On the 2 February, I wrote to Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, to express my concern about plans to remove the London weighting from the Teaching Grant for higher education institutions. I asked him to delay or reconsider this change.
Dear Secretary of State,
I write in connection with the decision to remove the London weighting element of the Teaching Grant for higher education institutions for the next financial year.
I am told this will reduce funding for some of our best global universities and colleges by £64 million pounds at a time when most are already under serious financial strain because of the pandemic. Some individual institutions face losses of up to £6m in next year’s budget at very short notice and, I am told, entirely without consultation. This is simply unacceptable.
There are obvious risks to the international reputations and research excellence of London’s universities. Living and working costs for staff in London are significantly higher than elsewhere, as you know, and without funding to cover these additional costs, it seems inevitable that staff numbers, facilities, or support programmes will have to be cut, damaging the quality of teaching and the experiences of students. This is a terrible time for such a cut to be made – the generation it will immediately affect are those whose learning has been damaged already by recent limits to teaching, exam and qualifications chaos, and a severely disrupted economy with reduced employment opportunities.
Newham is one of the most deprived areas in the country, with the second highest child poverty rate, and my young constituents already overcome so many barriers to achieve excellent results in education and their career aspirations. A high proportion choose to study near home, at London’s many universities and colleges, particularly to save on otherwise extortionate living costs and avoid getting into even more debt. Many take advantage of the opportunities that our excellent technical and vocational institutions offer.
London’s universities and colleges build on the fantastic work of Newham’s schools in giving my constituents the chance to realise their enormous potential. I am not aware of any evidence that the higher living costs for staff and other higher costs that make excellent education more expensive to provide in London have gone away.
I would therefore be grateful to receive answers to the following questions at your earliest convenience. What is the justification for removing London weighting from the Teaching Grant? Who was consulted before this decision was made? What action will you take to prevent job losses and a reduction in the quality of education offered to my constituents as a result of this decision? Will you delay or reconsider this decision, in the light of the extreme disruption London institutions and students are facing at this time, and the little time available before the new financial year begins?
I look forward to reading your response.