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Vice-Chancellor responds to higher education announcements in the summer budget

Linking fees to teaching and scrapping maintenance grants are Summer Budget announcements that are analysed by LSBU's Vice-Chancellor
08 July 2015

In the Summer Budget, the Chancellor has announced a range of measures affecting higher education in England, including:

  • linking the student fee cap to inflation for universities that can show they offer high-quality teaching
  • replacing maintenance grants with loans for new students starting in the 2016/17 academic year. These loans will have to be paid back once students earn over £21,000 a year.

LSBU Vice-Chancellor Professor David Phoenix has responded to the announcements.

On teaching linked to funding:

"Given that the consultation regarding the Teaching Excellence Framework has yet to begin, the announcement that it will be used to allow some universities to raise fees in line with inflation was a surprise.

"A system that recognises and rewards excellence in teaching and learning has great potential to help further enhance our standing as a sector, but it must be fair and equitable and without the details being known it is difficult to assess whether this should be linked to pricing rather than direct reward as is the case for research.

"There is a danger that this becomes a crude tool to influence the market rather than a means to truly engage with all universities around the enhancement of teaching and learning to the benefit of our students and the sector as a whole."

On maintenance grants becoming loans:

"It is vital that funding is not perceived as a barrier to a university education, and therefore it is positive that funding will still be available from a student's first day of study in the form of the new maintenance loans."

"More than half a million students in England currently rely on means-tested grants to help cover living costs therefore it has to be a concern that the scale of the loans some applicants would need might dissuade people from poorer backgrounds and could have a disproportionate effect on institutions that have previously been so important in making higher education accessible to their communities.

"It is therefore essential that the impact of this change is kept under review to ensure we do not inadvertently hinder those with the greatest need of support and the government must take proactive steps to work with universities to advertise the fact these loans do not have to be repaid until a student is earning above the threshold of £21,000."