Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General, said:
“The interim report of the Augar Review is an honest and thoughtful look at England’s post-18 education system. Universities are a jewel in the crown of the UK’s education system – rightly recognised and celebrated around the world for their excellence in teaching and research, capacity to innovate, and ultimately, ability to improve people’s lives. The review must not lead to their funding being cut.
“The stark lack of technical and vocational options for people often frustrates employers. Ending the financial and political neglect of the further education sector is therefore long overdue. With further education funding squeezed significantly in recent years, the Government’s Spending Review is as an opportunity to make the much-needed investment.”
On the welcome return of maintenance grants, Josh said:
“The Review rightly reflects the call from business to bring back maintenance grants to cover living costs while studying. The evidence is clear that businesses that employ people from a diverse range of backgrounds are more successful. Means-tested maintenance grants will help make sure going to university or college isn’t based on the ability to pay.”
Recognising the importance of being able to learn-while-you-earn, Josh said:
“In a rapidly changing world of work, the CBI has argued for more flexible training that enables people the chance to learn-while-they-earn. For many people, if they can’t study flexibly, they don’t study at all.
“The report makes some welcome recommendations in this area, including a single lifelong learning loan allowance. This allowance could help encourage more people to step back into education at a time, pace, and location of their choice.
Urging caution on any changes to tuition fees, Josh said:
“Any change to tuition fees and the funding universities receive must not lead to a cut in higher education funding.
“A reduction in the graduate contribution, without a top-up from the Treasury, could bring into question the financial sustainability of many universities, jeopardising quality and the high-skilled talent the UK economy needs and which businesses value.
“Undermining the financial sustainability of universities would be a national tragedy given the crucial contribution they make to skills and innovation. They are vital to meeting the Government’s target of spending 2.4% of GDP on research and development.”