Press release

Beware damaging higher education, MillionPlus warns Augar Review

06 Feb 2019

MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, has warned the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding of the damaging consequences to higher education if investment is reduced or access restricted.

Responding to speculation about the Augar review slashing university fees below the current level and introducing a minimum grade threshold for university entry for the first time, MillionPlus has today (6 February) published two policy briefings which were submitted as supplementary evidence to the Post-18 Education and Funding Review panel, chaired by Philip Augar.

The regressive consequences of a minimum entry tariff and Guaranteeing sustainable investment in higher education briefings both outline the damaging impact the introduction of such policies would have on improvements in support for mental health and well-being, while opportunities for prospective students from disadvantaged backgrounds or those wishing to study part-time or as mature learners, would be put at significant risk.

Dr Greg Walker, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, said:

“The speculation of possible fee reductions and access restrictions has caused concern throughout the sector. Implementing a minimum grade tariff would be nothing less than a cap on aspiration and a clear sign that the we were giving up as a society on the aim of promoting social mobility.

“Such a policy, soundly rejected after the Browne Review in 2010, would have a disproportionate impact on BAME students, people in regions with lower average educational attainment and older learners. Quite rightly, mature students have been identified as a key focus by the Office for Students, and the introduction of such a policy would represent another door closed in the face of these students.

“Coming at a time when it’s never been more vital to allow people to unlock their potential by up- or re-skilling, a minimum tariff would have a detrimental effect on Britain’s economy and productivity. Making university a ‘closed shop’ only for the best qualified students would be absolutely the wrong thing to do.”

On the need for sustainable investment in higher education, Dr Walker said:

“Reducing the investment in higher education would have highly damaging consequences. Cuts in fees to the levels suggested would deny universities the funding required to ensure students are successful. It would place at risk programmes to increase access and to provide vital services to support the student experience and their well-being.

“It‘s essential that government mitigate the impact of any fee changes through the return of direct grant to fund teaching as well as improved maintenance support for students and allocations reflecting the higher cost of educating a more socially inclusive intake. Universities are anchors for their communities, some with fragile local economies; hitting them at a time when we need to spread prosperity to all would be a major own-goal for England.”


Notes to editors

  1. For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Dan Blows on 020 3927 2916/07527 336 795 or email
  2. The regressive consequences of a minimum entry tariff and Guaranteeing sustainable investment in higher education are attached to this email. They will also be available online here as of 00:01 Wednesday 6 February
  3. Forgotten Learners: building a system that works for mature students is available here. Published in March 2018, the report called for a fresh approach to boost flexible opportunities for mature students, following a steep decline in the numbers of those students
  4. MillionPlus is the Association for Modern Universities in the UK, and the voice of 21st century higher education. We champion, promote and raise awareness of the essential role and impact of modern universities in the UK’s world-leading higher education sector. More information can be found at
  5. What are modern universities? Modern universities are long established centres of higher education in their communities with roots that stretch back decades, if not centuries. Many gained university title following legislation agreed by parliament in 1992. They make up almost half of the UK university sector with over a million students studying at modern universities every year
  6. Modern universities: key facts 2018