The Higher Education White Paper: The Good, the Bad, the Unspeakable – and the Next White Paper

Social Policy & Administration

Available online at

Nicholas Barr, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

Barr, N. (2012), The Higher Education White Paper: The Good, the Bad, the Unspeakable – and the Next White Paper. Social Policy & Administration. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9515.2012.00852.x

This article argues that reforms of higher education finance for undergraduates in England introduced by the Blair government in 2006 provided a progressive strategy for achieving the central objectives of higher education of quality (better), access (wider) and size (larger). Reforms in 2012 are a not a strategy but a collection of ad hoc arrangements. They include the good (a higher fees cap, a higher interest rate on student loans, better information and improved support for part-time study), the bad (abolishing most taxpayer support for teaching in the arts and humanities and the social sciences, and raising excessively the threshold at which loan repayments start) and the unspeakable (abolishing Education Maintenance Allowances and AimHigher). The reforms are fiscally costly and hence perpetuate the central problem of capped student numbers, and will not stand the test of time. The concluding section outlines the next White Paper.

‘My past is a double edge sword’: temporality and reflexivity in mature learners

Studies in Continuing Education

Available online at

Jacqueline StevensonSue Clegg

Jacqueline Stevenson & Sue Clegg (2012): ‘My past is a double edge sword’: temporality and reflexivity in mature learners, Studies in Continuing Education, DOI:10.1080/0158037X.2012.684794

This paper discusses the ways in which mature students orientate themselves towards the future in making decisions to access higher education (HE). Their narratives connect their past, often difficult, educational and personal lives to their future aspirations and to their current experiences in further education (FE) and HE. The research was part of a larger project undertaken for the UK Higher Education Academy Centre for Sociology, Anthropology and Politics (C-SAP) exploring FE and HE mature learners’ future ‘possible selves’ including those selves that are desired and those that are not. Students were asked to reflect on both their past journeys as well as on what their possible future(s) might look like. In this paper, we focus on the mature learners in our study as they emerged as having distinctive orientations towards their futures.

Never too late to learn: Mature Students into Higher Education

Katy Morris and Debbie McVitty

Available online at

A joint million+/NUS report which challenges long-standing myths about who participates in higher education in the UK. Contrary to the assumptions of many policy makers and politicians, nearly one in three undergraduates at UK universities are over the age of 21 when they start their first degree.

This report exposes the limitations of funding regimes and social mobility strategies which assume that university is only for younger people with A-level grades. One of the unique strengths of the UK’s university system is the wide-ranging age of students with more than 429,000 mature undergraduates studying at UK universities in 2009-10.

The joint million+/NUS research project behind the report involved analysis of data provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, a survey of 3,963 mature students from around the UK undertaken by million+ and NUS in November 2011 and a series of workshops for mature students and university staff held during March and April 2012.

The full report can be downloaded here.

A summary of key findings can be downloaded here.

Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *