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PM: The right education for everyone? We will see who can sink or swim.




It seems that she was part of a Government that embarked on a flight that got too close to the sun and now has crashed into the sea while we all look on passively.
 In her speech today at Derby College, Theresa May called for a comprehensive review and reforming of the tertiary education system in Great Britain. It was telling that she referred to Great Britain throughout and not to the UK.  She should be reminded that she leads the government of the United Kingdom that includes  Northern Ireland;  yet also acknowledge that tertiary education policy is devolved in that jurisdiction along with Scotland and Wales. She might as well have referred to England in relation to the review. Putting that aside, it seems that there is to be change on a relatively short time line. The panel is to be led by Philip Augar and five others labelled ‘experts. Experts in what is not evident at first but their experience in their chosen vocations is more evident. Notably absent will be staff and student representation. One can only hope that they talk with those that have risen from low income backgrounds and have a different perspective on the journey that they took in life as well as those stuck in the debt trap that government has set for them at present.  The PM states:

Through education, we can become (AGAIN) a country where everyone, from every background, gains the skills they need to get a good job and live a happy and fulfilled life.”

I have added the word 'AGAIN'  as that is what should have been inserted at the start.The speech makes a staggering admission early on:To achieve that, we must have an education system at all levels which serves the needs of every child.”

And if we consider the experience which many young people have of our system as it is, it is clear that we do not have such a system today.

That is surely because a Conservative government raised fees to the current level and then added the burden of loans for maintenance for those less well off. To top this further they ensured that maintenance loans were insufficient to live off despite warnings. This led to students relying more on parents and family and for many, failing that, part-time jobs. It seems that she was part of a Government that embarked on a flight that got too close to the sun and now has crashed into the sea while we all look on passively.

We have not quite gone full circle since the days of Robbins and the Education Act of 1962 but the announcement of this review seems to echo the same  aims of the distant past and a time when most of the review panel were in Higher Education themselves with grants and no fees.

The review intends to focus on four key questions. 
1.    How we ensure that tertiary education is accessible to everyone, from every                background
2.     How our funding system provides value for money, both for students and taxpayer
3.     How we incentivise choice and competition right across the sector
4.     And finally, how we deliver the skills that we need as a country”.
Further “This is a review which, for the first time, looks at the whole post-18 education sector in the round, breaking down false boundaries between further and higher education, so we can create a system which is truly joined-up.”
This a bold aim for such a short timescale and risks creating massive uncertainty and confusion. Some students might be forgiven for deferring their studies in the next year or so to see what happens.

The terms of reference seeks:
A system that is accessible to all”. It states, “How we can ensure that people from disadvantaged backgrounds have equal opportunities to progress to and succeed in all forms of post-18 education and training.   How disadvantaged students and learners receive maintenance support, both from Government and from universities and colleges”.  

One only hopes that the review panel understand what this really means.

The full speech is at:
The terms of reference of the review are at:

and 

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