Submission from the 1994 Group
The 1994 Group (membership, aims and objectives
detailed in Annex A attached) offers the following evidence to
the Innovation, Universities and Skills Select Committee into
Funding for Equivalent or Lower Qualifications.
1. The 1994 Group welcomes the invitation
from the Innovation, Universities and Skills Select Committee
to submit evidence to its inquiry into Funding for Equivalent
or Lower Qualifications (ELQ). On behalf of our member institutions
within England, we would like to highlight to the Committee our
concerns with the proposal to phase out funding for ELQ students
both in relation to the significant potential impact of the policy
on our members and a matter of principle regarding consultation
with the sector.
2. In October 2007, the 1994 Group strongly
welcomed the Chancellor's announcement in the pre-budget report
that, in recognition of the tremendous achievements of the Higher
Education sector in the delivery of excellent research, innovation,
teaching and knowledge transfer activities, the comprehensive
spending review had delivered significant new investment into
the sector. These achievements have been delivered, particularly
in the last 10 years, in close partnership with government and
the funding council. In an era of substantial policy change, shared
expectations and mutual understanding between partners has been
achieved through detailed and considered consultation and debate.
Difficult decisions, most notably the introduction of the new
student fee and support arrangements in 2006, have been based
on a shared understanding of need and impact.
3. In the light of this, we were surprised
and disappointed to see confirmation in the CSR announcement that,
as part of the funding package, a £100 million saving would
be achieved by the immediate phasing out of funding for ELQ students.
The 1994 Group understands that, in the process of a spending
review, difficult decisions need to be taken regarding the overall
balance of funding to Higher Education. We also understand that
within a constrained environment funding needs to be directed
carefully toward those students determined to be of maximum value
to the delivery of the government's social and economic targets.
The Higher Education sector is not, and must not be, entirely
risk averse. However, if our institutions are to continue to deliver
and improve upon our record of outstanding achievement, it is
essential that they operate, like the most successful businesses,
within a relatively stable planning environment.
4. For a stable planning environment to
be maintained, substantial policy change must be debated fully
with the sector in advance of implementation to ensure that the
consequences are understood, alternatives explored and, at the
extreme, impacts mitigated. This was simply not case with the
ELQ announcement. The immediate implementation of the withdrawal
of ELQ funding will have an impact on all Higher Education institutions.
For some, in order for them to remain financially viable, they
will need to undergo potentially destabilising unplanned, immediate
and significant shifts in their institutional strategies. Various
concerns have been expressed by the sector in opposition to the
ELQ policy, but the most serious is the worrying precedent that
this method of announcement and implementation establishes.
5. In summary, the 1994 Group has the following
detailed concerns regarding the Government's decision to withdraw
funding as a matter of principle from ELQ students:
we question the decision taken to
implement the policy through phasing out a proportion of mainstream
HEFCE teaching funding from all Higher Education institutions
(HEIs) based upon the number of ELQ students currently registered,
(with the exception of some subject areas where it is determined
that funding for individual ELQ students remains in the national
interest.) As institutions were previously unaware of the need
to discriminate between ELQ and non-ELQ students in their admissions
requirements, the permanent withdrawal of mainstream funding is,
in effect, a punishment for decisions taken in good faith in previous
the immediate implementation of the
policy will affect all of our English members, and will require
often substantial revisions of their short-term financial and
strategic plans to ensure that the most exposed of these exceptionally
successful institutions are not left financially vulnerable. ELQ
students have tended to register at HEIs as part-time (according
to UUK, 71% of student FTEs modelled as affected by the ELQ policy
will be part-time) and/or postgraduate taught students (29% of
student FTEs modelled as affected). The withdrawal of ELQ funding
therefore has a disproportionate impact on institutions with significant
proportions of these students, the most notable amongst our members
being Birkbeck College, University of London. More must be done
to protect these institutions from the unintended consequences
of this policy;
the decision to implement the ELQ
policy immediately and retrospectively has circumvented the normal
institutional planning process. In the usual planning environment,
institutional Senates and Councils would evaluate a change in
government policy of this nature in advance of implementation.
The strategic and financial decisions agreed would then be discussed
with HEFCE and any difficulties addressed. In the absence of this
usual cycle, there is a danger that institutional reactions to
the Government's policy decision might create potentially unacceptably
high risks which could have been avoided with time for proper
consideration; and, finally;
there is a concern that the proposal
is being presented as zero cost. In addition to the considerable
costs to institutions associated with absorbing and addressing
the implementation of the policy, as detailed above, the additional
requirements to discriminate between ELQ and non-ELQ students
in admissions processes and in student data reporting will constitute
a considerable permanent increase in the administrative and regulatory
burden. In the absence of funds to support these new requirements,
institutions will divert overstretched resources from other activities.
6. For the information of the Committee,
we have raised the concerns detailed in this submission in recent
private meetings with both the Secretary of State, Rt Hon. John
Denham, and the Minister for Higher Education, Bill Rammell. Whilst
standing firm on the matter of principle, we welcomed their agreement
that the potentially perverse negative effects of the ELQ recommendations
on institutions must be minimised. If a decision is taken to continue
the implementation of the policy as planned, we propose therefore
that universities that have lost funding should be given priority
status for the award of the equivalent number of additional student
numbers (ASNs) in the next HEFCE bidding round. Further, in the
development of criteria for the award of ASNs, HEFCE should take
care to ensure that institutions affected by the withdrawal of
ELQ funding are not expected to distort their established strategic
missions in order to secure these additional places. The partnership
so carefully established between the sector and the government
is not in danger of collapse, but, in future, we ask that when
substantive policy changes are envisaged the considerable capacity
of the Higher Education sector to engage in positive debate and
to develop constructive solutions be recognised.
Established in 1994, the Group brings together
19 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities.
The Group provides a central vehicle to help members promote their
common interests in higher education, respond efficiently to key
policy issues, and share best methods and practice. Each member
undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent
levels of teaching and student experience.
Working as a group, we respect and support our
members' particular traits and traditions. We are constantly looking
for ways to apply our shared and individual strengths to meet
the needs of students and staff, employers and industry, research
councils, government agencies and all other interested parties.
The Group's aims are:
To secure widespread recognition
and a position of strength to influence decision and policy-making
To achieve awareness and profile
that underpins the ambitions of members in global markets.
To promote the need for diverse,
distributed centres of research and teaching excellence.
To share good practice, enhancing
the experience of staff and students.
To provide services that help members
respond effectively to changing market conditions.
The Group believes that:
Members' identities and traditions
can be respected while providing a basis for innovative and challenging
Research-intensive universities should
play a full role at local, regional, national and international
High-quality research and teaching
are mutually supportive and serve to reinforce each other.
Students and staff from diverse backgrounds
should be encouraged to realize their potential in a well-maintained
environment, providing a stimulating choice of academic, cultural
and social opportunities.
The members of the 1994 Group are: University
of Bath, Birkbeck University of London, Durham University, University
of East Anglia, University of Essex, University of Exeter, Goldsmiths
University of London, Royal Holloway University of London, Lancaster
University, University of Leicester, Loughborough University,
Queen Mary University of London, University of Reading, University
of St Andrews, School of Oriental and African Studies, University
of Surrey, University of Sussex, University of Warwick and University