Charlotte’s Blog: The Augar Report

The Augar Review has been published! With Higher Education all over the news today, I thought I’d provide a quick briefing on the most pertinent changes.

The Augar Review (Review of post-18 funding) has been looking at aspects surrounding the funding of Higher Education – the report published today is over 216 pages long, so I thought I’d share with you some views from the sector (as well as my own). It doesn’t have any direct impact on postgraduates, but it certainly highlights the direction the sector is taking.

Key Things to note:

📑The fee change proposal from £9000 down to £7500. Whilst this looks great for students on the surface, it lowers the repayment ceiling to £23,000 (catching a lot more early career repayments) and extends the debt period to 40 years. In all, you’ll likely end up paying just as much as someone on the £9000 repayment plan.

💵The lowering of fees will hurt Universities & Students. The OFS already registers concerns about the financial viability of a number of HE institutions, and any cuts in funding could tip them over the edge. In others, this funding gap is likely to hit vulnerable students the most, with Widening Participation, grants, fee waivers, bursaries and student support services being the most likely targets for cuts.

💸These changes are intended to ensure that more people pay off greater amounts of their student debt. Whilst this is understandable from the point of view of the Treasury it inevitably hurts those who would, under the current system, have repaid less.

👩‍💼Experts across the sector, from the Russell Group (see their statement of response here…/post-18-funding-review-publis…/) to Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert have responded to this review as being disadvantaging to both students and the sector.

This all looks pretty negative. However, the Augar report does contain some elements of benefit to students:

💵Capping total repayments to 120% of the original loan.

👪Making expected parental contributions explicit. Currently, for the UG loan, parental income is used to decide what money you’ll get – but the fact that Student Loans Company expects you’re parents to top up the difference (and what that equates to) is never stated – leading to many students unable to access the full loan whilst living in abject poverty. The report notes that ‘the absence of any explicit information about the expected level of parental contribution appeared to result in many students receiving less support than they need’. Whilst I’d argue that parents should never be expected to contribute, as long as they are, it’s best that the SLC say it upfront.

💸Interest rates on loans will be capped at inflation. For those of us currently accruing interest at CPI + 3%, this is a very welcome change! However, as it’s unlikely that students will pay off the basic loan + interest anyway, this makes little tangible difference to total repayments.

🏠Criticism of Student Accommodation costs – a pressing issue across the sector, but one, alas, that has no obvious answer. The recognition of the issues, however, is a significant step forward, as the report notes ‘cost of living is a preoccupation of students across HE and FE. Accommodation costs are a particular concern’.

So how does this affect postgrads?

Ostensibly, not much. The word postgraduate only appears 18 times in the entire report. The problems of PG mental health, PhD financing, rights for casual workers and GTAs etc that we see in the sector for Postgraduates won’t be dealt with by Augar. But with changes in undergraduate funding comes changes in desirable student demographics – overseas pgt fees will seem an easy target to boost floundering bottom lines and we may well see an increase in all areas of postgraduate fees, alongside a reduction in services.

We’ll keep you posted!

If you want to read more, WonkHE has a number of articles detailing aspects of the review, and there’s plenty to be found in various newspapers today:…/the-augar-review-the-essential-overvi…/…/blink-and-youll-miss-it-ten-hidden-tre…

Charlotte x

30th May 2019