After what it feels like months of waiting, the Augar review into post 18 education and skills was released this morning. We’ve spent some time today looking at the report and the recommendations and thought it would be useful for us to share our initial thoughts.
Ultimately this review feels like a missed opportunity. It starts by stating that “The cost of post-18 education should be shared between taxpayers, employers and learners” and that “Getting the taxpayer to pay for everything is unaffordable”. We fundamentally disagree with this view and as a Students’ Union we have policy stating our belief that free at the point of use education is the best way to fund education for students, for parents and for society as a whole. If it works in Germany, Norway and Finland why can’t it work here?
Let’s look at the good news.
- Maintenance grants back for students from low incomes background – good stuff, was never a good idea to get rid of them in the first place.
- Recommending a more joined up approach across levels of study – great! An approach that joins up all bits of education is a place we want to be.
Unfortunately this seems about it. Let’s be honest, there is a lot of worrying recommendations in this review. But which ones are really bad?
- The review recognises that student debt is a problem but instead of addressing the problem it just suggests that we just call it something different. If it looks like a debt, smells like a debt, tastes like a debt but it’s called an “individual contribution”, guess what? It’s still a debt.
- The review recommends that the maximum repayment period be increased from 30 years to 40 years. The longer it takes for someone to repay a debt the more they will pay back in total. Because student loan repayments are linked to earnings it means that those graduates who earn less will end up paying more back than those on higher wages. This is clearly regressive and would be a highly damaging move.
- It’s concerning that this review seems to be opening the door to changing funding for degrees that the government thinks are less valuable. Especially when this decision will be made on the basis of graduate outcomes and not educational quality. When we forget that education has wider value than just economic, we forget the true value of education.
We’ll be spending time over the next couple of weeks looking at this review in more detail and will communicate this to you, our members. If you want to read the review in its full glory it can be found here.