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CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 885-iv
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
Business, Innovation and Skills Committee
The Future of higher education
Tuesday 3 May 2011
Peter Roberts, Martin Bean, Martin Doel, Dr Mary Bousted and Sir Peter Lampl
Evidence heard in Public Questions 265 - 355
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Taken before the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee
on Tuesday 3 May 2011
Mr Adrian Bailey (Chair)
Mr Brian Binley
Mr David Ward
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Peter Roberts, Principal, Leeds City College, 157 Group, Martin Bean, ViceChancellor, Open University, Martin Doel, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges, Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, and Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman, The Sutton Trust, gave evidence.
Q265 Chair: Good morning, welcome and thank you for agreeing to join us in our deliberations on this issue today. Before we go into the formal part of the proceedings, can I just make one or two general comments? We have got a lot of questions to ask you. With five speakers, I do not necessarily want five answers to every question, otherwise we could be here for an awfully long time. Do not feel under any obligation to put in your six penn’orth if somebody else has covered the response that you would like to give. However, of course, even when we have a person-specific question, if you feel that there is something you need to add to it, then obviously please feel free to do so. Just before we go into the questions, could you introduce yourselves?
Martin Doel: Martin Doel, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges.
Peter Roberts: Peter Roberts, Principal of Leeds City College, representing the 157 Group.
Sir Peter Lampl: Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust.
Martin Bean : Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of the Open University.
Dr Mary Bousted: Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
Q266 Chair: I will start with a fairly philosophical question, but please answer as briefly as possible. What do you think universities are for?
Martin Doel: What universities are for or what higher education is for? Did you say universities or higher education?
Q267 Chair: What is university for? Collectively you could say higher education.
Martin Doel: I am obviously a little more comfortable with that question, answering from a college perspective. Higher education fulfils a wide range of functions, from the derivation of new knowledge to improving minds, increasing the individual’s ability to succeed in life, but also, critically, allowing people to increase their prospects for employment, increase their employable skills and respond to the needs of business and industry in supplying the nation’s economic needs. It is to that end that I would say that colleges particularly orientate their higher education to the needs of employability and the economic needs of the nation.
Peter Roberts: In terms of your opening remarks, what I would like to add are the social and economic benefits that higher education particularly brings to the locality. This is where the widening participation agenda, as Martin indicated, is very important to colleges. The local economy benefits, as do the individuals.
Sir Peter Lampl: I sort of agree with all that. I would see it as developing the mind; it creates better citizens. There is a lot of work from the birth cohort studies that shows that university graduates volunteer more, vote more-all that kind of stuff. It should be or could be a great vehicle for social mobility, but a lot of the work we have done shows that it really has not been a great vehicle for social mobility. Although there has been a big increase in participation in universities over the last 30 years, it has gone disproportionally to middle class people, and the working classes, the lower social orders, have not really benefited from that.
Martin Bean: We are an exception to Peter’s comments. Every university is created for something different. I like to think that the Open University is the access or widening participation university of the UK, and that is why we exist. Whether it is the 49% of our students that have one A-level or less, the 12,000 students with declared disabilities, the 15% of our students that come from the 25% most disadvantaged backgrounds in the United Kingdom out of a total cohort of 265,000 students, I would like to think that universities can exist like ours to provide access to people who are motivated to succeed in higher education.
Dr Mary Bousted: It is difficult to follow all that. Higher education is an individual good, a social good, and the case is proven that it is an economic good. We need to ensure that it is available to those who can benefit from it.
Q268 Chair: There is an ongoing debate about whether it is in the best interests of the country to have so many people in higher education, as opposed to vocational or other training courses. Leaving aside the issue of funding, what would you say is the appropriate proportion of the population that ought to study to degree level? Who would like to lead on that one? On the basis of evidence so far it looks like nobody. Right, we have a volunteer. Martin Bean.
Martin Bean: Perhaps, if I can Chair, part of the reason for the hesitation is that it should not be about artificial goals for participation. It should be about student needs, goals, and outcomes. It should be about the ability to provide a quality student experience. We are intensely proud that we consistently rank within the top three of all higher education institutions rated by students in the national student survey. If you turn the question around, the answer is all about how many institutions can provide the quality higher education experience at a degree level to create as much supply as we possibly can to meet what I am sure will be an ever-increasing demand, because the inescapable reality is that an innovation economy requires higher level skills.
The only other point I would make is to touch on something that was within your question: these artificial distinctions that we have hard-wired into our system between secondary, higher education and further education are most unhelpful. The system this Committee should be looking at is a flexible, innovative system, where credits can move fluidly, where students can have pathways and ladders, and can build on their skills throughout their lives. Four out of 10 undergraduates are part-time students. They are working adults and 89% of those working adults are studying for career-related goals. We need to break down these distinctions and celebrate participation wherever and whenever we can have a quality experience.
Q269 Chair: That reflects some of the comments made by Aaron Porter at an earlier session and we will be going on to cover this later. Sir Peter, I think you indicated you wanted to comment.
Sir Peter Lampl: If you look at the international comparisons, clearly we have stalled relative to other nations. Everyone is increasing their participation in higher education. In answer to your question, it is not a fixed target; it is a moving target. It increases over time for the reasons we have just heard: you need more of a knowledge economy and more people need to go to university. I would like to think we can go the vocational route or the apprentice route, which European countries do-France and Germany-but I do not think we can. We have to follow the American route, where kids do actually go to places called universities and colleges and do vocational courses. I suspect that we are heading in that direction. If you said, "50% is the right number," I would probably disagree; I think you are probably going way beyond 50%.
Q270 Chair: That is interesting because in the debate on this the pressure is to say fewer than 50% in so many cases. I invite Peter Roberts to comment.
Peter Roberts: Two points really, Chair. The first is about the notion of higher level skills. We have to remember that higher level skills include higher level vocational skills. It is really important that we see higher education as delivering higher level skills. The other point is that it need not be at a university. Further education colleagues have a strong record of delivering higher level vocational skills that will, building on other points, help UK plc as it goes forward.
Q271 Chair: Martin Doel, would you like to comment?
Martin Doel: I do not want to prolong this, but to endorse the comments made so far. The distinction between a full degree and 50% full degree is perhaps an unwise one. There is that ladder and there are sub-degree, higher education or higher skills qualifications that have a strong track record of improving companies’ productivity and individuals’ prospects and then represent that ladder forward, which, to take Sir Peter’s point, may be more than 50%, may be less than 50%, but there are a variety of qualifications that can be awarded that are not full degree that still improve people’s prospects. That is why colleges deliver 11% of all higher education, much of which is not at full degree level.
Q272 Mr Binley: I am from that class where social mobility is seen as an insult, quite frankly. I am rather saddened by the whole debate, bearing in mind that 81% of kids in real poverty get out of it themselves. We should never forget that there are qualities of kids out there at every level of our society that will do what they want to do. We ought to give more credence to that. Now, on to the questions I wish to ask. The first is the target setting, which I find unhelpful, particularly when you do not really think about how you are going to fund the achievement of the target. That has been one of the real problems over the past 15 or so years. Am I right in thinking that the two have to be really totally connected, even if targets are useful? The fact that I do not believe they are useful in the way that Mr Doel and Mr Roberts said seems to me to be going in the right direction. But if they are useful, shouldn’t we also recognise that they have to be paid for and that we have not really dealt with that problem so far?
Martin Doel: There is a liability to Government by whatever means you seek to fund higher education. Partnered funding between employers and the providers of the education, or the individual making a commitment to the costs involved, seems to be the only tolerable and sensible way to proceed here. There is an issue about funding wider participation. We need to worry at that prospect and actually drive more efficiencies into the higher education system to meet the nation’s needs more effectively. I am not entirely sure that currently the market mechanisms that apply will allow that to happen.
Sir Peter Lampl: If you look at the OECD data, our public funding of higher education is very low compared with other countries’, and with the latest tuition fee increases and the reduction in the teaching grants, it is going to get lower. We should recognise as a country that we should be investing more in this area rather than less. We should be funding more kids going to university than we do at present, which is in the low 40s. My view is that it is good for the nation, it is a public good, and it is good for people. We should be devoting more rather than less resources. We are very low in comparison with other countries.
Peter Roberts: There are two variables that I would like to bring to the Committee’s attention. The first is the funding mechanism itself. That can be very restrictive if one takes the view that so many people at so much equals a certain amount. There have to be innovative ways of funding, whether that might be through the employer or via other routes. There are people who are prepared to pay for themselves and who do not require any state funding at all, particularly if you are a mature part-time student in employment. We need to take account of some differing costings.
We talk now about modern technology, blended learning and I think we need also to break free in terms of how we deliver some of these qualifications and skills. If we have got some part-time students who are perhaps mature and in work, then maybe some of the assessment can take place in that workplace and take account of the skills that they have got. My overriding point is that sometimes it feels like we are in very much of a straightjacket, and we need to take some blinkers off and think more innovatively.
Q273 Chair: We will be moving into some of these areas. Dr Mary Bousted.
Dr Mary Bousted: The question also was around targets and funding. We do need to address that. We know now that the vast majority of universities will be charging way over £6,000; the average is about £8,750. The OBR says that that will increase the funding required by the Government to £10.7 billion by 2015/16 compared with £4 billion in 2010/11. I do think the Government is in some difficulty here. It went forward in the confident expectation that the majority of the universities would be charging nothing like. The Government said previously it thought it would be an average of £7,500. That is not happening. It is doing this repeatedly. It is doing it in the school system as well. It has left itself with very little ability to regulate the market it set up, and you have got the University of East London now charging £9,000, as much as the Russell Group of universities. There is the issue of increasing public debt by introducing a market mechanism into higher education that is not regulated.
I want to say more also about the perception of debt for working class young people going to university. They do not readily perceive that it is not debt in the normal sense: they do not have to pay it up front; they will only have to pay it back later. All the caveats around that have not been well explained to the very potential students that so many submissions to this Committee say they want to attract. I do think we are in a really unknown area here. For my particular responsibility for my members, which is teacher training, a highly expensive course to run, it is interesting now that Liverpool Hope are threatening their teacher training department and I suspect that other expensive vocational courses will be under similar threat.
Whatever we say here, we do not know what the effects will be. We do not really know what the effects on the system will be. It is absolutely true that in many universities at the moment there is an awful lot of angst and turmoil about what the effects of the massive cut in the teaching grant will be, particularly on their ability to attract students on to courses that are not immediately vocationally relevant. Or indeed, if you consider teacher training, which attracts at undergraduate level a disproportionate number of working class students, what effect that will have on training for a vocational course.
Q274 Chair: Again, we are going into areas we are going to cover. I think Brian wanted to come back.
Mr Binley: Yes, I have just one more question.
Chair: If you let Martin Bean respond to that.
Mr Binley: Of course, he is a constituent of mine.
Martin Bean: This notion of funding and targets is often thought about at a very macro level. I would like to give you two examples of where the targets and funding can be very helpful, particularly as this session is about access. Everybody in this room has a duty of care to make sure that the unintended consequences of this new system are not that people are deprived of access.
So two great examples of funding and targets: number one, HEFCE currently invests £372 million a year in widening participation funding, designed to support students with disabilities and students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. That has only been protected for the year 2011/12, despite the fact that it was spoken of by both the Minister and BIS and HEFCE as their highest priority. One of the recommendations I would suggest this Committee makes is that that money should be defended, extended and targets should be put against it so that we get people participating in the sorts of areas that we need to in order to be able to ensure that access is preserved.
The other one is on the supply side. Pretty well every institution in the country, other than Birkbeck and the OU, are actually shrinking their part-time provision in higher education in the university sector, leaving my FE colleagues to one side. HEFCE currently has funding of £72 million a year to support the extra costs of supporting a part-time cohort, which they model with JM Consulting as being about 15% to 44% higher. There is another wonderful example of where funding matters and targets of participation on the supply side for part-time provision are critical if the system is not going to leave people behind.
Q275 Mr Binley: My final "to the core" question is really about value for money. It seems to me that educationalists do not normally set money and relate it to value, otherwise they would not have all gone to the highest level of charge, quite frankly. There is a real problem here from the perspective of business about the quality and value that people are getting for their £8,500. I just wonder how you deal with that. Whatever you tell me, I do not believe that the quality across the piece is as evenly balanced as that figure would suggest.
Martin Doel: Value for money has obviously quality and cost elements within it, and the first point to make is that, with colleges, our statistics, ahead of the actual fee levels having been set by colleges, indicates that most colleges will be setting fees at £6,000 or less. They are able to do that on the basis that they are more cost-effective organisations, with tighter staffing structures, less expensive estate to maintain, although obviously some high-class facilities as well to deliver high-technology outputs for employers, and therefore can deliver at a more cost-effective price in that regard, but it has to be high quality as well. It is significantly differentiated from what universities do because it is aimed at employability with a more direct teaching model. It builds on what colleges do with employers at levels 2 and 3; it is within, if you like, the DNA of colleges to work with employers, and it extends that working with employers forward to the higher levels of skills. Therefore it is integrally delivering to the needs of employers and to the individuals that those employers will employ.
The whole direction here I would argue has significantly come from the fact that further education is the most contestable area within education, with a significant number of private providers. Colleges also have to compete with universities as well as schools; that has driven disciplines within the sector that then deliver to the needs of employers and to students. If we are to see similar contestability, albeit within a managed market at the university or higher education level, I think we might see some of the similar benefits that were career-driven in further education, given that colleges get the opportunity to compete effectively, which is another point for later in the discussion this morning.
Peter Roberts: The key issue for me is that further education has always concentrated on students, and less so on research. Where we are with both our further education and our higher education is delivering a quality service, quality delivery, but the actual hours of teaching in higher education are generally higher than one would find at university. Through the system of teaching and support, we maintain that quality, as Martin has suggested, at a lower cost than most HEIs seem to be indicating that they will set their fees. We are subject to rigorous external quality assurance as well through the QAA. The information that I have received is that, of the 65 reviews that were done on FE, all were confident in terms of the assurance that was given.
Dr Mary Bousted: I have several points. First, the grand assumption that one size fits all and we would expect HEIs to set varied charges for courses has not worked. Secondly, in the NUS submission to this Committee, one paragraph was really important: "Fee levels will cause the cost of loan finance to increase dramatically and become unaffordable and the Government has little stick. Threats to reduce HEFCE funding will do no good. Institutions that might be expected to charge lower fees are not institutions standing to lose by such a penalty, and penalties for drop out would cause chaos."
Thirdly, when you look at the graduate premium, which is set at £117,000 per individual, if you are ending up with much higher debt, then the premium comes down. Fourthly, in terms of a broad and balanced curriculum, if you are thinking about value for money and employability, and then you think about teaching in school, where are you going to get your graduates to teach religious education and science and maths and business studies and citizenship and history and dance and drama? It becomes a much more risky business, particularly in the context of an economic downturn and graduates having to take lower paying jobs because they are competing for work with people who have not been to university.
I taught for 11 years in a university as well as teaching in school, and I am a great believer in university education and the higher good. The point I want to make is that with the current economic downturn, the fact that Government has not left itself any levers in terms of what universities charge, the fact that there is not price differentiation, the fact that graduates will leave not with debts in the traditional sense that they have to pay back but debts that they have to pay back if they earn more than £21,000-and I want to say more about the squeezed middle later in this session-means my view is there are going to be huge unintended consequences of these changes, and we do not know what they will be. Young people, particularly those from lower socio-economic groups, will look very hard at the economic advantage of higher education.
Sir Peter Lampl: Just a couple of points on value for money. We are doing an analysis right now looking at students coming out of university with these levels of debt. What happens when they need to buy a house? What happens when they get married? We are looking over time at what it looks like. What is coming out, just preliminarily, is that for certain courses at certain universities, it is not clear that it is worth incurring that level of debt to get the qualification.
The other point I would like to make is that we are incredibly narrow as a nation in terms of our education. We get kids to specialise at 15 or 16 into three or four subjects. Then at university, we generally do one subject, which is very unhealthy. It makes our graduates less employable than other country’s graduates. I know Germany and the United States well; Those guys come out with much better soft skills, communication skills, working in teams. I think we need to look at all that. I am really upset about how narrow education is in this country compared with anywhere else.
Chair: We are moving on - and I realise we have already touched on this, so please do not repeat what you said before -to access and widening participation.
Q276 Margot James: I should, at this stage, make known that I am a governor of the London School of Economics. Could I start by asking whether you think it is possible to widen participation w it hout increasing student numbers?
Chair: Effectively redistributing the balance of the student population that we now have.
Peter Roberts: If I may start on that particular conundrum, I do not think it is as simple as that, bearing in mind previous answers in terms of the need to build more innovation into the system so that it is not one or the other. The point about widening participation is that it obviously is possible to broaden participation and access to higher level skills, but if you stay with the narrow definition, it would be at the expense of something.
One of the concerns of the 157 Group is how you judge someone suitable for higher education. Traditionally, one looks at what A-level grades people got. That tends to be quite suitable for young people, but if you are 23 or 24 years old, maybe left school early and went into employment, and have a wealth of experience of both the working world and also life, how do you make that judgment there? The issue for me is one of let’s not narrow the entry criteria, which would arguably make your conundrum a little harder to solve, but I come back to how we have to think differently rather than in terms of these numbers versus this amount of money. We have just got to break away from that, dare I say it, silo mentality.
Q277 Chair: Martin Bean.
Martin Bean: I think the challenge for this session today is actually the inverse, which is not necessarily being worried about whether you can open up widening participating by having more numbers, but the unintended consequences of the new world that we are moving into of maybe restricting widening participation because current funding that is allocated to stimulate it gets moved to other areas to protect core delivery in traditional cohorts.
Again, I will give you a couple of quick examples of that. The first is transitional funding. BIS and Government have already spoken about transitional funding for the full-time sector-60% of undergraduates. They are going to be able to get two years under the current regime if they are in their first year of the existing regime; terrific, it allows for access, it allows for participation. There has been complete silence so far for part-time students, so it is absolutely impossible for the part-time sector to give appropriate information, advice and guidance right now to people considering participation in the part-time sector in 2012/13 because we do not know what the transitional funding arrangements are. We would advocate five years, because it is the minimum amount of time someone studying at 50% can take to be able to complete an undergraduate degree. Another terrific example is the £372 million of widening participation funding that exists in the system today; it is funding that exists in the system today, but it is vulnerable funding. If it were allowed to be taken and used to fund the core T funding formula by HEFCE, then you absolutely, by allowing that funding to shift, would restrict people’s ability to get access to the types of programmes that we discussed earlier today that drive up access.
Sir Peter Lampl: I think widening participation without increasing student numbers will be very difficult because clearly some people from the upper and middle classes would have to not go to university. If you are growing the system, it is easier to bring in kids from low or lower middle income backgrounds into the university system. Right now, we have got a pretty static system and it is quite difficult to bring those kids into the university system. Without the growth in numbers, widening participation remains a very difficult thing to do.
Q278 Margot James: If I can cast our minds back to the previous decade, when there was more growth in the overall numbers of students studying, we did see a considerable widening of participation, with larger numbers of children from lower socio-economic groups attending university, but there was no change in that balance between higher economic groups and lower economic groups when it came to Russell Group university places. In fact, the position became even more in favour of students from higher income homes. That is obviously a concern. I would like your comments on how we achieve wider participation in a system where obviously growth is going to be curtailed. The other point I want to ask you about is whether, for all these students currently attending university, that is the right place for them. Last year, 30% of students who were awarded places at university only attained two E-grades at A-level. I question their suitability for a degree course. I would like your comments on that in the context of the Government’s desire to widen participation.
Martin Doel: As Peter mentioned, the US system may be instructive when looking at this particular issue, particularly about some more sustainable partnerships between colleges and universities. In the US model, there is extensive use made of an associate degree, a two-year course, which then converts to a university degree at a later stage. This effectively is very attractive to those from lower socio-economic backgrounds because it defers the cost and the risk in those first two years. It delivers a high quality product that then allows them to matriculate through a credit transfer scheme to a full honours degree, either in the college in which they are studying or within a partner university. In that way, you begin to address that conundrum to some degree by broadening participation at that initial level, but then people having the ability to find the right course at the higher level for themselves later on. There is the ladder that Martin Bean spoke about earlier, a much more graduate ladder through the system, where people take considered risk in terms of their financial prospects, see the benefits and can continue working and have that much more flexible way of developing their skills. That associate degree model might be something that can serve for some universities to be the next stage, particularly as we have the methodology around that through foundation degrees and higher national diplomas and certificates.
There are some very interesting conversations along these lines that colleges are now having with Russell Group universities, which previously would not normally have happened, about perhaps working with them on the first two years and then a bridging course for the final year at the Russell Group universities. This seems to me a very interesting theme to be coming out of what is going on now, rather than just seeing it as directly competitive between colleges and universities. Some interesting models are arising, and I think we need to promote those kinds of models.
Dr Mary Bousted: I have two quick points. First, there is no doubt that what has happened with greatly increased widening participation in universities is that the class structure has reasserted itself between universities, and the Russell Group universities have taken the traditional middle class intake, who probably do the right subjects at school and get the right sort of guidance to go there. Nevertheless, they see that that is their place to be.
Secondly, it is undoubtedly the case that, as the previous Government did, this Government is doing what it can do about apprenticeships, and about providing funding and structures for apprenticeships, but we have a very weak record there. We have nothing like the record of other European countries around apprenticeships. I agree with Sir Peter that that makes university the place to go because there is no vocational training and work readily available to you or in the subject that you want to do or at level 3. Remember, our funding at level 2 for apprenticeships is weak; you need to get the level 2 before you can get the level 3. We do not provide the incremental ladders that we should do. Having said that-I was very struck by the million+ submission to this Committee-many universities provide a fantastic education for students who do come with weak A-levels but end up with very good skills.
I thought the Russell Group’s submission to this Committee was laughable-I got quite cross about it, actually-in saying that the Russell Group do a lot for widening access, but they do not want any penalties if they do not actually widen access to Russell Group universities because the work they do might trickle down. If you read that submission again, it was incoherent in its response to what the penalties should be for universities not meeting their widening access targets. I think they need to be much more strongly questioned on that.
Sir Peter Lampl: I am surprised at your 30% on two Es; I know a lot of people go on with two Es, but I question that data. Just to take that point, I think people here on this table are heroes for taking kids with low grades. We have got it totally wrong in thinking people who do not finish a course in three years are drop outs. We should be taking more risks on kids, rather than fewer risks. There was a Joseph Rowntree study done a few years ago that interviewed 70 kids who had dropped out of university. They discovered that the majority had dropped out for reasons other than academic reasons-personal reasons. Nearly all of them said it was a good experience, and all but one said they would go back if given the chance. We should be viewing these kids as continuing learners and not drop-outs. People here on the table are generally dealing with those at that end.
Coming to the Russell Group, which was your second question, we have got to recognise that we have an incredibly socially selective school system. I have visited hundreds of schools over the last 14 years. You cannot compare kids who have been at inner city comprehensives with those from top private schools; they are just totally different animals. We have a system where it is pretty much determined whether you get into a Russell Group based on your Alevel grades. There is a little bit of tinkering, but very little. That is why the Russell Group basically has not changed its mix: because it is based on A-level grades.
Q279 Margot James: May I just ask one brief supplementary, Sir Peter, based on your answer there? I agree with you about your comparison between inner city comprehensives and private schools, but Mary pointed out in her response that a lot of the problem is that the children at these inner city comprehensives do not do the right subjects at school.
Sir Peter Lampl: Correct, that is a big issue.
Q280 Margot James: Have we made it far too easy for them to do subjects that are not considered appropriate entry qualifications for Russell Group universities? In my constituency of Stourbridge, fewer than 25% take geography at GCSE. Have we not made it too easy for them to take soft subjects?
Sir Peter Lampl: We have let them do that, but not let them know what the consequences are.
Q281 Margot James: Is it time we did?
Sir Peter Lampl: Well, information, advice and guidance, which we are coming on to later, is a big issue in that they are not being advised properly by their teachers or whoever about what they need to do to get into those universities, if indeed they want to go there. I totally agree with you that it is a big problem.
Q282 Chair: Can I just add to this? The Sutton Trust and Government have done research that shows that comprehensive school students with slightly lower A-level grades than those, if you like, from the more selective independent sector actually do better at university.
Sir Peter Lampl: What we would say is something like: if you take two grades lower over the A-level spectrum, you end up with about the same result. So instead of taking kids with A, B, B, you could take an A, B, D or whatever it is-two lower-and they would do the same. That was done with the Government and that was a complete nationwide study. Now, something has come out from Cambridge recently that said, "Actually at Cambridge we do not think it makes much difference." We believe overall that there is clearly an effect.
Q283 Chair: You would expect the Russell Group to want to maximise the quality of degree output that they generate and therefore would be more predisposed to look at that cohort.
Sir Peter Lampl: Sure. Well, some of them do give kids a break, firstly. Secondly, there is an enormous lobby against any kind of a break from the Independent Schools Council, the Daily Mail, etc. So we have an assumption here that the fair way to select kids is based on their A-level grades, which I totally reject; I think that is just one way of doing that. There are others-we will come on to that later.
Q284 Chair: I will bring in Peter Roberts now, who has been dying to get in.
Peter Roberts: A couple of points, but I am afraid, Chair, that you have stolen my thunder. Going back to your introduction, about how successful the people that got two grade Es are, there is an assumption that they are not. The notion of value added is quite important in this spectrum. On the issue of widening participation, I do not think we should forget about progression into higher education. We have a concern, particularly for mature students at level 3 under the new financing system, that there is a danger that they may not even get on to the ladder. People talk about the ladder; sometimes if you take away the bottom three rungs, it is difficult to get on to the ladder. We have to be careful about that.
I agree with the point about the notion that HE should be all about dropping in and dropping out, and then dropping back in again. Sometimes it is assumed-and, dare I say it, I was one of the products-that you go to school, do A-levels, go to university, finish your degree and, with a postgraduate degree, you would all be done and dusted by 22 or 23. It is not like that for many students who participate in foundation degrees or vocational degrees. It would be remiss of me not to remind the Committee that HE has got a multitude of facets. It is not all about academic; it is not all about 18-year-old full-time. There is a whole host of other people who go to university.
Q285 Nadhim Zahawi: I want to pick up on Martin’s point about the idea of associate degrees and colleges working much more closely with universities. Do you think that the dynamics of the new system help nudge that along? Is it a positive thing or is there no change even under the new system in that sense?
Martin Doel: I think there is no change as yet. The White Paper will be extremely important in this regard in establishing the right conditionality to permit and encourage that type of credit transfer and accumulation model. I can see the difficulty of autonomous universities being wary or chary of that happening, but groups of colleges and universities working together could be a very powerful medium for doing this. Taking some of the things that were good from Aimhigher and Lifelong Learning Networks and building them into the future seems to be a sensible thing to do, not least on the point that was made before about apprentices and their progression in the system.
Both the outgoing and the current Government put a lot of store by apprenticeships and the growth in numbers. Colleges are very supportive of that, but there is not a good record of apprentices progressing from level 3 to level 4 and onwards. Over 50% of them say, when surveyed, that they would like to continue in their studies beyond level 3; the current figures, or the last set of figures that I have, say only 5% of them do. That begins to say to me that universities are not recognising what expertise apprentices have, or alternatively the types of study or the patterns of study that they are offering do not suit apprentices and the ways in which they want to learn, which is a combination of work, reflecting on their work, and having their work experience accredited, some structured learning, and building in a flexible way over time to increase their skill levels and their prospects.
Yes, there are lots of people looking at the US model, that more flexible system where you can accumulate and then move to different types of institution within the system, but do not underestimate the difficulties in our system culturally of making those changes. But I think that we absolutely need to do that, otherwise we are going to have a group of young people, particularly the new apprentices, looking to progress and not seeing a way forward. We are putting a lot of effort into level 3 apprenticeships now. We have to think about the level 4, the level 5, and where they go next, if we are really going to upskill the economy, particularly at the technician level, which all the UKCES surveys that I see say is absolutely critical to our recovery and reshaping the economy.
Q286 Chair: That is very interesting because, with the increasing number of apprenticeships, it is increasingly seen as an alternative route to degree level or higher education. If there are cultural and institutional blocks, that is obviously very significant indeed. Is there anybody else who would wish to take up that point?
Peter Roberts: Following on from that, the issue for me is that colleges are dependent currently upon universities to validate their degrees. There is a danger that colleges in FE feel that there could be a squeeze put on them because of the potential changes. The way around that is linking into Martin’s point about associate degrees/foundation degrees; if we could award those ourselves, that could help us build some more rungs on the ladder that I described before. My worry is that some universities may see it as an opportunity to withdraw from validating degrees or maybe changing the charges that they wish the colleges to incur. There are some genuine threats to that. I hope that the White Paper will help in that regard.
Q287 Nadhim Zahawi: It is up to Government to lay down the rules of road for you to drive on. Going back to Dr Bousted’s point about the lack of differentiation in terms of fees charged, we had Lord Browne explain to us how intricate the system is. It is like the mechanism of a very fine Swiss watch; you tinker with bits of it but you do not know what the consequences are. Presumably whether they are Russell Group or otherwise, they still have to get through OFFA, the Office For Fair Access, before they get to be able to charge what they are announcing they want to charge. But also if some of their courses do not attract enough students, the penny will drop very quickly: they are at the wrong price. Therefore that sort of competition must be healthy.
Dr Mary Bousted: The level of competition that is being introduced very quickly I think probably is unhealthy, because you have opened up the floodgates and you do not know where the water will flow. There is a danger that some HEIs will go bust, which will be no good whatsoever for the students enrolled in them. My feeling would be that they are probably the students who can least afford for the HEI to go bust. Then of course there is the issue about the quality of provision. If your teaching funds are purely around who is on the course, the numbers you attract, and that is in flux right up until the moment when you actually get them registering, then universities at the moment, from my information, are in a very fragile state. They do not know where the funding is going to come from or which faculties are going to succeed.
When that comes to teacher training and when you think that every year you have got to train 40,000 teachers-I want to talk later about how groups like teaching and nursing are going to be very badly hit in terms of repayment-you do not know how you are going to guarantee to supply future generations of teachers or key workers that you need.
I am not completely against competition; of course competition has an effect. In fact I think the HE system was quite competitive beforehand in terms of attracting students. It is when you get unfettered competition like this, where the money just follows the student and you do not know what the outcomes are, and where the Government has left itself virtually nothing to really shape the effects of its actions-and this coalition Government does this repeatedly; it just believes that competition will do the job-that you can be left with huge unintended consequences, and I think you will be.
Sir Peter Lampl: I emphasise that we really need a credit transfer system in this country for widening participation, for letting kids come into universities, spend a year or two, get credits, take time out, go somewhere else-the way they have in the States. It is a great system. We need the same thing. We are not going to increase the participation of our lower socio-economic groups until we do, I think. I wanted to make that point.
Picking up on the OFFA point, I love Martin Harris, he is a great guy, but he is a former vice-chancellor, he has got a couple of people working for him, he is in HEFCE, it is not independent. If you are serious about OFFA, it has got to be an independent body, it has got to be beefed up, it has got to have an independent board. That is virtually no deterrent at all at this point, in my opinion.
Q288 Chair: I want to bring in Martin Bean
Martin Bean: The language in Lord Browne’s review, as well as in the early statements from the Government around awarding flexibility, innovation, alternative ways of providing, give us all the ingredients we need to have a better system. The White Paper is critically important, but what you are hearing from us is that connectedness in the system is the most important thing. We have 400 schools for example that offer our Young Applicants in Schools scheme, which are largely STEM-related OU courses that are being delivered in secondary education. We validate five further education colleges today, through wonderful partnerships, to allow them to deliver our modules. We work with a number of other universities in a 2plus2 programme, where you will do your first two years at the Open University and then you will be able to immediately go on and do your final two years at other institutions.
The proof is in the pudding as to whether we allow the economics on the supply side to follow to enable it. This is what you are hearing everybody say here is absolutely critical: that the funding will allow these new types of models to flourish and grow. A great example of that is the £72 million currently invested by HEFCE in the part-time allocation. It is all about offsetting costs to allow for a different model of capacity to take hold and emerge. You can imagine the unintended consequences if those types of allocations go away. Then we will have the inverse of your question, in that we will have a more rigid, more divided, less flexible, less innovative system that is less reflective of our society.
Q289 Nadhim Zahawi: That is very useful. You have pretty much answered my question as to how higher education providers can best strike a balance between widening participation to more people and maintaining academic standards. The points have been made. Unless someone else wants to add anything else, I think we will move on from that question, Chairman. One of the problems as I perceive it is that we are told by universities that charging £9,000 is a mark of quality. If further education colleges charge lower fees, which they are, how do you get over the perception gap that will very quickly materialise that this must be a lower quality output than its equivalent at university? How do you overcome that?
Martin Bean: The Open University today is unbelievable value for money and very high quality: £4,200 to £5,860 all up for an undergraduate degree, compared with £10,000 or more; constantly in the top three, rated by students, for quality.
Q290 Nadhim Zahawi: That is a great advert, Martin.
Martin Bean: Thank you. I use it to totally dispel this notion that somehow fee levels are equal to quality of provision. There are ways through innovation, there are ways through different models of pedagogy and there are ways through being more efficient and effective for FE and HE to deliver very high quality without the proxy being the fees that they charge.
Q291 Nadhim Zahawi: I want to bring in Martin Doel.
Martin Doel: The critical thing for me to say is that they are not the same thing; they are differentiated. Colleges are delivering something different at high quality that builds out of their vocational offer at levels 2 and 3, therefore building on efficiencies within the system already-the infrastructure and staff structures-and delivers something that is differentiated from higher education and the full, if you like, three-year, residential, academic experience. It is different. It is not less good. It is different and high quality. As Peter said, of the IQER review, 65 out of 65 validated and confirmed the quality of the provision in terms of its rigour and effectiveness. It is about differentiation. It is about those more innovative and flexible ways of delivering.
There is a brand association issue here about status and paying that amount, and you cannot walk away from that. But if students see the quality of what they get at level 2 and level 3, they see the quality of the teaching, they see the quality of the outputs at level 4 and level 5, then they will be attracted to that more flexible model.
We talk a lot about the competition between colleges and universities. A recent study, which I would be happy to supply the Committee with, indicated that colleges predominantly operated in cold spots for higher education geographically. People want to study locally. So in somewhere like the south-west of England, if you are in Taunton, there is not a university; if you want to study locally, you will study locally at your college. You are not in competition with universities there. The college is providing local provision. Equally, in somewhere like Bristol, some of the subjects the college will offer in Bristol are not offered by the universities in the city. Again, it is a cold spot; it is not direct competition. Equally, in some areas-a small number-it is direct hot-spot competition, if you like, about directly similar products, particularly, I would say, at million+ type universities. Now, there is an issue about how much you pay and what it is worth and the rest of it, and people have to make more graduated decisions in the future.
The other thing I would like to talk about this morning at some stage is the thing that is holding back a lot of that innovation and flexibility in colleges from being released to deliver their potential in this area, this differentiated product. That is the nature of the funding agreements they receive, particularly in direct funding via universities for franchise provision, which effectively gives universities control of the markets, flexibility and innovation that the colleges would like to bring to bear in this area. Perhaps, Chair, if that is a question for later, I will come back to it.
Q292 Nadhim Zahawi: Peter, did you just want to come in very quickly?
Peter Roberts: You are correct in terms of perception. I think Martin has indicated that there is a difference. I still think it is an issue that we need to address, and we need all the help we can muster to address that. It is broader to me than simply a degree from HE and a degree from FE. It is the academic versus vocational divide again as well, and we have got to somehow keep banging the drum about vocational high-level skills being something valuable to the economy, society and individuals, and that they can be delivered in a variety of forms in a variety of institutions. I concur totally with what Martin said about people who do not have to leave home, particularly people in employment who have got families who can stay at home and study locally in the cold spots.
Q293 Nadhim Zahawi: I am conscious of the time, so could we have pithy answers ? Sir Peter, you mentioned the rigidity of the current system, where A-level s are far too tight a measure. What would you say is the most reliable measure of a candidate’s aptitude and potential?
Sir Peter Lampl: We trialled the American SAT for a number of years in British schools. It started out looking very good.
Q294 Chair: Sorry, SAT?
Sir Peter Lampl: Scholastic-well, it is called SAT. It is the American SAT.
Q295 Nadhim Zahawi: Scholastic aptitude test.
Sir Peter Lampl: It is the test you take for American universities. It used to be called the scholastic aptitude test. They have dropped that now. They call it the SAT. The problem is the SAT has become more of an achievement test. It started out as an aptitude test. When we did the trial, unfortunately the SAT changed and it did not give us much above GCSE and A-level results. Unfortunately the SAT does not work. How do you do it? You have got to take contextual information into account; you have got to look at the schools from which kids come, the family background. That has to be part of the process.
The other thing I will say is that we are totally hung up on trying to pick the kids who are going to get the best degrees. I do not think that is what the selection process should be about. I will give you an anecdote. A few years ago I was invited to sit in on a Harvard Admissions Committee meeting. I sat through the meeting. They had a number of candidates who clearly came in with much lower academic performance than the normal kids they take. They took one girl from Watts city LA with an SAT of 1200, which is right at the bottom of their range. They had done a lot of work on this girl. She was outstanding in all sorts of ways. At the end of the meeting, I said to the chairman of the committee, "You have taken this girl. Is she going to get as good a degree as some of these people you have rejected?" The committee chairman said, "Of course not. She is not going to catch up in four years, but we are not interested in that. Only 10% of our graduates become academics. We are looking for winners in society. We are looking for people who can make a big contribution to society, and, by the way, we are in the value-added business here. We are going to add a huge amount of value to this girl," as opposed to taking somebody else who may have been to one of the top boarding schools and has got good grades. They really do. They have a totally different selection procedure, whereas our assumption is that you have got to pick the people who are going to get the best degrees. I do not agree with that.
Q296 Nadhim Zahawi: Very briefly, what is your view on the whole IB versus A-level issue?
Sir Peter Lampl: I think IB is hugely better than A-levels, no question. It is a much broader qualification. It is more prescriptive. There is another piece of research we did that reflects on this. We got the Institute of Education to look at what British high school kids come out with in terms of qualifications at 18 compared with other countries. They answer is they know a lot about a few things. Just one thing: if you take maths, less than 10% of kids do maths to 18 in this country; if you take France, Germany and the States it is about 40%. We drop a whole bunch of really important things. Maths and English get dropped at 16. It is crazy, in my opinion. We are the only country that does it; everyone else has a broad education to 18. The IB does that. It is prescriptive, which I think is quite a good thing. I think it is a great qualification.
Q297 Mr Ward: I welcome your comments, Peter, on the way universities should be assessed, but the reality is that in our schools it is about attainment and not achievement. I would love there to be a list of contextually value-added league tables, but there is not. The success of the school as to whether it is good or bad is based on the attainment levels, quite wrongly in my view-not whether they progressed young people, but where they actually end up. I suspect that will always be the case with universities.
Sir Peter Lampl: Yes.
Q298 Chair: I wanted to ask about information, advice and guidance in a moment, but I think Dr Mary Bousted indicated she wanted to comment.
Dr Mary Bousted: The Government is looking at league tables, and the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, has said-he said it at the ATL conference two years ago-he is interested in a system that looks at progression and not absolute raw scores. If this Committee could make a recommendation that that would be a very good thing to hold to-
Q299 Mr Ward: Last I heard, he was actually going to scrap CVA.
Dr Mary Bousted: Yes, he is, but he was saying rather than looking at the absolute raw scores, he would look at the progression pupils make from when they enter the school, so the schools that enable students to progress more come to the top of the league table. Now, he has gone very quiet on that.
Q300 Mr Ward: The blinds are drawn. I was looking for a pig flying past.
Dr Mary Bousted: Yes, yes. I do think it would be good to ask him where that is going.
Sir Peter Lampl: Could I just make a comment about league tables? The league tables ?run counter to all this. In a micro-sense, if you look at the Oxford and Cambridge situation, you have got the college league tables, the Norrington Table and whatever it is at Cambridge. Each college is determined to get the best degree results in the university because Corpus does not want to be worse than Merton, and so the whole thing there is totally geared towards who is going to get the best degrees. They do not want to be any lower in the league tables. Then you have got the university league tables, of which a big component is A-level attainment on entry and also what percentage of kids get firsts and 2:1s. The whole league table system is geared against trying to do anything on the contextual side or looking at value added.
Chair: I am conscious of the fact that we are only a quarter of the way through the questions, so I repeat my strictures: please minimise repetition and keep your answers and indeed your questions as brief as well. I will bring in Nadhim Zahawi now on information, advice and guidance.
Q301 Nadhim Zahawi: Why is it so hard to get adequate information, advice and guidance out to prospective candidates? What needs to happen to make information accessible, trusted and relevant to prospective candidates and who needs to be providing that information?
Peter Roberts: It falls into two categories for me. One links back to the previous question of the age of the potential candidate. If you are talking about a 16, 17 or 18 year old, they will tend to be in a school or a college. Obviously, for schools with sixth forms, there are issues about how you provide that advice. One of the issues that we have come across in the 157 Group is that the people who are actually providing that advice are not necessarily fully up to date with the various routes into higher education, in particular if you ask careers advisers or gatekeepers whether you can get to university with a BTEC National or through an apprenticeship route. People are used to A-levels. We need to get the message across that there are various routes in. The notion of IAG for adults comes back to the contextualisation point that Sir Peter raised.
Dr Mary Bousted: There is a real issue here. Providing good information, advice and guidance is very complex if you think about the range of provision that is available, the number of courses, and the qualifications you need to do to get on them. It is a very big job. Browne said that it should be delivered by certified professionals who are well informed, who benefit from continued training and professional development and whose status in schools is respected and valued. At the same time, the Government in its Education Bill has scrapped the requirement for schools to have Connexions advisers and to give them access to schools.
Schools will be left to let a thousand flowers bloom in terms of information, advice and guidance. It may well fall again on teachers, many of whom will have been through very traditional routes themselves. It is a difficult job. On the one hand, in this new world you need better; on the other hand, the funding to provide better information, advice and guidance is being decimated. Again, how do you square that circle? I do not know.
Martin Bean: Very briefly, you have got an incredibly rigidly divided system that is going through unbelievable transformational change. Most of the major vehicles for providing information, advice and guidance are biased towards young people, 18 to 21-year-olds. You cannot get a single look at the system to make up your mind as to what choices you have and how you want to invest in your learning.
To take UCAS as an example, part-time providers are not in the UCAS registration system today. There are transitional arrangements, as I mentioned before, that the Government has announced for full-time; they have not for part-time. If you want to find distance education or alternative provision inside UCAS, it is extremely difficult to do it. Lynne Brindley’s taskforce on e-learning touched on that in its findings in January. You have got to be prepared to knit the system together and get everybody on the same story about what options are available out there. You asked who should do it. The bottom line is that we all should be doing it. The great travesty is the number of people who will enter our system incurring large debt loads, having been given poor information, advice, and guidance. They are the people that are really going to lose at the end of all of this.
Martin Doel: I am going to pick up points from both those previous points, but particularly from Mary. As well as concerns about funding being removed for pre-18 careers guidance, we are also concerned about the removal of any assurance mechanism to oversee the quality of the advice and guidance given. The Department for Education in particular has spoken about schools procuring independent advice and guidance, but no means by which they are going to ensure that is being done. Colleges are very concerned about the options that are given or explained to young people at 14 and at 16 as to the best way forward for them, whether it be an apprenticeship or an A-level route.
Colleges themselves, because they are these all-age institutions, though we have sixth form colleges as well, generally submit to the matrix standards of independent advice and guidance, an external standard for careers guidance, which then requires them to put the processes in place to give effective careers guidance. Actually, colleges much more than schools are already judged on both their retention-that the student completes the course, and obtains the required level-and increasingly progression as a means of ensuring those outcomes for young people.
The direction of travel already in colleges is for independent advice and guidance, and also looking at outcomes for young people and reflecting that in their offer to people in terms of better information and being able to make more informed choices. The all-age career service is an interesting notion; we are very interested to see how that develops, but we are concerned about the funding for that system.
Q302 Chair: You have just picked up my next question. The all-age career service advice, telephone or online I believe from April next year : how do you see that developing and do you think it will be an effective substitute for careers advice that has been given so far?
Martin Doel: I think effectively you need both a push and a pull system in careers advice and guidance. The services being offered in the all- age careers service seem to me a demand system ; the empowered consumer demands information from the system to make c hoices about the way forward. That may be effective in that regard and it has probably been funded to do so. In some places you need a push to more ac t iv e l y engage the young person , and sometimes older people , to push to them the opportunities that may be available and to open their eyes up to the mechanisms they can use . There needs to be a combination of this: push and pull. The pull element is well served within this system or potentially; I am more concerned about the push element , which formerly was delivered by Connexions , but there are concerns about the continuing funding of Connexions for those more difficult to reach young people and older people that perhaps need more active career s advice and guidance . C olleges are looking to provide that themselves through the matrix standards and put real effort into this are a because they see it as core to their mission, but there is concern across the whole of the system as to whether or not that will be effective going forward .
Sir Peter Lampl: I just wanted to make a point more on your previous question. We conducted a survey a couple of years ago that showed kids think half of information, advice and guidance in schools is not worth it at all. There is a lot of dissatisfaction out there. Just as a corollary, we did a teacher survey along the same lines. Half the teachers said that they would not consider having their brightest pupils apply for Oxford and Cambridge. There is a huge amount of resentment against Oxford and Cambridge out there amongst the teachers. In terms of where you go with this, you really want an independent careers service, I think. Part of the problem is the schools, but you want it in the schools. How it all works out I do not know. It has been a very difficult area for a long time, and to be honest we do not have the answers.
Q303 Chair: Before I bring in Dr Mary Bousted, on your comments about teachers’ aversion to Oxford and Cambridge, what is your reading of the basis for that aversion?
Sir Peter Lampl: When asked they say, "We do not think they will get in because Oxford and Cambridge are pretty much biased against state school kids." This survey showed that three-fifths of teachers, the majority of teachers, thought the proportion of state school kids at Oxford and Cambridge was below 30%; it is actually between 50% and 60%. Their perception is that it is an incredibly elitist place that only privately educated kids go to, so that is the bottom line on that.
Q304 Nadhim Zahawi: Chair, just very quickly, just as a note, both Martin Doel and Sir Peter have offered bits of research and reports. If we could have them for the Committee that would be very useful, because you mentioned that you would supply them. Those sorts of things are very useful.
Sir Peter Lampl: Just coming back to the teacher thing: they do not think their kids are going to get in, because the place is biased against them, and if they get in, they do not think they will fit in because socially they do not think they could handle it.
Q305 Nadhim Zahawi: There is a massive perception gap?
Sir Peter Lampl: There is a massive perception gap.
Q306 Chair: There is obviously an issue around teachers on this, but certainly in terms of the social acceptance, there may be in a genuine issue there.
Dr Mary Bousted: Sorry, I have just got to say something there. Yes, it is my members that I represent here. I think it is really interesting that something is said that is critical of teachers and the level of animus in the room is really quite amazing. Rather than just "It’s the teachers what done it", remember that teachers are responsible for greatly increased access of young people to university, particularly working class young people. You have also got to remember that teachers teach these young people every day, and many young people, particularly first time entrants into university, do not want to go to the distant spires; they want provision that is close to home so they can stay near their families. In fact, the University of North London has done quite a lot of research on this. So you can shake your head all you like. They have done the research that shows that it is not just teachers’ perceptions of Oxford and Cambridge; young people have those perceptions as well. Now then, we want to change that. Of course we do. But you cannot just rely on teachers to do that. You have also got to rely on Oxford and Cambridge, and not forget all the other things that Sir Peter has said about admissions, about the sort of tuition you get there, about the sorts of people you meet. Am I going to meet somebody like me at the top elite universities? Are there going to be enough people like me so that I am going to be able to have a social life, so that people understand who I am and what I am like and my perception of the world? It is a very complex issue and the level of animus that comes up, when it is "Teachers what done it", is ridiculous. It is not "Teachers what done it"; teachers do their very best. Teachers interact in a complex system.
Sir Peter Lampl: I completely agree with that.
Chair: You have raised a lot of feeling, and I will try to bring everybody in. I will just make a point, which to a certain extent underlines what you said. My own local authority of Sandwell, a Black Country local authority, has had one person in Oxford and Cambridge in the last five years. Hertfordshire, I believe I am right in saying, has had 1,500. That is just an astonishing gap and underlines all these issues you mentioned.
Nadhim Zahawi: Can I just clarify to Dr Bousted that this is a cross-party Select Committee; there is no animus. We deal with evidence that you provide to us that is very useful to us, so any sort of research that you can provide-and you have just quoted a piece of research-would be very useful for the Committee. Let’s not politicise a Select Committee that is cross-party.
Q307 Chair: This is a huge issue and there are, if you like, political protections of teachers involved as well. There is a genuine issue that we need to explore here. To a certain extent, there is an issue about teachers’ attitudes as well, but there are also big social barriers, and certainly there are views of aspiration and perceptions in areas such as those I represent about the nature of Oxford and Cambridge that would underline the point that has been made.
Peter Roberts: If my memory serves me correctly, Chair, you were asking about the all-age career service?
Q308 Chair: Yes.
Peter Roberts: In general terms, that would be welcomed because it gets rid of a number of the artificial divides that there currently are. The quality of the advice is the important thing, and that comes back to everything that the panel has said. It comes back to the point about whether somebody who is very bright and predicted nine A*s or whatever would be advised to do an apprenticeship.
Mr Ward: What we found from other sessions, which is my own view, is that there is without a doubt a gap in perceptions, but that does not necessarily mean that it is teachers that should fill that gap. There is no reason why a teacher should know about Oxford or Cambridge if they have never been there, but the same gap applies to manufacturing, engineering and industry and business generally. To expect teachers to fill the gap that we have identified is to ask them to fill a gap that they are not equipped to fill.
Q309 Chair: We could probably have another two hours’ discussion on this, but we want to move on and be a little more focused on some of the questions. Simon Kirby, you have been waiting patiently.
Simon Kirby: I have, Chair. I am very pleased we are talking about students choosing universities rather than universities choosing students. How do we make sure that students know which are the bad courses, where the poor teaching is, where there is a low chance of employment? OFFA are producing a key information set. What should be included to best inform those choices? How do we support the teaching staff so that they can provide the guidance and the information to students when sometimes they cannot see the wood for the trees, perhaps?
Peter Roberts: We did a little research on that, the college, in terms of the key indicators because students, as Martin said, come up through the notion of how many people start, how many people finish, and how many people pass-that is the key indicator. The number of hours that people get taught is an indicator, because we have had some students who have gone on to higher education who maybe have been taught for four, five, or six hours a week alone. I am not saying that is right or wrong; it is just a comment. It increasingly becomes difficult, but FE now has received for next year some employment funding, where we will be judged on students that get employment. That is quite important to students in terms of their chances of getting a job. Those are the three key ones, from my perspective.
Martin Bean: Building on what Sir Peter said before, I think what is really critical is that we measure performance of quality of institution based on study goal or study intent of the student. We need to be very mindful of simplistic high-level measures that may distort rankings or information, advice and guidance. There are many of our students who embark upon single or multiple modules or certificate-level attainment. Not everyone aims for an undergraduate level. Focusing on completion at an appropriate level and progression according to student goals is absolutely the right way for us to measure quality. The other thing I would say is that I think we need to listen to the students, so those students that are currently experiencing an institution’s quality of teaching or those who have graduated from an institution-
Q310 Simon Kirby: Can I just interrupt?
Martin Bean: Please.
Q311 Simon Kirby:One of the problems of quantifying your perception of the quality of your experience is that you have nothing to gauge it against. I will let you continue, but that is an issue, isn’t it?
Martin Bean: Yes, that is fair, but what you can evaluate is your expectations along certain parameters against what is being delivered to you. The National Students Survey does a good job at giving you enough granularity for you to be able to comment on the quality of what you are receiving, but your point is extremely well taken. My overwhelming advice is do not go for simple, blunt macro measures; break it down into what the study intent was for that student and what the outcomes were for that student. Make sure that the student voice is exposed loud and clear to move, in the world of the web, from shopping recommendations to learning recommendations. There is something very powerful in that.
Dr Mary Bousted: I agree with that. There are ways of doing it. I was head of the School of Education at Kingston University for four years, and the Teacher Training Agency, which is the funding agency for initial teacher training, ran a very, very complex survey once newly qualified teachers had been teaching a year. It was looking back within the course of a year in the job on the quality of your preparation for the job. That is a good survey. The university cannot really influence the results because it is sent to the teachers in their workplaces. It really gave both universities and the system very good feedback. For example, newly qualified teachers will always say, "I did not get enough training in behaviour management." They always will, but there were really interesting things around equalities and special educational needs that were fed back into the system of training, which were then inspected on. So there are ways of doing it. In fact, we know that those surveys are used by prospective students in making choices about where they apply.
Sir Peter Lampl: I am going to pass on this one.
Chair: Simon do you wish to come back?
Q312 Simon Kirby: Yes, very briefly. There has been a focus in the environment of fees on salary expectations. Is that a fair focus? Should students be considering what they get out of it in fiscal terms or is higher education more than that?
Dr Mary Bousted: The y will. The issue we really need to look at is the students who do not have middle-class parents to fund them and who fear high levels of debt, even though we know that it is not going to be debt in the traditional sense for paying back your loan . Those students wil l quite rightly and rationally be looking very carefully at value for money , particularly in the economic circumstances , where many graduates now are getting quite low paid jobs . I was talking to one at the weekend. She got a 2:1 in psychology from the University of York and an MA; s he is going to do a job where the basic salary is £15,000 a year . She gets a London allowance of £3,000 , so she is going to get £18,000 a year and she is saddled with massive debt . People are goin g to be looking at that , obviously .
Sir Peter Lampl: One of the tragedies of the new fees regime is that people are going to come out with higher debts, which means that they will not want to be social workers or teachers.
Chair: We are going to get on to that next.
Sir Peter Lampl: Sorry.
Q313 Simon Kirby: I am really interested in this point: is the perception of places like Oxford and Cambridge, which we spoke about, linked to the perception of the whole debt arrangement? Is it the same socio-economic group that has that difficulty-I have used the expression "seeing the wood for the trees"- understanding the reality?
Dr Mary Bousted: The perception does not quite take them that far. The question is not, "If I do a degree, where will I go?" It is "Is it worth while doing a degree?" That is the first order question.
Q314 Margot James: Can I just ask about the Aim h igher programme? W hat do you think its main benefits were? What impact do you see arising out of the closure of the programme , in the context of what we have been discussing of trying to raise the aspirations of students from lower socio-economic groups?
Peter Roberts: I can only speak of my perception, having worked in a number of local authorities, primarily in the north. The aims of Aimhigher were laudable in terms of trying to get people who traditionally had not thought of going to university to go to university. There were a number of very good and innovative examples where that took place––summer schools, visits and universities coming in––and I think it had a lot of success. The issue is one of how consistent that was across the piece, and I am not necessarily well qualified to comment on that, other than to say that my own perception is that certain areas operated more effectively than others. There is a danger that it will leave a void. We certainly have to make sure that that does not happen. It is a question of having a strategy that targets people, particularly in the schools. I keep coming back to my other point about there being adults involved in this equation as well. We need to make sure that we target adults who may benefit from going to HE.
Sir Peter Lampl: Can I just say a word about Aimhigher? We are very sorry that it has been discontinued, to be honest. I got involved in starting a summer school programme with Aimhigher when David Blunkett was education secretary. It was based on our summer school model. I think the summer schools are a fabulous thing. Our summer schools are for kids who are going to go to university, but we show them Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford, and those kinds of places. The Aimhigher ones were for kids who might not go to university at all, but just gave them an experience of university before GCSEs. It is a tragedy that they are all going to be discontinued, to be honest. We reckon that for every £1 we spend on our summer schools we get about £14 of value generated; that is just financial value to the student. This is because they realise much higher aspirations as a result of that. I think the HEFCE ones were very cost-effective too. As far as the whole scheme is concerned, I know about the summer school bit of the scheme, but all these outreach things are very cost-effective-mentoring and all that is all good stuff as far as we are concerned. We are very sorry to see it go.
Q315 Margot James: I have one supplementary to that. I agree with you about summer schools. LSE run a summer school and quite a lot of Russell Group universities do.
Sir Peter Lampl: We funded it by the way
Q316 Margot James: I did not know that.
Sir Peter Lampl: That is all right. Yes, there you go.
Q317 Margot James: I wanted to ask whether you felt that is a good way of OFFA carrying on. With universities that want to charge the top fees, there will be an onus on them to widen participation. Could the institution of summer schools all across the country from the top universities be maybe a good way of meeting that responsibility?
Sir Peter Lampl: Yes, I think a lot of them will be doing that. What I am concerned about is that, again, you had a national scheme in Aimhigher, so you will have each university responsible for doing some outreach, so by its nature it is going to be spotty. It is not going to be consistent across the whole system. I agree with you that there will be some good things. We are getting a number of requests to work with universities to set up summer schools at this point.
Peter Roberts: My only supplementary to that is, would the universities target people who had not traditionally thought of going to university, or would the summer school just be for people who were coming to them the following September? There is a big difference between those two.
Sir Peter Lampl: The summer schools have got to be targeted. They are not for people that are coming; they are for people who would not go otherwise.
Chair: Thank you. Can we move on now to the impact of tuition fees? Again, some comments have been made on this already, so please do not repeat them. I will bring in Rebecca Harris to kick off this area.
Q318 Rebecca Harris: It is a very simple question: will the rise in tuition fees affect participation and in what ways?
Martin Doel: I do not know. The reason why I say I do not know is because, as has been discussed earlier on, this is as much about perception as about reality. When you are dealing with perceptions, understanding how those perceptions are being received is very difficult to predict. You can see all logical conclusions or consequences upon people’s behaviour here, but I honestly do not know. I do not think anyone knows. You would perhaps say that people with a closer eye to value for money would be looking to reduce their risk within the system. If you are studying closer to home, you are reducing not just the tuition fees by studying at a college but also the maintenance costs in so doing. People will perhaps be looking at more part-time routes to higher education or put off altogether. I honestly do not know, but I do know that there needs to be some very effective communication about the offer, the consequences, the real consequences, and people understanding what that offer is, and I do not know whether that has been communicated as effectively as it might have been up until this point. That is the concern. We have concerns about how it may affect behaviours here, but I honestly do not know.
Sir Peter Lampl: I would probably disagree with that. There have been some surveys. We conducted a survey last year amongst school children: "At various levels of university fee, would you go to university?" Above £6,000, close to half of them said, no. If you look at kids from less privileged backgrounds, they say no more often than kids from privileged backgrounds. There was a survey on Thursday of last week done by High Fliers, who interviewed students in their final year at 25 of the most selective universities; these are kids at Russell Group universities. They asked them, "If you had to pay £9,000 a year, would you have done that? Would you have done that course?" About 50% said they would not, and for kids from comprehensives it was 59%.
Q319 Rebecca Harris: And when the actual financial arrangements are explained to them about the rate at which they repay?
Sir Peter Lampl: Whether explained or not, that is what they perceive to be the case. They just know that there is going to be £9,000 a year tuition fees. I also probably differ with most of the people in this room. I actually think this is real money. This is real personal debt. We are looking at this right now. When you want to buy a house, you are going to have, whatever, £40,000 to £50,000 debt. I agree it is a contingent debt that you pay back when you earn over a certain amount, but I still think it is debt and I personally would not want to have it if I was a student graduating. If I am going to go to Goldman Sachs, I can pay it off in a few years, but if I am going to be a teacher or a social worker it is going to take me 20 or 30 years to pay that debt off. I think this is real money.
Q320 Mr Binley: What about small business men? I am hearing an awful lot about teachers and social workers and people who work in the state sector, but there is a whole sector out there that in fact does not get paid £15,000 a year that is struggling below that. I just wonder how we work with those a little more.
Martin Bean: I think that is where, as I talked about before, part-time provision for working adults has to be something that we have got to protect. I will give you a great example of one of our students who started a family business––a small business, a car battery company. Cars are getting better. He saw that the business was declining because you do not have to change the batteries as much. The day his dad retired, he graduated from the Open University and began a year in computing. In the absence of part-time provision for him to be able to earn and learn and retool as a small business operator, he would have been stranded and we would have had somebody else displaced in our community.
Coming back to the question that you asked, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty, which is why we have got to make sure that we do not lose those discretionary funds that we have at our disposal-the £372 million widening participation, the part-time premium. If those funds did not exist and we suddenly had much more of a backlash of aversion to the increase of debt loads or fee aversion, then we would really be in trouble, because we would lack the very mechanisms that we needed to be able to continue to stimulate provision.
Dr Mary Bousted: I agree with Sir Peter. I think this is a real debt. If you are a teacher, all teachers earn over £21,000. To replace the teaching stock, you need about 40,000 to come in every year to do teacher training. Your starting salary is just over £21,000. That means you will be paying back the debt with a graduated rate of interest, so the debt you will be paying back on a modest salary over the years will be proportionally greater than if you are below £21,000 or if you are earning an awful lot and you can pay it back more quickly. That is combined with the stopping of incentives to be a teacher-the stopping of bursaries and the stopping of repaying your student loans-in the context of a situation where the TDA is not getting the numbers it needs to teach, particularly in the STEM subjects. Particularly in physics, chemistry and maths, you are not getting the numbers of teachers in either to provide specialised teaching or to replace the numbers that are being lost through retirement. That is in a situation where many children are taught maths not by specialist maths teachers-they are teachers who have retrained. So there is a real issue. Browne said we need to give extra help to medicine; one of my asks is we need to give it to education as well. We need to do that.
I would say one more thing as well. The research from the University of North London-done quite a while ago now, but I do not see why it should have changed-shows that it is the perception of debt that stops the poorest young people who are able going on to university. This is real debt; you do have to pay it back. If you think of the graduate premium-£117,000 for the individual-if you have got £50,000 worth of debt, you are halving your graduate premium. It is okay the Government saying, "Go to university and you will earn this much more over your lifetime", but that is being halved by the level of debt that you are in.
We are in uncharted territories and I expect that if this Committee meets in two years’ time, the offer from universities may be much narrower than it is now, particularly in the new universities. Even in the Russell Group, are you really going to be spending £27,000 over three years to do film studies? Are you really going to be doing that? So the offer may be much narrower and there may be a real skewing of the sorts of students who do the full-time undergraduate courses. Now I agree that part-time provision is really helpful and I do think the proposals about providing funding for part-time provision are very helpful indeed. I do think there are issues about living costs for part-time students-and we have put this in our evidence-particularly with the economic situation, with hours being cut and with wage premiums standing still or reducing. So I think there is an issue there, but I think the part-time funding for courses is helpful. But the key thing is that we do not know and the other thing is that the Government does not know.
Q321 Rebecca Harris: Can I just ask if anyone else wants to comment on the changes to part- time funding?
Peter Roberts: The issue for me is with a point that we alluded to earlier, and that is that there is a danger that the HE relationship with the further education colleges could suffer as a result of the changes. But having said that, I think there is an opportunity for further education colleges to deliver degrees if we are allowed to deliver degrees. I think the fees question is broader than just the HE side of things, because I think there are things happening on the further education side of fees, again with regard to part-time adults. I will quote the example of Access to HE. That arguably will also become income-contingent loans. You could have people having to take out loans in order to do an access course in order to go on to HE in order to take out further loans. It won’t happen.
Martin Doel: To echo Peter’s point, I think the issue of FE loans is around the corner. It might be something for the Committee to look at in the future, because I think this is a really significant issue upcoming. On part-time, the only thing I would say is that we are very supportive of the move towards supporting part-time provision more. Colleges are ready to do that; it is what they do and they do well. But I think there is still some uncertainty about the conditionality and how it will work. The circumstances in which adults undertake part-time studies are more complicated and do not have the UCAS filter in quite the same way as access to full-time loans have and the conditionality around it still needs to be worked out. Portraying that part-time offer directly to students and support is difficult to do currently. We need some greater clarity for what the conditionality will be.
Q322 Rebecca Harris: Would you envisage greater take up of part-time courses?
Martin Doel: Well, subject to my initial comment, I just do not know. But yes, logically and sensibly, I would see that being something that would be set for growth. What I think we do need to do is put the other conditionality around this in place, particularly about the numbers and who controls the numbers within the system, which is the point I made earlier about indirect funding for colleges and universities having the franchise numbers and handing them out to colleges. If part-time numbers are conditioned to the same numbers control, then I do not think you will get the growth in this area. We need to better understand how numbers and liability for loans will be controlled within the system to understand how all of this will work in the future.
Martin Bean: Chair, I would like to send through the research that I talked about that HEFCE
Supplementary written evidence submitted by witness.
Supplementary written evidence submitted by witness.has on the extra costs associated with part-time provision and the current support of those, because absent of that support you may well see a decline across the sector. I will send that research through afterwards as well.
Q323 Rebecca Harris: You said that some courses may just simply not be desirable any more in terms of value for money and whether students feel they are going to be paying off in the future. What changes do the panel think they might see over maybe the next 10 or 20 years in what universities offer? Do they think we will be seeing some courses dying away? Perhaps, as Sir Peter was saying , students will demand broader courses , like you would like to see, to make them more employable. I know we have already talked about the credit transfer model , so it is really about what changes you think these alterations in the fees arrangement could bring in to universities in the future.
Sir Peter Lampl: I think the East Londons, the South Banks and the Liverpool John Mooreses of this world are going to struggle in this new environment of this level of fees. You quoted a figure of £117,000 as the graduate premium. I am not even sure that is right; I am not sure it is that high. But that is an average number. The Oxbridge number might be £500,000 and then you go to some of these other places it is much lower. I think you are going to find that particularly those that are what I would call recruiting universities that are getting kids in from poorer backgrounds are really going to struggle in this new environment, because we have cut the teaching grant to 10%. We are the only country in the world that is there. We are totally out of line with the rest of the world.
We did some analysis of the average debt American university students come out with after four years. People think American universities are incredibly expensive and everyone thinks of Harvard and Yale. That is not the reality. The reality is most American kids go to their local state university and they are heavily subsidised. The average level of debt-and we have got two different sources for this-is around $22,000, that is £15,000-after four years. Our kids are going to come out with £40,000-plus after three years. Okay, you can argue it is not real debt, but it is still there. I think it is real debt. We can debate that. I think we are totally out of line with the rest of the advanced world here. I think it is a very dangerous situation.
Q324 Rebecca Harris: Do you think courses will change, though, as a result?
Sir Peter Lampl: I think the Liverpool John Mooreses and the South Banks of this world will find it very difficult to survive in this new environment. I really do. I just do not think students are going to go in there and pay those numbers. Okay, they can reduce their fees, but they are not getting any subsidy for their courses. They have got to cover their costs. Everyone is saying, "We have got to charge these fees because we have got to cover our costs because we are not getting any funding from the Government," effectively. So you have got a real problem in those places.
Martin Doel: I share the concern about the breadth of courses on offer; the market is an imperfect mechanism and it needs to be managed effectively to deliver that kind of breadth for it to be seen as a public good to follow courses that do not have a direct relationship to economic prosperity. To put a more positive spin on this, my point earlier on about colleges being in a contestable market has driven a degree of innovation and efficiency into the way they do business, towards mergers if necessary, or to moving into niche provision that they can deliver cost-effectively. Looking from the outside in-and I would say this from the outside in-I do not see that same degree of behaviour applying in some of the universities, to look at their cost base, the way in which they do business, who they respond to, who their customers are and how they focus their activities in that way.
Interestingly, I would also say that Peter’s point earlier on about colleges serving a locality-being of the place-does not apply in the same way to universities. Therefore I think there will be more room for universities to go to the wall without loss of overall provision within the nation because they are perforce normally sub-regional or regional players and provision can be picked up either by other universities or by colleges in the locale. So I do think you are going to have a more contestable market. My concern, if I have to say, about some of the universities setting their fees at £9,000 is that they have just substituted one form of income for another and are not attending to the efficiency within their own organisations in the way we would perhaps say was necessary to do.
Q325 Chair: We are only just over half the way through the questions and we have only got another 45 minutes, so could I just say please be brief and disciplined: comment only if it is really something you feel that you have to say.
Dr Mary Bousted: Very quickly, we do not know, but my guess would be that there will be far fewer humanities courses. I think that will feed through into the need for a broad and balanced school curriculum. Sir Peter was talking about a broad and balanced school curriculum where you get the graduates to do that. Contestability and competition has its place in the system, of course it does; it is very important. But this level of uncharted territory that we are going to-that the market will just decide what the shape of higher education provision is-first of all is very temporal to what we need now; it is not future-looking. It is very difficult for individuals to futurelook into what sorts of qualifications or degrees they will need in a few years’ time, so it is very temporal. And secondly, we do not know. We can only guess.
Q326 Simon Kirby: Back to access, I am afraid. Is Simon Hughes MP doing a good job in his capacity as advocate for access to higher education?
Sir Peter Lampl: I met with him last week and I think he is doing a good job.
Q327 Simon Kirby: Okay, perhaps I can ask what conversations or discussions have you had with Simon Hughes? That might be perhaps a slightly fairer question.
Martin Doel: Simon has conducted a wide range of visits to colleges-Cornwall College, a range of colleges in the Midlands and across the country, Solihull College-looking at the EMA issue first, because this is a through-life approach, if you like, to higher education and education generally. We have been pleased with the engagement that he has had with students, most notably, and also with staff within colleges. We have been reassured by that level of engagement. Whether or not that effectively then translates into policy we wait and see, as ever. But we have been very pleased with the engagement and the way in which he has got round to talk to colleges and their students directly.
Q328 Chair: I do not want to pursue this one. It would appear that he is actively engaged. We are awaiting the outcome.
Simon Kirby: Can I just ask the Open University, have you enjoyed a similar level of engagement?
Martin Bean: Yes. I will be brief, Chair. We have had a couple of very good discussions with Simon. He was particularly helpful in getting the National Scholarship Programme, which started as being £150 million for bright young people, extended for people across all the ages of their life and stations in their life, which was very helpful. He certainly has listened well to our arguments about the need to preserve the £372 million of widening participation funding.
Q329 Mr Binley: How much is the educational establishment responsible for the mess we are in? Lack of creativity? Lack of getting out there and changing things? Or am I talking like a businessman?
Dr Mary Bousted: Well it is not a question that makes much sense.
Q330 Mr Binley: It does to a lot of people out there, let me tell you. Please do not dismiss it quite like that.
Dr Mary Bousted: Sorry, I was a bit too dismissive then, because I did not mean to be rude. It is a difficult question to answer, because it is the perception of a lot of people. Let’s just be clear about the education system. We have one of the most highly regulated education systems in the world. Schools do what they are charted to do by Government. We have a national curriculum, which is yet again being changed, apparently once and for all and for ever, but Governments like to think that they are going to change it for ever and they never do. Our children and young people are the most highly tested. We have the most highly regulated inspection system. Schools perform to a multiplicity of centrally imposed targets. This Government is saying that they are doing less, but this Government is highly contradictory in saying it is promoting localism and autonomy for schools and actually being incredibly centralising-the Education Bill is incredibly centralising. So in effect, the educational establishment does what the Government-the powers that be-tell it to do. So it is not sensible to blame an educational establishment-
Q331 Mr Binley: I did not blame anybody; I asked you a question.
Dr Mary Bousted: Well the question presupposes a level of-
Q332 Mr Binley: It does not at all. I asked you a straight question.
Dr Mary Bousted: Well the way it is phrased-"Is the educational establishment responsible for the mess we are in?"-in my view is not quite value unloaded.
Q333 Chair: This is a very broad question, which could well form the basis of a seminar that would go on for a very long time.
Mr Binley: It is a broad question that leads into the questions I need to ask, Mr Chair.
Chair: Well I want to bring those in very quickly.
Sir Peter Lampl: Which mess are you talking about?
Mr Binley: Well I think there is a general view that education has not succeeded anywhere near as well as it ought to have done over the last 40 or 50 years in this country. You have been stating that, in fact, when you have referred to other nations ’ educational abilities. So it is as simple as that.
Sir Peter Lampl: On the tuition fees specifically, I think the position of the university vice chancellors and Universities UK was terrible. They just rolled over.
Q334 Mr Binley: It is a much wider question. Let me go on to my questions.
Chair: Yes, I was going to say, I do not want a wide- ranging question, because we will never get on to the other questions that we need to ask.
Mr Binley: I thought you would enjoy meeting the challenge; I am rather saddened that you have not done. Let me now continue. Are you comfortable with the development of sponsored degrees, such as that offered by the University of Durham and KPMG?
Martin Doel: Entirely happy. Part of the problem I think has been colleges responding to the needs of business and students and moving with the times. Many colleges respond with foundation degrees to particular employers: Sony working with St Helens College on composite technologies and semiconductors; that is a precise product produced for that particular company. It has been very successful in upskilling the company and the employees and increasing their productivity. I think it is a wholly worthwhile development, but I do not think it is everything and there must be range for those broader, traditional offers. But I do think the potential to deliver in that way is incredibly important. Going back to your earlier question about whether there is a mess, I think you would have to say, is there a mess? Which educational establishment are you talking about? There are various establishments and there are various sorts of messes.
Mr Binley: I understand that.
Martin Doel: But I have to say, in the further education sector-and I would say this, wouldn’t I?-perhaps because of some of the strictures we have been put under and some of the contestability, we have had to get our act together, particularly over the last five years. We have done that, particularly to work more with employers to understand employers’ needs, to understand students’ needs and to respond to them. Employer-facing degrees are only one example of the way in which you can do that, and I think the ones we want to look to in the future.
Q335 Chair: We are going on to the role of HE in FE in a moment.
Peter Roberts: I would support that view, with the addition that the credit accumulation transfer scheme is really important in that, because what you want to do is to be able to offer bits of qualifications as opposed to necessarily all the qualification. What we may have, to continue your analogy, is the notion of what if KPMG wanted us to do that module, that module and that module, but not all 10 for a certain individual? One would still want that to be a valuable qualification at the end of it.
Q336 Mr Binley: That leads on to my second question, so you might be able to join these two together. Should the academic sector feel fear from a close relationship of that kind?
Martin Bean: I think the KPMG announcement with the University of Durham is fantastic. It is a little bit of back to the future. In the Department for Education Bill Committee we talked a lot about this notion of earn and learn. This notion of practical experience while you get the theoretical is incredibly highly valued by employers and I think is something we should celebrate and stimulate moving forward. At my own university, 10% of our students have full or partial fees paid for by their employers. The CBI estimates that somewhere around £18 billion of plc money a year is spent on training. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if more of that money made its way into our higher education and further education system to help offset the debt loads and the fees that we have been talking about? Now it does raise an interesting question for the Committee, and I would like to give you a recommendation, if I can be so bold. That is, one of the open questions is should we allow for offquota funding? Should we allow students to participate in higher education who are not going through the Government loan programme? My answer to that is absolutely, because otherwise what you will do is lock out all of those wonderful additional funding streams that we see through employers that need to make their way in. I have to tell you, I do not see terribly much wrong with graduating six years in with six years of work experience with something that is meaningful for your career and life without debt.
Sir Peter Lampl: I am totally for all this stuff. I think you should get a lot more commercial involvement in higher education. Obviously it is much bigger in the States than here.
Q337 Mr Binley: Of course. You now know what I mean about creativity and thinking outside of the restricted area of activity that it seems to many the educational establishment has got itself stuck into. That was the whole essence of my question. I hoped you would rather meet the challenge in a more robust way. I think we have had the answer to this again and again. Would a move towards a more part-time and module-based provision of HE mean that we need to rethink what we mean by degrees? The answer is clearly yes. You have said it on a number of occasions. Should employers be encouraged to think differently about what they mean by graduate jobs? You have touched on that too, it seems to me, given your answers. But if you have not, I would be grateful to hear from you.
Peter Roberts: Just a supplementary going back to your earlier question, in case you feel that we were not robust enough, one of the issues with regard to modular in colleges was we were not allowed to offer modular HE quals and yet they were in universities, so that is not necessarily a mess of our making.
Mr Binley: I understand that.
Martin Bean: Very briefly, coming back to link with Rebecca’s question before, we have modules that are called openings courses that are 15 point courses that are completely designed to allow access for people that may not have considered or think they are capable of surviving in higher education to get started. Those courses not only will teach you the subject-psychology, law, managing children-but will also give you valuable study skills and ICT skills for you to survive. So those are the types of programmes that at a modular level can do the very thing that we need to make sure people can ascertain their level of desire and willingness and ability to succeed that are very vulnerable if funds like the £372 million widening participation go away. It is those types of modules that we often overlook that are incredibly successful. We have 18,000 students studying our openings programmes right now.
Q338 Mr Binley: Can I just have a final point? Dr Bousted, it is noticeable that you did not comment on any of that other than your opening remark.
Dr Mary Bousted: I think those questions are really around higher education provision.
Mr Binley: No, that is a fair answer.
Dr Mary Bousted: If you would like me to comment on anything particularly I am very happy to do so.
Mr Binley: I think you are a part of this whole education establishment, and I want you to begin to think differently.
Q339 Chair: Quite a lot has already been said about the next section, funding for widening participation, so I would ask you not to repeat it, but can I bring in Paul Blomfield, who has been waiting patiently there?
Paul Blomfield: Very specifically on the funding aspect of widening participation, I think you said earlier, Sir Peter, that all work in this area is useful ?
Sir Peter Lampl: I did not say that, no. If I did, I misspoke. Yes, it is a very high return activity. We have evaluated a lot of these schemes and they are very high return.
Q340 Paul Blomfield: I am guessing-and I have read a lot of the work of the Sutton Trust-that some is more useful than others, because you have done that evaluation. Where do not only you, but other members of the panel, think that resources can be most effectively deployed to achieve the best return in terms of widening participation? For example, there is evidence that a lot of the focus that there has been on bursaries does not actually make a critical difference.
Sir Peter Lampl: Yes, the research we have done says bursaries are a very poor way of using money to try to widen participation. We are not very happy about the National Scholarship Scheme spending £150 million a year essentially on scholarships and bursaries. We do not think that is a good use of money. I would rather see that £150 million spent on the kind of stuff that Aimhigher was doing, which is funding summer schools and outreach programmes and all that stuff. So we would like to see a national programme along the lines of Aimhigher and clearly the universities need to be doing a hell of a lot more. That means a much stronger OFFA, in our opinion, that is going to make sure they do spend what they are supposed to, which is about 25%, I think, over £6,000 on widening participation and then I think people like us-charities and private people funding. We have got private people funding a summer school at Cambridge and stuff like that, but I think a lot more of that can be done. There needs to be a lot more fundraising from private sources for outreach. People like to give to that kind of thing. It is easy to raise money for a summer school. That is our take on it.
Q341 Paul Blomfield: Certainly, having talked to kids who have been on some of those summer schools, they have been absolutely transformational.
Sir Peter Lampl: Absolutely.
Q342 Paul Blomfield: But I wonder if that view is shared by other members of the panel ?
Martin Doel: We have some reservations. We are pleased £150 million has been found for the National Scholarship Programme. We are concerned at the speed at which that programme has been put together. We are also concerned that it is going to break down into 100 different schemes, effectively, with individual universities running them, which does not seem to us be something that is going to be persuasive to someone who is doubtful about continuing education. We are also concerned in regard to the National Scholarship Programme that you can only access the scholarship after having applied for a place. The problem might be you are not applying for the place. So I think I share some of Sir Peter’s concerns about outreach activity and national schemes having an important role to play here in addition to the National Scholarship Programme. We are pleased, however, that the Government has undertaken to review the National Scholarship Programme as it goes and learn the lesson the first year round to see if it can be more effectively targeted and used. We would actually say, I think, that schools and colleges, having identified young people who might benefit from additional support, might be in a good place to work with those young people directly, rather than the universities themselves holding the funds here, but that is something to discuss in the future.
Martin Bean: Our experience has been that there seem to be three broad areas for widening participation and success. Number one is clearly just making sure that you can serve that part-time cohort; I will not go into any more detail. Second is students with disabilities. We have 12,000 of them with declared disabilities; without that funding being there to provide the sorts of accommodations and extra use of technology and knowhow and inclusiveness for people with disabilities, we would wholesale lock out a very large and meaningful percentage of our population.
The third area is in embedded community partnership programmes. By working with the not-for-profit sector in communities through the use of programmes like our openings programmes to give people access to higher education that, for whatever reason, they normally would not have participated in has been very successful. On the National Scholarship Programme, we understand that during the first year, the flexibility in the programme will be there to continue to use those funds in addition to the £372 million to act in meaningful ways for enrolling people at a modular level to get them started. What we also like about it is we think it gives us an opportunity to match funds with employers-so, going back to the point that was made before, to get a matching of employers that want to engage around it as well. The big fear that we have about the National Scholarship Programme is that that same level of latitude may be dried up in the out years, so we think it is important that it stays from a widening participation perspective, or we give £150 million on the one hand, allow the £372 million to evaporate on the other, and have a much smaller amount of widening participation funding going forward.
Peter Roberts: The only thing to add, from my perspective, to what has been said is the notion of widening participation cannot ignore access into HE. I think sometimes there is a big divide between what we want to happen in HE and what we do to allow it to happen prior to HE.
Q343 Paul Blomfield: Specifically on that point-and it might have been covered by some of the Sutton Trust research-I wonder if there is evidence to suggest that money deployed earlier would have more impact in raising aspiration and ambition among students in schools. A lot of the focus of university work is at kids at the age of 15 and 16. Any thoughts on that?
Sir Peter Lampl: Our view is that it makes sense to intervene at all stages. In fact, you can effectively intervene at 17, which we do with our summer schools. Then we have programmes that get primary school kids-10-year-olds-to visit universities. Then of course we have got early years programmes as well, which is pre-school stuff. Our view is that you can intervene effectively at all stages in the process. Then we have got stuff going even further, which is access to the professions-we have got a big scheme on access to law-which is even later, if you like. Our view is that you can do it the whole way. You could argue that maybe younger is more effective, but I think you can do things effectively at older ages as well.
Dr Mary Bousted: I think that is right, but for the most disadvantaged young people, going to university is a cultural issue as much as an academic issue and an attainment issue. It is: "Is a university a place where somebody like me goes?", so the earlier you can intervene to say that universities are for people like you, the better. It is very interesting that disadvantaged young people are disproportionately on education courses, because the professionals they have seen and worked with are teachers. So it is a case of "Teaching might be something for somebody like me, because I have been taught by teachers who like me and who think I am good at doing something." It is about familiarity and it is about believing that you are the sort of person who should be in a university. I think you have to understand that for people who have not had traditionally privileged, affluent or middle-class backgrounds, there is always the thing of the tap on the shoulder and, "What are you doing here?" It is something that has affected me quite a lot in my life: What are you doing here?" So the answer is, "Well actually, I am here because I should be here."
Q344 Paul Blomfield: In the debate in the House last week on higher education, a point was made about the fact that a lot of the onus in the debate has been on using a proportion of additional fee income for funding widening participation work , and that what we were saying was that students themselves in the additional burden they were facing with increased fees were funding work that should be a core commitment of public funding. Do you have a view on that ? Is it right that students should be, through the additional fees, paying for that work?
Sir Peter Lampl: They are effectively paying for that work because they are paying additional fees?
Paul Blomfield: Yes.
Sir Peter Lampl: I do not know. I think the additional fees are totally out of line, so I am going to come back and say it is wrong they should be funding that .
Martin Bean: I think everybody in this room and beyond has an obligation to make sure that the funds that are currently invested by the state in widening participation are preserved and protected and used for meaningful outcomes, and that the vast majority, if not all, of the fees that students incur for themselves go into the quality of the teaching experience and the return on the investment they will be taking in having those loans assessed against them.
Dr Mary Bousted: I think that is particularly important when we really do not know how the impact of the money for widening participation through student fees will be evaluated and what effect there will be on universities if it is not successful. So I do think it is right, but I think Sir Peter is absolutely right; students should not be paying for widening access. The state has a responsibility to ensure that higher education is open to those who have the ability and aptitude for it, and should be funding programmes that enable that to happen.
Peter Roberts: Regarding pastoral systems, further education colleges and indeed the better universities should all be part of the same fee, as far as I am concerned.
Paul Blomfield: I think the general consensus around that question has taken away the need for me to ask the next ones.
Chair: Again, we have covered a fair proportion of this, but Margot, do you wish to come in with your question to Sir Peter on the Sutton Trust scholarship programme?
Q345 Margot James: Yes, thank you Chair man. Will the National Scholarship Programme in your view help to attract students to apply to university who would not otherwise have done so?
Sir Peter Lampl: Yes, it will attract some, but I do not think it is in any way a cost-effective way of spending £150 million.
Q346 Margot James: What would your recommendations be to improve it?
Sir Peter Lampl: I would focus not on scholarships but on outreach activities-on funding summer schools and mentoring programmes. Universities can all do a hell of lot more of that; £150 million can be spent very quickly doing that. What was the Aimhigher budget? About £120 million, I think. So it is similar in size to the Aimhigher budget on an annual basis. What we have done is taken away the Aimhigher funding-we did not evaluate it independently, but I think it was very effective overall-and we have substituted the National Scholarship Programme. Not just us, but other people have looked at it and even Martin Harris at OFFA said you do not attract students by giving them a £3,000 scholarship. He is the head of OFFA. We do not think it is at all a useful way of spending £150 million a year. That is our bottom line.
Q347 Chair: Just before I bring in Martin Doel, there is a sort of contradiction that I can see emerging. First of all there is an argument that increased tuition fees are a major disincentive to people going to university, but secondly, that giving bursaries, which you would assume would mitigate the impact of the tuition fees or in some cases virtually eliminate them, are not an incentive to go. Now those do not seem to me to be totally consistent.
Sir Peter Lampl: They are not consistent. You are right; I agree.
Q348 Chair: But you still stick by them?
Dr Mary Bousted: The issue about the National Scholarship Scheme is-I think the NUS gave very good evidence about this-you have to apply to a place; you do not know what you are going to get. As Martin has said, there will be 100 different systems of application; it will be very complex. I think the issue is that for these systems to work, there has got to be much more transparency and much more knowledge of what you are going to get in order to make the application. Remember, the biggest cultural hurdle is to make the application and if you do not know what you are going to get, you do not know how you are going to get it and you do not know how to apply for it, the more there is a lack of transparency around these things, the more they do not feel to be real and tangible. Again, "It is there, but it is probably not there for me."
Sir Peter Lampl: The point I think you were making was that we are all arguing these fees are not a deterrent, which I do not believe, but that is the official argument. We are saying that if we give kids a little bit of money so they do not have to incur such high costs, it acts as an incentive. That is where I see the inconsistency.
Q349 Chair: Yes. We do not know yet and it may be that this argument has to be debated further once we do see the sort of bursary levels and so on that are being offered, but it does seem to-
Sir Peter Lampl: Well they are going to be small amounts of money in relation to the whole package that students are going to pick up in terms of debt. They are going to be £1,000 or £2,000 sort of numbers.
Q350 Chair: So you think they will be ineffective in combating the real debt levels and the perception of the debt?
Sir Peter Lampl: Absolutely.
Martin Doel: I do think, talking about how it might be improved in the future, Margot, one of the areas we might look at is trying to join up some Government policies here. The Discretionary Learner Fund, which has just been agreed as the EMA replacement, seems to me to be something that ought to be joining on with this National Scholarship Programme in a sensible way, for one to reinforce the other or to build out of the other. The fact that they have been delivered in two separate ways does not seem to me to be necessarily the best way to do it. How that would work I do not know, but I think it is something that is certainly worth investigating, particularly on the point that Mary made and I made earlier that knowing what support you are going to get before you apply or getting support ahead of the application is as important, if not more important, than the support you require after you have made an application. You have already made the commitment to incur a level of debt, which I think goes to your point, Chair, about why the two things do not connect precisely. So I think timing is important and joining up support to 16 to 18-year-olds generally would be an interesting way to go here.
We have the difficultly here where if you want to do something, you have two Departments running it. The Department for Education is leading on the Discretionary Learner Fund, and although Department for Education staff were involved in constructing the National Scholarship Programme, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is leading on it. There will always be discontinuities in this situation. I think we just need to make a really determined effort to look holistically at the behaviour of 16 to 18-year-olds and what is likely to shape their behaviours better, and also take up Peter’s point, which I know we could make about adults as well, and how you support them after 19. We have some very hard lines around this that correspond almost with Government departmental boundaries, which are artificial to human beings and where they make choices in the system.
Peter Roberts: Just a plea rather than a recommendation: a plea for simplicity. As someone who runs a large urban college with over 50,000 students, we have got bursaries, we have got fee waivers, then we have got the National Scholarship Programme, and it is a question of sometimes we do not necessarily know which way to turn for the best. It comes back to your earlier point.
Q351 Margot James: We have touched on this area before, but I wondered if the panel had anything else you would like to say in terms of what specific measures you would like to see universities who do charge £9,000 or thereabouts a year have to put in place in order to meet the widening participation criteria. We have seen Aimhigher going and you are all concerned about that. What would you like to see universities do as the quid pro quo that is going to be required of them?
Sir Peter Lampl: I think they have got to pick up from where Aimhigher left off. Every university should be running a summer school, in my opinion. They should all be running summer schools. We run longer term interventions for really deprived kids, where we work with them over a couple of years, and we have got summer schools and mentoring. We have got stuff going on with Exeter and Leeds, and there are a lot of longer interventions they can do to really get local kids from poor areas into their universities. There are lots of schemes that we have done over the years that they can pick up and can be scaled up. All that needs to happen.
Dr Mary Bousted: It cannot just be left to the universities. At the moment, it is going to be left to the universities to decide how successful they are about widening access and what measures they should need to take. If we say that widening access is important and if we know what we know about rates of access for disadvantaged pupils and young people, then we need some national benchmarks and some national criteria that universities are going to have to be able to be answerable to. If they are just allowed to do it for themselves, then they are clever people; they can make up loads of stories. I noticed in the Russell Group submission to this Committee-which got me really cross-it said that the number of young people from the lowest socio-economic groups had increased by 20% between 2006 and 2009. Well I have loads of questions about that. From what basis? How big are the figures? You can create narratives around widening access and participation, which universities can do very well, but what you really want is some rigorous evaluation and to have that rigorous evaluation you need national benchmarks. Then you can start comparing like for like.
Sir Peter Lampl: What you need is a really strong OFFA that is actually going to police this, because it does need to be policed.
Chair: That goes back to the point you made earlier, and of course we will be having OFFA in front of us.
Q352 Paul Blomfield: I am conscious that previously OFFA has signed off university access arrangements that were more about marketing than access in terms of rewarding students who were applying for shortage subjects or with high Alevel grades. Do you think those arrangements have any place at all in the role of OFFA?
Martin Doel: I think the debate has moved on. I do not think those are priorities for the future.
Q353 Paul Blomfield: So you would be surprised if anything along those lines was signed off by OFFA in the future?
Martin Doel: Yes.
Q354 Chair: Right, I come to the concluding question. Now I am conscious that this could provoke another seminar-type discussion, so I would ask you to confine yourself to one or two main points. What would you want to see in the Government’s higher education White Paper?
Martin Doel: Only because I have been aiming throughout to try to get to this point, Chair. Without prolonging the debate, in order to have a responsive market, some of the market control mechanisms need now to be revised. If you are going to have funding following the learner in a system, that makes no sense if the numbers are controlled by the universities. Colleges can have direct numbers, but even if they have direct numbers they have to seek a validating partner, and that validating partner has no cap on what they may charge for the services that are delivered and that service delivery can be removed, though we are in very useful discussions with the likes of the Open University about a broader validation.
More particularly, colleges receive some of the numbers on a franchise basis from universities. In the situation emerging now, for quite understandable institutional self-interest reasons, universities may withdraw those franchise numbers from colleges, which, as we have discussed this morning, are more likely to produce the innovative, flexible, part-time type of offers that they do working with employers. So you are going to have the method by which you might broaden participation, but in a more cost-efficient way, being removed, unless we get some control over this numbers control issue. So how do you control numbers and liability for loans but allow the market to move towards more cost effective, innovative and flexible providers? I think the White Paper needs to say something about that issue in particular.
We are very taken with the opportunity fund that is now being discussed around a core and margins issue, where there is a core of numbers that a university or college has, perhaps taken on a historical basis-we would say go back two years to about 2008-then you get 90% of your numbers on a core basis and compete for 10% around criteria that might be attached to affordability, relevance, employability skills and flexibility of provision. Whatever the criteria, it is obviously important that it gives the ability to the Government to manage the market currently, while there is not enough money to meet uncontrolled demand within the system. So having this market operate in ways that colleges are empowered, either as consumers of validation services from universities or through the ability to deliver their own validation, but having the ability to release the potential that colleges have to do more around higher skills and more flexible provision seems to me to be the core of what we are looking for from the White Paper. It is not for special protection, but it is allowing colleges to compete effectively to do what they do well.
Q355 Chair: That is a good pitch. Can I come on to Peter Roberts now?
Peter Roberts: I am a little bit stronger than Martin on the degrees. I think we should be allowed to offer degrees and at least, if that is a bridge too far, certainly foundation degrees. I think we should also be allowed innovation that enables us to look at the entry requirements to allow us to take account of the varied intake that we get. Finally, I would like people to think more about progression into and protect the widening participation agenda than maybe we have done thus far in terms of joining up across various Government departments.
Sir Peter Lampl: I am going to make three points very quickly. First of all, I would like us to move to a post-qualification application system. I think it is a great injustice. There should be 3,000 more kids from state schools going to the top dozen universities out of 30,000 that are not. They are not applying. I think that is a big thing. We are surveying vice-chancellors at the moment about it; there is quite a lot of resistance from the university sector to going to that, because it would mean them admitting kids in the summer. But I think that is a really important thing for social justice.
We have talked about the credit transfer system and the whole attitude to drop-outs I which I think is something I would like to see change in the White Paper. Thirdly, I would like us to achieve an expanding higher education system. Right now we are either static or we are going backwards in terms of numbers. I want to see the higher education system increase. Something that I am very concerned about, which we have not talked about here, is postgraduate education. What is the impact of fees having on postgraduate education? Are kids with £40,000 or £50,000 of debt from modest backgrounds going to go on and do masters, PhDs, etc? I think that whole area needs to be looked at.
Martin Bean: Three recommendations from me as well. Number one: that as much clarity is given in the White Paper for full-time young students as for part-time mature students. A great example is transitional funding: where there is clarity for full time today, there is no clarity at all for part time. We were bold, we were courageous, we levelled the playing field and let part-time in, so let’s make sure we now deal with the detail around what that really means.
Number two: let’s make sure that we are hedging our bets around the uncertainty of participation by not allowing the £372 million that HEFCE currently invests in widening participation to evaporate. We need that money to continue to deal with the uncertainty that lies ahead. We have secured it for 2011 and 2012, but you cannot do anything meaningful with widening participation in annual cycles. Institutions just will not spin up the types of programmes that they need to be effective.
Thirdly, let’s make sure that it is recognised that on the supply side, if we want part time to grow and not be in retreat as it is today, we had better get real and recognise that there are extra costs associated with supporting a part-time cohort-the research shows that is 15% to 44%-and let’s also then maintain the part-time allowance for all institutions that offer part-time support to help offset those costs or my fear is, in a world of excess demand, we will continue to see part time retreat.
Dr Mary Bousted: Three things. ATL has supported post-qualification consistently.
Sir Peter Lampl: Yes, you have, and I agree with that. It is the universities that are the problem.
Dr Mary Bousted: Yes. The predictions are notoriously inaccurate.
Sir Peter Lampl: Of course.
Dr Mary Bousted: And they always will be. So post-qualification would give the most disadvantaged young people the confidence that they can do it. Secondly-I would say this, wouldn’t I, but I have come to defend teachers or to press their case-I am really worried that the vast majority of teacher training now is done through PGCE. You are starting a profession at £21,000. I am really worried that with debts of £40,000 or £50,000 you will not do the extra year. Where are the middle earning professions going to come from that this country needs in order to teach, to have nurses, to have social workers and all the professions? The private sector is very important, but so is the public sector. Where you are going to have the infrastructure of care and support for communities with this level of debt I have real worries about. So my plea would be to reinstate support for core professions, particularly around postgraduate training and the costs of that. We had a teacher training crisis in the 1970s, we had one in the 1980s and we had one in the 1990s. When new Labour came in, after two years it invested a huge amount in getting teachers into training, but it can very, very quickly go the other way, and with the amounts that you need going through the system, you can very quickly be in trouble. So monitor the system and get some support back in.
Chair: Thank you. A number of extremely interesting things emerged during the course of the questions and answers, for which I thank you because that is incredibly helpful. I would repeat what I say to other panels. If, on reflection, you feel that there is something you would like to add to any of the answers that you have given, feel free to submit it. Equally, if you feel that there is a question that we did not ask but should have and you would like to answer, feel free to submit that in further evidence as well. Thank you very much.