Forthcoming IPPR report - A Critical Path

28 May 2013

Commenting on the Commission on the Future of Higher Education report, to be published by the IPPR next month, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“IPPR’s report will be a useful contribution to the debate. We look forward to seeing the full report and examining the detail of the recommendations. However, at this stage we do have some serious reservations that some of the options could lead to low-quality degree courses and, ironically, give poor value for money for future students.
“We accept the Government will have to make some tough decisions in the forthcoming spending review but making cuts to public spending on higher education and research would be a false economy. The UK needs to remain competitive internationally, building on areas of strength with our world-class universities and paving the way for future economic growth.
“For that reason we agree with the IPPR that the science and research resource budget should remain ring-fenced and should not drop below current levels. As the economy returns to growth, the Government should commit to increasing investment in science, research and innovation.”
Commenting on the suggestions for student support Dr Piatt added:
“If there is demand from some students for a fee-only option, then it’s an idea that should be explored.  However, £5,000 may not be enough to offer a high-quality degree. For Russell Group universities, which are committed to providing a world-class research-led learning experience, it would be impossible. 
“Other institutions with different business models may be able to offer such courses but the other question is whether there would be sufficient student demand: when the Government experimented with offering lower-cost places through the core and margin model 35% of these margin places (around 7,000) remained unfilled.”
On the commission’s longer-term suggestions Dr Piatt added:
“We have consistently argued against a graduate tax as it is both unfair and unsustainable, breaks the link between quality and cost and has no clear benefit to students. It would be hugely problematic to reduce the upper fee cap to £6,000 unless the Government is in a position to provide universities with enough funding to compensate universities for such a dramatic fall in income.
“We accept there may be some scope to reduce the overall costs of the system by looking again at the repayment terms as we have long argued that the 2012 student support system offers more generous terms to students and graduates than other loans and it is therefore expensive for the taxpayer.”

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