It’s been a long time coming but the Augar Review, a major review of education in the UK, has finally been released.
Many of the key recommendations look at ways of reducing student debt and eliminating the perception that university is purely for students from higher-income families.
One such recommendation, and perhaps the one that will resonate most with incoming university students, is to reduce the tuition fee cap from £9,250 to £7,500 from 2021. At £9,250 a year, the UK has some of the highest fees in the world and this cost was considered “more than the reasonable cost for providing the lowest cost courses”.
The panel recommended that this fee cap should be “should be frozen until 2022-23, then increased in line with inflation from 2023-24”. To make up the deficit from lowering tuition fees it was put forward that the government should increase the teaching grant so that the level of funding is unchanged.
According to the panel this would mean that no student would pay more than “what would be considered the reasonable cost of their courses”. It would help to reduce overall student debt and remove one deterrent to attending university, particularly for school leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Commissioned by Theresa May in February 2018, the Augar Review aimed to review post-18 education and to address the disparity between the 50 per cent of young people who enter higher education and the other half who do not.
The review was led by businessman and historian Philip Augar, with a panel of professors and higher education leaders.
A guide to UK tuition fees and student visas: Preparing for university as an international student
Required reading: what you need to know about the UK tuition fee review
‘Ensure students have the money to live’
The cost of studying at a university in the UK
The panel has also recommended that the Office for Students (OfS) “carry out a review of the funding rates for different subjects, to include an examination of the reasonable costs”. This means that the OfS will look at the potential for rebalancing funding for higher-cost subjects and subjects that add social and economic value. It is recommended that as part of this, the OfS should consider support for “socially desirable” professions such as teaching and nursing, which do not necessarily lead to higher earnings post-graduation.
Another key recommendation that will directly impact students from 2021 is the reduction of interest rates on student loans while a student is still studying. Additionally the review recommends that the loan repayment term be extended from 30 years to 40 years which would mean that students would be paying their student loans back into their 50s.
The panel also recommends that a portion of the increased teaching grant be used to more effectively target support, access and participation for those students who are at a socio-economic disadvantage, including part-time and mature students. Universities should use both fee and grant income to support their disadvantaged students.
A major way that this could be done is to reintroduce maintenance grants at a minimum of £3,000 to cover living costs while at university. The review states that this would be “a more explicit and generous form of support for disadvantaged students”.
It has also been recommended that the OfS looks into the cost of accommodation and to work with students and accommodation providers to improve rent and quality of accommodation.
There are many more recommendations (53 in total) that look at transforming higher education across the board. There are recommendations on further education, apprenticeships and skills and student contributions.
However, with the resignation of Theresa May on 19 May, and a new UK prime minister set to be announced in late July, it is unclear as to what the future of these recommendations could be. The government has not yet stated when it will respond to the recommendations.
Of the Tory politicians that have thrown their hat into the leadership ring, it is anyone’s guess as at how dedicated they are to bringing these recommendations to fruition. But for many of you who are considering university, these changes could affect your decision on whether to apply.
Required Reading is the regular blog from Times Higher Education student editor Seeta Bhardwa.
Read more: Augar review: recommendations in full