Cut university tuition fees to £7,500 and bring back grants for poorer students, report recommends
PUBLISHED: 09:40 30 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:14 31 May 2019
University tuition fees should be dropped to £7,500 and maintenance grants for students should be reintroduced, an independent review has claimed.
The Post-18 Education and Funding review said an increased government contribution to teaching costs for universities would protect the sector's overall income.
The review panel also recommended an overhaul of the student loan system to increase the proportion of loans that is eventually repaid including extending the loan repayment system to 40 years.
Proposals to help disadvantaged students were also put forward including the reintroduction of maintenance grants of at least £3,000 a year.
Author Dr Philip Augur said the review revealed "a story of both care and neglect" in post-18 education in England.
PM: 'Removing maintenance grants has not worked'
In a speech on Thursday prime minister Theresa May is expected to say she was "not surprised" to see the panel argue for the reintroduction of maintenance grants.
She will say: "It will be up to the government to decide, at the upcoming Spending Review, whether to follow this recommendation.
"But my view is very clear: removing maintenance grants from the least well-off students has not worked, and I believe it is time to bring them back."
Mrs May will also call for reform to tuition fees to ensure value for money for students and the taxpayer.
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'Disparities need to be addressed'
The review's 53 recommendations for government cover the 50pc of young people who do not attend higher education as well as the 50pc who do.
Dr Augar, chairman of the panel, said: "Our work revealed that post-18 education in England is a story of both care and neglect, depending on whether students are amongst the 50pc of young people who participate in higher education or the rest.
"The panel believes that this disparity simply has to be addressed."
He added: "Our proposals are designed to build on the considerable achievements of our universities - one of the UK's world class industries - with a particular focus on the economy's needs and improving value for money for students and taxpayers.
"We also seek to rebuild further education, for too long the Cinderella sector, and see technical and vocational education as a means of addressing the country's skills gap."
Tuition fees in England were trebled in 2012 and the vast majority of courses now cost the maximum of £9,250 per year.
According to estimates by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the average student can now leave university owing more than £50,000.
Both Norwich University of the Arts and the University of East Anglia charge the top whack, £9,250, for UK students on undergraduate courses. City College Norwich currently charges £7,500 for most of its degree courses, which are UEA validated, with higher fees for more expensive degrees such as aviation engineering (£9,000).
The panel is recommending the cap on the fee chargeable should be reduced to £7,500 per year, and could be introduced by 2021/22.
Responding to the review, the Fair Access Coalition said: "An increase in maintenance support, more support for part-time degrees, greater flexibility to gain a degree through bitesize courses, a funding boost for further education, are all welcome steps.
"But they will do nothing to improve social mobility overall if the funding for widening participation activity is cut."