United Kingdom

There are different political environments and systems operating within the different countries within the United Kingdom. Many of the issues outlined in the present profile relate to developments in England and not across the whole of the United Kingdom.

Recent developments:

  • Lifting of student number controls for universities in England, partially from 2012/13 and fully from 2015/16
  • Major decrease of almost 70% in public grant funding for teaching in England (between 2011 and 2017), as tuition fee ceilings increased for Bachelor/undergraduate students
  • Forthcoming changes to Scottish university governance with the Higher Education Governance Act 2016
  • New quality assurance approach from 2016/17 including a new focus on teaching excellence with the Teaching Excellence Framework
  • Forthcoming changes for universities in England outlined in the Higher Education and Research Bill

Organisational autonomy: high

English universities can decide, without the interference of the State, on all aspects of organisational autonomy, including selection, term of office and dismissal of the executive head, governance structures and inclusion of external members, as well as internal academic structures. Universities may create legal entities freely.

Financial autonomy: high

Universities do require the approval of an external authority for borrowing above a certain level. At Bachelor level tuition fees to national and EU students must be set below a ceiling set by an external authority. Universities may set the level of fees charged at other levels and to international students.

Academic autonomy: high

Universities decide on the overall number of students since student number controls were lifted. They set admission criteria at Bachelor and Master levels. New programmes may be introduced without prior accreditation. Universities undergo institutional accreditation by the national agency. Universities can decide on the language of instruction for all programmes and can design the content of academic programmes freely.

Staffing autonomy: high

Universities recruit their senior academic and administrative staff freely. Salary bands for senior academic staff are negotiated with other parties through national bargaining arrangements, while universities decide on senior administrative staff salaries. There are no specific regulations regarding either dismissals or promotions.

Organisational weighted 100% unweighted 100%

100

100% Selection procedure for the executive head

The selection of the executive head is not validated by an external authority

100

100% Selection criteria for the executive head

The selection criteria for the executive head are not stated in the law

This applies to 9 other countries: Austria, Wallonia, Iceland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland,

100

100% Dismissal of the executive head

The procedure for the dismissal of the executive head is not stated in the law

This applies to 10 other countries: Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Flanders, Wallonia, Ireland, The Netherlands, Serbia, Switzerland,

100

100% Term of office of the executive head

The length of the term of office is not stated in the law

This applies to 5 other countries: Denmark, Wallonia, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain,

100

100% External members in university governing bodies

Universities can decide to include external members

This applies to one other country: Estonia

Universities can freely decide on external members

This applies to 6 other countries: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal,

100

100% Capacity to decide on academic structures

Universities can decide on their academic structures without constraints

100

100% Capacity to create legal entities

Universities can create legal entities without constraints

Financial weighted 89% unweighted 90%

60

60% Length of public funding cycle

100

100% Type of public funding

Block grant and there are no restrictions on the allocation of funding

90

90% Ability to borrow money

Universities can borrow money with other types of restrictions

This applies to 3 other countries: Iceland, Lithuania, Poland,

100

100% Ability to keep surplus

Surplus can be kept without restrictions

100

100% Ability to own buildings

Universities can sell their buildings without restrictions

This applies to 9 other countries: Austria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Wallonia, Italy, The Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain,

40

40% Tuition fees for national/EU students at Bachelor level

Universities can set the level of tuition fees under a ceiling set by an external authority

This applies to 4 other countries: Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Portugal,

100

100% Tuition fees for national/EU students at Master's level

Universities are free to set the level of tuition fees

This applies to 6 other countries: Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Serbia,

100

100% Tuition fees for national/EU students at doctoral level

Universities are free to set the level of tuition fees

This applies to 8 other countries: Croatia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia,

100

100% Tuition fees for non-EU students at Bachelor level

Universities are free to set the level of tuition fees

100

100% Tuition fees for non-EU students at Master's level

Universities are free to set the level of tuition fees

100

100% Tuition fees for non-EU students at doctoral level

Universities are free to set the level of tuition fees

Staffing weighted 96% unweighted 96%

100

100% Recruitment procedures for senior academic staff

Recruitments are carried out freely by universities

100

100% Recruitment procedures for senior administrative staff

Recruitments are carried out freely by universities

67

67% Salaries for senior academic staff

Salary bands are negotiated with other parties

This applies to 5 other countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, The Netherlands, Norway,

100

100% Salaries for senior administrative staff

Universities can freely decide on staff salaries

This applies to 5 other countries: Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland,

100

100% Dismissal of senior academic staff

There are no sector-specific regulations concerning dismissals (national labour regulations apply)

This applies to 8 other countries: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland,

100

100% Dismissal of senior administrative staff

There are no sector-specific regulations concerning dismissals (national labour regulations apply)

This applies to 11 other countries: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Wallonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland,

100

100% Promotion procedures for senior academic staff

Universities can freely decide on promotion procedures

100

100% Promotion procedures for senior administrative staff

Universities can freely decide on promotion procedures

Academic weighted 89% unweighted 92%

100

100% Overall student numbers

Universities decide independently on the number of study places

This applies to 6 other countries: Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden,

100

100% Admissions procedures at Bachelor level

Admission criteria are set by the university

This applies to 8 other countries: Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia,

100

100% Admissions procedures at Master's level

Admission criteria are set by the university

100

100% Introduction of programmes at Bachelor level

Universities can open degree programmes without prior accreditation

This applies to 7 other countries: Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland,

100

100% Introduction of programmes at Master's level

Universities can open degree programmes without prior accreditation

This applies to 7 other countries: Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland,

100

100% Introduction of programmes at doctoral level

Universities can open degree programmes without prior accreditation

100

100% Termination of degree programmes

Universities can terminate degree programmes independently

100

100% Language of instruction at Bachelor level

Universities can choose the language of instruction for all programmes

100

100% Language of instruction at Master's level

Universities can choose the language of instruction for all programmes

100

100% Selection of quality assurance mechanisms

Universities cannot select quality assurance mechanisms

0

0% Selection of quality assurance providers

Universities cannot choose the quality assurance agency

100

100% Capacity to design content of degree programmes

Universities can freely design the content of degree programmes and courses (other than for the regulated professions)