'Value for money', May launches review of high university fees


Universities in England can now charge up to £9,250 a year in fees, with the £3,000 cap being lifted in 2012. Education Secretary Damian Hinds maintains that the solution is more variety in the level of fees universities charge for courses, but has offered no detail in how the government will ensure such a result occurs.

The prime minister will say: "The competitive market between universities, which the system of variable tuition fees envisaged, has simply not emerged".

May's speech is expected to criticise the cost of tuition fees, suggesting that "the level of fees charged do not relate to the cost or quality of the course". Undergraduate students at Canadian universities paid around £3,600 in tuition in 2016/17. Crucially, the current system could be better understood and feel fairer to students.

The decision to abolish maintenance grants and replace them with loans has also sparked concern, with claims the policy hits the poorest students the hardest and saddles them with more debt.

"Also, it creates a two-tier system - students from poorer families will choose those courses with the lowest fees disadvantaging themselves from the start".

The review will consider "how we can give people from disadvantaged backgrounds an equal chance to succeed".

The Government-led review, supported by an independent chair and panel, will look at all aspects of student funding, including the maintenance support available to help with the cost of living.

Theresa May's plans for tuition fees and the university funding system have faced criticism from across the education sector - with some suggesting they could do "more harm" than good.

The Prime Minister's speech comes after the Treasury Committee published a series of recommendations last week, which called on the government to reconsider high-interest rates on student loans. "It's right that we now ask questions about how the system operates".

Hinds disagreed, however. He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Lord Adonis rejected the idea of different subjects having different costs as a 'big backward step, which would reduce numbers applying for science subjects, if they became more expensive than arts and humanities.

"But I think there are different considerations for courses".

"However, with a system where nearly all institutions are charging the same price for courses - when some clearly cost more than others and some have higher returns to the student than others - it is right that we ask questions about choice and value for money". It might mean shorter courses, which also means less time out of the labour market, more opportunities to be able to study while you work'.

In a speech created to show her programme for Britain is more than just its departure from the European Union, May said she wanted not only to look at the funding of education but also at ways of raising the importance of technical studies to prepare the country for life after Brexit in the high-tech age.

Jewish leaders applauded him on Monday, after he said he meant to allow new faith schools to recruit more than 50 percent of their pupils by religion, which they are now restricted to.

But Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said the most important recent change was not the raising of the fee cap but the removal of the student number controls, and shifting more of the cost onto taxpayers would make their re-imposition more likely, which would be bad news for social mobility.

There is a culture of seeing non-university higher education as "for someone else's child", said May, but she aims to address this stigma in her review.