Two new White Papers: Higher Education and the BBC

19 May 2016

BBC White Paper: A BBC for the Future

On 12 May the Government published its White Paper on the BBC: A BBC for the Future.

In this document the Government set out its new proposals for the renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter in December. The Royal Charter is the constitutional basis for the BBC. It sets out the public purposes, guarantees its independence, and outlines the duties of the Trust and the Executive Board.


The broad areas of proposed reform centre on plans to change governance and oversight, and to plans to diversify the BBC and open up competition. However, there are a number of areas where this White Paper sets out plans that are directly relevant to Cultural Learning:

New Public Purposes

One of the newly proposed public purposes of the BBC is ‘Supporting learning for people of all ages’. It goes on to say that:

‘The BBC should help everyone learn about different subjects in ways they will find accessible, engaging, inspiring and challenging. The BBC should provide specialist educational content to help support learning for children and teenagers across the UK. It should encourage people to explore new subjects and participate in new activities through partnerships with educational, sporting and cultural institutions.’


A new focus on partnership

The White Paper goes on to say that it intends to help make the BBC a better partner, with a new focus on partnership in the Charter.  It states that

‘The BBC should leverage its size and scale to enhance and bolster the creative industry sector by working more in productive partnership with UK players of all sizes,  so that others can benefit more extensively from its expertise and reputation.’


This new focus on partnership could provide significant opportunities for cultural learning providers, and we look forward to seeing how initiatives like BBC Get Creative might be a part of it.

New programming fund and open tender process

The White Paper directly recognises the social benefit of broadcasting which addresses:

‘the needs of audiences such as minority language groups and children, and delivering other types of broadcasting such as arts and music that may not be provided by commercial providers to the same extent.’


As a result it sets out plans for

‘a fund of £20 million a year for a two/three year trial period, starting in 2018/19. Available for content on television or shown online and focused on under-served genres, as identified by Ofcom, and under-served audiences. Possible under-served genres the fund could focus on: children’s programming; religion and ethics; formal education; and arts and classical music.’


The BBC White Paper has been broadly welcomed by the BBC itself and by industry bodies like the Creative Industries Federation


Higher Education White Paper: Success as a Knowledge Economy

This month the Government also published the HE White Paper, Success as a Knowledge Economy. This White Paper sets out a number of plans, including reforms which will make it easier for new universities to be set up and for the creation of a new Office for Students. However, there are two key proposals that are particularly relevant to Cultural Learning:

  • The Teaching Excellence Framework and Tuition Fees

The Government’s plans for a new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) mean that Universities will be judged on the quality of their teaching. There are a number of metrics that they are suggesting for this assessment – including student satisfaction, the current HESA Perfomance Indicators (which look at comparative data on the performance of HE providers in widening participation, student retention, learning and teaching outcomes, research output and employment of graduates) and proportion in employment in further study using six-month Destination of Leavers from Higher Education data.

Universities that rate well under the TEF will be able to raise their tuition fees in line with inflation.

  • The value of full time employment and salary

In the long term the Government plans to link Higher Education data and Tax data together, and publish them as part of the TEF – in essence showing how much money graduates make after leaving a specific university course and how many are in full time employment. We have significant concerns about this.

The UK excels at creative education. Our conservatoires and specialist institutions, as well as creative courses across all kinds of providers, attract students from around the world and deliver a vital talent pipeline for the cultural sector. However, it is not unusual for creative graduates to enjoy highly successful portfolio careers; indeed, almost all artists, performers, directors, producers, writers, and choreographers are freelancers. We understand around a quarter of graduates from creative programmes go on to be self-employed.

Arts organisations rely on a network of freelancers and a supply chain of microbusinesses. This would not be captured under current proposals and may have the effect of putting off potential students from applying for creative courses – particularly if they are led to believe that FTE employment and financial recompense are the only measures of success. We believe that the concept of ‘value for money’ must be broadened to include all the other outcomes that a creative and culture education deliver and enable.

  • A new, overarching Research Council: UK Research and Innovation

The White Paper proposes the creation of

‘UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a new research and innovation funding body that will allocate funding for research and innovation and act as a champion for the UK’s world class system’.


UKRI will incorporate the functions of the seven Research Councils (including the Arts and Humanities Research Council – the AHRC), Innovate UK, and HEFCE’s research funding functions. The names and brands of the Research Councilsand Innovate UK will be retained. There is very little information in the Paper on how the new Council will operate, but it is essential that funding and expertise for our sector are retained, protected and strengthened.