Education

Russell Group universities are committed to offering an outstanding education and student experience. 

Over a five-year period to 2017, Russell Group universities will invest £930 million in teaching and research facilities and a further £920 million on student accommodation, sports and social facilities, libraries and IT. This will allow them to build on their already high levels of student satisfaction. In the National Student Survey 2015:

  • 88% of students at Russell Group universities were satisfied with their course, above the national average.
  • 90% of Russell Group students agreed that their course was intellectually stimulating, comparing favourably with the 85% average of other universities.

Learning with world-leading researchers benefits students, encouraging them to pursue new knowledge and to develop the personal and professional skills integral to the graduate-level jobs that develop our knowledge economy.

But good teaching needs proper funding to be sustainable.

 

Student experience

With students making a direct contribution to their education it is more important than ever that our universities provide a first-rate student experience.

Russell Group universities are continually investing in great staff, state-of-the-art facilities and better systems for supporting students – so that students get the most from their time at university. The National Student Survey has shown, year on year, higher satisfaction rates at Russell Group universities compared to other universities. 

Excellent teaching typically builds on and is intimately linked with excellent research and this is central to the outstanding student experience Russell Group universities deliver. Our response to the higher education green paper looks at some of the Government's recent proposals on university education in more detail.

 

Undergraduate funding

Our leading institutions need to be properly funded if they are to remain internationally competitive, provide a first-rate teaching experience and offer generous support to less advantaged students.

Given the benefits that graduates gain from their degrees it is fair for them, as well as the taxpayer, to contribute to the cost, when they can afford to do so. With no up-front fees, a progressive student loan system with repayments only when they are affordable, and generous help with living costs, money worries shouldn’t stop anyone from applying.

The current fees system in England is working. In the face of significant public funding cuts, it has helped Russell Group universities continue to provide a world-class education and it has supported all students to access higher education, whatever their background.  

Additional income from tuition fees has provided Russell Group universities with increased resources to develop outreach activities, access courses and other targeted initiatives to help increase participation at their institutions by students from under-represented groups.

However, there is still an important role for government to play in funding courses in science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics. These subjects, which require high-tech laboratories and equipment, are very expensive to deliver and are extremely important to the future success of the UK economy. They cannot be sustained on tuition fee income alone. There are also particular cost pressures associated with maintaining such provision in a world-class research-intensive university.

 

Student number controls

We have always said that quality higher education should be prioritised over quantity, especially in times of limited funding. We are therefore concerned that the Government has chosen to put additional taxpayers’ money into uncapping student numbers in England.

Providing higher education for everyone who wants it will require substantial long-term contributions from public funding and will present challenges for any future government that is unwilling or unable to continue to fund this.

Good teaching requires proper levels of investment and we are not yet convinced the Government can deliver on its promise that the quality of provision will not suffer with such a significant expansion of numbers. It would be very damaging if this policy leads to less funding per student.

 

Postgraduate funding

Postgraduate students are essential to a successful knowledge economy and the future academic workforce so it is vital that the UK has a sustainable and attractive funding system for postgraduates.

This is particularly important because our universities face fierce international competition, especially from US institutions who are able to provide high quality facilities along with generous financial packages to attract the best postgraduate research students.

The introduction of loan schemes in England for postgraduates is welcome as are reassurances that this significant investment in postgraduate support will not create additional regulation, restrictions or costs in the future, or divert funds from existing budgets for research and teaching. 

We would like to see Government support efforts to raise funds for postgraduate scholarships through philanthropy and business contributions, for example match-funding for philanthropic donations or additional tax incentives.

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