BIS Select Committee report on HE reform
10 November 2011
Commenting on the report by the House of Commons BIS Select Committee, Government Reform of Higher Education, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of leading universities said:
“The Committee is right that this is a challenging time for universities in England. There is still uncertainty about the effects of some of the new policies. The time frame for implementation is not as long as universities would have liked. But the Government, universities, and other interested parties must continue to work closely together to complete this critical period of reform successfully.
“The Committee has proposed a new ‘pupil premium’ for universities, but it is not clear how this would complement existing initiatives in this area. HEFCE already provides over £140million in Widening Participation funding, which is very similar to a ‘pupil premium’, being calculated according to the number of disadvantaged students at each university. About one in three Russell Group students receive a bursary or scholarship that never has to be repaid, and our universities will be pumping millions more into financial support and outreach activities designed to make it easier for those from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend our universities.
“It is true that the often overheated debate around university finance has resulted in misinformation among some young people and their families. Too many people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, do not have access to accurate information about the costs and benefits of higher education. Some potential students still do not realise that there are no up-front fees at all. If you’re good enough to get in, you can afford to go.
“Our universities, along with Government, the Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information and many others are working hard to tackle the myths around higher education. If misinformation stopped the best students from attending leading universities, it would be tragic.”
 By 2015-16 Russell Group universities in England plan to spend £153.7million of their additional fee income on financial support for students. This represents an average per institution of £9.6million with some of our universities spending as much as £17million. Overall, this amounts to over £5.9million more per institution than the sector average of £3.7million. This investment will be targeted so that those in most need of financial support receive the help they need. In 2015-16 the £28.8million which Russell Group Universities will spend on outreach measures will be used to support numerous summer schools, open days, special entry routes and access programmes to give students from lower socio-economic groups the best possible chance of winning a place. See http://www.russellgroup.ac.uk/widening-participation/ for more details of outreach activities and initiatives undertaken by Russell Group universities.