The Augar report: Review of Post-18 Education and Funding

The Augar report was presented to Parliament on 30 May 2019 by an independent panel appointed by the Prime Minister and chaired by Dr Philip Augar.

The 210 page report contains 53 recommendations for the Government on post-18 education and funding. Theresa May welcomed the report and while it will be for the future Prime Minister, Government and Parliament to decide whether to take the recommendations on board, she highlighted in particular the call for the reintroduction of student maintenance grants to support people from low income families. The report underlines the importance of narrowing the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students and improving social mobility.

The central message in the report is that post-18 education in England “is a story of both care [higher education] and neglect [further education]”. A thread runs through the report in terms of the extent to which the different funding mechanisms provide appropriate incentives to both individuals and institutions for courses which are beneficial to society, the economy and advancing the Government’s Industrial Strategy. Concern is expressed about what are seen as "low value courses".

For some time, the national press has been reporting that the Augar report would recommend reducing the undergraduate tuition fee cap from £9,250 to £7,500. This recommendation is included in the report and there are suggestions that the new cap could be introduced by 2021/22. 

The report also recommends, however, that the loss of this income should be made up by increasing the teaching grant institutions are paid. In addition, the report recommends that the fee cap should be frozen until 2022/23. It does note that there is expected to be an extra £500 million in tuition fee income available for institutions because of changes to demographics and the increase in young people from 2020.

While there may be a range of legal, regulatory and commercial issues for institutions depending on their specific circumstances arising from the report’s recommendations, if implemented in whole or in part, perhaps the most important law to keep in mind at this early stage is the law of unintended consequences. The report needs careful consideration to ensure we protect one of our most important sectors of the national economy, but also make sure we are offering a range of opportunities to people from all backgrounds, especially as our society and economy continues to change at a rapid pace.

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