Teaching grant may be sliced to make the cut, some suggest

Time needed to shift to maintenance loans means BIS savings will have to come from elsewhere, sector believes

June 18, 2015
Severed head on a box
Source: Rex
Look ahead: Sir David Bell called the cuts 'a down payment on future funding squeezes'

The government will target remaining teaching grant rather than student support as it seeks immediate cuts in the higher education budget, sector sources have suggested.

A report on BBC Two’s Newsnight on 11 June suggested that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is looking at converting student maintenance grants into loans as part of cuts required for 2015‑16.

Although that may form part of the government’s plans for cuts in the longer term, many in the sector believe that it cannot play a part in delivering the £450 million savings required of BIS for 2015‑16. They argue that it is too late for the government to amend student support regulations in time for the Student Loans Company to implement the changes for 2015‑16.

Instead, the most likely target for 2015‑16 cuts is seen as the £1.4 billion teaching allocation. The sum includes £380 million in student opportunity funding to assist widening access and retention for the poorest students, and £661 million for high-cost subjects.

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of Million+, said the “real risk” was that student opportunity money was “again seen as a target for a reduction” despite its playing “a key role” in promoting social mobility.

Nick Boles, a BIS minister, delivered a parliamentary answer on 10 June to questions on the 2015‑16 cuts put by Labour MP Iain Wright. “The majority of BIS’ £450m savings will be delivered through known underspends and releasing unallocated funding,” he said. “Funding for apprenticeships and student maintenance will not be affected,” he added.

Also among the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s 2015‑16 grant allocation is £52 million to help institutions through the transition to the research excellence framework and to support PhD supervision. Some think this could be cut without breaching the research funding ring-fence.

Meanwhile, the Student Funding Panel, an independent group set up by Universities UK, published a report on 15 June saying that the current system of funding in England “is broadly fit for purpose…and needs to be given time to work”.

It calls for student maintenance support to be “improved” and says that loan repayment thresholds for graduates (currently set at £21,000) should be frozen if any money needs to be saved longer term.

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor of the University of Reading and a member of the panel, said that the current cuts were a “down payment on future funding squeezes”. The sector, he added, had to “build a strong case for investment” ahead of the next major government spending review due this autumn.

john.morgan@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

POSTSCRIPT:

Article originally published as: Teaching grant under BIS’ axe? (18 June 2015)

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham