First look at the new price groups

New data from OfS shows us changes in the size and shape of providers.

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

The first release of HESES data for 2021-22 allows us the chance to look at the way recent changes to price groups have hit individual providers.

If you think back to July 2021, and the glory days of Gavin Williamson in his pomp, a chunk of subjects that previously attracted extra money per student from the Office for Students saw that money cut in half. The whim of Williamson saw the student premium for creative subjects (but also odd niches like footwear studies) dip from £243 per FTE to £121.50.

This February 2022 release is the first chance to look at the impact of this decision.  Here’s the whole sector:

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Here, the darker the blue the more strategic funding the students attract. Just to remind you that for 2021-22:

  • Group A – clinical provision – £10,110 per FTE
  • Group B – lab provision – £1516.50
  • Group C1.1 – priority intermediate cost subjects – £252.75
  • Group C1.2 – creative intermediate cost subjects – £121.50
  • Group C2 – other intermediate cost subjects – £0
  • Group D – other subjects £0

Provider implications

With the decision about the new C1.2 group coming alongside the demise of London weighting, a number of smaller providers in London with a largely creative arts subject portfolio were expecting a hit. What we didn’t know at the point these changes hit was how recruitment behaviour (or cynically, some creative subject recoding) would work to mitigate this.

This chart shows the projected completion rates by price group and provider for 2021-22. If you mouse over a provider bar you get, below, a more detailed view over the last three years. There are other controls for the keen that allow you to explore the full exciting world of HESES tables 1,2, and 3 – we default to full time undergraduates on “normal” length courses but there is a lot more fun in there for the brave.

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In all honesty, changing the price groups hasn’t brought about changes in what subjects the sector offers. If there was any thought at DfE about a tug on this particular level leading to providers re-orientating themselves to fit the minister’s preferences it needs to be abandoned. All these changes have brought is less money and thus less resources for students already on courses.

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