Posted on 11/12/2013
The Chancellor made his Autumn Statement on Thursday 5 December. The statement outlines the government’s economic plans based on the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
Among the winners and losers, there were several key announcements that will have a significant impact on the higher education sector. These announcements included:
- Cap on student numbers to be increased by 30,000 for 2014/15, affecting this year’s recruitment cycle
- Cap on student numbers to be removed for 2015/16 at all publicly funded higher education institutions in England
- Additional increase in spending of £120 million in 2014/15 and a further £290 million in 2016/17, though it is not clear whether this is to meet the cost of additional maintenance grants or the HEFCE teaching grant
- Additional funding of £50 million per year from 2015/16 for high-cost subjects, primarily in the sciences, technology, engineering and maths
The increases in spending have been announced alongside a cut in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’s budget by £157 million in 2014/15 and £148 million in 2015/16. At present, it is unclear whether the cut in 2014/15 includes the £100 million reduction to the National Scholarship programme, which was announced before the Autumn Statement.
So what does this mean for Royal Holloway? Though there were some early indications that the cap on student numbers would be relaxed, the announcement has nevertheless come as a surprise to the sector.
Research intensive universities like ours have raised concerns about sacrificing quality for quantity, though the Government has made it clear that it will closely monitor the quality of provision across the sector and re-impose a cap on student numbers if necessary. A related issue is that growth is limited by the number of good quality students available each year.
However, these announcements represent a unique opportunity for the College to fulfil its strategic ambition to increase student numbers to 10,500 by 2020. We can take advantage of the removal of the student number cap by more rapidly introducing new programmes to our portfolio, or expanding numbers on existing popular courses.
Though the Government has signalled a clear change in its Higher Education policy, we still find ourselves in a climate of uncertainty and instability. With that in mind, we will continue to focus on raising our profile and reputation amongst all key stakeholders, as well as investing in improving our student recruitment and admissions procedures.