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Prof Dave Phoenix writes for Wonkhe - What will MERs actually achieve?

06 May 2022

For Prof Dave Phoenix, government plans for minimum eligibility requirements don't mesh with regulatory plans to set outcome baselines.

At the end of March 2021, the balance of outstanding student loans in England reached £141 billion.

The sheer scale of this figure cannot be attributed to any single cause – but a variety of socio-economic factors including the impacts of a global financial crisis and viral pandemic, staggering levels of entrenched geographical disparity across the UK, and political decisions stretching back more than a decade have all played a part.

However, listening to recent political rhetoric, one could be forgiven for thinking that the fault lay entirely at the feet of higher education institutions – for teaching the “wrong” subjects; recruiting the “wrong” students, or not being able to ameliorate all of the cumulative effects of some students’ socioeconomic disadvantage within three years of full time undergraduate study.

The Westminster government’s latest response to this issue has been to propose minimum eligibility requirements (MERs) – restricting access to student finance for prospective undergraduates who do not have the equivalent of either a pass in their English and Maths GCSE or two Es at A level. In doing so, ministers have suggested that universities accepting students on to courses without such baseline qualifications are setting them up to fail.

The full article is here.