As I review the findings and recommendations of the Augar Review (published yesterday, 30th May), the overarching aim for post-18 education to be a lifelong experience available to all, irrespective of age, situation or income, is encouraging.
The proposed reduction of the undergraduate tuition fee cap from £9,250 to £7,500 will surely be a worry, especially for the smaller and specialist institutions, although it is suggested that the gap shall be made up with direct funding, especially for high-cost courses. It is essential that the Government continues to ensure that sufficient total funding is allowed for to maintain the delivery of high quality education for all and the proposal is not to the detriment of class sizes, tutor contact time, building maintenance and new industry standard facilities.
Overall, the report recommends a shift of focus from universities towards further education which will be very welcomed by many as this could help address skill shortages on all levels more quickly, and encourage a more diverse student population. Institutions will need to have plans in place on how to respond to increased future demand with high quality courses and upgrades to their existing estate.
The report specifically acknowledges the civic role institutions play in creating strong communities – one of our aims when designing places with identity that slot into their context. Universities and colleges contribute to regeneration, ultimately leading to stronger economic development and growth. The same is true for innovation/ R&D which needs strong links between education, research, businesses and industry.
The sector will now have to wait and make initial preparations until the upcoming Spending Review for Government to decide whether to follow all 53 recommendations.