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The good news in Hefce’s new consultation on student funding

March 7, 2012

Having been a bit hard on Hefce regarding the process for determining the marginal places, I should say that the new consultation on “Student Number controls and teaching funding for 2013/14” contains much of interest and some measures which would mitigate the problems I previously identified in the 2012/13 regime.

This consultation was published last week and the deadline for responses is Friday 25 May.  This is effectively the delayed “Winter 2011” consultation mentioned in earlier blogs.

There are a number of measures in the document but I want to concentrate on two: funding for London institutions and a proposed rebanding of degree subjects. 

In an essay last year for Afterall, I suggested that the lack of anything resembling London weighting in the white paper was a problem.  A Higher Education Institution in London is bound by the same tuition fee cap as those in cheaper areas, but provision had been made through the block grant to grant additional resources. 

In particular, for 2012/13, it was difficult for London institutions, given their higher salary and overhead costs, to set fees below £7 500.  I had believed this was a deliberate measure given the government’s proximity to the think tank, Policy Exchange, whose report “Sink or Swim?” argued that London was over-supplied with HEIs.

Hefce is now proposing to rectify the issue from 2013/14.

255. For 2013-14 onwards we propose to create a separate allocation for providers in relation to new-regime students attending courses in London. This will apply to price groups A to D. We expect this supplement to be at broadly comparable rates to those that applied in 2011-12.

 It envisages setting aside £47million of its budget in 2013/14 for this purpose (rising to £66m by 2015/16).  Its proposed rates per student per year will be approximately.

Price group Inner London rate Outer London rate
A £1,174 £734
B £499 £312
C1 and C2 £382 £239
D £294 £184

As is indicated by the table, Hefce is also advocating a new division within Band C subjects.  Using TRAC data (see Annex C of the consultation), it has determined that some subjects require the restoration of some grant because they are ‘thought to cost more than £7 500’ per student per year to run.

 The new class, C1, includes Archaeology, Design and Creative arts, IT & software engineering, Media studies.  These subjects will receive £250 per year in grant for full-time undergraduates and £1350 per year for full-time postgraduates on taught courses. That means that C1 subjects in inner London, including art & design, could see the restoration of grant totalling over £630 per student.

C2 subjects, include those from the current Band C without those elevated to C1, example subjects include mathematics and modern languages.  They will receive no undergraduate grant (as is the case in 2012/13) and £1 100 per year for postgraduates.

These both look like positive measures, especially given the pressures on art and design, and would go some way to mitigating the problems of the new regime.  Whether the government is on board is another matter, so weight of support for the consultation may count.

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