Call for fresh review in 2002

January 16, 1998

THE government must commit itself to another review of higher education in five years' time to gauge the effects of higher education reforms and to consider new ones, MPs will be told next week.

Nick Barr, an economist with the London School of Economics, will tell the Education and Employment Committee that the government should explicitly accept recommendation 88 of the Dearing report that called for future reviews.

The report, published in July last year, recommended that the government constitute a UK-wide independent advisory committee charged with assessing the state of higher education in five years and subsequently every ten years. Sir Ron Dearing's aim was to avoid the problems associated with one-off reviews every few decades.

Dr Barr said: "Politically the government has probably gone about as far as it can this time round. But further change will be needed, and the outcome of the present wave of reforms will need to be monitored."

The call comes as part of a further submission by Dr Barr on the student loans system and higher education funding. Details of his recommendations to the committee are not known at this stage.

But Dr Barr said it was important to find out how the new income-contingent student loan system is performing in five years. By then the first wave of students to borrow under the new system, those starting university in October this year, will have begun repaying their loans.

He said a review in 2002 or 2003 would discover if the new system had affected participation rates adversely as some people fear.

The Education and Employment Committee is taking further evidence from Dr Barr and Bill Robinson, of London Economics, on the possibilities of privatising student loans.

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