Whilst the details and potential ramifications of the recommendations in the Augar Review are fascinating, I fear there is only really one simple piece of news:
Given that we don’t know who the PM will be and how long they will last, there is a real chance that Augar will die a quiet and slow death amongst the political chaos. However, thanks to the exiting PM using up her last moment of political capital to ensure it gets some media coverage, I think we can be pretty sure that one headline will last.
No one (beyond HE) will care whether the treasury finds money to top up the unit of resource, and no one (beyond HE) will care how they chose to distribute it if they find it. The message has landed, and it is now oft repeated that degrees at £9k are poor value for money and that they should be £7.5k a year. No one will have sympathy for seemingly rich universities complaining about this.
A new Conservative PM struggling to survive will have bigger issues to contend with and will be happy to stick with £7.5k. They won’t have the power to the treasury in terms of bridging the gap; indeed, they will be looking for headline grabbing ‘offers’ to win the next election and topping up fees for universities will not appear on that list.
If there is a General Election and Labour gets in – and keeps its pledge to remove fees – the cost of a degree will already be seen to be £7.5k. £9k will be old news already forgotten by most. Ways to make up the unit of resource will also be old news… tedious details killed off by election promises.
And so 7.5 becomes the new 9. I fear there is nothing we can do but urgently consider how we survive this reality.
Susie Hills is Joint CEO and Co-founder of Halpin.