should:

a) be no more than 3,000 words in length;

b) begin with a short summary in bullet point form;

c) have numbered paragraphs; and

d) be in Word format (no later than 2003) with as little use of colour or logos as possible.

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to and marked "Students and Universities". An additional paper copy should be sent to:

The Clerk, Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London, SW1P 3JA.

It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals submitting written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Please supply a postal address so a copy of the Committee's report can be sent to you upon publication.

A guide for written submissions to Select Committees may be found on the parliamentary website at:

Please also note that:

  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.
  • Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organization submitting it is specifically authorised.
  • Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
  • Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

For media inquiries please call Laura Kibby on 020 7219 0718. For any other information please call Ana Ferreira, on 020 7219 2793. Previous press notices and publications are available on our website.

Committee Membership is as follows:

Mr Phil Willis (Liberal Democrat, Harrogate and Knaresborough)(Chairman)
Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods (Labour, City of Durham)
Mr Tim Boswell (Conservative, Daventry)
Mr Ian Cawsey (Labour, Brigg & Goole)
Mrs Nadine Dorries (Conservative, Mid Bedfordshire)
Dr Ian Gibson (Labour, Norwich North)
Dr Evan Harris (Liberal Democrat, Oxford West & Abingdon)
Dr Brian Iddon (Labour, Bolton South East)
Mr Gordon Marsden (Labour, Blackpool South)
Dr Bob Spink (UK Independence Party, Castle Point)
Ian Stewart (Labour, Eccles)
Mr Graham Stringer (Labour, Manchester, Blackley)
Dr Desmond Turner (Labour, Brighton Kemptown)
Mr Rob Wilson (Conservative, Reading East)

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