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Recommendations to make universities accessible to everyone

13 November 2018

Three academics from the University of Bristol have come up with a series of recommendations which could make UK universities more accessible and responsive to a changing economy.

Policy report 42

The options include more opportunities to study part-time over a longer period, initial study being free for all, and a replacement of the fees and loans system with an all-age graduate tax.

You can find more details about the proposals in a policy briefing here: 

Policy-report 42-Nov-2108-accessible-universities (PDF, 826kB)

The research by Professors Tom Sperlinger, Josie McLellan and Richard Pettigrew, is based on their own experiences of teaching at Bristol, including the introduction of courses that recruit students without qualifications and allow more flexible study.

It is estimated that there are now over 150 million students in higher education across 17,000 institutions around the world. Yet, research says, many people feel that universities are not for them.

Professor Sperlinger said: “In a context of rapid technological and economic change, it makes little sense to concentrate all of an individual’s higher education into a brief period at the beginning of their lives.

“We need a shift away from the norm of full-time study over three years at the age of 18. This model emerged in an era when the student population was dramatically smaller, and the nature of professional life was very different.

“At the same time, universities in the UK are facing a crisis of public confidence both as institutions and as symbols of expertise. We need a radical rethink of the form and structure of the higher education system if this crisis is to be addressed.”

What would a different model of universities look like, and who would benefit? The research makes four proposals, and puts forward a new funding model for universities.

 Read the policy briefing to find out more:

Policy-report 42-Nov-2108-accessible-universities (PDF, 826kB)


Further information

The research is also presented in a new book Who Are Universities For? Remaking Higher Education which is published by Bristol University Press and is officially launched this week.

Professor McLellan said: “In our book, we imagine some radical and optimistic ways that universities could be re-organised in future, to meet the most urgent challenges society is facing – and to do so in much more inclusive ways. We hope this book is the start of a conversation across the sector, and with communities outside it.”

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