The Augar Review, a report commissioned by Theresa May into Higher Education funding, has recommended tuition fees be cut to £7,500 per year, but to lower the income threshold when graduates re-pay their student debt.
The report also recommends an extension to the debt ‘write-off’ period, from 30 to 40 years. This could mean graduates would have to repay their university debt until nearing retirement in their sixties.
Whilst tuition fees would be cut to £7,500, this rate would only be frozen until the 2023-24 academic year – after this, tuition fees would rise with inflation.
Currently, graduates begin to repay their student loans when they earn £25,725, and can do so for up to 30 years, when their debt is written off. The new report would lower the threshold to £23,000 and extend the re-payment period to 40 years.
Another key recommendation of the report is the re-introduction of maintenance grants, which were scrapped under David Cameron’s government in 2016.
Although the report was commissioned by Theresa May, it will be up to her successor to decide on the future of the proposals, as any tuition fee changes must be passed in Parliament.
In a statement President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, said: “
“The Augar Review of Post-18 Education and Funding in England makes some important and potentially far-reaching recommendations.
“Some of these are welcome, such as support for further education and the recommendation to reintroduce the maintenance grant for disadvantaged students.
“It recommends reducing the cap on undergraduate UK/EU fees to £7,500 (vs the current cap of £9,250) but states that the major gap in funding this would create must be made up by additional Government funding. Failure to create these funds in full would have a significant negative impact on all our students, but especially for those from low income households.
“We were also disappointed to see a proposed freeze on the fees cap until 2023/24. This would have a detrimental effect on universities’ ability to deliver and improve an excellent service for our students in the face of rising costs. The impact of the Review will not be known until it is clarified whether any cut in fee cap will be fully matched by direct Government funding, so this creates some ongoing uncertainties. We will continue to participate in ongoing discussions on this important issue.”
Fatima Abid, General Secretary of the Students’ Union, said: “While the headlines might look good, it’s the details that matter and at the moment it looks like students might be worse off because of these recommendations.
“A cut in tuition fee is meaningless if it means less resources and support for students from the University, and poorer students paying back more money over a longer period. But I welcome the idea about bringing back the maintenance grant but like many of the reports good ideas it doesn’t go far enough.”
Kashmala Carys, a Molecular Biology with IE student, said: “I do think it is a good idea, or at least a better situation than we have currently. In a government bound by Brexit, it’s nice to know that haven’t forgotten about other important matters which resonate with younger members of the population.
“This is important because we will one day be in their shoes running the country and deserve a right to know enough about the world and thus access to education. This will ultimately help to improve society for the better in the future.”