As we predicted there was nothing ground breaking for education in Monday’s budget. The additional £400m funding, although a welcome boost, is quite minor, spread across the country, and certainly doesn’t seek to solve staff shortages or buildings’ shortcomings.
However, what I think is more interesting is what we heard about the direction of travel and priorities: the focus on apprenticeships and skills training, and the emphasis on future funding structures to support vocational and technical training as well as traditional university academic routes.
The announcements about further funding for R&D in the form of investment in catapult centres and the creation of up to 10 University Enterprise Zones is interesting and is clearly a continuation on the theme of trying to increase links between universities and business. It will certainly be appealing to those universities who are looking at ways to commercialise their assets through tech / science parks and developing sources of revenue through partnerships with industry. I look forward to learning more about these new zones – the devil, as ever, is however in the detail with these announcements.
And on the theme of detail, it is worth noting that in the Red Book it states that in December 2017 the government completed the first tranche of its programme of selling student loans – expected to raise £12bn by 2021-22. This first sale raised £1.7 bn and the government will now extend the sales programme by a further year, hoping to increase total proceeds to £15 bn.
It will be interesting to see if this influences the Office for National Statistics review of how the student loans book is being treated in terms of Public Sector Borrowing Requirement. It may be an attempt to head off a recommendation that unpaid student loans are added to public sector borrowing figures. Watch this space…
RLB | UK Budget 2018 – the RLB view.