Bishop of Durham responds to statement on higher education reform

The Bishop of Durham asked a question on proposed higher education reforms in response to a government statement on 28th February 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I declare my interest as chair of the National Society. I thank the Minister for what is a very significant Statement, with wide-ranging implications for higher and further education, social mobility and the economy, current and potential students, and the future of many communities. A number of the policy ambitions are welcome, such as the higher technical qualifications. My concern, and hence my question, is about the unintended potential consequences of some of the proposals. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that these proposed reforms actively increase opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who aim at professional careers in our vital public and community services, or in fields such as the creative industries, which seem to fall outside the high-quality and high-cost criteria for intended increases in strategic investment described in the consultation documents?

Baroness Barran (Con): I may have touched on some of the points that I hope can address the right reverend Prelate’s question. To go back to the consultations, they are explicitly to help us avoid unintended consequences and to get input from as wide a circle of stakeholders as possible. Obviously, we believe, as Philip Augar did in his review, that a modular, lifelong education system with the funding to back it up will be accessible, lead to greater career development over somebody’s lifetime and meet the skills needed in the economy. Specific elements, such as the scholarship I mentioned, can be used not just for higher education but for further education and apprenticeships. Lastly, these changes must also be taken in the context of the major investment in and major reforms we have made to further education and the bringing together of the funding approach between higher technical qualifications at level 4 and 5 and degrees.


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