In 2012, the government changed how higher education is funded in England. It no longer provides money directly to universities in the form of teaching grants (except for more expensive courses). To make up for this, universities can charge students substantially higher tuition fees. Students are entitled to take out a government-backed loan, which they do not have to repay until after graduation. However, due to the higher fees, students requiring loans must now borrow substantially larger amounts. Real interest rates were also added to these loans, but the threshold for repayments was also increased to £21,000 a year. This report commissioned from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) examines the financial implications of the 2012 reforms for graduates. In particular, the authors calculate the differences between graduating under the new 2012–13 system and the old 2011–12 system. The changes made to the size and terms of student loans are key to understanding the impact of the 2012 reforms both on average and for different types of graduates.
1. Universities should be more transparent about how specific subject departments use and evaluate personal statements. This information should be shared widely, and effectively, with applicants, schools and teachers.
2. Sections of detailed analysis and reflection in personal statements are highly valued by academics. Schools should support applicants in providing opportunities to undertake and reflect upon academic enrichment activities.
3. Schools and colleges need to improve the quality of staff training to ensure that key messages are consistent and based on up to date guidelines.
4. Both universities and UCAS should consider whether the format of the personal statement could be improved to ensure it is a useful and fair indicator of an applicant’s potential.