73% of today's students will still be paying off their tuition fees in their 50s

Report warns of sharp rise in debt levels lasting until middle age and calls for review of education funding

Education Editor

Three out of four of today’s students will reach their 50s still owing debts from university of around £30,000, according to a major study published today.

The study, carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies for education charity the Sutton trust, reveals that today’s students leave university with an average debt of £44,000 - almost double those of young people who left before the new fees of up to £9,000 a year came into force.

It says that nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) will fail to clear their debts, and may only have them written off 30 years after graduating, by which time they could be in their mid-50s.

By the time the debt is written off, they are likely to have had to repay £35,446 on average - at a time when they are marrying, setting up home and starting a family.

Only five per cent will repay their debts by the time they are 40, compared with around half of all graduates under the old system.

Claire Crawford, of the IFS and the University of Warwick and a co-author of the report, said: “The new HE finance system will leave graduates with much more debt than before."

However, she added: “Graduates who do less well in the labour market will actually end up paying back less than before, while middle and high earners will pay back much more.” 

Students do not have to start repaying their loans until they earn £21,000 a year, as opposed to £15,000 under the old system.

The report cites the instance of a typical teacher on the average wage for the profession and in continuous employment, who will still owe around £37,000 at the age of 40 and will be expected to repay £1,700 to £2,500 a year throughout their 40s and early fifties “at a time when their children are still at school and family and mortgage costs are at their most pressing”.

“Yet, even with this extra charge on middle earners, there is an increasing likelihood that the Government will end up failing to recoup most of its loans.”

Toni Pearce, president of the National Union of Students, said; “Forcing debt on to students as a way of funding universities is an experiment that has failed our country.”

Today’s report comes a week after Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor of Reading University and a former permanent secretary at the Department for Education, said a second “Browne-style” inquiry into student finance was now necessary and was likely to be set up after the 2015 general election. Lord Browne chaired the inquiry which led to the introduction of the £9,000-a-year fees.

It also comes just after the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills admitted that 45 per cent of student debts were unlikely to be repaid, according to estimates.

“It seems middle income earners pay back a lot more but the Exchequer gains little in return,” said Conor Ryan, director of research at the Sutton Trust, which campaigns for equal access for all students to universities. 

“We believe that the Government needs to look again at fees, loans and teaching grants to get a fairer balance.”

Meanwhile, four out of 10 students who get the lowest grades at A-level - three Es - still end up going to university, according to a new study by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, also published today.

The figures show this rises to 60 per cent when only those who take “facilitating subjects” - i.e A-levels ;in subjects like  English, maths and science which are more likely to gain a place at a top university - are considered.

The survey also reveals that the number of language students at university is still in serious decline - with a 22 per cent drop in places awarded between 2010/11 and 2012/13.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: 1st Line IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpd...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Audit Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Audit Graduate Opportunities ar...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

FDM Group: Business and Technical IT Consultants – London, Manchester, Glasgow

21,000-24,000: FDM Group: Kick-start your career and join FDM’s award-winning ...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there