The 1994 Group brings together 11 of the UK’s world class universities to promote excellence in research-based teaching for a high quality student experience.

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Current Issues: Impact of HE reforms

A new report published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England(HEFCE) looks at the impact that the recent reforms to higher education are having.

Key findings

Although it is too early to see the full extent of the impact of the reforms on the HE sector, the report highlights some areas which require attention now. The report recommends attention should be focused on: the decline in part-time study, postgraduate take-up following the rise in undergraduate fees, and careful analysis of the impact on students from disadvantaged backgrounds.


The 1994 Group shares the concerns raised by HEFCE. Firstly, the substantial decline in part-time student numbers, which have almost halved in the last three years, despite the Government making loans available to part-time students, is worrying. The 1994 Group are undertaking further research on this issue and have also spoken to Prof. Claire Callender, Professor at Birkbeck and IoE, University of London, about the current problems.

Secondly, for the first time in many years, we saw a drop in the number of postgraduate taught students (PGT). This could become especially acute as students who have paid the increased undergraduate tuition fees come through the system with greater debt.

A long-term answer to the postgraduate crisis must be found. Solutions such as working with business to support specific industries, encouraging banks to make more Professional Career Development Loans available, and loosening restrictions on integrated Masters degrees would be a good place to start.

Thirdly, the report highlights our concern over recent UCAS figures showing the decline in students wishing to study languages. Students applying to study Modern Foreign languages are down by 6% in 2013 on top of a 14% drop in 2012.

This is concerning at a time when the UK needs to be producing global citizens with knowledge of societies, cultures and languages outside of our own. This is important for the diplomatic, business and economic interests of the country.

The Future of HE

We are pleased to see that HEFCE will continue to monitor the impact of the reforms. The full extent of the changes may not be known for some years but continued monitoring of their impact will enable the sector to foresee and respond quickly to future challenges.

If you would like any further comment from Alex Bols, the Executive Director, contact Sally Pickering (0207 664 4844).

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Our members' research excellence is prized in the public and private sectors. Last year 1994 Group universities added £1.9b to the UK economy and entered into more than 1900 contracts with business.

Our members deliver an outstanding student experience. Our smaller undergraduate populations make for vibrant tight-knit communities; students have an opportunity to work alongside leading academics and mature in a safe social environment. Since 2005, 1994 Group universities have outperformed the sector in all National Student Surveys