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University Alliance responds to the package of announcements released by the Department for Education

Papers released today (Thursday 21st January 2021) include the Teaching Excellence Framework review response, the Post-Admissions Qualification consultation and the Interim Conclusion of the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding.

Commenting on the publications, University Alliance CEO Vanessa Wilson said:

“The package of announcements released today – including the Interim response to the post-18 review, Post Qualification Admissions consultation and Teaching Excellence Framework – come at an important time for post-18 education, and indeed the nation as we look towards the post-COVID recovery. It’s important that any reforms offer stability and support for universities and current and future learners as we navigate our way out of the crisis.

University Alliance welcomes the Post-Qualification Admissions consultation, which presents an opportunity to develop a fairer and more transparent admissions system. We would, however, urge the government to ensure than any reforms to admissions do not disproportionately affect disadvantaged students and that access to high quality Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) is available to students throughout the entirety of the university admissions process.

We welcome the removal of the subject level Teaching Excellence Framework, which would have been complex and costly. However we do support the retention of the TEF as an exercise.

Whilst we welcome the recognition of strategic high-cost courses including those which support public services, there are concerns over changes to the T-grant which would see a reduction in funding for London-based institutions and other high-cost subjects such as creative arts which equally bring value for individuals and the economy.

In meeting the demand for higher technical skills, and more broadly as an essential part of the national education infrastructure, we welcome the additional investment in and reform of further education. However, it is also vital that the role of universities in delivering technical skills is not forgotten; the divide between academic and technical education can be overstated.

We have long argued for and so welcome the greater emphasis on flexible, lifelong learning and urge government to implement financial support and allow student choice to be retained. We believe foundation years are a vital progression route and their delivery through universities should be protected, although Alliance universities have a strong record in working with further education partners to deliver these pathways and we believe any reforms should incentivise and not reduce such collaboration.

We are deeply concerned about the proposals to enforce minimum entry thresholds, which we fear would place a cap on aspiration and limit access to higher education for those entering from low-participation backgrounds.

We acknowledge the interim nature of the response to the post-18 review, however we are concerned that yet another fee freeze represents a cut in real-time funding, and whilst some decisions have been rightly delayed, we maintain serious reservations about some of those proposals.

We look forward to engaging in the full response to the review in line with the Comprehensive Spending Review and ensuring the higher education sector is funded and equipped to continue delivering the workforce, research and innovation to support an economic, social and cultural recovery from this crisis. For now, all eyes should be on mitigating the immediate impact of the pandemic to enable universities to continue providing a high-quality experience for current and future learners”

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