43 results
Date Name

The 2015 SNP Manifesto

In their 2015 General Election manifesto published today, the SNP confirms that they will support the lowering of fees across the UK.

HEPI report defends student mobility

A report released today by HEPI questions to whom does the higher education budget in Wales belong, particularly the Welsh portable fee grant, as well as exploring the high costs for students from Northern Ireland and Scotland who chose to study in England, and whether or not students from the UK should be able to take funding into the EU.

The changing student experience

When the present English tuition fee regime was being planned, there were plenty of voices from inside universities warning that it would change the nature of the relationship between students and their universities for the worse. Students would, it was feared, become customers rather than partners in an academic enterprise – has this happened? Claire Callender and Paul Temple discuss their new research on the changing student experience.

Understanding the unthinkable post-2015 cuts

The Autumn Statement confirmed the Chancellor’s plans to make further substantial cuts in the next Parliament. Around £4bn will likely have to come out of the budget for Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Julian Gravatt thinks the unthinkable about what this means for HE, research, science and skills.

Autumn Statement: Pain, sorcery and a rabbit called Tim

On the day the Chancellor has made his Autumn Statement for 2014, Andy Westwood reviews the statement and its implications for policy across higher education, science and beyond – both today and over the next Parliament which is set to see further deep cuts and real pain across Government spending.

The case for a postgraduate loans system

The principle of fair access is central to debates about higher education: almost everybody agrees that no one should be denied the opportunity to go to university because they cannot afford to pay. This is why we have a subsidised loans system. However, this principle has not been applied to postgraduate study, where there is no subsidised loan system at all. Rick Muir writes about his latest report for IPPR which shows why we need such a system for postgraduates and how it would be affordable for government to implement.

Beyond the broken funding system

As the BIS Select Committee adds its weight to the growing consensus about the (un)sustainability of the Coalition’s higher education funding policies, Sam Jones looks at the difficult political and economic climate both before and after next year’s General Election. With the policy case now hard to refute, he calls for another Browne-style review to create political consensus and lasting change.

The high cost of higher education

Reviewing the recent HEPI/HEA Student Experience Survey, Carl Lygo looks at what students want from their university experience contrasted with the high price that the sector and politicians assume that universities need. Carl questions why fellow vice chancellors have allowed their salaries to rise faster than their staff and questions why a university education really needs to cost so much.

Do we need H.E.L.P from Down Under?

There is a recent trend for policymakers and politicians to look at Australia to find solutions to the policy problems facing UK HE. The most recent example is a report published yesterday by HEPI that outlines compares the Australian and UK HE systems. There are some interesting comparisons to be made between Australia and England, however seriously comparing the two systems is a difficult task. Although interesting, HEPI’s report does not tell the whole story of Australian higher education; elements of which may not be wholly desirable to bring back home.

Who’s afraid of student loans?

A new study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) on student loan costs published today will kick off a new round of suggestions on what to do next for higher education funding. Emran Mian maintains that we should be much more sanguine about student loan costs and writes that we need to tackle some even bigger problems. This piece attempts to explain why.

Damage beyond the RAB

With a lot of public attention on the RAB charge and the cost of the current funding system, Dr Gavan Conlon of London Economics looks at two major issues that may have been overlooked and are areas where the greatest damage may have been done in the transition to the current fees and funding system – both because of the outcomes themselves – but also because the fact that the changes may be irreversible.

RAB and the wizardry of student finance

The last week has seen a political and media frenzy as it has come clear that the RAB charge is now coming very close to the point where the new HE funding system costs around the same as when fees were just above £3k. With the wider public understandably not engaged in the wizardry of public accounting and a sector avoiding an opportunity for self-reflection, Andy Westwood attempts to unpick the dark arts at play, the rows that overlay them and attempts to drill just a little bit deeper.

Winners and losers in the current system

There is no doubt that, as with most changes, the £9,000 fee system introduced in England in 2012-13 created winners and losers. We know that applications are back up for full-time undergraduates – and we know this includes students from non-traditional backgrounds, which is great. But that is not the whole story. On the day the Public Accounts Committee confirm the rising costs of writing off loans, Libby Hackett looks at the winners and losers in the current system, and calls for a fundamental rethink.

Making the cut

At the start of the week that we expect the HEFCE grant letter, Alistair Jarvis looks at the scale of the hole in BIS’ budget and assesses the options that the Government now faces as it decides where to cut and how far to go – decisions that could have drastic long-term consequences.

Placing Borrowing at the Heart of the System

A few days after the Autumn Statement, Martin McQuillan considers the Osborne plan to expand student numbers based on questionable finances that the IFS have labelled ‘economic nonsense’ and have slowly started to unravel. This short-termist policy may have big implications in years to come as BIS will have to make up any further shortfall in the HE budget – a budget already under extreme pressure. With so many risks ahead, the HE sector needs to take a long and detailed look at this scheme.

Selling the loan book

The Government has said today that it will make £20bn of asset sales between 2014 and 2020. £12bn of the total is to come from the student loan book. That’s about a third of the total book. Emran Mian takes a look at the logic and risks of selling these loans – and what we might expect to come.

Black holes and revelations

It’s perhaps fitting that it was the week of Dr Who’s 50th anniversary when a ‘black hole’ reportedly emerged in the BIS higher education budget. Over recruitment of HNDs and HNCs at private colleges has been reported by the Guardian as the cause of this serious financial problem.

Already there are reports of immediate pressures to BIS, SLC and HEFCE and possibly even to Research Council budgets as a result. According to the Guardian, BIS must find £900m of savings by 2015/16 – the first £600m of that in 2014-15, the final year of this Parliament and Spending Review period. Andy Westwood takes us on a tour of the negotiations that will now be taking place inside government and explores what might be cut in light of these latest revelations.

It’s like rain on your wedding day

Behind the army of wonkery that this blog serves is a body of academic understanding about policy and political goals that helps us understand and influence those around us. Some the academics involved would have us believe that there are only really four policy goals that get invoked, invariably coming at us in multiple disguises – equality, security, liberty, and efficiency. All of them are undeniably desirable until we consider them from multiple angles, or worse still, set one up against another. Jim Dickinson attempts to slay some sacred cows.

The devil is in the detail: why IPPR is right about loans

Two weeks ago, IPPR’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education published its final report – A Critical Path. There has already been a lively debate on these pages about some of the key findings of the report. Most recently, Andrew McGettigan posted some detailed technical criticisms about how IPPR’s report treated the higher education funding system. This debate is very important because some of the details are critical to understand as they affect current and future policies. This piece will seek to answer Andrew’s criticisms, and take the debate another step forward.

What IPPR gets wrong about loans

There has been an interesting debate about the IPPR’s report ‘A Critical Path’ on this blog and elsewhere over recent days. My problems with the IPPR report relate to the lack of care taken with respect to loan accounting. I hope that this post will layout these concerns clearly.

On a wonk and a prayer

This week the IPPR Commission on the Future of Higher Education published its final report – A Critical Path. Rick Muir, Associate Director at IPPR responds some of the criticism levelled at the report on this site earlier in the week and defends the report’s recommendations.

Thatcher’s children seek ‘independence’ for universities

The Thatcherite ‘Free Enterprise Group’ made up largely of 2010 intake MPs have published a report on higher education funding; ‘Completing the Reform, Freeing the Universities’. It argues that financial independence and stability for universities can be achieved by building up endowment funds. Not a new idea by any means, but it is important to understand thinking about universities emanating from a group of MPs that contain current government ministers and others tipped to lead the Conservative Party one day.

First look at the Skandia Report: ‘First Steps to Wealth’

The report by the financial investment company Skandia First Steps to Wealth has been covered in the press in terms of the impact on the tax payer. However, the report contains a lot more than this headline, covering the relative benefits to young people of different routes to employment post-16. This first look at the report seeks to look at all aspects and not just the impact on the perceptions of the affordability of the Government’s current financial arrangements for tuition fee loans. Nonetheless, that element of the report is clearly very significant. The report estimates that the recurrent annual liability to the Government of the current fees regime is approximately £9bn, and that this could grow depending on the level of economic growth, the number of students and the rate of inflation.

Wonga got it wronga, but so have universities

Within the space of 24 hours, legal loan shark Wonga was forced to withdraw its marketing information aimed at students following online complaints. The Helena Kennedy Foundation spoke out after our attention was drawn to their self-serving attempts to promote their short term, high interest loans as an alternative to the Student Loans Company. We were swiftly joined by the National Union of Students, consumer finance groups and an outraged Twitterati, with NUS accusing Wonga of “predatory marketing”. But this episode should raise alarm bells for university leaders, who seem to be living on another planet when it comes to the harsh reality facing students in the current economic climate.

Between Public and Private

Yesterday saw BPP University College announced their 2012 fees are set at £5,000. This could be a game changer. It is the first announcement from the David Willetts-endorsed ‘new wave’ of private providers, putting BPP under a considerable amount of scrutiny.

Interesting questions raised by OU’s 5k fees

Yesterday, The Open University announced plans to charge £5000 fees. A THE story claims that it puts OU in ‘pole position’ to snap up the 20,000 places that are being made contestably available for institutions charging less than £7,500. But these 20,000 places are for full time undergraduate students – currently all of OU’s students are counted as part-time, even if they are studying at a rate of 1FTE.

Where things get complicated are with OU-validated degrees in further education colleges. By putting these 20,000 places aside for low-cost courses, it is the intention of BIS to expand provision in FECs – either validated through a body like OU, or even funded directly. What no one knows for sure is the true extent of the demand for these courses. It must be remembered that these 20,000 places are just theoretical lines on a spreadsheet – they will not necessarily become students unless there is sufficient demand for the low-cost courses in the mix.

Why contradiction is (and always will be) higher education’s great strength

Higher education is full of contradiction. Contradiction conjures up images of uncertainty. And that makes me hopeful for the future.

Universities thrive on exploration and multiple perspectives. Every institution is rife with healthy argument. The pursuit of learning often conflicts with the pursuit of a better career. In short, one person’s potion is another’s poison.

No single purpose for HE can be defined. Yet this is precisely why I am optimistic. Far from a lack of purpose, we should celebrate an abundance of purposes.

Student finance 2012: independent taskforce to separate facts from politics

Today, alongside Martin Lewis of moneysavingexpert.com, I am proud to be launching a major campaign – independent of government – to tackle the myths and misconceptions surrounding the true costs of higher education from 2012.

There can be no doubt that the trebling of tuition fees to £9,000 is having a major impact on the decisions taken by potential students and their families. Writing for the Guardian two months ago, I warned that “confusion around the new [tuition fees and student finance] arrangements presents a real risk that students may be deterred in the absence of the facts on fees”. Earlier this week, my fears were confirmed by a Universities UK poll showing that more than half of parents felt that they had been given insufficient information about the new student finance arrangements.