This week Theresa May launched a year-long review into post-18 education and its funding. The review will consider the state of academic, technical and vocational education, part-time and life-long learning, and student finance.
The Government’s press release states that the review will focus on “driving up quality, increasing choice and ensuring value for money”.
The review will be carried out by an independent panel chaired by Philip Augar, author and former non-executive director of the Department for Education. More information about the review and its panel can be found here.
Will this mean that tuition fees are lowered or scrapped?
The Government has not pledged to lower fees, but the review will consider:
“how students and graduates contribute to the cost of their studies to ensure funding arrangements across post-18 education in the future are transparent and do not stop people from accessing higher education or training.”
Damian Hinds, Education Secretary, has said that it is “right that we ask questions about choice and value for money” when most institutions are charging £9250 for their courses” and has called for “more variety” in fee levels, suggesting that this could be met by universities offering shorter courses. Again, however, these have not been stated as official aims of the review.
Some newspapers have reported that ministers are considering a blanket lowering of tuition fees to £6000 per year, but again this has not been reflected in the official communications regarding the review or confirmed by statements from the Prime Minister or Education Secretary.
Theresa May has explicitly ruled out scrapping tuition fees.
How will it affect me?
It is very unlikely that the review will affect current students. The results of the review will not be published until 2019, and any specific recommendations regarding tuition fee rates would be subject to Parliamentary approval and Royal Assent.
Fees for 2018/19 at Newcastle for UK and EU students will be frozen at £9250.
From April 2018 the income threshold for repaying your tuition fee loan will rise from £21,000 to £25,000.
What is NUSU’s position on tuition fees?
NUSU is opposed to any increase in tuition fees, but does not currently have an official position on the introduction of a variable fee system.
If you would like to debate these issues at NUSU’s Student Council, you can find out more about writing and submitting a motion here.
What has been the reaction?
Labour has criticised the review. Angela Rayner, Shadow Education Secretary, has reiterated the Party’s pledge to "abolish tuition fees, bring back maintenance grants and provide free, lifelong education in further education colleges".
Shakira Martin, President of the National Union of Students, has also criticised the review, describing it as a “missed opportunity”.
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK has said that the review is “an opportunity to examine the evidence and to make improvements”.
Recent modelling undertaken by the LSE estimates that the cost of lowering fees to £6000 would cost £1.169 billion whereas the reintroduction of maintenance grants would cost £360 million.