Student tuition fees could rise again, warns former Universities Minister David Willetts

Willets argues that universities should be allowed to increase fees in line with inflation for the lifetime of this Parliament

Richard Garner
Wednesday 17 June 2015 18:25
Comments

A warning that student fees could rise again was delivered by former Universities Minister David Willetts as he insisted the ceiling of £9,000 a year could not be held indefinitely.

In a pamphlet published by the Policy Institute at King’s College London, Mr Willetts - who was minister when the current system was introduced - argues that, as a first step universities should be allowed to increase them in line with inflation for the lifetime of this Parliament.

In addition, he wants the level at which students have to repay loans for their fees to be frozen at the current level of £21,000 - again for the lifetime of this Parliament.

Under an agreement with the Liberal Democrats at the time of its introduction, the ceiling was allowed to increase every year in line with inflation.

His comments come as financial experts warn up to 45 per cent of student debt will remain unpaid when the 30-year period during which debts can be repaid comes to an end - costing billions of pounds.

However, Mr Willetts acknowledges in the pamphlet that universities have not won the argument for higher fees and indicates they must be made to provide clear evidence of how they will spend fee income before they are allowed to charge beyond £9,000 a year.

On the repayment threshold, he argues that lower than expected wage inflation has made the £21,000 a year ceiling appear higher than was expected.

“The high repayment threshold was seen as a generous and attractive feature of the Coalition Government’s arrangements - whereas we have learned that slow pay back is not particularly popular,” he says.

Asked whether they preferred the previous threshold for repayment of £15,000 a year, 44 per cent of parents said they did as against 36 per cent who did not.

Mr Willetts also argues that there should be a five-yearly review of student finance at the start of each government - which could decide issues like reducing the threshold for repayment and/or increasing fees.

In addition, he wants to see increased spending on student maintenance arguing: “In my experience they (students) are far more worried about the cash they need to live on now than about repaying through PAYE at a rate of nine per cent of their earnings above a high threshold.”

To cushion the blow for the exchequer, this extra funding could be provided through loans - rather than a cash grant.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in