The debate around the Augar Review and tuition fee reductions has taken another turn with the publication of a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The report calculates the effective net subsidy, by the taxpayer, of different subjects based on the likelihood of the students paying back their full tuition fees plus interest.
Their conclusion? That the subsidy works in reverse to how government might intend, if you believe that the UK needs more STEM graduates.
The report has limitations - it doesn't attempt to calculate the broader macro-economic and societal benefits of having more graduates of any kind. But it may well strengthen the hand of those who would like to see a return to a more elitist form of higher education, as it highlights the net subsidy is also greater for post-92 university graduates because of their lower earning power. However, this is exactly the sort of institutions that attract a disproportionate number of BAME and POLAR quintile 1 students.
Coincidentally, I wrote a blog on a related subject just a few weeks ago, highlighting how the new era of HE markets means there is more pressure on governors to make corporately autonomous decisions for which they are going to be held accountable.
Whether a university facing a reduction in income from tuition fees cuts, or increases, social mobility expenditure is going to be one of the key decisions they will have to make very soon.
...it would be an absurd consequence if the Government’s review recommending a reduction in tuition fees resulted in a decline in spending on people who benefit most from going to university and reduced social mobility.