The HE Bite: 15th September – which political party has backed Labour on tuition fee caps?

The HE Bite: 15th September – which political party has backed Labour on tuition fee caps?

This week we’ve seen Labour backed by another political party on tuition fee caps, and plans are in motion to combat the declining number of mature students in HEIs. Here’s whats been going on in the world of Higher Education.

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The Democratic Unionist Party backs Labour on tuition caps

This week started off with a bit of uncertainty. Labour pushed forth a parliamentary vote to scrap the government’s latest rise in university tuition fees. The £9,000 cap was set to rise by £250 annually. This left the Democratic Unionist Party (which supports the Conservative government but has a history of voting against increasing the cap on student fees) in a real bind.

However, the DUP did vote for increasing NHS pay and against a rise in tuition fees. Labour’s motions passed on Wednesday, without being pushed to a vote after it became clear the government had no majority to oppose the call. Although it fell outside the Tory-DUP Confidence and Supply Agreement, it is the first time the DUP has broken with the Conservative party leadership since they struck the agreement to vote together on legislation after the General Election.

It is also an indication of the public sector (and specifically Higher Education) creating space for policy divergence between Tory leadership and the DUP. It appears there may be future opportunities for Labour to put the DUP between a rock and a hard place when it relates to higher education policy.

Click here to read more.

Higher Education and Research Act 2017: Accelerated Courses and Widening Participation

The conversation around declines in mature students enrolled in HE has invoked calls for accelerated study as an alternative to the traditional model of three years. This model is not always suitable for non-traditional students. The policy shift, proposed by Jo Johnson in his recent address at Universities UK, intends to offer supply in a market that is shifting towards a need for accelerated study.

The Higher Education and Research Act for 2017 includes powers to set annual tuition fee caps at higher levels for accelerated courses. It will be cost effective for students who will save money given the shorter length of study time for certain subjects.

Although there are concerns in the sector on the effectiveness of a two-year degree program, this type of structure is particularly impactful among those from less privileged backgrounds. Sector attempts to address widening participation may recognise that there is a declining number of students in this category and that the sector is not meeting their needs.

Click here to read more from the Guardian.

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