Universities UK responded today [Monday] to the final report from the Student Funding Panel on how the student funding system in England could be improved. The panel was established last year by Universities UK to consider the design of the current student fees and loans system in England.
Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK said: “The Panel’s report has found that overall the current system of student funding in England is broadly fit-for purpose, does not require wholesale reform, and needs to be given time to work.
“It is encouraging that there is no evidence to suggest that the student funding reforms have deterred students from applying to university. Indeed, applications are at record levels. Institutions have increased investment in the student experience following the reforms with student satisfaction continuing to be consistently high.
“It is however clear that a number of improvements to the system are required and the report sets out a range of options for doing this. An important challenge to be addressed is enhancing financial support for student’s living costs. The sharp decline in part-time and mature student entrants to higher education also remains a cause for concern with action necessary to address this.
“Universities UK believes that the student funding system must be sustainable and support affordable, high-quality higher education. Any evolution of the current system in England must ensure value for money for students, prevent students from under-represented groups from being deterred from study, and be financially sustainable for both universities and the government.”
The panel's main conclusions and recommendations:
The current system of student funding in England is broadly fit for purpose, does not require wholesale reform, and needs to be given time to work
Prospective and current student understanding of the system needs to be improved, and the description and communication of the system need to be clarified and simplified
Some of the parameters in the student loan repayment system may need to be modified over the medium term. The panel recognised that all options for changing repayment parameters involve trade-offs and compromises. However, the panel believed that freezing the repayment threshold in the current system for a specified period of time was most likely to achieve the optimal balance of outcomes for students, graduates, government and universities
Funding for maintenance support needs to be improved: in terms both of quantity and targeting
Loan recovery mechanisms need to be improved
The panel’s aim was to provide a forum to build a broad political consensus for a stable and sustainable system of funding for the long term and to make recommendations on the student finance system in England up to, and immediately following, the General Election in May 2015.