As many of you will know from the media coverage the Browne Review on ‘Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education’ was published this morning. The review makes very significant recommendations about possible future funding models for Universities which will impact very significantly on staff and students at the University. The review proposes a radical restructuring of higher education driven by big cuts in public funding for teaching and underpinned by a complete lifting of the current ‘cap’ on student tuition fees. It proposes a major shift in the balance between public and private funding of universities in which the structure of universities will be determined almost entirely by student demand within a free market in terms of tuition fees.
The implications for the University will be considered more fully when we have the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review in the next few weeks. In the meantime I felt it appropriate to link to a copy of the review for staff to look at should they so wish. My own early sense of the recommendations includes the following:
- There will be no fixed level of tuition fees. Universities will set the fee they deem appropriate by institution or course in accordance with the ‘market’. The Review sees a fee level of £6000 pa as the minimum required to fill the financial ‘gap’ which will be left after the Comprehensive Spending Review.
- Where fees are in excess of £7k pa a small proportion of that extra fee will be returned to government.
- Part time and full time students will be treated in similar ways
- Universities will no longer be required to pay the minimum £300 bursary to all students from lower-income groups
- An Access and Success Fund will look at supporting universities who are good at attracting and retaining students from disadvantaged or under-represented groups
- There will be a single Higher Education Council which will merge HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council), the QAA (Quality Assurance Agency), OFFA (Office for Fair Access)and the HEA (Higher Education Academy)
- It proposes withdrawing all HEFCE Teaching Funding from subject areas in Band D and most of Band C. This will mean that subjects in the broad social science and humanities groups will receive no government funding whatsoever for teaching and will have to rely entirely on the tuition fee. Continued support for Band A and B (largely STEM and medical/health-related) is suggested.
- A Student Charter will both allow students to make more informed choices about universities and will also outline entitlements in relation to teaching standards, contact hours, support and guidance and likely employment outcomes.
I do hope that you are able to take the opportunity to look at the recommendations. They are radical and far-reaching and, assuming that they are able to get through Parliament (which may not be a ‘given’), will have very significant effects on the shape of universities in the next decade.
At the University of Bradford our commitment to ensure we recruit as widely as possible, our work in widening access to the opportunities that higher education provides, and our commitment to working for the benefit of the city and the region will remain paramount in deciding our position on the level of tuition fees we will charge. We will keep you informed as we move forward in making these significant decisions.