Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee

The Education Committee has today (8 Dec) published the written evidence for its inquiry into value for money in higher education. The written evidence covers topics such as vice-chancellor and senior management pay, the impact of student debt and value for money, and the support available for disadvantaged students.

The evidence submissions have been published ahead of the inquiry’s first public evidence session on Tuesday when the Committee will be questioning witnesses including representatives from the NUS, Office for Students (OfS) and the Sutton Trust. The Committee will also hear from students, including Sam Brook, a Warwick University graduate, who submitted evidence to the inquiry (entitling his written submission, “A letter to the government from a disgruntled graduate of 2016”).

The Committee has received written evidence submissions (71 in total) from a range of education bodies, charities, and individuals including the CBI, NUS, University of Cambridge, Sutton Trust, Association of Colleges, Universities UK, Nottingham Trent University, the Office for Students, University and College Union (UCU), the Committee of University Chairs, Universities Scotland, and University College London

The Education Committee’s inquiry into value for money in higher education examines the use of graduate outcomes data, social justice and progression of disadvantaged students in higher education, and the quality of teaching across institutions.

Robert Halfon 100x100Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, said: “Social justice and the goal of improving young people’s lives and help them progress on the ladder of opportunity should be fundamental to the mission of our universities. Tackling our economy’s skills gaps and equipping our graduates to go on to highly skilled and better paid jobs should be a central goal of our universities. In our inquiry we want to examine how far universities are delivering a good quality service for their students and drill down on the extent to which the high salaries of vice-chancellors are linked to positive student outcomes.

“Universities should be about education, skills and employability, and addressing social injustice - ensuring that the socially disadvantaged can climb the ladder of the opportunity.

“We need to be thinking about degrees in terms of employability and the extent to which graduates are in the right jobs to fill the skills gaps in our economy. We need to make better use of data on graduate outcomes and hold universities to account when their graduates do not find jobs.”

The Committee’s value for money inquiry will also be examining variations in the quality of teaching in higher education institutions and the effectiveness of the Teaching Excellence Framework in recognising this. 

Commenting on the written evidence

Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, said: “Recent high-profile examples of stratospheric levels of pay and perks for some university vice-chancellors do little to suggest universities recognise the struggles of their students or, indeed, of poorly paid university staff. When students are increasingly questioning their ability to repay loans and the value of their degree, our inquiry wants to examine to what extent the individual student and the taxpayer receives value for money for this considerable financial investment.

“Arguments in our written evidence and beyond that universities are in globally competitive market for vice-chancellors, akin to Premier League clubs in their hunt for talent, struggle to convince. Seeking to compare vice-chancellor salaries to the pay of chief executives running businesses or organisations of a similar size is similarly questionable, especially given the public monies which fund our universities. In our inquiry, we want to test these arguments and explore whether there are benefits from increased productivity from successful graduates and if students do realise a greater dividend throughout their careers as a consequence of their degree.”

In addition to the call for evidence for written submissions, the Committee has also launched an online survey for students to respond on issues including the quality of teaching and contact hours in universities, the support available for students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the graduate outcomes and the employability of students. The survey is open until Thursday 14 December 2017.

The Education Committee’s public evidence session at 10am on Tuesday will be an opportunity for the Committee to question a panel of students on their experiences of university and to look at the developing role of the Office for Students, value for money for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and the teaching excellence framework. Watch live and on-demand on Parliament TV  


Tuesday 12 December 2017, Committee Room tbc, 10am.

Panel one (10am) 

  • Sam Brook, University of Warwick graduate 
  • Aaron Oreschnick, Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship - Hospitality Pathway, Manchester Metropolitan University 
  • Polly Tyler, Nottingham Trent University 

Panel two (10.45am)

  • Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive, Office for Students 
  • Amatey Doku, Vice- President Higher Education, National Union of Students  
  • Conor Ryan, Director of Research and Communications, Sutton Trust

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