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Will higher education wrongs be righted in the budget?

With universities running out of friends and the government keen to act, Andy Westwood wonders what might be in store for higher education in this autumn's budget.

Another week in the political spotlight, as more, largely damaging, stories on higher education have been headlining the broadcasts and the broadsheets. All hopes that the summer’s ‘silly season’ would pass have been largely extinguished. We are now firmly into an autumn news cycle of parliament, party conferences and a budget. In the last few days, we’ve read of plans to “slash student loan rates” (The Sunday Telegraph), of the Conservatives “scrambling to reverse slump in support among young” (Financial Times) and a promise to “name and shame” poorly performing universities (pretty much all news outlets). Today even Matt, the cartoonist in The Daily Telegraph has lampooned universities and their vice-chancellors. This can’t go on, can it? For higher education at least, it doesn’t look like it can end well.

We know how we’ve got here. It’s been a summer of discontent for higher education. From the ‘Corbyn surge’ in the snap general election following his pledge for free tuition fees to growing discontent across the political spectrum about the cost of going to university and particularly repayment terms based on a frozen threshold and a rising interest rate.

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