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Think tank reveals concerns over higher education deregulation policy

Posted by Hannah Walker in

Since George Osborne announced deregulation on student university numbers at the end of 2013, many have voiced concerns about how the policy will be financed. Nick Hillman, The Higher Education Policy Institute director asks exactly that, worrying that university budgets would become "severely strained" and could exert more pressure on spending per student. While Hillman stated the expansion could "transform lives, improve social mobility and raise economic performance," financing another 180,000 students through higher education remains "fuzzy." Sally Hunt, who is leader of the UCU lecturers' union expresses that, 'higher education is not something to be piled high and provided on the cheap."

The policy allows for universities to recruit unlimited students and from autumn 2015, we are expected a 20% increase in UK graduates. The think tank figures reveal that after three years of deregulation, costs could reach £720m in extra grants and teaching costs with a further £700m in loan write-off costs. Selling the student loan book emerged as a finance option but was hastily cut off by Business Secretary, Vince Cable who blocked the possibility before the general election.

Having researched into the government's decision behind the policy, the think tank argues that there could be significant political and economic benefits that have provoked the decision. The report states that deregulation can be marketed and "sold as an aspirational policy" in the run up to election. Further to that, arguments have been made that by increasing graduate numbers the government hope to improve the UK's economy. Wendy Piatt, who is head of the Russell Group said, "This report is right to highlight the uncertainty behind the government's plans to increase undergraduate student numbers in England."

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