Conservative Party's proposals on additional student places

04 October 2009

Responding to the announcement by David Willetts MP on Conservative plans to fund 10,000 additional places at university, Dr Wendy Piatt, The Director General of the Russell Group of Universities, said:

"The Russell Group welcomes the Conservative Party's recognition of the need to ensure that as many students as possible get the opportunity to gain the high level skills that are so important to the economy - particularly in a recession. We also welcome the fact that the Conservatives have indicated that these additional places will be fully funded and look forward to seeing all the details about the costings.

"It is essential that any growth in the number of students must be funded in a sustainable way that will not create real and long term difficulties for UK universities and undermine the quality of the student experience. Maintaining quality is sacrosanct. We know that there is already a funding shortfall for teaching at Russell Group universities. As a recent HEFCE study has highlighted, without further investment the 'quality of the student experience and the reputation and contribution of English higher education will suffer'".

"We welcome the idea of exploring alternative sources of funding the full costs of higher education and any incentives for students to pay back their loans more quickly than at present if they can afford to do so. With no up-front fees, generous grants and bursaries and no real interest rate on loans, the system of student support in England remains one of the most generous - and expensive - in the world."

Note to editors

  1. HEFCE research showed that universities need an additional 15 -20% funding for current teaching levels to be sustained.  It concluded that without further investment the ‘quality of the student experience and the reputation and contribution of English higher education will suffer’. The sustainability of learning and teaching in English higher education’ A report prepared for the Financial Sustainability Strategy Group by JM Consulting, December 2008

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