Two education stories dominate this week: the release of the long-awaited Augar report on post-18 education and funding and some early musings on what a change of PM might mean for education.
Elsewhere this week, the Universities Minister confirmed that current fee arrangements for EU students will roll over for another year while the Education Secretary set up an advisory body to support character education in schools and colleges. In other news, the Migration Advisory Committee published its latest listing of shortage occupations to qualify for visa exemptions with education leaders disappointed that there was no change for teachers, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IfS) highlighted funding shortfalls and dilemmas for English councils, the University and College Union (UCU) appointed a new general secretary and the RSA and Education and Skills think tank published new reports respectively, one on skills systems and the other on post-18 funding, each propitious in their own way.
But it’s with Augar where we should start given its potential importance to post-18 education.
The report, which has been a long time in the making, was finally launched yesterday with the Prime Minister and Education Ministers on hand to give it their blessing. It’s a big report with over 200 pages and 50+ recommendations and deserves serious consideration but how far this will happen given the changing political climate remains uncertain. There’ve been plenty of media headlines and on the plus side, the report is meticulously framed and argued, considers the tertiary sector as a whole, avoids some of the rumoured wildcard proposals and does a lot to tilt the balance towards what Augar called the 50% who don’t go to university or who require adult skilling. On the other side, it faces counter challenges of ushering in a more regressive student financing system, leaves universities like the Russell Group expressing concern about future funding shortfalls and has many areas where responsibility for action remain up in the air.
Back finally to that other burgeoning story of the week, namely what effect a new Prime Minister might have on education.
It’s early days in the selection process of course and candidates are still firming up their ‘manifestos’ but both Schools Week and the HE Policy Institute (HEPI) have had a look at the runners and riders to see where they stand on schools and higher ed respectively. Two of the candidates, Michael Gove and Matt Hancock have held education briefs so their views are well documented, others have only intervened intermittently but all could be challenged about where they stand on such traditional issues as funding, social mobility, future skills, tuition fees and global positioning with the occasional banana skin like grammar schools, levy use and student visas thrown in for good measure. More weeks of this to come.