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Why are universities pricing students out of higher education?

When the government allowed English universities to up tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 there was widespread disapproval and now with another rise looking likely, Sir Peter Lampl asks when will universities stop pricing students out of a degree?


Fees look set to rise to £9,250 in line with inflation as set out in the first year of the teaching excellence framework (TEF).

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of social mobility charity the Sutton Trust, said that while the Trust welcomed “moves to improve teaching quality, it is unfair that fees will rise with inflation but the level at which graduates start to repay their loans remains frozen at £21,000.

“And a real concern is that the removal of maintenance grants will almost certainly deter poorer students, who now face debts of over £50,000 on graduation.

“This announcement also does nothing to address the crisis in mature and part-time students, whose numbers have fallen dramatically since the 2012 fees rise.”


MPs have the potential to block the move and following PM Theresa May’s first speech which focused heavily on opportunities for all, this could be a possibility. A challenge to fee rises doesn’t require a vote in Parliament, but a move by “praying against” with an Early Day Motion.

Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, told  “For all new students and eligible continuing students who started their full-time courses on or after 1 September 2012 and are undertaking courses at publicly funded higher education providers that have achieved a TEF rating of meets expectations, maximum tuition fee caps will be increased by forecast inflation (2.8 per cent) in 2017-18.

“For publicly funded providers that have achieved a TEF rating of Meets Expectations and have an access agreement with the Office for Fair Access (Offa), the maximum tuition fee cap for full-time courses will be £9,250 in 2017-18.”

Degrees of debt

Sir Peter Lampl’s charity the Sutton Trust produced a report earlier this year analysing the levels of debt UK graduates left university with compared to other countries. On average, UK students had amassed higher levels of debt compared with the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking to, Sean Smyth of Unite lamented the new proposals: “The management in universities have high, six-figure salaries, our students are leaving with high, five-figure debt, that’s not sustainable, it’s not good for our youth and not good for our education.”

The Sutton Trust’s Degrees of Debt report is available to read, here:

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