The Council of Deans of Health has called for assurances that existing levels of funding for healthcare pre-registration education will be maintained, following the publication today of the review of post-18 education funding chaired by Dr Philip Augar. The review proposes a cap on tuition fees of £7,500 a year from 2021/22, with more of the taxpayer funding coming through grants directed to disadvantaged students and to high value and high cost subjects. The Council has previously warned that reducing funding for healthcare courses would undermine the quality of education, potentially leading to a contraction of the sector through a reduction in student places and a withdrawal of courses where these become unaffordable.
The report goes on to recommend that the Office for Students (OfS) should carry out a review of the funding rates for different subjects, including costs of provision and that ‘the OfS should have regard to economic and social value and consider support for socially-desirable professions such as nursing and teaching’. The report indicates there was an increase in the costs of teaching for nursing and allied health professions courses, including a 17% increase in real terms from 2011/12 to 2016/17.
Dr Katerina Kolyva, Executive Director of the Council, said:
‘We welcome the acknowledgement that healthcare courses are high cost subjects and indeed they already rely on public subsidy by the Office for Students for sustainable provision. However, we would have serious concerns about the potential gap in funding for healthcare courses if subsidies are not maintained. Any reduction in the overall funding for healthcare higher education poses a risk to the delivery of the future workforce commitments in the NHS Long Term Plan. We will be looking to the government to guarantee existing levels of funding for healthcare pre-registration education which is necessary to give universities the certainty they require to continue to work with the NHS to grow the workforce.
‘We support the report’s recognition that market economy alone will not work, and government interventions will also be needed. This is particularly relevant to the healthcare sector’.
The report also recommends:
- Freezing the fee cap until 2022/23, then increasing in line with inflation from 2023/24
- Removing real in-study interest on loans, so that loan balances track inflation during study
- Extending student loan repayments from 30 to 40 years
- Capping lifetime repayments at 1.2 times the original loan amount
- Introducing a single, lifelong learning loan allowance for all adults
- Rebranding student loans as ‘student contributions’
- Restoring maintenance grants for students from low income households of at least £3,000
- Adjusting the teaching grant attached to each subject to reflect more accurately the subject’s reasonable costs and its social and economic value to students and taxpayers
- Funding increase for further education colleges and vocational training
Dr Kolyva commented:
‘The Council has previously called for the introduction of a maintenance grant for healthcare students and we very much support the report’s recommendations for the provision of maintenance grants for those students most in need. We also welcome its call for the Government to provide support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including mature and part-time students, so that they can access and succeed in higher education. This is vital for the growth of the future healthcare workforce and is an area where our disciplines have a strong track record’.