Conservative plans for a major review of tertiary education funding in England appear to have been scaled back after the party lost its House of Commons majority.
The Queen’s Speech, which sets out the UK government’s legislative agenda for the next two years, promised a “major reform of technical education” but made no mention of the wider funding review that was promised in the Tory manifesto.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s legislative agenda has been severely slimmed down after the 8 June general election resulted in a hung parliament.
Higher education leaders had feared that such an exercise could see funding reallocated away from universities.
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that any funding review was now likely to be on a much smaller scale.
“Politicians are always very reluctant to kill manifesto commitments stone dead, especially just after an election, and this is true even though the government’s grip on power has been weakened,” said Mr Hillman. “So something may well still come of the review idea but I would be very surprised if it were to be on the scale originally envisaged.”
Mr Hillman added that calls for rebalancing of funding towards further education were unlikely to go away.
“But the risk in bringing such proposals before the House of Commons is that issues such as university tuition fees would be back in play and the opposition parties would love a row on that while the government wants to avoid it at all costs,” he said.
The government’s notes to the Queen’s Speech make no mention of universities, but say ministers will “deliver on our plans for new Institutes of Technology”, which will “enable more young people to take advanced technical qualifications and become key institutions for the development of the skills required by local, national and regional industry”.
The document adds that the government will “continue to create millions of apprenticeships and to ensure that they are of high quality”, and will “continue to work towards making it easier for young people to take technical and vocational routes, so that they can make effective choices about how these will benefit their careers and future study”.