University tuition fees 'should be cut to £7,500’

Tuesday 04th June 2019 17:35 EDT

University tuition fees in England should be cut to £7,500, says a landmark review commissioned by the government. This will be balanced by extending repayments from 30 to 40 years - so that people could be paying back student loans into their 60s.

But the review calls for the return of maintenance grants, which were axed in 2016, for poorer students. Prime Minister Theresa May said scrapping them had been a mistake.

The review, chaired by the banker Philip Augar, has come up with ideas to provide better value for money in higher and further education. His big conclusions are that fees are too high in university - and that funding is too low in further education.

Universities have seen "generous funding" while other sectors have faced austerity, he argues, and he suggests that more support should be switched towards vocational education. The review proposes:

- Maximum for tuition fees should be reduced from £9,250 to £7,500 per year

- Any unpaid debts would not be cancelled until 40 years after graduating, rather than 30 years

- Repayments start at a lower point, when graduates earn £23,000 rather than £25,725

- Means-tested, non-repayable maintenance grants of up to £3,000, for both university and higher-level technical courses

- More funding for further education and more access to loans for students on vocational courses

- "Lifelong learning loan allowance" to support students of all ages

- University funding would be targeted towards high-cost subjects and those considered a priority and away from those seen as "low value"

The review is the prime minister's personal project and she pressed ahead with publishing its findings in her final days in office. It will be one of the last major announcements before she leaves No 10 - and she spoke with conviction about trying to drive "social mobility".

Mrs May accepted that her party's abolition of maintenance fees had not worked. But she argued the package of measures would remove barriers and make sure that no-one should feel that "because of who they are or where they are from, the world of higher education is not open to them".

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