The headlines appear to be:
- Reducing the maximum fee cap to £7,500, retaining the average teaching grant per student but with a proposed review of subject top-up funding “to reflect more accurately the subject’s reasonable costs and its social and economic value to students and taxpayers”. It is important to note that cost and value are not necessarily the same thing and the impact on lower cost subjects could be sever especially in smaller specialist institutions;
- A freeze in the current “unit of resource” (that is, tuition fees plus teaching grant payable for each student) to 2022/23. However, this takes no account of inflationary pressures on universities;
- Provision of better support for part-time and mature learners, with the introduction of a lifelong learning allowance and intermediate qualifications;
- Rebranding student loans as a ‘student contribution system’, capping the rate of interest students pay while they are still studying, but extending the repayment period from 30 years to 40 years. This will postpone rather than lessen the impact on graduates;
- Removal of loan funding for students on foundation years, encouraging students to instead pursue Access Diplomas at FE Colleges;
- The possibility of fixed-term student number controls for programmes “where there is persistent evidence of poor value for students in terms of employment and earnings and for the public in terms of loan repayments”. The meaning of the term “persistent” and the criteria for assessment are as yet undefined;
- Recommended that OFS should examine the cost of student accommodation more closely and work with students and providers to improve the quality and consistency of data about costs and quality.
The immediate impact on the University will probably be limited; we are reviewing this presently. However, the impact on our member institutions is likely to be significant particularly if Government does not make up the shortfall in tuition fee as recommended by the review. Such a financial challenge to our members could have a direct impact on ourselves.