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The purpose of the report is to report on the progress the sector has made since the last report, and to raise awareness of the issues, challenges and risks for the sustainability of learning and teaching in the medium term, and the actions that are required of higher education institutions (HEIs) and sector bodies. The report is also intended to inform higher education funding and policy development in the next government.

Evidence in the report is drawn from sector analysis and from 13 HEIs. These help to demonstrate the diversity and distinctiveness of the student learning experience, the cost pressures, risks and challenges faced, and some of the necessary and innovative responses to these challenges.

The report concludes that:

  1. The sector has responded positively and relatively successfully to the challenges it has faced since 2008, and the student learning experience has been protected and improved. However, the impact of the 2012 changes may not yet be fully apparent.
  2. Universities have effective management and governance, and are financially healthy in the short term. They are adapting to the demands of a more commercial and competitive environment, but are experiencing new pressures in doing so. It is too early to know all the implications of this.
  3. The challenges facing universities are different from those in 2008. Some new risks are arising, and familiar risks are more acute in the new environment. For the future a continuation of ‘more of the same’ may not be enough to ensure sustainability.

The report identifies a number of actions for HEIs and the HE sector to respond to future challenges and risks to sustainability of learning and teaching. It also makes recommendations to Government, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, funders and regulators.

The FSSG’s report is available on the FSSG webpage.


  1. The FSSG is a UK-wide sector-led group chaired by Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Kent, with representation from the UK higher education sector, and UK higher education funding bodies, Research Councils UK and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Further information about the role and remit of FSSG is available.
  2. An earlier FSSG report, ‘The sustainability of learning and teaching in English higher education’ (December 2008), is available.