Only top unis 'should give degrees'
Only England's top universities should have the power to award degrees, a study has suggested.
A report by the CentreForum think-tank calls for an overhaul of higher education, splitting universities into two different types; leading institutions that focus on research and teaching and others focusing mainly on teaching.
It says that only a "select number of highly prestigious institutions or academic bodies", should be allowed to award degrees.
These research universities would design their own set of courses and exams, which other "regular" institutions would then teach. Exams would be externally marked by the research university, the report says.
Such a move would boost the quality of higher education, cut costs and allow students to compare courses offered by different institutions.
The report says that the "research" institutions would make up around a third of universities in England, while "regular" universities would make up the other two thirds.
It argues that some universities already offer degrees accredited by other institutions, for example, Writtle College in Essex, where degrees are awarded by Essex University.
The report says: "Competition for places at prestigious 'research' universities would still be high, but as 'regular' universities gained a reputation for better quality teaching and more contact hours, some students may decide they would prefer to study for a widely recognised and externally accredited degree at a lower cost institution and still be assured of the quality of the course."
The report argues that such a system would remove the incentive for universities to charge high fees as a signal that they are providing a high quality education. By employing staff that are focused on teaching, not research, and cutting the length of a degree down to two years, costs will be cut.
Report author Gill Wyness said: "The current system is murky and expensive. Students are not able to compare courses while universities get away with using high fees to signal quality. A standardised degree system of the sort we are proposing will ensure better quality and comparability, and will drive down costs for students."