£7,500 tuition fees plan faces Brexit delay

Wednesday 06th March 2019 07:13 EST

The review of university tuition fees in England has been caught in a Brexit gridlock - and might be delayed until May or later, according to sources.

The government-commissioned review of student finance is expected to call for a cut in fees, with the figure of £7,500 now being floated. The review will send a tough message to universities about value for money.

But further education and skills are expected to be given much more support, including easier access to loans.

University leaders are braced for a recommendation to cut fees from the review chaired by Philip Augar, with private expectations that the current £9,250 will be cut to about £7,500, rather than the £6,500 first suggested.

But it seems increasingly likely that the all-consuming politics and economic uncertainty of Brexit have pushed back the review.

There are also claims of significant differences in what 10 Downing Street, the Treasury and the Department for Education want from the shake-up of fees.

According to sources, a headline cut in fees is seen as important for the prime minister's office - described as being the "retail offer" needed to respond to Labour in a general election.

Universities are anxious about whether any cut in fees will be fully replaced by direct funding - and this, according to sources, is part of the Brexit-related delay.

The Treasury does not want to commit to extra direct funding while there is such uncertainty about future public finances.

But at the same time, the Department for Education is reluctant to go ahead with a cut in students' fees until it is clear how that income could be replaced.

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