How to get a good deal for students

Branwen Jeffreys
Education Editor
@branwenjeffreyson Twitter

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There have been around 400 submissions to a panel looking at how to pay for study beyond the age of 18 and there's a lot to chew over.

Many responses are about how difficult it is to understand student finance, and how poorly it works for some, such as those studying part time .

Philip Augar is the former financier and writer who has the tricky job of leading the group advising the government.

Tricky because the issue of tuition fees has become the political equivalent of molten lava.

What the independent panel recommend in a report, expected in November this year, will shape government policy in the run up to the next election.

In his first public speech, Philip Augar said an economic priority is the difficulty in filling technical jobs in the UK.

At the same time he said there was a large pool of graduates doing what might be considered non-graduate jobs.

He was speaking at a conference all about universities and their funding, hosted by the higher education policy group WONKHE.

So have universities grown too much?

"I think I've already not answered that question," he replied.

You'll have gathered he wasn't about to give anything away about the recommendations which the panel will draft over the summer and early autumn.

But he did confirm they are looking at how to make the system work better for more students.

"We need to get rid of a permafrost in our society that determines your education and career prospects."

And more than once Philip Augar described a lack of coherence in the system.

This suggests they are thinking about how to make it easier for students to study where and how works best for them.

That could mean making it even easier to move between a college and a university, or to change universities without stacking up extra debt.

Fewer than 2% of university students switch from one institution to another because you have to start again and borrow for an extra year.

A system of transferable credits would be one way of making that easier.