Spending review: what it means for higher education

Some key points to take away from George Osborne’s speech today and the Treasury’s spending review document

November 25, 2015
Westminster through binoculars
  • The headline cut in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills budget is 17 per cent. This will see the department’s total budget, resource and capital, decline from £16.6 billion this year to £13.2 billion in 2019-20.
  • The current £4.7 billion research budget is being protected in real terms over the spending review period to 2019-20, and will rise by £500 million over that period. It will also include a “new £1.5 billion Global Challenges Fund”.
  • Teaching grant, currently about £1.4 billion, will be cut “by £120 million in cash terms by 2019-20”. High-cost subject funding will be protected in real terms. But student opportunity funding, for the poorest and disabled students, worth about £380 million within the overall teaching grant budget, will be cut. The government will ask the Higher Education Funding Council for England to “reduce and retarget” this funding.
  • Current students and graduates who took out loans after 2012 will be asked to pay more in repayments, via a freeze in the £21,000 repayment threshold until April 2021. The government had originally pledged to uprate the threshold in line with earnings.
  • The government has confirmed plans to introduce postgraduate loans for 2016-17 and has dropped its plans to restrict these to students aged under 30. Now, anyone under 60 will be eligible.
  • Maintenance loans will be introduced for part-time students in 2018-19, a move that the government says could benefit 150,000 people by 2020.
  • Students wishing to study a second degree will be able to access a tuition fee loan from 2017-18, provided that the course that they wish to study is in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).
  • The government will reduce the discount rate – the rate at which government borrowing is costed internally – which will bring down the write-off rate on student loans from its current 45 per cent to about 30 per cent.
  • Nursing students will have tuition fee grants scrapped and replaced with loans, while the cap on places will be removed.
  • £165 million of Innovate UK grants will be replaced by loans by 2019-20.

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