The review of post-18 education and funding in England, led by Philip Augar, made 53 recommendations across six broad areas. Here is a list of the recommendations in full:
- The average per-student resource should be frozen for three further years from 2020-21 until 2022-23. On current evidence, inflation-based increases to the average per-student unit of resource should resume in 2023-24.
- The cap on the fee chargeable to HE students should be reduced to £7,500 per year. We consider that this could be introduced by 2021-22.
- Government should replace in full the lost fee income by increasing the teaching grant, leaving the average unit of funding unchanged at sector level in cash terms.
- The fee cap should be frozen until 2022-23, then increased in line with inflation from 2023-24.
- Government should adjust the teaching grant attached to each subject to reflect more accurately the subject’s reasonable costs and its social and economic value to students and taxpayers. Support for high-quality specialist institutions that could be adversely affected should be reviewed and if necessary increased.
- Government should take further steps to ensure that disadvantaged students have sufficient support to access, participate and succeed in higher education. It should do this by:
- Increasing the amount of teaching grant funding that follows disadvantaged students, so that funding flows to those institutions educating the students that are most likely to need additional support.
- Changing the measure of disadvantage used in the Student Premium to capture individual-level socio-economic disadvantage, so that funding closely follows the students who need support.
- Requiring providers to be accountable for their use of Student Premium grant, alongside access and participation plans for the spend of tuition fee income, to enable joined-up scrutiny.
- Unless the sector has moved to address the problem of recruitment to courses that have poor retention, poor graduate employability and poor long-term earnings benefits by 2022-23, the government should intervene. This intervention should take the form of a contextualised minimum entry threshold, a selective numbers cap or a combination of both.
- We recommend withdrawing financial support for foundation years attached to degree courses after an appropriate notice period. Exemptions for specific courses such as medicine may be granted by the OfS.
- Continue the principle of loans to cover the cost of fees combined with income-contingent contributions up to a maximum.
- Set the contribution threshold at the level of median non-graduate earnings so that those who are experiencing a financial benefit from HE start contributing towards the cost of their studies. This should apply to new students entering HE from 2021-22. Adjust the lower interest threshold to match, with the higher interest threshold moving by the same amount. This should apply to new students entering the system from 2021-22.
- Extend the repayment period to 40 years after study has ended so that those who have borrowed continue to contribute while they are experiencing a financial benefit. This should apply to new students entering the system from 2021-22.
- Remove real in-study interest, so that loan balances track inflation during study. This should apply for new students entering the system from 2021-22.
- Retain the post-study variable interest rate mechanism from inflation to inflation plus 3 per cent.
- Introduce a new protection for borrowers to cap lifetime repayments at 1.2 times the initial loan amount in real terms. This cap should be introduced for all current Plan 2 borrowers, as well as for all future borrowers.
- Introduce new finance terms under the banner of a new “student contribution system”. Define and promote the system with new language to make clearer the nature of the system, reducing focus on “debt” levels and interest and emphasising contribution rates.
- The government should restore maintenance grants for socio-economically disadvantaged students to at least £3,000 a year.
- The expected parental contribution should be made explicit in all official descriptions of the student maintenance support system.
- Maximum maintenance support should be set in line with the National Minimum Wage for age 21 to 24 on the basis of 37.5 hours per week and 30 weeks per year.
- In delivering a maintenance system comprising a mix of grant, loan and family contribution, the government should ensure that:
- The level of grant is set as high as possible to minimise or eliminate the amount of additional loan required by students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- The income thresholds within the system should be increased in line with inflation each year.
- The new post-18 maintenance support package should be provided for all students taking Level 4 to 6 qualifications. The government should take steps to ensure that qualifications that are supported through the maintenance package are of high quality and deliver returns for the individual, society, economy and taxpayer.
- The OfS should examine the cost of student accommodation more closely and work with students and providers to improve the quality and consistency of data about costs, rents, profits and quality.
- Funding available for bursaries should increase to accommodate the likely growth in Level 2 and Level 3 adult learners.
- The support on offer to Level 2 and Level 3 learners should be made clearer by both the government and further education colleges so as to ensure that prospective learners are aware of the support available to them.
- The government should introduce a single lifelong learning loan allowance for tuition loans at Levels 4, 5 and 6, available for adults aged 18 or over, without a publicly funded degree. This should be set, as it is now, as a financial amount equivalent to four years’ full-time undergraduate degree funding.
- Learners should be able to access student finance for tuition fee and maintenance support for modules of credit-based Level 4, 5 and 6 qualifications.
- ELQ rules should be scrapped for those taking out loans for Levels 4, 5 and 6.
- Institutions should award at least one interim qualification to all students who are following a Level 6 course successfully.
- Streamline the number and improve the status of Level 4/5 qualifications.
- The OfS should become the national regulator of all non-apprenticeship provision at Levels 4 and above.
- Government should provide additional support and capital funding to specific FE colleges in order to ensure a national network of high-quality technical provision is available. Government should work with the OfS to determine how best to allocate this, using, for example, quality indicators and analysis of geographic coverage.
- From 2021-22 the fee cap for Level 4 and 5 qualifications currently prescribed by the OfS should be £7,500 – the same as that proposed for Level 6 qualifications and in line with current arrangements for prescribed HE qualifications. Longer term, only kitemarked Level 4 and 5 qualifications that meet the new employer-led national standards should be able to charge fees up to the Level 6 cap and be eligible for teaching grant. From that point, any other Level 4 and 5 courses should have a lower fee cap.
- The current age cap should be removed so that a first ‘full’ Level 3 is available free to all learners whether they are in work or not.
- Full funding for the first ‘full’ Level 2 qualification, for those who are 24 and over and who are employed should be restored.
- The careers strategy should be rolled out nationally so that every secondary school is able to be part of a careers hub, that training is available to all careers leaders and that more young people have access to meaningful careers activities and encounters with employers.
- The government should monitor closely the extent to which apprenticeship take-up reflects the priorities of the industrial strategy, both in content – including the need for specific skills at Levels 3 through 5 – and in geographic spread. If funding is inadequate for demand, apprenticeships should be prioritised in line with industrial strategy requirements.
- The government should use data on apprenticeships wage returns to provide accessible, system-wide information for learners with a potential interest in apprenticeships.
- Funding for Level 6 and above apprenticeships should normally be available only for apprentices who have not previously undertaken a publicly supported degree.
- Ofsted become the lead responsible body for the inspection of the quality of apprenticeships at all levels.
- No provider without an acceptable Ofsted rating should receive a contract to deliver training in their own right (although a provider who has not yet been inspected could subcontract from a high-quality provider pending their own inspection).
- The IfATE (Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education) and the DfE (through the ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency)) should undertake a programme of work to better understand the barriers that SMEs face in engaging with the apprenticeship system and put in place mechanisms to address these, including raising awareness of the programme and making the system easier to navigate.
- The IfATE improve transparency when processing standards that have been submitted for approval. Trailblazer groups and providers should have a clear indication of progress, available online, so they can start to plan, recruit and invest within workable timelines.
- All approved providers of government-funded training, including apprenticeship training, must make clear provision for the protection of learners in the case of closure or insolvency.
- The unit funding rate for economically valuable adult education courses should be increased.
- The reduction in the core funding rate for 18-year-olds should be reversed.
- ESFA funding rules should be simplified for FE colleges, allowing colleges to respond more flexibly and immediately to the particular needs of their local labour market.
- Government should commit to providing an indicative AEB that enables individual FE colleges to plan on the basis of income over a three-year period. Government should also explore introducing additional flexibility to transfer a proportion of AEB allocations between years on the same basis.
- Government should provide FE colleges with a dedicated capital investment of at least £1 billion over the next spending review period. This should be in addition to funding for T levels and should be allocated primarily on a strategic national basis in line with industrial strategy priorities. Government should use the additional capital funding primarily to augment existing FE colleges to create a strong national network of high-quality provision of technical and professional education, including growing capacity for higher technical provision in specific FE colleges. Government should also consider redirecting the HE capital grant to further education.
- The structure of the FE college network, particularly in large cities, should be further modified to minimise duplication in reasonable travel to learn areas. In rural and semi-rural areas, small FE colleges should be strongly encouraged to form or join groups in order to ensure sustainable quality provision in the long term.
- Government should develop procedures to ensure that – as part of a collaborative national network of FE colleges – there is an efficient distribution of Level 3, 4 and 5 provision within reasonable travel-to-learn areas, to enable strategic investment and avoid counterproductive competition between providers.
- Investment in the FE workforce should be a priority, allowing improvements in recruitment and retention, drawing in more expertise from industry, and strengthening professional development.
- The panel recommends that government improve data collection, collation, analysis and publication across the whole further education sector (including independent training providers).
- The OfS and the ESFA should establish a joint working party co-chaired by the OfS and ESFA chairs to align the requirements they place on providers and improve the interactions and exchange of information between these bodies. The working party should report to the secretary of state for education by March 2020.
- FE colleges should be more clearly distinguished from other types of training provider in the FE sector with a protected title similar to that conferred on universities.
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