Statement on Higher Education funding reforms in England

The OU Students Association logo on a dark-blue gradient background OU Students Association

You may have heard this week that the UK government announced a series of proposed reforms to the Higher Education sector in England, which could have a significant impact on students.

The announcements cover a range of topics that may be of particular interest to current and future Open University students.

Below is an easy-to-digest summary of the announcements:

Student finance reforms

These include:

  • Minimum Eligibility Requirements will be introduced for prospective full-time students under the age of 25 who wish to apply for student finance. These are proposed as GCSE grade C or 4 in English and Maths, or two E grades at A-level (or equivalent). It is proposed that part-time students will be excluded from Minimum Eligibility Requirements, while those studying at full-time intensity at The Open University will also be excluded due to The OU’s status as a provider of part-time higher education.
     
  • Graduates will begin to repay student loans earlier, when their annual income reaches £25,000 per year, and the repayment term will be extended to 40 years. This will impact students who begin their studies from autumn 2023 onwards.
     
  • Interest rates on student loan repayments above the rate of inflation will be abolished for new students. This is also applicable to students commencing studying in the 2023/34 academic year.
     
  • The introduction of a Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) in 2025 to provide the equivalent of four years of post-18 education to use over a student’s lifetime, and to be used in a flexible way to suit the learner’s needs (i.e. broken down to modular study). Distance-learning students will still not qualify for maintenance support under the LLE (with the exception of disabled students).

Quality provision and institution funding

These include:

  • Prioritising the provision of higher education courses from providers who achieve outcomes above set thresholds in three areas:
     
    • Earnings, which support the fiscal sustainability of the system (given its link to student loan repayments).
       
    • Progression to highly-skilled graduate employment.
       
    • Completion or continuation rates.
       
  • Limiting the supply of provision through student number controls to providers or subjects that achieve ‘poorer outcomes’ against these measures.

For the sake of clarity, the changes to the repayment threshold, terms and interest rates will only apply to new students beginning their studies from August 2023 onwards. This means that current OU students will not be impacted by these changes. Furthermore, these proposed reforms are only applicable to students in England, and do not apply to students in other parts of the UK.

The OU Students Association is looking closely at the announcements and the impact that they may have on current and future OU students. Currently there are public consultations open with the UK government and the Office for Students covering these topics, which we will be submitting responses to in the coming weeks so that the OU student voice is heard.

We are working closely with the Open University across these consultations to ensure the best possible outcomes for students.

Sarah Jones
Open University Students Association President