NEON Response to the National Audit Office ‘The Higher Education Market’ Report: A National Higher Education Finance Information Programme

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The National Audit Office report released last week The Higher Education Market’ pointed to the need for students to make informed choices before they enter HE and for improvement in the information available for prospective students, especially those who require the most support. These findings echo those in the NEON Does Cost Matter research project. Our surveys of over 4000 students entering HE found that less than 10% know how much they are entitled to borrow for maintenance costs and 60% underestimate the amount of debt they are likely to accumulate.

The Does Cost Matter 2 report concludes that there is an urgent need to address the deficiencies in the understanding potential students have regarding the financial support available in HE and calls for a new national Higher Education Finance Information Programme (HEFIP) to include:

A clear definition of what students need to know about the HE student finance system at each Key Stage from 3 to 5.

A commitment from HEIs to devote a given percentage of their outreach investment to student finance awareness work that begins in Key Stage 3 when students are deciding about HE entry.

A commitment from UCAS/BIS/HEIs to write to all applicants electronically when they submit their applications to HE with a brief one-side summary outlining key facts about the HE student finance system.

Production and collation of a set of activities delivered by HEIs, schools and colleges and other agencies on the HE student finance system that can be shared and disseminated.

HEIs to write to all applicants electronically at the point of acceptance to lay out clearly the support they are entitled to from the state and HEIs themselves.

A Kitemark quality system for post-16 providers on HE student finance system information provision which is awarded when they have a trained member of staff who can deliver sessions to students on the HE student finance system.

While NEON would not agree as stated in the report that students could be described as having been potentially ‘mis-sold degrees’, we support the need for improvements in the financial guidance and support prospective students receive.

We would welcome further discussions with interested partner organisations regarding the development of the Higher Education Finance Information Programme (HEFIP).

Please forward all enquiries to Grace Imwensi at grace.imwensi@londonhigher.ac.uk