Ministers consider loan changes and minimum entry bar in England
Westminster government to consider changing student loan repayments and introducing student size controls using an entry fee threshold, according to short ‘interim response’ to Augar’s review. post-18 education.
The response, which is only 13 pages long, carries over important decisions to be resolved in the Augar review’s “final conclusion” in the next full spending review, which would occur in fall 2021 at the earliest.
But he specifies that the government’s concern about the rising costs of the student loan system that finances higher education – pushed higher by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on jobs and loan repayments – could lead to losses. major changes for English universities.
The response, which signals a continued freeze on the tuition cap at £ 9,250, fails to address the Augar Review’s key recommendation on higher education – that tuition fees should be lowered to £ 7,500 .
Meanwhile, the government Skills for Jobs The White Paper, also published on January 21, provides some additional details on the lifelong skills guarantee previously announced by the Prime Minister. A right to a loan for life “will be usable for the modules of technical levels and higher diplomas (levels 4 to 6) whether they are dispensed in colleges or universities, as well as for complete years of studies”, indicates the White Book.
And in a letter from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, at the Students’ Bureau, the government said performing arts, creative arts, media studies and archeology should see their previous funding to expensive subjects cut by 50% and potentially eliminated entirely, while funding London weighted for institutions and students should be scrapped.
The Augar review, put in place by Theresa May as Prime Minister in October 2017 before reporting in May 2019, has become a way for the government to achieve a ‘rebalancing’ from higher education towards education. superior.
The key paragraph of the government’s Augar response says, “The government’s focus on responding to the coronavirus pandemic means that now is not the right time to conclude the full review.
“However, we remain committed to introducing further reforms that will ensure a fair and financially sustainable student funding system, improve the quality of higher education and promote accessibility for students.
“This will include consideration of the items mentioned in the Augar report, including general conditions for funding students, minimum entry requirements for higher education institutions, treatment of base years and other matters. We plan to consult on further reforms of the higher education system in spring 2021, before giving a full response to the report and the final conclusion of the post-18 education review and funding alongside the next review. full expenses. “
The Augar review launched the idea of capping the number of students in universities by restricting access to student loans through a tariff threshold. Under such a proposal, students would be expected to exceed a minimum bar at level A, BTEC or equivalent qualifications to obtain loan funding to study at a higher education institution.
Treasury concerns about the growing costs of the system seem to have put this idea back on the agenda, while it has also been put forward by some concerned about funding “low value” supply in universities.
The government’s response also states: “It is important that student funding funding systems remain sustainable and that those who benefit from their higher education make a fair contribution. We intend to freeze the cap on tuition fees in order to offer better value for money to students and to keep the cost of higher education in check. This will initially last for one year and further changes to the student funding system will be considered before the next full spending review. “
Julia Buckingham, president of Universities UK, said imposing minimum admission requirements “would be a regressive measure, preventing students from disadvantaged backgrounds whose previous educational experiences have affected their grades from attending university and ignoring the evidence that many of these students excel in college ”.
“A university degree remains a good choice for many, and a growing number of jobs in businesses and public services require university-level skills; the economy and society cannot afford a reduction in the number of graduates, ”said Professor Buckingham, Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University of London.
Professor Buckingham said it was “encouraging to see the government’s commitment to making lifelong learning opportunities more accessible to all,” but argued that continued funding for the years of base was “essential to support disadvantaged students”.
Jo Grady, secretary general of the University and College Union, said the Westminster government “was wasting an opportunity to make a real difference for students and institutions”.
“We need a different approach to financing higher education that provides long-term security, does not leave institutions exposed to major market shocks and puts the interests of students and staff first… It is not enough not throw the problem in the long grass until the… spending review, ”she said.
Regarding the changes to the education grant in 2021-2022, Mr. Williamson’s letter to OfS says: “OfS should redefine funding priorities in favor of the provision of expensive and high-value subjects. that support the NHS and a broader health policy, high cost STEM topics and / or specific labor market needs.
This means a 50 percent reduction in funding for subjects in award group C1 – performing arts, creative arts, media studies and archeology – the letter explains.
“We would then potentially look for further reductions in the years to come,” he adds.
“The OfS should remove the weightings for London providers from the entire T grant, including students taking courses in London, and the weightings in student bonuses” to invest in “other priorities such as high cost material funding, which is available to suppliers in all parts of England, supporting the upgrade program, ”the letter continued.
Other changes to the grants included £ 5million funding for institutions to provide additional support for students’ hardships during the pandemic and increased funding for specialist providers, “especially those who are prime plan in the world and specialize in the performing and creative arts ”, from between £ 10. million and 53 million pounds sterling.
The small amount of capital funding remaining for education will in future be provided “through a strategically targeted tendering process”.
“The OfS should target funds to specific projects and activities aligned with the high-quality skills-based education program,” says Williamson’s letter.