14 March 2013

million+ responds to the ‘Higher Education in England, impact of the 2012 reforms’ report from HEFCE

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has published its first major review of the impact of the 2012 reforms on student participation and higher education institutions in England. The Funding Council concedes that its report provides a snapshot to which further analysis will need to be added for the full impact of the Government’s reforms to be assessed. However the Funding Council reveals for the first time a 40% decline in the number of part-time undergraduate students entering university in England in 2012. Since the majority of part-time students are over 21 when they commence their studies there has also been a significant and related decline in the number of older students participating in higher education.

Professor Michael Gunn, Vice-Chancellor of Staffordshire University and chair of the university think-tank million+ said:

‘It is clear that the new funding regime and the changes to student number controls have proved challenging to participation and have created some instability whilst also requiring innovation and a real focus on the student experience in universities.’

‘This report is ‘state of play’ rather than the ‘end game’ but there is no ignoring the fact that universities across the sector which were turning students away two years ago saw student participation and interest decline in 2012.’

‘Universities will be innovative but the new system makes a virtue out of competitive behaviour by institutions rather than collaboration. Clearly, the jury is still out as to whether replacing direct teaching grant with income from the student loan company will prove to be the best way of maintaining and enhancing the global reputation for excellence of English universities and of enhancing the excellent work undertaken by all universities.’

‘The report also highlights a significant reduction in part time study and in mature students taking degrees. This is a matter of real concern for individuals, organisations and our society and economy. Uncertainties in the economy and the labour market and the greater reluctance of employers to support study are undoubtedly factors but the new funding regime has clearly had an impact.’

‘Ministers now need to do much more to consider how the opportunities which universities offer to those who want to study for a degree later in life or on a part-time basis can be supported if an equality gap is to be avoided.’


Notes to editors:
1. million+ is a leading university think-tank, working to solve the complex problems in higher education www.millionplus.ac.uk. For more information please contact Paul Drake on 0207 717 1655 or 07900 277819.
2. Download the report at www.hefce.ac.uk under publications.