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Suits you, Sir: higher education to be tailored in the UK

In his annual grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Universities Secretary John Denham draws the new bold lines for higher education. The agenda, which Mr Denham describes as “ambitious and ground-breaking”, strives to enhance cooperation between universities and businesses. The Government suggests increasing the number of degree places funded by businesses to 5000 in 2008-09, to 10,000 in 2009-10 and up to 20,000 in 2010-11.

In order to execute the changes, Mr Denham advocates the growth of two-year compressed "honours" degrees and added flexibility at the universities. They should accept the “innovation and cultural change” by providing alternative funding as well as administrative adaptability. According to the agenda, the “providers will need a growing appreciation of the requirements of employers”: the universities need to offer courses according to the needs of businesses as well as to provide individually tailored courses.

Perhaps contradicting the goals of the Lifelong Learning Programme, this ambitious plan will be paid with the £100m previously aimed at students who are studying for a qualification equivalent or lower that they already have been granted, thus making second-degree studies more difficult to access. How the traditional, less market-orientated subjects will be able to attract the new funding remains to be seen.    

Annual grant letter