Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Is the "£800m" on university retention really wasted?

The National Audit Office (prop. Edward Leigh) continues to churn out its tales of waste and woe in the education world. Its latest report allegedly shows that £800 million has been wasted on programmes to retain university students. In fact, the sum being spent is around £160 million a year, as the NAO is doing the sort of thing it and others complained about when Gordon Brown used to do it, wrapping several years' spending together. And there has been a small improvement in retention rates - already among the best in Europe - at a time when there has been a substantial expansion in student numbers, with a growing number from poorer backgrounds. The NAO is on stronger ground when it says that universities should do more one-to-one tuition. But this £160m a year is probably a much better use of resources than the £400m now being poured into maintenance grants for middle class students who would have gone to university anyway.

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