Recommendations in the Browne Review on higher education fees and funding, released today, run the risk of restricting or downgrading study options for students, the higher education representative body GuildHE has warned.

Progressive proposals contained in a report on the review’s conclusions, including more support for part-time students, more places on higher education courses, and higher repayment thresholds on student loans, are to be welcomed, said Andy Westwood, GuildHE’s new chief executive.

But “several problems” may arise from the proposed system due to the way it has been inextricably linked to public funding cuts in higher education, due to be announced next week, he added.

“The report has recommended a system that will save public money in the forthcoming spending review, missing the original purpose of Lord Browne’s review by some way.

“We simply cannot know the impact of the proposals on participation levels among students from poorer backgrounds, so we do not yet know whether they are fairer than the current system. In a few years we could be back where we started – needing a further review to assess the impact on widening access and on the world standing of our higher education sector.”

“It is clear that many higher education institutions will not be able to charge £6,000 or more per year for their courses. This fact coupled with expected cuts in public funding for unprotected subjects potentially puts the offer of places and the student experience in jeopardy. In turn this could weaken the ability of the sector to drive economic growth in the short, medium and longer term.

Speaking on the Today Programme, Professor Ruth Farwell, GuildHE Chair and Vice-Chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University, said: “We think it is regrettable that the review has been inextricably linked to funding cuts rather than thinking about how we create a world class HE system for the UK. The formula is one that is going to create a sector that has differential ability to create a quality experience for students.”

For more information and comment, please contact:

Andy Westwood
Tel: 020 7387 7711

Professor Ruth Farwell
Vice-Chancellor Buckinghamshire New University
Tel: 01494 605113

Tony Tysome
Media FHE
Tel: 01629 650910

Notes to editors

1. The report on Lord Browne’s review, Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education, is published today. 

2. GuildHE is a recognised higher education representative body. Its 32 members are among the most dynamic and fastest-growing institutions in the sector. For a list of GuildHE institutions, please click here