25 January 2012

million+ comment on Government's grant letter to higher education funding council 2012-13

Responding to the Government’s annual grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of the university think-tank million+, said: “The Government should be congratulated for retaining their commitment to supporting the extra costs associated with attracting and retaining students from non-traditional backgrounds. However, today’s letter also details an 18 per cent reduction in universities’ teaching grants in 2012-13 as the first year of the Government’s new funding system kicks in.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to monitor the impact of the mini-market in AAB students which will be introduced in 2012. However, without making a firm decision to pause the extension of this market and allow a full and proper assessment of the 2012 changes to be made, this commitment could prove to be little more than warm words. The likely outcome of these changes will be to privilege a sub-section of students by transferring more taxpayer funding via the student loan system to universities with the most socially exclusive student profiles. As a result, the Government risks undermining its commitment to social mobility.

“Regardless of what decision is eventually made, the reduction in the total number of student places available in 2012-13 by 15,000 is likely to dash the aspirations and ambitions of many well-qualified applicants.

“The Government’s decision to maintain funding for HEIF at current levels until 2014-15 is the right one. Modern universities have used HEIF funding to make a vital contribution to the economy and to civic society through the knowledge exchange partnerships that they promote with business, the public sector and not-for-profit organisations. Given today’s disappointing growth figures, this contribution to innovation and regional economic growth is much needed.

Notes to editors:

  1. A copy of the Government’s letter can be found here.
  2. Students going to university with high A-level grades more often come from selective state and independent schools. Out of the 54,600 students in England aged 16-18 who achieved AAB or better in 2010 in A-Levels and AVCEs, 16,100 (29%) were at private schools even though only around 6% of all pupils are at private schools.
  3. Students with lower A-level grades from state schools are known to out-perform those with high A-level grades once they get to university. A five-year study Kirkup et al (2010) Use of an aptitude test in university entrance: a validity study: Final Report National Foundation for Educational Research co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Sutton Trust, the National Foundation for Educational Research and the College Board that tracked 8,000 A-level candidates found that a comprehensive school pupil with the grades BBB is likely to perform as well in at university as an independent or grammar school pupil with grades ABB or AAB.