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UK’s Augar review “silent” on int’l student issues

The recent Augar review into post-18 education in England was largely touted as a way to widen access to higher education and further education for the country’s domestic students. However, it was met with mixed reactions from the country’s education sector.

Some stakeholders argued that reducing tuition fees without a guarantee of alternative funding could reduce the UK's international competitiveness. Photo: pixabay

The Russell Group warned that reducing tuition fees would result in a £1.8bn hole in English university budgets

The review suggested an array of recommendations for domestic students in England including cutting tuition fees in England from £9,250 to £7,500 per year, extending student loan repayments from 30 to 40 years, reintroducing some maintenance loans and making reforms to further education.

“The finances of many universities are… particularly dependent on a healthy flow of international students”

Some politicians lamented against the document as “the epitaph for Theresa May’s government”, and others suggested its implementation would lead to a funding gap for English universities.

The Russell Group warned that reducing students’ tuition fees by £1,750 without a guarantee of compensation for universities would result in a £1.8bn hole in English university budgets. Russell Group universities in England alone would see a £550m shortfall.

Director of Policy at the Russell Group Sarah Stevens noted that it would “not be sustainable to expect international students’ fees to fill large holes in teaching budgets if home fees are cut”.

“The Augar Review has explicitly said that government should make up the short fall in this scenario and all students deserve a cast-iron guarantee that, if home tuition fees are reduced, the lost income will be compensated through additional grant funding.”

In a post for HEPI, director Nick Hillman noted that the Augar review had “nothing of substance to say about international students”. It also lacked detail for postgraduate courses, he added.

However these two issues are top of mind for those governing big universities, he said.

“The finances of many universities (not to mention the diversity they embody) are, for example, particularly dependent on a healthy flow of international students.

“Hits to things like home undergraduate funding can be ameliorated somewhat in many instances by increasing the number of international students, so the silence on such issues will be painful for some in the sector to bear,” he continued.

Reducing tuition fees without a guarantee of alternative funding could reduce the UK’s international competitiveness, chief executive of Universities UK Alistair Jarvis said in a statement.

“On the face of it the fee-level recommendations may look good for students, but unless the government gives a cast-iron guarantee on full replacement funding, it could prove to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he said.

“Cutting fees without replacement funding would be a political choice which hurts students, limits opportunity, damages universities, decreases the number of highly-skilled employees that business needs, and reduces our international competitiveness at a time when modern Britain needs it most.”

 

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