Support for postgraduate research was outlined in the budget, including loans for PhD and research based Master degree students. A review of funding for research is also referenced, which will consider partnerships with industry and charity. This supports the reputation of the UK HE sector for research; with greater alignment to the requirements of business.
Student Maintenance Grants have been abolished and the sector will need to ensure that potential students are clear on the benefits of higher level study. As raised in the Conservative manifesto, the arrangements for the ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ will be consulted upon. The budget announces that those demonstrating high quality teaching will be able to increase fees in line with the inflation.
Further Education and Skills
‘Apprenticeship Vouchers’ to give employers ‘purchasing power’ will be implemented from 2017. Employer partnerships and engagement will be ever more important to the sector so that they are the provider of choice for supporting apprenticeships.
The National Minimum Wage for apprentices will increase by 57p an hour; this will make employing apprentices more expensive and the sector will need to communicate the value to the employer.
Powers over ‘skills’ are being devolved in some regions, notably London and West Yorkshire. This drive to localise skills means that the sector needs to ensure it is well placed with local decision makers, such as Local Enterprise Partnerships.
The budget highlights the increased costs of the ‘back office’ functions in school and announces initiatives to reduce procurement costs. Further benchmarking of costs and efficiency will also be launched, alongside projects to improve the effectiveness of education support staff.
The focus is on releasing funds for teaching.