24th February 2022

EPI comments on proposals for higher education reform

Today [Thursday 24 February] the Department for Education has announced a new package of measures on higher education reforms, alongside the publication of two consultations on minimum eligibility requirements and a Lifelong Loan Entitlement.


Commenting on the proposals, David Robinson, Director, Post 16 and Skills of the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said: 

“We welcome the government’s plans to introduce a Lifelong Loan Entitlement. Giving adults the opportunity and support to further their education and retrain is likely to benefit not only their personal income, but the economy and labour market more widely.

“We do, however, think that the government should proceed with caution in relation to the proposed reforms to higher education funding and access. Proposals to introduce minimum entry requirements for students must be carefully considered by the government, along with an assessment of the impact on disadvantaged and under-represented groups. 

“Existing analysis from UCAS suggests that students from low-income families, black students and those from parts of the North and the West Midlands could be most affected by these changes. Many of these students will be applying for university in the next few years will also have experienced considerable learning loss as a result of the pandemic.

“At present, students who do not achieve a grade 4 in English and Maths at GCSE may have limited options in accessing Level 3 courses, including T Levels. This, in turn, means it is harder for them to secure two Es at A Level (or equivalent). It is therefore important that the government considers whether contextual factors, such as student background or learning loss, should be taken into account when applying for student loans. Importantly, the government must also provide resources to support schools to ensure that more disadvantaged pupils achieve these minimum entry requirements.

“The government should also consider the impact of minimum entry requirements and student number controls on specific courses, to ensure these proposals do not jeopardise certain industries, particularly creative skills.

“The proposed changes to fees and repayment plans look likely to increase the contributions from graduates to the cost of higher education. However, these policies are likely to result in lower to middle earning graduates paying more than they currently do, while higher earning graduates are likely to pay less.

“Overall, we are concerned that the proposals relating to higher education appear to be regressive and further thought must be given to ensuring that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are not adversely impacted.”