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Taking action in higher education

MPs probe government higher education funding changes

17 January 2008 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Opponents of proposed government changes to funding for higher education will today give evidence to a parliamentary inquiry into the proposals.

The Minister for Lifelong Learning, Bill Rammell MP, and the chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England will also be called to speak before the committee.

Update: reports now available below

The Innovation, Universities and Skills select committee launched an inquiry following the government's announcement in September that, from 2008, £100m of funding for students who are studying for a higher education qualification that is equivalent to, or lower than, a qualification that they have already been awarded would be withdrawn.

Criticism of the government's plans has been widespread with trade unions, universities, students, opposition parties and British industry all condemning the proposed alterations. Opponents say the plans, announced without consultation, contradict the government's own lifelong learning agenda and will hit universities offering courses to adults and part-time students the hardest.

Analysis by the UCU of the data on the financial implications of the changes for universities and colleges has revealed that post-92 universities (former polytechnics) and institutions specialising in offering degrees to workers wishing to retrain will be amongst the biggest losers under the new regime.

The Open University will be worst hit losing over £31.6 million in teaching funding by the academic year 2014-15. Birkbeck College, University of London, will lose more than £7.8 million over the same period. Post-92 institutions feature prominently at the top of list of the biggest losers, although Oxford University comes in fourth and will lose over £4m. The union's full analysis can be found here (.rtf)

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Contradictory government policy in education is by no means a new phenomenon, but these changes fly in the face of government rhetoric about lifelong learning and its importance to the economy and the future prosperity of the country. We have yet to find any support for the changes and believe this is the most widely-condemned government education policy of the last 10 years.'

Master of Birkbeck College, University of London, Professor David Latchman, said: 'These proposals will have a serious impact on individuals who are re-skilling, as well as on the part-time university sector which is critical for the delivery of the Leitch skills agenda.'

President of the National Union of Students, Gemma Tumelty, said: 'These funding cuts will particularly affect those institutions that have excelled at widening participation in higher education. They will also have a disproportionate effect on part-time students, who, as a group, are more socio-economically diverse and more likely to be deterred by fee increases. The Government must recognise the folly of this, and defer its decision until it has carried out a proper consultation.'

Reports on the committee proceedings

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