In response to Labour’s announcement about university funding, Maddalaine Ansell, Chief Executive of University Alliance, said:
“UK competitiveness and societal well-being depends on increasing numbers of highly skilled people. So any future government must ensure that higher education is funded sustainably. This means funding must be sufficient to keep our universities amongst the best in the world and for everyone with the aspiration and ability to benefit from higher education to do so.
“We are reassured that what Labour have announced today demonstrates a strong commitment to maintaining investment in higher education and in making sure students are able to access financial support through increased maintenance loans. This is critical to securing the future of higher education in the UK at a time when it is most needed to deliver UK growth.
“The key will be to ensure that the lower fees are balanced with direct funding from government. We would also like to see further detail of how Labour intends to mitigate a potential drop in people taking up their places at university in September this year.”
University Alliance has set out three key requirements for ensuring that UK universities can continue to boost UK-wide competitiveness.
1. Maintain investment levels into universities: current levels of investment through direct government funding and student fees is enabling them to invest in the student experience, outreach work and their local communities. If the contribution through student fees is to be reduced it is critical that direct government funding is increased to make-up the shortfall. Otherwise the UK will fall behind in the global knowledge race.
2. Remove the student numbers cap: If it is to succeed in the 21st century, the UK needs more people to obtain graduate-level skills. So we must work harder to ensure that everyone with the aspiration and ability to go to university can do so. Lifting the cap on student numbers will help – poorer students will always be disadvantaged in a system that restricts places.
3. Improve access through improvements to maintenance loans: The cost of a policy to reduce fees to £6,000 should be balanced against our ability to ensure that students from all background are able to support themselves once they are at university. Maintenance loans are currently inadequate. All the evidence shows that it is the up-front costs that count for students from non-traditional backgrounds to succeed.