By Kate Brown
Theresa May launched her review of university funding and tuition fees, with the current structure of £9000 undergraduate tuition fees under scrutiny.
The Prime Minister stated that students in England face “one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world” and “the level of fees charged do not relate to the cost of quality of the course”. Additionally, Theresa May stated that she was committed to the principle that students “who benefit directly from higher education should contribute directly towards the cost of it”.
The options considered for the review included cutting tuition fees for students in England to a figure closer to £6000. However, calculations by the London Economics Consultancy Firm found that cutting fees to this figure would take more than £3bn a year away from universities. This would predominantly benefit higher earning graduates, who would pay less back in student loans.
Whilst Labour has said it would abolish fees and bring back maintenance grants, the Prime Minister said this would be unfair and damaging to Universities.
The treasury select committee, chaired by former education secretary Nicky Morgan raised concerns about the high levels of interest rates. Figures provided by the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed that students in England face more than £5000 in interest charges before they have even left University which contribute to average graduate debts of more than £50,000. The tuition fee review will consider cutting interest rates on loans in order to reduce costs.
A greater variety in the level of fees has been put forward in order to encourage flexibility in how courses are delivered. For instance, commuter degrees whereby students can live at home and continue to work whilst completing a part-time degree.
President of the Universities UK, Dame Janet Beer, said the priorities considered should be to support disadvantaged students and to reverse the collapse in numbers of part-time and mature students.