Liz Bromley, Acting CEO of University Alliance commented:
“This was a disappointing, if not surprising budget. There remain huge structural questions about the future funding and direction, not just of higher education but also of our partners in further education, as well as the critical area of adult learning which as recent reports have shown is in free-fall. In addition, universities are facing rising cost pressures, exacerbated by this budget’s confirmation of increased costs for public sector pensions. We hope that when the independent Post-18 Review Panel reports next year, and the government finally responds these important issues will begin to be addressed. Greater clarity, support and funding will be essential for the sector as we seek to ensure that after Brexit, and in a changing domestic environment, our universities remain world class centres for educating the workforce of tomorrow.
We do welcome some of the more specific announcements, and in particular the additional funding for mental health which we know from our members is a major challenge for both institutions and students. We are broadly pleased by the increased flexibility now being shown in the apprenticeship levy and the halving of the co-investment rate for small businesses. The apprenticeship system itself and its related processes must work well for employers of all sizes to benefit from high quality, high level skills training that meets their needs. If further action is not taken, there is a real risk that cold spots in higher and degree apprenticeship provision will continue to exist across England, despite the efforts of employers and educational institutions – such as Alliance universities – in addressing skills needs”.