University response to Government post-18 education review

The University has responded to the Government’s Review of Post-18 Education and Funding.

We counselled the Government against more significant change to a system that has experienced unprecedented changes in the last few years:

  • In 2012 tuition fees tripled and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) teaching grant was significantly reduced. For all but high-cost subjects there is no now teaching grant support.
  • In 2015 the controls on student numbers were removed. Universities can now recruit as many students as they are able.
  • In 2017 a new law changed the regulatory landscape in which universities operate leading to the creation this year of a new market regulator, the Office for Students.
  • 2017 was also the first year of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) and in 2019 we are expecting the ‘subject-level’ TEF. Having participated in the first year of the pilot it is clear that the subject level TEF is going to have profound effects on the sector.

We argued that it is important the Government reject thinking in terms of discrete academic, technical or vocational post-18 education routes, as individual courses at this university encompass all three elements.

We agreed with Justine Greening’s suggestion that the current system should be adapted so that all graduates pay a ‘contribution’ for 30 years, as one of the biggest problems with the current funding system is the language and paraphernalia around ‘loans’, in terms of debt, interest rates, annual statements etc. We also suggested that the Government should consider the feasibility of implementing a tax of 1-2% on all past generations of graduates in order to lower the 9% contribution rate of recent and future graduates.

Finally, there is a great deal of legitimate concern about the fall in part-time and mature student numbers. We noted that the main reason full-time undergraduate student numbers are increasing is the financial support the Government offers to them and that this support is lacking for other kinds of learner. We recommended that the Government commission research to find out what kinds of financial support packages would encourage mature and part-time learners into education. We do not think a loans model will work for these kinds of learners.

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  1. Sensible points.

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