To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills
(1) what plans he has for the (a) timetable, (b) remit and (c) methodology for the review of higher education funding planned for 2009;
(2) what assessment he has made of the equitable outcomes of university schemes to distribute bursaries to students; and what consideration he has given to developing a single national bursary scheme to apply to all universities.
Under the current arrangements, institutions are required to pay a minimum bursary to all students receiving the maximum grant. Beyond this, it is for institutions themselves, subject to approval from OFFA, to decide how to support their students. The latest figures show that acceptances to universities for England are at an all time high, with the proportion of applicants from lower socio-economic groups also up. A national bursary scheme would be very complex and costly to administer, and would lead to reduced support for students at a number of universities, damaging our fair access agenda.
As we made clear during the passage of the legislation introducing the new fee and student support arrangements, there will be an independent review in 2009 which will work on the basis of evidence from the first three years' operation of the variable fee arrangements. The review will report to Parliament. The draft terms of reference were announced to Parliament in 2004 by the then Secretary of State. The final details about the arrangements for the review, its remit and methodology will be determined in due course. That will take place after the Government have conducted a wider debate among both higher education providers and users which will set the framework for the future of Higher Education over the next ten to fifteen years. The Secretary of State recently announced the next steps to that process in his speech to Universities UK at Cambridge.