Thinktank gives scathing review of three main parties’ HE policies

The Education Policy Institute has reviewed higher education policies ahead of the 2019 general election

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has criticised all three main political parties’ higher education policies ahead of polling day next week.

The EPI, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, carried out an analysis of the three main English political parties’ plans for the future of higher education and concluded all would fail to meet their stated objectives.

The institute described the Conservative’s plans as “surprisingly vague [especially] given that a comprehensive review has just been completed for the government by Philip Augar”.

Read more: Augar review quietly shelved

The review said that the Tories’ “only clear indication of direction” is to reduce interest rates on student loans. This change would disproportionately benefit the highest earners, the institute said.

The review was equally scathing of Labour’s proposal to abolish tuition fees and described the announcement as “surprising and disappointing” given the party’s commitment to social justice. It said there was no evidence the move would improve educational outcomes, access or participation. It also warned greater reliance on taxpayer funding could lead to reduced overall spending on HE.

The EPI said the Liberal Democrat’s proposed “skills wallet” for further and higher education lacks policy detail and does not clearly offer good value for money.

The review said that, in contrast to Labour, the Liberal Democrats were proposing to spend relatively little on higher education and instead “review funding in this area, despite an independent review having only just taken place”.

Like the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats’ “plans in relation to HE are scant on detail”, the review concluded.

Natalie Perera, executive director and head of research at the EPI, said: “Our analysis shows that while each party has some well-designed and helpful policies, none has a properly evidence-based strategy to meet their ambitions.”

Read the full EPI review here. 

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