The Access and Funding Challenge - Professor Janet Beer


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The Access and Funding Challenge
Professor Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, Oxford Brookes University, and Universities UK Board Member

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  • But first I have a few introductory remarks… UUK is very pleased to work closely again this year with Action on Access on thethirdannual Access to HE summit - it is has become a fixture on the events calendar which offers an important opportunity and platform to look at the emerging access and participation agendas and explore where next. I would like to congratulate Action on Access, which is chaired by Professor Mary Stuart, and led by Professor John Storan with Andrew Rawson, on the important coordination and communication role they continue to provide. This year we have taken a different and more innovative approach to the summit and asked 12 organisations concerned with access and participation in higher education to write a think-piece from their organisational perspective on where the emerging access agenda might go. You will then have a chance to explore and debate the ideas that come from these in the workshops. You should all have received a collection of the papers for this Summit and we intend to publish these post-conference – along with your reflections and views. We have all been eagerly awaiting the publication of the joint national Student Success and Access Strategy and we are pleased that Professor Ebdon is here and able to give us the latest info on: the Access strategy the alignment of OFFA and HEFCE processes through the development of ajoint process for access agreements and widening participation strategic statements. We know that OFFA and HEFCE intend to publish guidance to universities in early 2014 on preparing access agreement commitments for the 2015-16 academic year, and widening participation strategy for 2014 to 2017.  To support institutions UUK, and Action on Access with OFFA and HEFCE, will be holding a further conference to enable practitioners to explore the new guidance – we hope you can all attend.We are also really pleased that the President of the National Union of Students, Toni Pearce is addressing our conference straight after lunch. It is a measure of its commitment that the NUS has appointed and been working with a number of WP Champions across Student Unions, and no doubt Toni will refer to the increasingly important role student unions have to play to improve access and participation in our institutions. Toni gave am informative and challenging speech to vice-chancellors back in September and I look forward to hearing what she has to say today.  
  • In 1961, the government appointed the Robbins committee to review higher education and to advise which principles should underpin long-term policy. The Robbins Report was one of the most important social documents of the post-war era. On the following day, the government announced its acceptance of the Robbins forecasts for higher education expansion.The Robbins Report then went on to establish what became known as the ‘Robbins principle’: ‘courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so’ (Robbins, 1963, 2:31). This principle has come to underpin higher education policies internationally and has transformed the lives of millions of people, particularly women, as the report set in train an expansion of higher education that still continues.At that time only about 5 in every 100 young people went on to full-time degree courses, not all of those at university. Only 1 per cent of working-class girls and 3 per cent of working-class boys did so. Another 3 per cent of young people went on to teacher training and other non-degree courses. Robbins had 178 recommendations, including : schools, local authorities and universities need to cooperate to ensure much wider access to higher education; adult education should be encouragedin future, detailed planning for higher education should be made for a period extending ten years ahead; - has it EVER happened since Robbins? All of which, I would argue, would seem just as relevant today as then. Robbins started the journey for expansion. So what progress have we made progress have we made since then?
  • This graph has been developed from figures in the Robbins Revisited report on all full-time higher education. It gives a good overview on overall numbers (not entrants), and includes home and overseas undergraduate and postgraduate  full-time enrolments. Clearly we can see an expansion.HOWEVER, in order to see what is really happening we need to drill down and look behind these figures to see what is happening to specific groups. If we look at young entrants, the recent HEFCE report on Trends in young participation in higher education showed that since the late 1990s:The rate of participation in HE among young people had increased from 30 to 38 percent . HOWEVER, (go to next slide)
  • Although the participation rate has increased for both women and men, it has increased more for women. This means that the participation gap between men and women was wider than it was 14 years ago. Now young women have a participation rate that is 8 percentage points higher than men making them +22 % more likely to progress into HE.In 2011–12, 56% of students were female. Within this average figure there was some variation by level of study: at first degree level around 55% of students were female, while at postgraduate research level this was 47% (this had increased from 44% in 2003–04). (From Patterns)There is a wide variation of gender at institutions ranging from less than a third females in some institutions to 80% in others. BUTWomen continue to do less well in the labour market – ONS figures show that 25% of female graduates are in ‘lower middle skill’ jobs compared to 12.5% of male graduatesWomen continue to be under-represented in senior roles: you could argue that you need a gender imbalance at undergraduate level to start to shift the balance between men and women in the labour market (ie you need more in at the bottom because so few make it through to the top)
  • This difference is exacerbated when we look at the area people live in. Clearly we have moved on from this…
  • If we look at the trends in young participation rates using POLAR 3 data as shown here, we see that the difference in participation rates between those living in the most advantaged areas and those in the most disadvantaged areas remains large. (Source HEFCE trends in participation rates for young people)Although young participation rates increased in both advantaged and disadvantaged areas, with proportional increases of +16 and +52 per cent respectively, the participation gap between them has remained broadly stable at around 40 percentage points. MEANING that young people in the most disadvantaged areas would need to treble their participation rate in order to match the rate of those from the most advantaged areas.Furthermore, if we look at participation rates across regions, the HEFCE shows that there are large differences in participation rates across regions. Egyoung people in London are 43% more likely to participate in HE than those living in the North East. This evidence suggests that there has also been a decline in participation in areas of the country that have been hot particularly hard in the current economic climate. UUK’s own research into those wishing to study part-time showed a 40% decline in part-time entrants. So clearly we still have some way to go yet….
  • Robbins made the economic argument for expansion that ‘modern societies can[not] achieve their aims of economic growth and higher cultural standards without making the most of the talents of their citizens.’ (Robbins, 1963, 2:32) and referred to global competitiveness as well as the intrinsic value of it for societies and for individuals within ‘the good society’ based on ‘equality of opportunity’ (Robbins, 1963, 2:33). If we look briefly at some of the big picture challenges we face today we can see some of these themes are still as relevant now as they were back in the 1960s.Recently UUK undertook some research to revisit the argument Robbins makes between the number of graduates and economic growth. This is important because we know that given recent growth in the number of graduates in the UK there is a view (although clearly not shared by our international competitors) that there are too many students in the system. But is this actually right? Is Robbins argument for expansion still relevant today?UK’s research showed that the view that we have too many students was in fact short sighted.
  • I don’t have time to go through all these but as the diagram shows the contribution of HE to economic growth is multi-faceted. An evaluation of the evidence shows that there is a positive relationship between enrolment rates in HE and economic growth, for example a recent study by BIS carried out by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimates that graduate skills accumulation contributed to about 20% of GDP growth in UK from 1985 to 2005. The study estimates that a 1% rise in share of the workforce with a university education raises the level of productivity by between 0.2% and 0.5% in the long run. UK competes in a global market, therefore to remain globally competitive we must ensure that we have a workforce with the skills to meet future demand from employers. (You may wish to refer here to the emerging hourglass- shaped labour market.) The UK Commission for Employment and Skills reports that there will be a high demand for graduates in the future. Including STEM professionals, business and public service professionals. Currently 86% of professionals are graduates. It is estimated that over 80% of new jobs created by 2020 will be in occupations with high concentrations of graduates. There is, of course, no simple causation between increasing graduates and increasing economic growth – policies to increase graduates must exist alongside policies that favour innovation, including labour market and industrial policies .HOWEVER, the key point I want to make is we need graduates - there will be a significant risk to UUK’s future economic prosperity if the future demand for highly skilled individuals is not met.Employers have limited incentives to invest significantly in skills provision due to the mobility of the workforce across different employers. THEREFORE there is a strong rationale for highly skilled individuals to develop their skills further through the higher education system. Although I have focused here on the importance of the links between HE, innovation and growth, the value of HE clearly goes beyond the economic to the social benefits to individuals. HE can improve opportunities and life chances for individuals with knock on benefits for community cohesion and social mobility. The HE sector is integral to supporting the BOTH economic growth and social mobility . However, the big challenge the sector faces is whether future expansion is feasible, given the current income available to institutions through the reformed higher education system and the level of demand from applicants to higher education.
  • Given the importance of future expansion the next stage of UUK’s work will focus on the future of the student funding system in England and develop practical solutions to help overcome these challenges. It is clear that the UK must raise to these challenges to remain a key player on the world stage and to safeguard our economic future.What you see here on the diagram is a set of principles which provide a preliminary framework to frame the discussion.Student number controlUUK’s position that HEIs should retain autonomy over who we recruit and that this should not be dictated by the funding process that future students may need to access – neither should there be any prejudice against part-time students or different socio-economic groups in terms of their ability to access student funding. Student accessibility should be promoted, allowing for the expansion of student numbers. No student to be disadvantaged by background An insurance mechanism should apply so student debt repayment requirements are not on terms which may disadvantage graduates who go on to study further or enter low income employmentPublic-private modelsThere should be recognition that public funding or support may be necessary at some level in the system.Public funds should focus on providing support where the market cannot sustain investor return requirements Alternative forms of funding The model should not a. constrain a student accessing other forms of funding (from parents, HEIs)b. Stop HEIs developing independent models to fund their studentsSystem to cover all institutions Funding should be available to all students, irrespective of the institution they are applying too.Tuition feesFlexibility should be retained to vary the key aspects of the existing tuition fee system (level of fee cap, earnings thresholds driving repayment levels etc) to reflect investor and market needs
  • I would like to leave the final word with RobbinsIn his view the four main objectives of the UK’s higher education system should be [ see quote]. This still stands today – we just need to ensure we can all continue to deliver on this. UUK will focus on supporting the sector to deliver on this by looking at the options for funding an increase in numbers and to securing a sustainable student support system and I look forward to hearing what your views are on the key challenges and the way forward. Over to questions for 5 minutes.
  • The Access and Funding Challenge - Professor Janet Beer

    1. 1. Universities: the access and funding challenge Professor Janet Beer 3 December 2013
    2. 2. What we will cover? Celebrating Robbins, but are we there yet? What are the big picture policy challenges over the next 5 years? What does this mean for the sector?
    3. 3. The Robbins Report 50 years on The „Robbins principle‟ „courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so‟ (Robbins, 1963, 2:31) „modern societies can[not] achieve their aims of economic growth and higher cultural standards without making the most of the talents of their citizens.‟ (Robbins, 1963, 2:32)
    4. 4. Increase in participation
    5. 5. Gender “The split between the sexes risks becoming a more serious problem than the gulf in access to university traditionally seen between students from rich and poor families, it was claimed. Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS, said that women were a third more likely to gain entry to degree courses than men. In a speech, she warned that the gap would continue to widen over the next decade. By 2025, the gulf in access between men and women will actually be more pronounced than that seen between deprived and wealthy students.” (The Telegraph)
    6. 6. Trend in young participation rate for areas classified by HE participation rates (POLAR 3)
    7. 7. What are the policy challenges? Funding • Continued pressure on public funding • Funding growth • Securing LT sustainability of loan system • Sustained shortage of public investment in capital (Teaching) • Delivery of world–class student experience • Maintaining research funding Regulation and governance Aspiration and attainment • Shifts in regulatory architecture • Intensifying competition • Conflicting public policy agendas • Changes to UK constitutional structure • General Election 2015 • HE Bills • Persistent correlation between social class and attainment • 14-19 reform across UK • Ethnicity: pervasive differences between performance of different ethnic groups • Gender: under-achievement of white working-class boys
    8. 8. Will expanding graduates benefit the UK economy? Suitable labour market and industrial societies Future demand for graduatelevel skills Positive relationship between enrolment rates and growth HE innovation and growth Innovative capacity Higher levels skills are crucial to productivity Graduates and postgraduates create new ideas
    9. 9. The funding and access challenge 1. Increase public sector net borrowing or redirect BIS cash spend 2. Sustainability of the overall loan system 3. Additional funding for capital and infrastructure costs required 4. Increase in private sources of funding
    10. 10. Principles for developing a new system Student number control Tuition fees System to cover all institutions Student funding system No student to be disadvantaged by background Public – private finance models Alternative forms of funding
    11. 11. 1963 Robbins’ view on higher education system • “….instruction in skills; the promotion of the general powers of the mind so as to produce not mere specialists but rather cultivated men and women; to maintain research in balance with teaching, since teaching should not be separated from the advancement of learning and the search for truth; and to transmit a common culture and common standards of citizenship”
    12. 12. Any questions?