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Waiting for Augar......... UPDATE: Can Augar survive the 'bombardment'?

Since posting ‘Waiting for Augar’ on Friday, more has happened over the weekend that further feeds the chaos surrounding consideration of post-18 education. There are far too many conflicting views bouncing around and Augar must be steadfast in seeking to address unfairness and inequalities for students whilst remaining 'independent' in this turbid political environment.

The Telegraph reported on Sunday that Augar was likely to report “later this year” in 'University loans may be blocked if A-level students fail to get three Ds.' They add further strength to the existing rumour about minimum grades to qualify for loans with, “Whitehall sources said there was a "broad consensus" on the need for a national minimum threshold to help reduce the number of students taking "Mickey Mouse degrees" which cost more than £9,000 per year and do little to boost the salaries of graduates.” Surely such leaks constitute interference and pressure on Augar.

Meanwhile the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Chris Skidmore, protests on twitter that “the Augar post-18 review is an independent one which will reach its independent conclusions”.

Yet in his interview with Times Higher Education on the 7th of February ‘Chris Skidmore: don’t put a lid on university access’ he was reported as saying that he does not support the introduction of minimum grade thresholds for entering higher education. The very stuff of Augar.

It seems he was a little more careful in his speech at Nottingham Trent Universi
ty* last week Universities Minister calls for greater improvement on access’. This was very long on the extensive problems of widening access and not a great advert for his past government failures. These were addressed without a single mention of Augar. He also managed without any mention of the financial difficulties of so called ‘disadvantaged students’. He failed to address the practical problems that bedevil widening access such living and maintenance costs or rising accommodation costs. Hopefully Augar will.

*Note that Edward Peck is the Vice-chancellor of Nottingham Trent University and is on the Augar review panel.


Mike Larkin, retired from Queen's University Belfast after 37 years teaching Microbiology, Biochemistry and Genetics.

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