London Higher responds to the government’s announcement on funding for post-18 education

“Today’s [Feb 24th 2022] announcements bring an end to years of speculation for the sector about when and how the Government will respond to recommendations originally set out in the ‘Augar Review’ to reform post-18 education.

“At London Higher, we are supporting our members to navigate the implications of today’s proposals, which land at a time when the sector is already unnecessarily stretched responding to multiple Office for Students’ consultations on future regulation. In the interests of properly considered responses, we appeal to Government to stop this deluge of consultations.”

You can read London Higher’s policy paper on the announcements here: Augar-Response-Briefing-Paper-24022022 (1)

On the new scholarship programme and LLE, Dr Diana Beech, Chief Executive of London Higher said;

“While we welcome plans for a new scholarship programme to support the most disadvantaged students into further study, we remain concerned that the £75million allocated to this scheme falls far short of what is needed. England’s greatest social mobility success story of London must be protected and we shall work with Government to ensure the needs of our capital’s under-represented learners are met.

“In the same vein, we shall draw on the diversity of our membership and their flexibility of provision to support plans for the lifelong learning entitlement, which has the potential to open up opportunities for people to study across London’s further and higher education sector at any stage throughout their working lives.”

On minimum eligibility requirements, Dr Diana Beech said said;

“Despite only setting out potential directions of travel, it is concerning to see minimum eligibility requirements being tabled as the key to unlocking future access to student loans. Data from London show that this would have disastrous implications on students from London’s most disadvantaged communities, locking out almost half (49.4%) of free-school-meal-eligible learners in outer London who do not achieve a grade 9-4 pass in English and Maths GCSE, 40.1% of Black pupils and 86.1% of special educational needs (SEN) pupils.

“Research from our AccessHE division also shows that if the minimum eligibility requirements were to be set at A-Level then this would disproportionately affect London’s Black African, Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani students, who are most likely to hold at least one ‘E’ grade at this level.”

“Moreover, all of this does not account for the significant learning loss that pupils of all ages have experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic, which could hamper even more students in the future from realising their potential at the critical junctures of GCSE and A-Level assessments.”

On funding for the education, Dr Diana Beech said;

“To uphold London’s status as a world-leading study destination, the capital’s higher education providers must however have sufficient access to funding. In this climate of increasing operating costs for universities and the recent loss of the London Weighting, we urge the Education Secretary to grant London’s institutions fair and equal access to the Strategic Priority Grant and Capital Grant funding to ensure London’s higher education sector offering is not levelled-down.”

On Foundation Years, Dr Richard Boffey, Head of London Higher’s AccessHE division, said;

“Proposals to reduce the fee limit on foundation year courses will be met with unease by London’s HE providers, many of whom have sizeable foundation year student cohorts. For them, bringing fees for foundation years into line with Access to HE course fees could in some cases result in more than a 40% reduction in fee income through these programmes.”

Not only would this further affect already stretched budgets; it would potentially lead to some foundation year programmes being discontinued, closing off what is an established and effective route into HE for many mature students and those from Black, Asian and Mixed/Other ethnic minority groups in particular.”

On the proposed changes to student loan repayment thresholds, Dr Richard Boffey said;

“These changes, which will come into effect at a time of unprecedented rises in the cost of living, will hit graduates especially hard. It is regressive for the government to attempt to balance the student loan book via policies that disproportionately impact lower lifetime earners and female graduates.”