The Prime Minister herself provided the key note speech announcing the findings and recommendations of the Augar Review: Review of Post-18 Education and Funding. The last time the Higher and Further Education sectors were reviewed together was the Robbins Report of 1963.
The focus on both sectors is deliberate. In commissioning the report last year, the Prime Minister sought to rebalance the focus from Higher Education into thinking about what options and opportunities face all school leavers. The disparity between the two sectors can be told through numbers: in 2017-18, over £8 billion was assigned to support 1.2 million UK undergraduate students in English HE institutions whereas only £2.3 billion of public funding was spent on 2.2 million full and part time adult FE students. This works out at 6.4 times more investment per student in higher education than per student in further education. Dr Augar articulated the consequences of this:
“Post-18 education in England is a story of both care and neglect, depending on whether students are amongst the 50 per cent of young people who participate in higher education or the rest. The panel believes that this disparity simply has to be addressed.”
The review’s recommendations are far reaching and, in places, ambitious:
For Higher Education, suggestions included:
- A decrease in annual tuition fees paid by UK students at English universities (from £9250 to £7500). Although it was not made clear if and how the Government would fund the revenue shortfall in its entirety.
- An extension of repayment terms on student loans (from 30 years to 40 years)
- A decrease in the interest paid on loans whilst students are still studying at university
- A reintroduction of maintenance grants to support lower income students
For Further Education, suggestions included:
- An additional £1 billion capital investment for FE college networks
- An investment in the FE workforce to support retention and recruitment
- A focus on improving the equity of funding and courses by renationalising the FE network
- An improvement in the apprenticeship offer for both students and providers
The obvious challenge will be whether any future government decides to implement any of the recommendations, which are not cost-free. This means that for the imminently outgoing Prime Minister, her aspiration to tackle some of the country’s “burning injustices”, may simply be embers.
Author: Roz Hawley
- Independent panel report to the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding, accessed 30/05/2019.