Lord Browne to lead fees review

David Eastwood and Julia King join panel considering the future of student support. John Gill reports

The review of fees and university funding will be led by Lord Browne of Madingley, the Government has announced.

The long-awaited Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance was launched on 9 November by Lord Mandelson, the First Secretary.

Lord Browne will be joined on the review panel by David Eastwood, the vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham and former head of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and by Julia King, the vice-chancellor of Aston University.

The panel also features Michael Barber, the head of McKinsey’s Global Education Practice, Diane Coyle of the consultancy Enlightenment Economics, Rajay Naik, a UK board member of the Big Lottery Fund, and Peter Sands, the chief executive of Standard Chartered bank.

Lord Mandelson said the review would take into account the goal of widening participation in higher education, the need for affordability and the desire to simplify the student-support system.

He said: “Last week I launched the Government’s framework for higher education, showing the challenges and opportunities ahead for universities in the next decade.

“We need universities to continue to thrive and meet this vision, and Lord Browne and his team will examine the balance of contributions to universities by taxpayers, students, graduates and employers.

“Variable tuition fees provide institutions with a secure income stream worth £1.3 billion, helping to sustain the long-term financial health and viability of the sector.

“Since they were introduced, student numbers have continued to rise, along with the numbers coming from lower-income backgrounds.

“This is an important piece of work that will require extensive consultation with all who would be affected by any changes, including current and potential students.”

Lord Mandelson added that he had discussed the review’s membership with David Willetts, the Conservative Shadow Universities Secretary, and that both parties were “committed to ensuring its independent nature”.

The review will make its recommendations to the Government next summer, after the general election.

Steve Smith, the vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter and president of Universities UK, said he was pleased that the review was getting under way.

“First and foremost, this review must be about how the introduction of fees in 2006 has impacted on students, how this additional income has been used and how the university sector’s funding needs will be addressed in the future,” he said.

“It is about more than simply the level of the fee cap in England.”

He added: “Our position is that our universities must receive sufficient funding to remain world class and any changes to the current fee regime must also take account of the implications for widening participation.”

john.gill@tsleducation.com

www.independent.gov.uk/hereview

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