Over the summer, you may or may not have heard about the Augar review. If you don’t know what it is, that’s understandable. Essentially, the Auger Review is a set of recommendations outlined by a man called Philip Augar. He was commissioned by Theresa May to carry out an independent review of post-18 education with the aim to improve learning and training for all adults whilst keeping costs at a minimum.
It is important to discuss this now, because if these recommendations are to be implemented, students should be able to vocalise their views on these issues which could affect their higher education opportunities.
The implications for the higher education sector are a mixed bag...
The main point that comes from the review is that it is suggested that tuition fees are to be dropped from £9,250 to £7,500.
Also, in the review it was advised that interest payments during studies would be at rate of inflation only, not inflation plus 3% as it currently stands. This reduction in tuition fees plus maintenance loans means a reduction in overall debt from a staggering £60,000 to £45,000
However, the Augar review wants students to start repaying their loans from a lower income level of £23,000 compared to the current £25,000. In addition to this, students will be required to pay off their debts for a longer period, as it increases from 30 years to 40 years before it is written off.
What does this mean? Well, it does fall in favour of the wealthy, shock I know right? Wealthier students will be able to pay back the debts in full earlier than the 40-year extension.
According to the Financial Times, the richest fifth of students borrowing, repay a lesser amount of £50,000 throughout their lives, those who are on lower or middle earnings would be paying more throughout their life.
I know what you’re thinking, if the tuition fees are decreasing, will the university have less money and thus a less satisfactory experience in higher education. Wrong! The government would provide the £2 billion difference through direct teaching grants.
While that seems like a very generous offer from our government, they would have the power to invest more money into certain institutions and courses which are deemed costlier. It is a strategic move to encourage economic prosperity whilst cutting out the “small but significant minority” which doesn’t offer good value for money.
Another suggestion made is to scrap foundation years. They see a foundation course as just a 4-year course to lure in students who wouldn’t otherwise meet their entry criteria. However, would scrapping them be within the students’ best interests?
Students who come from widening participation backgrounds or those who go through access courses and BTEC’s won't be supported in the same way as others. Foundation courses provide students with support so taking them away also limits access of HE to students who benefit from it.
Alongside this, another recommendation made by Augar was the removal of student finance to those studying a foundation year course.
Augar suggests the introduction of stackable credits. This would allow students who are mid-way through degree, to withdraw from the course. Whether it be for personal reasons or you have realised you potentially may be on the wrong course for what you want to do.
This would let you pause and receive an interim qualification to make transferring degrees easier whilst also giving you an incentive to come back and complete the course.
I think this would be a great opportunity for students to carry out degree at their own pace and give them an option to explore other courses rather than feel trapped.
Another opportunity which Augar would like to be implemented is the lifelong loan allowance. It allows adults in any stage of career, at any age, to access a full 4-year fund; they can use it to contribute them becoming a student again.
This recommendation has the overall aim of producing education which is lifelong. It is so important for mature students on campus to feel supported in their studies, and hopefully an introduction of this loan could help many others who struggle to access higher education upskill themselves.
Like I said, very mixed bag in that there are pros and cons to this review. I would love to know your thoughts on the review or even if you have questions about how this might affect you personally. If you want to read more about it, here is a link to an article for you. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org with all your points or queries.