Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Higher Fees, but More Students

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Higher Fees, but More Students

Article excerpt

On 9 December 2010, nearly 50,000 students marched into Parliament Square to protest as MPs voted on raising the cap on tuition fees to [pounds sterling]9,000 per year. Effigies of Nick Clegg were burned. The Liberal Democrats were chastised for betraying their pre-election promise to oppose any increase in fees.

Afterwards, support for the Lib Dems collapsed--down from 57 MPs in 2010 to eight in May this year. But the fears that young people would be priced out of education have not been realised. Today, there are more disadvantaged students from England in university than ever before. Since the tuition-fees hike came into effect in 2012 there has been a 21 per cent increase in attendance by those from the poorest fifth of families, significantly more than in Scotland. Although all socio-economic groups in England are more likely to attend university than in 2012, the increase has been greatest among the least well-off.

For all the anger over the new fees system, it is in many respects more progressive. Loans for tuition fees are now paid back on annual incomes above [pounds sterling]21,000, compared to [pounds sterling]15,000 under the old system. Graduates earning [pounds sterling]21,000 do not have to pay back any of their salary today, where they once had to pay [pounds sterling]540 a year. Over their working lives, the lowest-earning 30 per cent of graduates will pay back less in tuition fees than before the 2010 reforms and only the highest-earning 27 per cent of graduates will have to repay their student loan in full.

The furore over fees led many universities to become more proactive in encouraging disadvantaged students to apply. Research suggests that the generosity of bursary provision had a negligible impact on students' choice of which university to attend. It was not uncommon for a third of eligible students to fail to claim their bursaries. …

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