As in previous years, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement has provided a clear steer for the future of HE. For those who don’t see HE as being driven by the Treasury view, then look no further to the announcement in 2013 on the scrapping of Student Number Controls.
This year the headlines for HE are:
International students: numbers to grow;dependants of postgraduates on courses lasting more than a year will be welcome to come and work.
Widening participation: work with the Director of Fair Access to ensure universities take more responsibility for widening access, including collaborating on outreach to reduce inequality in admissions
Postgraduate support: lift the age cap on new loans to postgraduates from 2016-17 so they are available to all those under 60.
Part time support: introduce new part-time maintenance loans from 2018-19 to support the cost of living while studying.
ELQs: For all STEM subjects, tuition loans will be extended to students wishing to do a second degree from 2017-18
Widening the range of providers: £20 million competition to set up a new Institute of Coding; create a new university in Hereford focused on engineering in 2016; help to fund the £100 million development of a new campus in Battersea for the Royal College of Art.
Research: protecting today’s £4.7 billion science resource funding in real terms; long term science capital commitment of £6.9 billion between 2015-2021 to support the UK’s world-class research base; introduce a new body – Research UK – which will work across the seven Research Councils, review of the Research Excellence Framework
For detailed analysis of the figures, and in particular the implications for the changes to student loans , then read Andrew McGettigan over on Wonkhe.
So – area of concerns: two leap out straight away, firstly, there is the change to support for students in nursing and midwifery from the 2017 intake, who will now access loans in the same way as other student. This may have an impact on attractiveness of such courses, although in other areas the change to funding did not, overall, lead to a decline in applicants.
The second area of concern is around the student opportunity fund. The focus on social mobility is strongly articulated in the recent Green Paper, and the opportunity for funding for part time students and those wishing to study WLQs can be seen as part of the same narrative. A worry for a while has been that the Student Opportunity Fund within the BIS HE budget was an easy target The fund in itself is safe for now but:
The government will work with the Director of Fair Access to ensure universities take more responsibility for widening access and social mobility, and ask the Higher Education Funding Council for England to retarget and reduce the student opportunity fund, focusing funding on institutions with the most effective outcomes
And again, this could be seen as part of the continuum with the Green Paper, where some of the proposal for the higher levels of Teaching Excellence Framework will reward those institutions who perform well on this agenda.
Those universities that receive significant amounts of SOF will be looking hard at their income and the possible related outputs – here I’ve drawn together the 15-16 funding allocations, with data from league tables on entry tariff, good degrees, and degree completion. More detailed analysis will be needed to consider how to measure part time students, but a few hours playing with Heidi data might reveal how individual institutions are performing
As I’ve written before when looking at TEF, this is another example of a great opportunity for institutions to get clever about how they can use data to measure their performance, not just for the sake of creating a set of metrics, but as a way of measuring the efficacy of interventions, and using this to provide better evidence-based decision making.
There are some opportunities in this autumn statement for us as well – for example the more welcoming statement about international students, although this still conflicts with the broader negative views around immigration, and for us would rely on assuming that students in our target market have dependents.
Availability of loans for postgraduate study is to be welcomed, increasingly higher level qualification will be needed for certain routes into employment, or as ongoing staff development.
The changes to availability of loans for part time study should also be welcomed, as indeed should the opportunity of funding for ELQs in STEM subjects.
Overall – it could have been a lot worse for HE – the BIS budget wasn’t cut as much as predicted, but with the Green Paper currently out for consultation, we probably have enough on our plates to be going on with!