Questions on Education Policy

Questions on Education Policy

Higher Education Funding

  • What role should student choice play in determining the size of universities and the choice of courses?
  • How can tax payer funding be funding be used to incentivise change?
  • What mechanisms do we want to use to improve quality
  • And how do any proposals we make sit with the autonomy of universities which has delivered much which is good in the system
  • Do we think the taxpayer support which will remain in the system is being used to best effect?

Diversity of the sector

  •  Does a uniform funding system support all institutions appropriately (given that much of the pressure for change comes from a minority of universities which are research intensive but have a very important role in our wider economy)
  • A significant minority of HE is taught outside universities, in FE colleges. Do we want to expand this, and under what conditions?
  •  Do we see scope for ‘new entrants’ offering new and innovatives ways of learning (in the way the OU did from the 1960s onwards)

How the graduate contribution is paid

Some universities prefer fees because they regard them as ‘their’ money, which is not as tied to public policy as taxpayer funding (although much of the concern often centres around access agreements which even the Coalition see as necessary).

  • How do we want to strike the balance between the income universities receive through the state and that they receive directly through fees, and how much do we want to regulate how they use either fee income or taxpayer income?

This issue is relevant to the choice between fees and a graduate tax, because the further and faster we move towards a graduate tax, as we have said we will, the more income will come through a public funding route.
The other choices between a student fees and a graduate tax involves many technical issues around funding, legal issues, public borrowing which need to be worked through. The most important issue of principle is whether a graduate’s ultimate payment should be limited by the fees charged for their university course, or whether the total payment for high earning graduates could be significantly higher.

  • Which is the fairest principle on which to base our future policy?

Access for students from lower income & non-traditional (ie no graduate parent) backgrounds

As Labour has expanded student numbers, so has the proportion of students for these backgrounds. The evidence suggests that earlier intervention to encourage students to aim for and apply to university has had a greater impact than changes in university admissions policies. However, the most selective universities have made least progress in widening access. But the Coalition is ending Aim Higher, stopping EMAs, and introducing FE fees for older entrants wanting to take foundation courses.

  • What weight do we want to give to the responsibilities of universities in widening participation and improving access, and what to earlier interventions?
  •  How can we get more able young people from lower income backgrounds into the most selective universities in ways which most parents of all backgrounds would see as fair?

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