Select Committee on Education and Skills Sixth Report


28. In oral evidence to the Committee, Margaret Hodge MP, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education at the Department for Education and Skills, described the "heart of what the review is about, which is the appropriate balance between what the student and their family pay and what the state should pay towards the support for students during their time in higher education".[34]

29. Given that a parallel review of higher education[35] is under way within the Department it is particularly important that student support is not seen in isolation but in the context of investment in all aspects of higher education, including institutional funding. To recruit and retain students from previously under­represented groups, and to ensure that they reach the standards required for higher education awards, is resource-intensive and therefore expensive.

Postcode premium

  30. Current methods of institutional funding provide for a 10 per cent premium to institutions for each student recruited from a postcode where the participation rate is lower than one third of the national average.[36] This postcode or participation premium is intended to recognise the additional support needed by some students from lower socio­economic groups.

31. Our predecessor Committee recommended that the postcode premium should be increased to 20 per cent (from what was then 5 per cent).[37] In a recent speech in the House of Lords, Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe, Chief Executive of Universities UK, reported the finding that the real cost of widening participation is closer to 35 per cent.[38] Professor Roderick Floud, Chairman of Universities UK, told us:

    "We have just conducted a research project that shows that the additional costs of supporting widening participation of students is probably of the order of 35 per cent, which is significantly higher even than your Committee recommended when it last discussed that particular subject."[39]

32. We believe that the present methods of identifying students from more deprived backgrounds are underdeveloped and we call upon the Department for Education and Skills to refine their methods and to learn from private sector methodology in order to improve the precision of targeting.

33. We believe that the present 'post-code premium' of 10 per cent is still too low and urgent consideration should be given to a higher rate, reflecting the true costs of recruiting and supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

34   Q 227 Back

35   DfES Press notice 2001/0361 Back

36   Times Higher Education Supplement, 3 May 2002; see also Funding higher education in England: how the HEFCE allocates its funds, HEFCE, April 2002, paragraph 57 Back

37   Fourth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, Higher Education: Access, HC 205, paragraph 64 Back

38   HL Deb 1 May 2002 vol 634 col 731 Back

39   Q 360 Back

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