We need a post-18 education system that supports student choice, is fair to all learners and fully funds the costs of high quality higher and further education. Crucially, we must improve the skills base of the working age population if we are to increase UK productivity to the levels of our competitors, particularly post-Brexit.
GuildHE welcomes the emphasis placed by the Augar panel on boosting lifelong learning. We are particularly pleased that the panel have responded to our arguments for a more flexible student finance package that allows students to step on and off education at their own pace meaning more students will be able to access whatever qualifications help them succeed in their chosen professions. This should help incentivise level 4 and 5 qualifications in both FE and HE – our members have a strong history of delivering industry-relevant, professional and technical higher education and are key to delivering the new technical education landscape.
It’s also right to address the critical underfunding of the FE sector but this should not be done on the back of making HE graduates pay more – extending the repayment period to 40 years will particularly hit middle and lower earning graduates and is a regressive and unwelcome recommendation.
Similarly, reducing fees to a baseline of £7,500 mainly benefits higher earning graduates. If Government accepts this recommendation it must commit to funding in full the real cost of teaching all subjects, including in smaller and specialist environments otherwise teaching quality and student choice will suffer. The OfS must work collaboratively with institutions to ensure that future allocations of grant funding are fair and allow a diverse and inclusive higher education sector to flourish.
We warmly welcome the reintroduction of maintenance grants for poorer students. This is a crucial step in addressing student poverty and is something we called for in our response to the panel’s call for evidence.
Finally, it is critically important that these proposals are subject to full consultation with the HE and FE sectors.
The review documents can be found here