University of Peterborough budget may need drastic re-think if review calls for tuition fees cut

Cllr John Holdich and city council education cabinet member Cllr Lynne Ayres at the site for the new campus.
Cllr John Holdich and city council education cabinet member Cllr Lynne Ayres at the site for the new campus.
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The budget for the new University of Peterborough may need a drastic re-think if a government commissioned report due out this week recommends reducing student tuition fees.

That was the message put before Business Board members of the Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority by deputy chair Professor Andy Neely, who is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge.

Speaking at their meeting in Alconbury yesterday (Tuesday), he went on to add: “We don’t know what the ‘Augar Review’ has in it yet, but there is every sign that the current annual rate of tuitions fees of £9,250 will be reduced to £7,500 or even lower.

“This means all of our budget figures for the University of Peterborough project currently in our pipeline for 2019/20 will need to be re-thought.”

Professor Aamir Khalid, chairman of the Business Board and chief executive of TWI Ltd, said: “When the report is published we will look at convening a board meeting to discuss it.

“For now, we’ve calculated some figures based on the likely outcome, but whichever way you look at it this it will have a big influence of the budget for the University of Peterborough.”

Prime Minister Theresa May commissioned the review in February 2018, tasking it with improving the availability of high-quality technical and vocational courses for school leavers after years of decline in non-university options.

Chaired by the banker Philip Augar, the review aims to ease financial pressures on young people, helping them to divert from university degrees to vocational and technical courses.

To do this, interest rates on student loans could be reduced from 6.3 per cent to as little as 1.5 per cent, with further education colleges receiving cash boosts.

Publication of the review will form an important part of Mrs May’s legacy following the announcement of her departure, and means her successor will have to implement the findings, with its recommendations potentially an issue in the campaign to replace her as leader of the Conservative party.

A new prime minister could also relax some of the tough immigration policies associated with Mrs May’s tenure, criticised for damping demand for study in the UK by foreign students.

Universities and employers have called for international students to be able to work for longer in the UK after they finish their studies. However, the government’s Migration Advisory Committee last year recommended increasing the limit for those completing undergraduate degrees from the current four months to just six months.

The University of Peterborough is one of the combined authority’s primary projects and is due to open its doors in September 2022.