The Augar review of post-18 education was finally published on 30 May 2019. This paper looks at its recommendations and some of the initial responses to it.
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In February 2018, the Prime Minister announced a wide-ranging Review of Post-18 Education and Funding led by Philip Augar. The Review was partly in response to increased debate around the cost and value of higher education following a period of reform which saw tuition fees rise to £9,250 per year, maintenance grants abolished and typical student debt rise to £47,000 from a three year degree. During the period of higher education reforms the further education sector had also experienced difficult times due to a sustained period of funding reductions. The Review therefore aimed to create a joined up post-18 education that which would work for students and taxpayers.
The Review panel was made up of five experts from the HE and FE sector: Dr Philip Augar, Professor Ivor Crewe, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Professor Edward Peck, Beverley Robinson OBE and Professor the Baroness Alison Wolf.
A six week consultation was held which closed on 2 May 2018. Almost 400 respondents replied to the call for evidence.
The Review report was published on 30 May 2019, Independent panel report to the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding. The report was a detailed analysis of the post-18 education sector and the funding issues faced by stakeholders. The report contained 53 recommendations on the future structure of the sector and funding proposals. The headline recommendations are:
- the reduction of higher education tuition fees to £7,500 per year
- Government to replace lost fee income by increasing teaching grant
- extending the student loan repayment period from 30 years to 40 years
- reducing the interest charged on student loans while students are studying
- capping the overall amount of repayments on student loans to 1.2 times their loan
- reducing the income threshold for student loan repayments from £25,000 to £23,000
- reintroducing maintenance grants of £3,000 for disadvantaged students
- introducing maintenance support for level 4 and 5 qualifications
- a first free full level 2 and 3 qualification for all learners
The report acknowledges that post-18 education in England is a “story of both care and neglect“ and it proposes that the HE sector should absorb a further freeze on per student resources to help fund investment in other parts of the post-18 education system.
The proposals are expected to cost an additional £0.3-0.6 billion in annual ongoing annual costs plus a one-off £1.0 billion on capital for further education colleges. The costs arise from extending entitlement to maintenance and tuition support to level 4 and 5 qualifications and extending level 2 and 3 entitlements. The changes to student finance and funding are expected to reduce costs when taken on their own. They shift the balance of taxpayer funding from loan write offs to more direct funding for teaching and maintenance.
Compared to the current system the highest earning graduates will see their lifetime loan repayments fall substantially. Middle earners will see the largest increase in repayments and some of the lower earners will also repay more.
Higher education institutions will have a further three year freeze in their income per student from fees and teaching grant. Those offering ‘high value’ and high cost courses could see an increase in unit funding, while those that do not could see it fall.
At the report’s launch the Prime Minister said:
- Decisions about whether and how to implement these recommendations will not fall to me, but to the next Government.
- But regardless of the debate to come, there can be no doubt that this report represents a major landmark.
The report will now be considered by the Government.
The following library briefing papers are of relevance to this paper:
- Cost of university courses in England, 28 August 2018
- Returns to a degree, 19 September 2018
- Student loan interest rates: FAQs, 1 February 2019
- Student loan statistics, 5 February 2019
- The value of student maintenance support, 28 November 2018
- Higher education funding in England, 14 January 2019
- Adult further education funding in England since 2010, 4 December 2018
- Part-time undergraduate students in England, 1 February 2019