Everything from the 2024-25 DfE supplementary estimates

A peak into the arcana of public finances

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

Estimates are the way that the House of Commons decides what departments can spend and on what. The publication of “supplementary estimates” usually happens in the early Spring, and updates plans first shared in the early summer.

The way that the Department for Education supplementary estimates have changed are mainly shaped by changes to the valuation of the student loan book. This is an asset owned by the government made up of future repayments made against student loans – because the majority of these include real (up to RPI plus three per cent) interest rates recent convulsions mean that the government can expect less to be repaid than was initially projected. Alas the extra £18.5m allocated for the government as resource departmental expenditure limits (DEL), the £23.5m of new capital DEL, and the extra £2.3m of resource annual managed expenditure is not new money to spend – like much to do with student loans, we’re looking here at the vagaries of public accounting.

What’s really interesting is the allocations to the Office for Students. A change to the timing of payments (and, I suspect, a delayed ministerial funding letter) means that there’s £26.9m in the accounts that was mean to have been paid out by now. It’s fun to speculate what political factors are holding things up here – there’s no need to worry about our friends in the regulator being paid on time but quite what OfS will be asked to do next appears to be up in the ear.

DfE also keeps money back for contingencies – times where expenditure is expected but the amount is unknown. There are two new ones linked to the Student Loans Company – a personal injury claim valued at around £5k and an unspecified legal case valued at £110k.

On the special projects front you know I went straight for the Lifelong Learning Entitlement – and found that, though the project started in 2020 and is due to complete at the end of 2025, we still don’t have an estimate as to how much it will all cost (the assessment of forecast will be done by “the end of the final quarter” – so one to look out for).

There’s also the Higher Technical Qualifications project – running from October 2019 to September 2027 the cost to DfE here is £176m. And you’ll be overjoyed to learn that the Student Loans Company “Evolve” project (dealing with customer experience,  staff experience, and that infamous “technical debt” at SLC) that finished last September cost £148m – a bit over the £142m initially projected.

Finally, the supplementary estimates also gives us the measures by which DfE will assess its own performance in the next year: for higher education these are:

  • The percentage of full-time first-degree graduates entering work in high-skilled employment or further study (%, by learner deprivation)
  • The Full-time first-degree completion rate (%, by student deprivation)





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