Post-18 Education and Funding: A Mums In The Wood Opinion by Rajni Jayasekera, founder of Mums in the Wood

Post-18 Education and Funding

Mums in the Wood founder Rajni Jayasekera gives us her opinion:

“Earlier this year, Theresa May announced her plans for the review of post-18 education and funding. The review was launched based on a promise made by the Conservatives last May to launch a major review of tertiary education in their election manifesto. This was sparked by two concerns, one, that graduate debt was rising and was currently between the unimaginable levels of £50,000 – £57,000 per student and two, that the rising cost of going to University is becoming a deterrent for some students in lower income brackets.  It is also taking a toll on those who do in fact enrol, along with their parents who themselves might be struggling financially and would be required to fill in for any extras needed by those students. 

However, there seems to be doubt as to whether or not the review will address the main issues or if it will largely fail to address points raised as main concerns i.e. “be more talk than action” and Theresa May’s rhetoric about making education accessible by all, has been viewed with scepticism. With the alternatives like interest rate cuts and variable fee structures for different degrees (degrees in STEM studies, costing more than arts and social sciences degrees) having been downplayed, the independent review which is supposed to last till early 2019, does not look like it will end up serving the interests of the students. There is little hope of drastic, more accessible changes to fee structures, maintenance grants and favourable taxation on student loans. The divide being introduced between academic institutions and vocational institutions has also been criticised with the point being made that universities are key to developing skill sets that employers value. The only up side to the review seems to be that fees will at least may be frozen until the review is complete.

There is a great deal of indecision within the government on education policy but things don’t seem to be moving towards any solutions so far, in spite of the Prime Ministers admission of having got things wrong and her admission that the universities in the UK are among the most expensive in the world. Labour are heavily critical of the Conservative stance and gaining popularity among the young voters with offers of free education, maintenance grants and lower taxation etc.

Something to bear in mind in all this is that free education comes with its own list of complications, one of which to consider (having seen and experienced, first hand what a cost free university education results in) would be that exploitation of free access to education is rarely avoidable and will have to have complicated entry requirements in order to succeed. Furthermore, if offered, this will no doubt also result in even higher taxes. The best way forward does seem to be some level of compromise which may be a combination of reduced fees and greater support but it is unlikely that this will be the outcome of the review in 2019. Perhaps as Lord Adonis (who was responsible in the main for introducing tuition fees) had said last year, the government could consider reverting to charging between £1000 and £3000 as per the original scheme. The greatest challenge faced by those involved in the independent review then seems to be to make university education not only accessible to all, but also valued by all.” 

What do you think? Comment below and let us know.

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