General
07 Dec 2007

The Open University calls on Government to reconsider proposal to change university funding as MPs launch inquiry

The OU welcomes inquiry announcement

The OU welcomes inquiry announcement

Parliamentary committee sets up inquiry into funding plans;

More than 100 MPs urge the Government to minimise the damage to lifelong learning and the Leitch Agenda;

12,500 sign Downing Street petition.

The Open University welcomes yesterday’s announcement by the newly-formed Innovation, Universities and Skills Select Committee to conduct an inquiry into the funding of universities and colleges for students taking second higher education level qualifications at an equivalent or lower level than their first.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Brenda Gourley said the inquiry would offer the opportunity for the proper debate about proposed changes to the funding system and their effects – something that the University and many others have been calling for.

She said: “We continue to be extremely concerned about the implications of this plan which, according to HEFCE, will lead to more than £30m of our teaching grant being phased out.

“The Select Committee inquiry reflects the groundswell of concern among students, former students, university staff and politicians from across the political spectrum about these proposals. For the Select Committee to address this as the subject of one of its first inquiries also underlines the seriousness of the issue.

“It is pleasing to see that the scope of the inquiry will extend to many of the areas that are of greatest concern to the University, not least the rationale for phasing out this funding, the speed with which it is being implemented and the impact on departments of adult education and on institutions such as The Open University and Birkbeck. Rest assured that The Open University will be making its concerns fully known to the Select Committee.”

Now 112 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion that calls on the Government to consider ways in which it can minimise the damage that the funding changes would do to lifelong learning and the delivery of the Leitch agenda objectives.

Professor Gourley added: “The cross-party support that the Early Day Motion has attracted is testament to the significant concerns about the impact of the proposed changes on the lifelong learning agenda. There will be a financial disincentive to institutions to cater for people who wish to develop new skills and knowledge, to the benefit of our economy.”

The issue has also attracted 12,500 signatures on a petition on the Downing Street website.

The announcement of the inquiry comes a day ahead of the closing date for responses to the proposals to be made to the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, wrote to the Funding Council in September that he intends to end Government funding for higher education students in England and Open University students in Northern Ireland if the qualification they are studying towards is only equivalent to, or lower than, one they already hold. The majority of these students are in the part-time sector.

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