Lord Browne begins

Fees and finance panel makes first call for evidence. John Morgan reports

The panel reviewing fees and university funding has made its first call for evidence today, taking as its themes participation rates, the quality of the higher education system and affordability for students and the state.

The panel conducting the Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance, led by Lord Browne of Madingley, said the call for evidence would aim to gather a wide range of perspectives on the current system of funding and student finance.

The seven-strong panel, which includes two university vice-chancellors, will look in particular at the impact of the introduction of variable tuition fees and changes to student finance in 2006.

The call for evidence asks what does and does not work in the current system and the efficacy or otherwise of the 2006 reforms.

On participation, the panel asks: “Does our education system make high levels of participation possible, with access determined by ability and the potential to succeed, to ensure that the social, economic and individual benefits of higher education are maximised and shared across our society?”

Respondents are also asked how participation rates for different social groups have varied since 2006, the extent to which these changes can be attributed to the reforms, and how England compares with other countries.

On quality, the panel asks: “Does the higher education system provide the quality and academic standards that students, employers and national economic needs require?”

It also asks whether the quality of teaching has improved since 2006.

On sustainability, the panel asks: “Is the system affordable in the long term for all those who invest in it, including students and the state?”

Respondents are also asked how extra income since 2006 has been used by institutions and what cost pressures may occur in the future.

From the responses received during December and early January, the panel will invite “selected experts and representatives of different interests” to give oral evidence at public hearings in late January.

The first call for evidence will close on 31 January with a further call in “early 2010”.

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

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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