Submission from the Arts Institute at
1. The Arts Institute at Bournemouth welcomes
the opportunity to provide evidence to the Select Committee.
2. In general, we support the Government's
desire to ensure that support is targeted at those who have not
previously had the opportunity to benefit from higher education.
However we are concerned that the timing of the decision, and
speed of implementation, has not permitted due consideration of
all the issues.
3. In particular, we note that institutions
are encouraged to engage in medium-term strategic planning for
sustainability, which is undermined by the proposed speed of implementation.
4. Whilst strongly support the exemptions
for Foundation Degree students and co-funded places, we believe
that two further types of course should be considered. The first
are "conversion courses" for a profession, which may
bring significant economic benefit but are less easily identified.
The second are part-time courses, which will be disproportionately
affected by the change. Many of these may be rendered non-viable
through the withdrawal of a high number of their students.
5. We do not believe that we should comment
on the implications for other institutions, but we note that the
effect of any change in Government policy will differ according
to institutional type and mission. We believe that any change,
once agreed, should be implemented systematically to ensure that
the intentions of the policy are delivered.
(i) the arguments for and against the
Government's decision to phase out support to institutions for
students studying ELQs;
6. The Arts Institute at Bournemouth does
not have strong views about the decision to phase out support
for students studying ELQs. We understand the desire to ensure
that support is targeted at those who have not previously had
the opportunity to benefit from higher education, but we also
note that the UK economy benefits considerably from those who
decide, at a later point in their careers, to retrain and move
into a new profession. Hence whilst we can see a strong rationale
for the policy change, we can also see significant disbenefits.
7. We are disappointed that the Government
announced this decision without first consulting with the sector,
through the Higher Education Funding Council for England, about
the implications of such a change, such that the benefits and
potential challenges could be evaluated thoroughly by those who
have the best professional understanding of this matter.
(ii) the timing of the decision and
of the implementation of the change;
8. The Higher Education sector has been
characterised, over the last fifteen years, by its flexibility,
and its ability to implement change in short timescales with minimum
disruption to student learning and institutional stability. Nevertheless,
we were surprised by the speed of this change, which required
the Funding Council to adjust institutional student number contracts
for 2008-09 using assumptions based on historical data from 2005-06,
and to notify institutions in October 2007 of changes which would
take effect from October 2008. At a time when the sector is being
strongly encouraged to prioritise planning and medium- to long-term
strategy, such an immediate and short-term change appeared counter-intuitive.
9. We acknowledge the proposal to ensure
that institutions do not receive a lower cash value than in previous
years, which is intended to mitigate the speed of implementation,
but we do not consider that this represents a sensible or sustainable
approach to planning.
(iii) the exemptions from the withdrawal
of funding proposed by the Higher Education Funding Council for
10. We believe that the exemptions proposed
by the Funding Council are proportionate and are broadly reasonable
to facilitate the delivery of the policy with the least disruption
to the sector in the short term.
11. Specifically, we believe it is logical
to exempt students who are studying for Foundation Degrees as
an ELQ, as such courses may be at the forefront of the upskilling
/ reskilling agenda prioritised elsewhere by the Government.
12. However we note that there are also
conversion courses (now Graduate Certificates or Diplomas, often
previously Masters courses) through which a graduate of a Humanities
subject can "convert" to a profession. The fact that
these courses are not exempt is counter-intuitive. Of course we
accept that it is easy to identify Foundation Degree students,
but fee status should not depend simply on ease of identification,
and these courses may also have a significant economic benefit.
We cannot, however, suggest other ways in which "employment-focused"
courses can be identified; all higher education courses seek to
prepare their students for employment, through the delivery of
knowledge, skills, and personal transformation.
13. We note that work conducted by the Equality
Challenge Unit suggests that the exemptions also mitigate much
of the equality impact of the policy proposal.
(iv) the impact upon students, including
whether the change will affect some groups of students more than
14. We are very concerned about the possible
impact on part-time study of these proposals, given that this
group is disproportionately affected. As noted in the consultation,
it is likely that many part-time courses would be rendered non-viable
by the removal of funding for ELQ students. This situation is
unlikely to be addressed through the securing of additional numbers,
as many courses will already offer places to all those who have
the capacity to benefit, rather than operating a strongly selective
15. We, along with many other institutions,
have previously fed back to the Council the challenges of part-time
provision because demand is inelastic; were we to charge the proportionate
rate, we would not recruit sufficiently well to run any part-time
HE courses. Hence many part-time courses are either subsidised,
or at best offered with marginal costs; and the removal of some
of the applicant pool may have a terminal impact. The transitional
funding suggested in the consultation is welcome, but is unlikely
to be sufficient to address the funding gap; and any impact on
enrolments would take place in a "live test" scenario
and hence might not be retrievable.
(v) the impact of the change upon institutions,
with particular reference to the long-term implications for specialised
institutions such as the Open University and Birkbeck College
16. We do not believe that it is appropriate
for us to comment on the future viability of other institutions,
which will no doubt make their own representations.
17. However we have noted a suggestion that,
where necessary, transition funding should continue beyond the
three years initially envisaged by the Funding Council. We believe
that this should occur only in the most exceptional of circumstances.
The Funding Council should prioritise its discussions with those
institutions most significantly affected, and ensure that each
has a suitable transition strategy in place. Continued additional
support, outside the three-year period, would not support the
future stability of the sector, and would contravene the principle
of equal and consistent treatment. We believe that any specific
interventions should not favour any particular institutions.
18. We note that it is part of the historical
mission of some institutions, including those identified in the
question, to deliver higher education to a group which is likely
to include those who have previously undertaken a qualification
at a similar or higher level. If Government policy determines
that such an approach should not receive priority support, but
that this should instead be focused on those who have not had
the opportunity to benefit from higher education, then it is inevitable
that there will be a significant impact on those institutions
for whom this is a major part of their "core business".
We have previously noted our criticism of the timing and speed
of the decision and its implementation; but it would not be surprising
if some institutions found such circumstances very challenging.
19. We do not believe that the Government
was fully cognisant of the likely impact of the proposed changes,
having not undertaken analysis or consultation in advance; but
we would wish to encourage a systematic implementation of any
final decision, which would include the re-distribution of some
student numbers (and hence funding) to those institutions which
have been successful in attracting, and delivering to, non-traditional