On 8 March 2017 the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, delivered what is likely to be the last Spring Budget for the foreseeable future. The Budget Report itself runs to some 64 pages and contains five chapters. The most relevant chapter for education institutions is chapter four, which deals with productivity, as it is here that the Chancellor makes a number of announcements relevant to education institutions.
Further and Higher Education
The Government’s view is that whilst the academic route from GCSEs, to A-levels, to higher education is well regarded and high quality, more needs to be done in relation to the technical education system - as was identified in the Industrial Strategy green paper.
The Budget contains two specific measures to deal with this as follows:
• T-levels: 16 to 19 technical education. The Government has announced that it will introduce the new T-levels from autumn 2019, with over £500 million of additional funding being invested per year once the routes are fully implemented. Students will be able to chose from 15 different routes. The number of programme hours of training will increase by more than 50%, to over 900 hours a year on average, including the completion of a high quality industry work placement during the programme.
• Further Education maintenance loans. The Government wishes to encourage students to continue their training at high quality institutions such as National Colleges or Institutes of Technology and therefore from 2019/20 will provide maintenance loans to students on technical education courses at levels 4 to 6 at these institutions.
The Government recognises that individuals should have the opportunity to retrain and upskill at all points in their lives and to develop skills at the highest level. Consequently the Budget sets out four steps to achieve this ambition:
1. Part-time maintenance loans. Following consultation on this topic the Government has announced that it will introduce part-time maintenance loans for students starting a degree level course at a higher education provider in academic year 2018/19. The Government then intends to extend this to distance learning courses and level 4 and 5 higher education qualifications from the academic year 2019/20.
2. Doctoral loans. The Government has also confirmed, following a consultation, that it will introduce a new doctoral loan scheme providing up to £25,000 to eligible students starting their studies from academic year 2018/19 onwards. The loan will provide a contribution to the costs of study rather than covering the full fees and living costs for students and will be paid directly to the student rather than to the student’s institution.
3. Lifelong learning pilot. The Government has announced that it will be spend up to £40 million by £2018/19 to test different approaches to help people retrain and upskill through their working lives.
4. Return to work support. The Government will work with business groups and public sector organisations to identify how best to increase the numbers returning to employment following lengthy career breaks. The Government has said it will invest £5 million worth of new funding in this project.
The Government has also given further information about the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) which was established in the Autumn Statement 2016 to provide over £23 billion of high value investment between 2017/18 and 2021/22. In the Autumn Statement the Government announced that £4.7 billion from the NPIF would go to research and development and further information has now been provided on how some of that money will be invested.
The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) will support collaborations between businesses and the UK science base with an initial investment of £270 million in 2017/18. This will include:
• Developing, designing and manufacturing batteries that will power the next generation of electric vehicles;
• Developing cutting edge artificial intelligence and robotic systems that will operate in extreme and hazardous environments; and
• Accelerating patient access to new drugs and treatment through developing brand new medicine manufacturing technologies.
The NPIF will also invest £250 million over the next four years on building a pipeline of high-skilled research talent necessary for a growing and innovative economy as follows:
• £90 million will provide an additional 1,000 PhD places in areas aligned with the Industrial Strategy. The Government states that around 85% of these places will be in STEM disciplines.
• £160 million will support new fellowships for early and mid-career researchers in areas aligned to the Industrial Strategy.
The NPIF will also invest over £100 million during the course of the next four years to attract the brightest minds to the UK by:
• ring-fencing £50 million of funding specifically for fellowship programmes to attract global talent; and
• allocating over £50 million to support fellowships that attract researchers to the UK from emerging research powerhouses such as India, China, Brazil and Mexico.
The Government is of the opinion that there are one million children in underperforming schools and the Budget sets out the following further steps that the Government is taking to ensure that every child has the opportunity of a good place at school:
• Schools investment. £320 million will be invested during the course of the current Parliament to extend the free schools programme by funding up to 140 schools, The intention is that 30 of these schools will open by September 2020 and will be located “where they are most needed to improve the choice of schools available to parents, following a rigorous assessment of local factors”.
• School maintenance. A further £216 million will be invested to improve the condition of the school estate.
• School transport. The Government says it wishes to ensure that children from disadvantaged backgrounds have every opportunity to access the best possible education, without the cost of transport acting as a barrier. It has therefore announced the provision of free transport for children aged 11 to 16, who receive free school meals or whose parents claim maximum working tax credit, to attend the nearest selective school in their area (this will need to be within two to 15 miles of their home). The Government has said this is to bring the transport provision for free schools in line with that for those travelling to their nearest school on faith or belief grounds.