Far from the final word on Browne's review 5

October 21, 2010

There is a real danger that the impact of the Browne Review's recommendations on access to higher education for those from lower-income groups will slip down the agenda in the forthcoming weeks. But it is crucial that the potential consequences for those least able to pay the increasing tuition fees receive as much attention as the changes to the system and how it is run.

Already, we are seeing the media focus centring on the review's consequences for the "squeezed middle". What, though, of the "squashed bottom"?

The announcement of a new "student premium" by the deputy prime minister last week is obviously welcome; however, unless it is focused on a very small number, £150 million a year is not enough to stop low-income students being worse off if the average tuition fee rises to £7,000.

The risk is that this premium is offered to Liberal Democrat backbenchers and the public as "job done", and they accept this claim at face value.

There are many within higher education who are deeply committed to widening access, and they stand to see years of work threatened by the recommendations in the review (although it does contain some positive things for access). It is crucial that they act to try to shape what the Browne Review becomes.

Graeme Atherton, Director, Aimhigher London WECAN Partnership.

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