Students protesting in 2010 BillyH

At the centre of the controversy that surrounds the government’s Bill is an enormous question mark over what kind of a sector higher education is and ought to be.

The efforts of Labour MPs to make sure that student voices are heard in a process that will see universities given gold, silver and bronze certifications are important, and the principle that students should have as much information as possible available when they apply is obviously unobjectionable.

Despite that, it seems probable that many would baulk at the idea that universities could be rated and compared in a TripAdvisor-esque fashion, with a handful of metrics chosen by the Office for Students surmising the totality of the student experience.

Indeed, that we are quick to dismiss any notion that the myriad university rankings that come out each year are the be all and end all illustrates the scepticism such an approach would attract.

There is, however, a huge difference between university league tables, and a state-sanctioned ratings system that ties ratings to the ability to charge ever-increasing fees.

Of course, a transactional relationship between universities and students is nothing new – the introduction of tuition fees under Labour and the tripling of fees under the coalition government have meant that questions over how to improve higher education have been phrased it terms of 'what am I getting for my money' for quite some time now.

The proposals of the Higher Education Bill threaten to expand this climate of discussion to a point that universities pursue a sort of path of least resistance, appeasing students even where their demands may be detrimental to the overall quality of education on offer, all in the service of an ill-defined student satisfaction metric.

Sponsored links