1994 Group statement on the HEFCE report on the impact of the higher education reforms

The 1994 Group expresses concerns about the fall in part-time, foreign language, and taught Masters students in light of the HEFCE report on the impact of the higher education reforms.

Alex Bols, Executive Director of the 1994 Group, said:

"While we welcome the rise in applications to university this year, growth is still fragile. If we are to see continued future growth, it is important to communicate to potential students, their families and the public that higher education is free at the point of delivery and repayable at an affordable rate through the tax system. Higher education enriches graduates’ lives economically, socially and culturally.

Part-time students

"We are particularly concerned by 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. We are undertaking further research on this issue but, if numbers are to recover, both Government and the higher education sector must work hard to champion the value of studying part-time.

"Part-time students tend to be more price-sensitive and the figures suggest that the cost increases, resulting from the removal of Government funding for students studying equivalent or lower qualifications (ELQ) than their previously achieved qualifications, might be beginning to have a significant impact.

"We welcome HEFCE's commitment to developing a more detailed evidence base on issues affecting part-time provision."

Language students

"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."

Professor Paul Webley, Director, SOAS, University of London, said:

"Our universities need to produce global citizens whose knowledge encompasses societies, cultures and languages beyond the UK. This is important for the diplomatic, business and economic interests of the country.

"Linguistic ability enables individuals to develop intercultural understanding and sensitivity which benefits not just the individual but UK society as a whole. The drop in number of applications in students studying languages – on top of recent year-on-year decreases – is becoming ever more alarming."

The drop in postgraduate taught (Masters) students

Alex Bols, Executive Director of the 1994 Group, said:

"The report highlights the fact that, for the first time in many years, we saw a drop in the number of students going on to study Masters and other taught postgraduate courses. This is a concern for our future science and research base and may become especially acute as students who have paid the increased undergraduate tuition fees come through the system. The lack of a student support system for Masters students becomes ever more critical.

"This is an area of concern on which the 1994 Group will continue to press government and we hope that this report will encourage all parties to look for a long-term solution to nurture the next generation of researchers and scientists. However, we recognise that in a time of austerity a package of measures may be more deliverable in the short term, 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."

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Notes to Editors

1. Previously, the 1994 Group released a statement on the fall in modern foreign languages students. In the last HE Insight (newsletter) we published an interview with Professor Claire Callender on the future of part-time study. Recently we released a statement on the Cox Review that included comments on postgraduate taught students.

3. The 1994 Group represents 11 leading smaller universities. It was founded to promote excellence in research and teaching. According to the most recent assessments, 88% of its members’ research is internationally recognised (RAE 2008) and 88% of its members’ students were satisfied with their university experiences (NSS 2012). In 2011, its members added £1.7bn to the UK economy, fulfilled over 1800 research contracts for business, and held stakes in 34 spin-out companies.

3. 6 of the top 30 universities in the Guardian University Guide 2013 are 1994 Group members; 7 of the top 30 universities in the Complete University Guide 2012 are 1994 Group members; 11 of the UK’s top-ranked research departments are in 1994 members, and all its members have a top-3 rated department for research excellence.

4. The 1994 Group represents Birkbeck, University of London; the University of East Anglia; the University of Essex; Goldsmiths, University of London; the Institute of Education, University of London; Royal Holloway, University of London; Lancaster University; the University of Leicester; Loughborough University; the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the University of Sussex.

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