Responding to the Government’s letter of guidance to the Office of Fair Access (OFFA) and announcements on the National Scholarship Programme (NSP), Andy Westwood, CEO of GuildHE, commented,
“GuildHE welcomes the publication of the Ministerial letter to OFFA and the launch of the pilot phase of the National Scholarship Programme. Both are major elements of the new funding system and key to allowing higher education institutions to set fees and to plan properly for 2012 onwards. Universities and colleges can now prepare their Access Agreements, their planned levels of tuition fees and their overall financial models in earnest.
“We wholeheartedly endorse the Government’s aim to further improve participation, access and outcomes for students from under-represented groups through more rigorous powers for OFFA. We hope, over time, that the measures are successful and that access and participation are improved at all universities and across the sector as a whole. For GuildHE institutions, this will build on the considerable achievements that have been made in widening participation and improving access to date. Taking into account existing performance and how far institutions have to travel against benchmarks is the right approach and if allowed to address challenges in their own ways and free of other constraints, then we should be confident of further progress.
“But ministers must now make sure that they avoid both intended and unintended consequences. It is a concern that the letter to OFFA brings together the imperative of improving access with the need to keep the cost of government funded loans down. Threats of Government intervention to avoid the clustering of tuition fees at high levels and the enforcement of price competition is likely to cause problems. Conflating Access Agreements and price control mechanisms is likely to create perverse incentives and outcomes and could impede the worthy policy intentions of improving fairness and social mobility.”
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Notes to editors
1. 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 visit: https://www.guildhe.ac.uk/en/members-list/
2. The Ministerial letter to OFFA is available on the BIS website: https://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/higher-education/docs/g/11-728-guidance-to-director-fair-access
3. HEFCE have published details of the National Scholarships Programme on their website: https://www.hefce.ac.uk/news/hefce/2011/national_schol_programme_y1(v2).pdf