Augar Review must focus on smashing down student barriers. The National Union of Student (NUS) is calling on the government’s long awaited Post-18 Education Review to ensure students and apprentices across further and higher education have adequate support for their course and living costs. This includes financial support for less traditional study routes such as distance learning or part-time education.
The review led by Philip Augar has been touted as an opportunity to bring in differential tuition fees of £6500 for arts subjects and up to £13500 for STEM. NUS has significant concerns that this would have a detrimental effect on widening participation for students. NUS Poverty Commission research shows students from lower-income backgrounds are likely to be more debt averse than those from higher income families; we are concerned that differential fees will act as a deterrent for those students wanting to study STEM courses.
The Augar Review must also ensure that the information, advice and guidance supports’ real student choice and all the different routes to the qualifications and careers individuals might wish to pursue.
Shakira Martin, NUS National President said:
“When I took up the NUS presidency in 2017, my aim was to smash down the barriers for working class students who wanted to get in and get on in further and higher education. I want to see a fair funding deal for our further education sector, which changes lives every day. Student hardship is a massive barrier, and the one thing I wanted to see for higher education students was reinstating maintenance grants. The Augar Review represents an incredibly exciting opportunity to fix the problems in student support and reduce student hardship. Philip Augar, please don’t let us down."
Amatey Doku, Vice President (Higher Education) said:
“The government has been lobbying to introduce differential fees for an undergraduate degree based on the subject that you take. This isn’t about attempts to rebalance funding between higher and further education, reflecting predicted graduate salaries, or reflecting the real costs of courses to teach. This is purely about damaging our sector by wrenching open a market, taking money out of education and pushing universities to the point of collapse.
“We can all imagine the disastrous effect a university going bust would have on students, staff and local communities, it is important that we stand as a movement to support those unions whose universities could be facing closure if this policy is adopted by government.”
There have also been substantial rumours that the review will recommend a fee cut to £7500 across all subjects. A cut to fees without a subsidy from central government represents nothing more than the defunding of education. In a time of political and financial uncertainty for the sector as a whole, NUS is aware of the risk that higher education providers face and believe that a cut to funding would push institutions closer to the point of course or campus closures and collapse. Students will be the first to feel the sharp end of funding cuts, as higher education providers invest less in the student experience to keep their central campuses financially viable.