Released in May 2019, the Augar report was a result of a 6 person panel chaired by Philip Augar and was the first in England to have a remit for the whole of tertiary education. Parry argues whether its features are the nature of expert panels.
The use of expert panels to advise governments is a favoured form of policy inquiry process. In higher education, especially in the UK, they have replaced committees of inquiry in the tradition of Robbins and Dearing. In further education, there were no such independent inquiries in the first place. Although sitting inside a government-led review and observing its no-go areas, the six-person panel chaired by Philip Augar (which reported in May) was the first, at least in England, to have a remit for the whole of tertiary education. In assessing the system of higher and further education in England, and making recommendations about how it might be strengthened, the panel needed to assemble and generate evidence on a wide front. The scope of the task was worthy of a larger and longer inquiry. The result was a report short on policy history and lesson-drawing but with data and analysis marshalled in support of its core contentions. Most of its recommendations were financial and regulatory. None were structural. The present architecture of tertiary education was deemed fit for purpose. Here also was an inquiry process aligned to existing government policy for a two-type system of academic and technical education. That policy was the creation of another government-convened panel (chaired by David Sainsbury). Two of its members subsequently served on the Augar team. Such features, it will be argued, are of the nature of expert panels. The work they accomplish should be judged accordingly.