Kathryn Jones, Director of Group Marketing and Communications at Birmingham City University
The Government is proposing major changes to the way universities are funded and the level of fees universities will be able to charge for degrees to shift spending power from the State to students.
In perhaps the most significant example to date of the Government’s ‘Big Society’ philosophy, the Universities Minister David Willetts is recommending that that “the bulk of the teaching grant, which is currently distributed to universities via the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), should be replaced by spending power placed directly in the hands of students.”
In other words, it will remove the majority of the funding previously given to universities for their teaching and make the money available to students instead through student support – student loans, maintenance grants and scholarships.
To offset the proposed cuts in their teaching subsidy, universities will be allowed to charge higher fees that represent the true value of higher education given that graduates on average have better employment prospects and can expect to earn at least £100,000, net of tax, more than non-graduates across their working lives.
The proposals have been inspired by an independent review of higher education funding conducted by former BP boss Lord Browne, who believes that “students are best placed to make the judgment about what they want to get from participating in higher education’ and that ‘student choice will drive up quality’”.
With funding directly following the choices of students, the Government believes this will encourage universities to put more focus on teaching quality and employment opportunities for their graduates.
Birmingham City University has always recognised these crucial components in producing successful graduates. As a University we pride ourselves on our ability to educate students for professional careers and have links with over 40 professional bodies.
We have previously been recognised for our innovation in producing industry-ready and futureproof graduates. This, combined with our cutting-edge innovation and expertise, enables us to make a massive contribution to the regional economy. In total, Birmingham City University contributes about £180million to the city’s gross domestic product (GDP) – and across the West Midlands supports thousands of jobs and contributes more than £270million to regional GDP.
- For students starting a higher education universities will be able to charge higher fees, up to a limit of £9,000, subject to tougher conditions on widening participation and fair access.
- No student need start paying for their university education until they are earning £21,000 a year, although this could be as high as £25,000 per annum by the time the first students graduate under the new funding structure in 2015.
- There will be increased maintenance grants of up to £3,250 for poorer students, and for the first time, the introduction of financial support for part-time students.
- A £150m National Scholarship Programme will provide funds to enable bright students who might not otherwise afford university education access to university. This will in part be funded by those universities that want to charge fees at the higher end of the scale.