This blog was kindly contributed by Rich Pickford, Knowledge Exchange and Impact Officer and Nottingham Civic Exchange Lead at Nottingham Trent University. HEPI polled students on their opinions of the Augar fee system. You can find the results here.
Earlier this year I was asked by Professor Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor for Nottingham Trent University and an Augar Review Panel Member, to explore how many of the recommendations had been engaged with by Government. He was interested to see how many of the recent policy announcements reflected the conclusions of the Augar Review.
Edward recently shared his view that the Government has already responded to many of the review recommendations in the last year in a piece on Wonkhe. That piece drew up some analysis I had done which we are sharing with you here. We believe that despite the prevailing discourse on the success of the Augar Review many of the recommendations have already shaped the Government’s thinking on post-18 education reform.
This post is not an analysis of the relative merits of each of these policy announcement or legislative activity. It will show graphically where the Augar’s recommendations have been actioned and where we are still awaiting a response. This analysis – which was supported by colleagues at NTU and many informative external sources – sets out where we have seen adoption, endorsement, active consideration or commitment to take forward the Augar Reviews recommendations. This was not always a simple task as I’m sure you can imagine; at times the Government has shared a policy announcement or position that responded to part of a recommendations. In these cases, I have indicated they have partially addressed a recommendation. You will see that certain aspects of the report have gained far more attention than others, which may reflect their political salience and general support, but not necessarily their importance to the sector.
For those that need a recap, the Augar Review made 53 recommendations across the eight main sections of the report. These begin at 2.1 (because no recommendations were made in the introduction). The review explored six areas which we will look through here. The tables below are a summary of the analysis to understand the Government’s progress against the review recommendations. Each table contains the recommendations linked to each chapter and is divided into two columns that highlight progress against each recommendation and the sub-recommendations where these are made.
The analysis highlights that the Government has responded in full to 21% (11) of the recommendations with partial responses to a further 30% (16) of them. This leaves 49% (26) that have yet to responded to in public at this current time. When you combine the yes and positive responses you see that we have a slim majority of recommendations that have received some form of response in a policy or practical manner.
Chapter 2 on Skills made 11 recommendations to government of which 55% have been enacted. Five have not yet seen an official public response.
Within the third chapter on higher education, there has been no official response to the main headline recommendation on the cap on fees but or the connected recommendation about replacing the income lost if the fee cap reduction is implemented but we have seen action on the other three recommendations albeit in a limited manner.
Impact of the Proposals
Despite the impact of the Reviews recommendations rightly being placed at the end of the report they are numbered 3.6-3.8 so I have covered them here. As you can see we have partial responses to each of these three recommendations highlighting the indication that further action is required.
The chapter on further education accounted for over 20% of all the recommendations. Other shave highlighted the lack of the detail within the within the White Paper on Skills means that many of these recommendations have been partially addressed (36% of them) whilst just over a quarter have been tackled. The recommendations that haven’t been responded to focus on funding and status of the sector alongside a missed target for OfS and ESFA to work together.
The focus of Augar on Apprenticeships within its recommendations focused on transparency and support for an important area of policy. The table below shows that whilst there has been some engagement with the recommendations, it is certainly a work in progress, with only two being classed in our green column and three each in amber and red.
Student Contribution and Maintenance
The next two sections see the lowest levels of engagement by the Government, but we should be mindful of the decision to push many policy decisions linked to the Comprehensive Spending Review into the autumn of this year. You would expect that the impact of the loan book on Treasury balance sheets will require a policy response soon so we will be keeping a close eye on both these sets of recommendations and Government policy.
The purpose of this analysis has been to map and track where the Augar Review Recommendations have received a policy response and to support our institution (and others now it’s shared here) to further understand the policy reaction to it. It does not attempt to evaluate the merit of these policy responses but I hope it provides a useful tool to consider the Government’s current position against each of these recommendations. This analysis highlights that just over half (51%) of the recommendations have seen some form of active policy response and we are expecting further movement on others during the Comprehensive Spending Review and the full response to Augar when it is published. Others have and will continue to discuss the merits of the recommendations and the practical impact of new and emerging policy proposals that relate to them. The breadth and depth of the review requires a multi layered and detailed assessment of each policy responses many of which are available to read and consider online but I hope this piece has highlighted the significant response to the Augar Review two years on from its publication. It should be noted that this analysis is static and has been a based on the best available data, all errors or omissions are my own. We will be monitoring the Government’s ongoing policy activity in this space and will be using a version of this matrix to track it, please feel free to share comments and updates if you think this matrix is helpful. To download and view the current full matrix click here.