University tuition fees could be £10,000 a year by 2020

6 ways the 2012 increase has impacted students

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University tuition fees could be £10,000 a year by 2020 & 6 ways the 2012 increase has impacted students

Studying could cost up to £10,000 a year by 2020 sparking debt concerns, a report looking at how students have been impacted by rising tuition fees has predicted.

The coalition government allowed universities to charge students up to £9,000 tuition fees a year (three times more than before) from the 2012 academic year onwards and in turn the Independent Commission on Fees was created to analyse the effect.

The final report, published today, reveals the overall impact of the increase and also warns the Government to be "extremely wary" of major increases or lifting the fee cap entirely in the future.

Here's how students have been affected.

1. The same number of undergrads are going to uni

There were fewer applications and acceptances in the 2012 academic year, but these "bounced back" after the initial dip. According to the Commission "no obviously detrimental change to recruitment patterns has been picked up".

2. Fewer part-time and mature students are taking courses

Since the fees increased, there has been a "significant and sustained fall" in part-time and mature students with the new fee regime considered a "major contributory factor" to this.

3. Students are still worried about finance and debt

Well yeah, obviously... Of 1,000 UK sixth-formers questioned, 78% were "very or fairly concerned" about student living costs, 68% concerned about tuition fees and 58% worried about repaying their loans after uni.

4. There are "significant longer term issues" for students

Previous research by the same people found many students will still be paying off student debts into their 50s, while the public purse probably won't even get back around 45% of its loans.

5. Selective unis aren't recruiting enough students from less advantaged backgrounds

Although the number of students from less advantaged backgrounds has shown some improvement, the gap between these and more privileged students at "more selective" unis remains "unacceptably high".

6. Women from less advantaged backgrounds are more likely to get a uni place than men

In less advantaged households, females are almost 50% more likely to gain a place than males, widening the gender gap.

Here's what the report recommends.

As a result of the longer term issues of the current student loan system (see point 4 about some never even being paid off), the Commission is urging the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to investigate whether it actually provides value for money for students. And the taxpayer of course.

It also points out the Government should be "extremely wary" of increasing fees or removing the fee cap completely. In George Osborne's last budget he said fees could increase with inflation, but only in return for "demonstrating excellent teaching".

The Commission is also encouraging better co-ordination of university outreach work as they get £800 million from fees to do so and must provide better evidence they are using it.

Reaction

Commission chair Will Hutton said debt is likely to become a bigger issue for students in the future.

He said: "Under the current system, nearly three-quarters of students will fail to clear their student loans before they are written off after 30 years, and the large majority will still be paying off their loans well into their 40s, figures that will increase with the abolition of grants and increase in fees. It is not clear that students will continue to disregard debt.

"At the same time, it looks increasingly likely that any anticipated gains to the Treasury will be largely wiped out by these non-payments. It's absolutely vital that the OBR establishes what the knock-on effects of the student loan system will be in the future on both students and the national finances so we know whether the current system is offering us value for money and economic security."

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: "In June 2015 the Student Funding Panel reviewed the current student fees and loan system in England and concluded that the system was broadly fit for purpose and needed to be given time to work.

"During the course of its work, the panel took evidence from over 3,000 students. This evidence showed that students were more concerned about the level of maintenance support they receive while studying, than they were about the longer-term repayment of their student loans.

"Allowing the value of the fee to be maintained in real terms is essential to allow universities to continue to deliver a high-quality learning experience for students."

A Business Department spokeswoman said the Government is committed to giving everyone the opportunity to gain a degree.

Professor Anne West, director of the Education Research Group, at the London School of Economics, said: "The research published by the Independent Commission on Fees raises serious concerns about the current student loans system.

"Moreover, the planned changes to fees and to student financial support are likely to have far-reaching negative effects on students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have been beneficiaries of maintenance grants, which reduce later indebtedness."

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