This is the fourth of our briefings around key issues in the Higher Education White Paper in England.
This one gives an overview of how debates around access to higher education have been shaping up in the past year, what we have been saying, what the White Paper said, and how we and other bodies in the higher education sector have responded.
It’s a complex issue, and there’s a lot we can’t fit in here, but it is pretty plain to see that government policy in the last year has the potential to seriously damage access to higher education in England.
Everyone in the sector, including NUS, has manifested deep concerns about the impact of the proposed systems to manage student numbers, with free recruitment of students with AAB or more at A-level and the distribution of 20,000 places on the basis of price.
These proposals are widely viewed as leading to a two-tier system in higher education where the most selective institutions recruit the most advantaged students to the best-resourced courses, leaving those students most in need of support (including disabled, BME and mature students) with less choice, lower quality and a worse experience because the institutions these students traditionally are more likely to attend will be forced to make cuts to be able to offer lower fees.
Alongside this briefing we are releasing a consultation of all students’ unions whose institutions have an access agreement (that’s most of you in England!) We want to be able to give OFFA a true representation of student views of access agreements, the good, the bad and the ugly, so please take some time to respond before 16 December.
Reviewing your access agreement now will put you in a strong position to make the arguments for revisions in the next cycle (Spring 2012).
For those of you in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, this content won’t have direct relevance, but a lot of the concerns around what institutions should be committing to in terms of expenditure on access will provide a valuable backdrop to your national situation. This will also help with discussions on RUK fees and support.