CVCP finds significant gaps in many Dearing proposals

August 15, 1997

KEY QUESTIONS about short-term cash shortages and university freedom are still awaiting answers post-Dearing, say higher education policy developers.

A detailed analysis of Sir Ron Dearing's report by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals shows many proposals contain significant gaps.

While welcoming recommendations to resume expansion and widen participation, the CVCP asks what support part-timestudents will receive to boost participation.

They say proposals to target sub-degree expansion on further education colleges could affect higher education institutions that already do this work, and believe methods for progression from FE colleges to universities will be critical.

Dearing's preferred funding option meets many of the CVCP's concerns, but the committee says it fails to raise enough money to meet the funding gap.

It is also concerned that means-testing could damage educational choice. Thirty-seven per cent of students receive less than their assessed parental contribution.

The analysis says Dearing's interventionist approach to widening participation, by targeting funding, contrasts with the CVCP approach, which is to rely on initiatives by universities.

It raises particular concerns over governance and institutional autonomy. "A number of the recommendations are over-prescriptive and would give to the Government itself an undesirable degree of power to intrude into the affairs of higher education institutions," the CVCP says.

Recommendations on research funding are welcomed, as long as there is more money rather than top-slicing. "Without additional funding there will be fears of greater selectivity and concentration," it warns.

Proposals for a public/private revolving loan fund to support infrastructure "in a limited number of top-quality departments" is applauded, but the study says the meaning of "top quality" has to be explained.

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