/ Money

Where do you stand on £9,000 student fees?

Students protesting against tuition fee rise on December 9th

With university tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year set to hit students’ pockets from 2012, we take a closer look at the plans and ask you whether the new fees are needed, and perhaps more importantly, fair.

After months of angry controversy which, in central London, bled into full-blown rioting, it seems the government has narrowly won the argument. From 2012, universities will be allowed to charge as much as £9,000 a year for tuition.

Last Thursday’s vote on the reform of higher education was a slim victory for the coalition, with a number of Liberal Democrats and even some Conservative MPs voting against the plans. And today, the House of Lords will debate the measure – with Labour peers determined to try and block it.

But was this a hollow victory for the government, too? Have they alienated the majority of voters, or successfully carried the general public with them – student protesters aside – on this crucial issue? Before you have your say, let’s take a closer look at the new system of funding for higher education…

A quick look at the new student loans

Young people will be able to borrow the full amount they need for university fees – which could amount to tens of thousands of pounds for long courses such as medicine or architecture.

The salary threshold from which loans will have to be paid back will rise from £15,000 to £21,000 a year, with 9% of a graduate’s earnings above this level payable to the Student Loans Company. This repayment threshold will increase annually, in line with inflation.

However, the interest rate to be charged on student loans will increase for some graduates. The rate for those with lower incomes will be 0%, but it’ll increase on a sliding scale according to what young people earn – with those commanding salaries above £41,000 paying a maximum rate of 3% above inflation.

Support for poorer students

When the ‘cap’ on tuition fees is lifted from £3,290 to £9,000 in 2012, universities will be able to almost triple the sums they charge students annually.

Any institution wishing to charge more than £6,000 a year, however, will need to commit to “access agreements” that are to be negotiated with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA). These arrangements would commit the university to helping people from poorer backgrounds – though the National Union of Students is sceptical about whether they’d work.

Maintenance grants for students from households earning less than £25,000 will be increased from £2,906 to £3,250. The current system of means-tested loans for living expenses will remain in place, with students from less well-off backgrounds offered larger sums.

Meanwhile, pupils who have qualified for free school meals may be eligible to have up to two years’ worth of tuition fees paid for them under plans being considered by the government.

Where do you stand?

When Hannah Jolliffe first wrote about this issue on Which? Conversation, commenter Jem pointed out: ‘What no-one has really discussed is the potential effect of this increase in fees on student numbers in 2011. Many will apply for courses next year because in 2012 fees will double or treble.’ I think this is a very important point and one that I haven’t seen addressed by any government spokesperson so far.

Meanwhile, Shire of the Rose commented: ‘I am in doubt about how this government will produce new talent and highly skilled students. Instead of help, the government is giving more financial burden and stress.’

Fat Sam took a different view, suggesting that some universities should even be allowed to charge more than £9,000 a year:

‘I think there should be no cap. Universities are businesses, but to a large degree are funded by you and I – the taxpayer. However, many universities forget to treat students as paying customers who are adults.’

Personally, I have grave concerns about the impact of these reforms on students from working class backgrounds like mine. Would I have gone to university if I had known I’d face a £40,000 debt at the end of my course? I’d like to think I would have had faith in myself, and in the value of my degree – but I can’t be sure.

I worry that the sky-high fees our very best universities will charge won’t be offset by robust, effective measures to prevent the exclusion of young people from poorer families. And I fear that, if this is the case, we won’t realise it until we have already deprived many talented pupils of the education they richly deserve.

But what do you think? Are these reforms the only way to keep our universities internationally competitive, or are you anxious about their effects?

Grumpy of Gildersome says:
15 December 2010

I am not sure if circa £6K a year is adequate for a quality University and I doubt if up to £9K a year is sufficient for Oxbridge.
As a “Grumpy Old Man” of almost 70 years, what really concerns me is the huge growth in so-called Universities (from the earlier Polytechnics) and the ridiculous aspiration that approximately 50% of the FE student numbers go on to University. Why?
I was of HE age in 1960. I thinks that around 9% of FE students went onto “proper” Universities to read, inter alia, Classics, Greats, PPE, Specific Sciences, Mathmatics etc. Approximately 33% of graduating students went into Academia or took a PGCE and went into teaching. Why does someone need a “Degree” to do hairdressing; design a pair of jeans; operate a Steady-Cam; play a guitar in some form of music group.
Get real, UK. I challenge anyone to demonstrate, scientifically and without bias, why and how, the plethora of “daft degrees” awarded by so-called Universities (aka Polytechnics) has contributed one iota to Society in the last 15 years.
Sorry, guys (m/f) get out there and graft. If there isn’t a job available, create one. That’s what we did in the 50’s and 60’s. Bah Humbug and a Merry Christmas to all.

Mrs Sensible says:
16 December 2010

I agree wholeheartedly. It is noticeable that comments by people of a ‘certain age’ are correctly spelled, grammatically correct, and well-written. What has happened to education since 1970? No-one now seems able to string 2 words together without error. (I was from a poor background and did not go to university, but I became an accountant anyway, without need of a degree. I studied in my spare time, paying for the course, whilst working during the day. Students today have it too easy.)

hazzo says:
15 December 2010

Again the goverment is hitting the people on moderate incomes. This hikes in tution fees would not worry the rich or people who are deemed poor such as single parents and people on benefits. The goverment should fund tuition and maintenance to students who study Engineering, Medicine including Dentistry, Languages, Sciences, and other important ones that will benefit the country. Once these students get their degree they should work for the Goverment for 10 years, of coarse with pay, but if they want to buy themselves out of this, they should pay back all the monies plus some interest for what it cost to educate them. Furthermore mickey mouse coarses like media studies, drama and other silly courses, that Employers do not want, should incure the full tuition fee or do away with completely. Again there are many so called Universities that are not fit for purpose and their teaching higher education licence revoked. Also ‘A’ levels should be made harder so more studious and brighter students can get to prestige Universities.

I’m not able to reply to Richards comment above, but what I will say is this. I payed my own way through university, for everything from fees to text books, accommodation and basic living expenses, I had no financial support from family, and every minute I was not at uni or studying I was working in various part time jobs, at times working 2 jobs just to make ends meet. So I do know a little something about being poor, not to mention the fact that I am now working in, as Richard describes the ‘low end of inner London schools’, and don’t get me wrong I have a lot of empathy for my students. At the end of the day, I have been teaching for 6 years, I’m still repaying my debt for my degree, and you know what, so I should be. I chose to study, Education does come at a cost, and there is absolutely no reason why anybody else should pay to enhance my career prospects.

Hi emmiesmad, you can reply to replies by using the same reply button on the original comment. We’re looking to adding a reply button to all comments in the future to make this more clear

It appears that the question may not be whether students should pay for their education, as they already are. The question seems to be ‘at what cost’ should this be? What is fair – £3,000, £9,000, or why not £20,000 a year? Remember these students will already be in debt from living costs.

I’m not sure that putting graduates into huge debts is a good idea for the country and its tax payers themselves – is a successful and growing economy not partly built on the investments we make in the education of young people? Our economy is built on the work of adults and if our young professionals are in debt, they won’t be able to get on the housing market, or buy British products, go on holidays (ie. investing in our economy).

Paying for education appears to be somewhat a given, but how much is fair so that it doesn’t damage not only the student’s prospects but the prospects of the economy as a whole?

Barney H says:
15 December 2010

The taxpayer has been propping up outdated and expensive tertiary education for too many years, and setting real fees will price some of the rubbish institutions out of business.
However it’s not all about university courses. Students will still be able to attend NIGHT SCHOOL and use the OPEN UNIVERSITY as means to tertiary qualification, and they can work their way through college like many of us did in previous generations.
The fees hike means that the feckless won’t be able to live at the taxpayers expense, attending one lecture a week, only getting up in time to drink themselves senseless or worse, and dropping out before any nasty interim exams have to be sat.
So if the high tuition fees look daunting, and you can’t find a scholarship or any sponsorship, tell Mum not to rent out your room, and send off for the Open University prospectus. Good Luck and Best Wishes!.

consumer- not says:
15 December 2010

these young students didnt create the deficit, they are not the ones that caused the recent downturn in our economy… it is our the decision makers in our generation that have created this… so why should our children pay for our mistakes. most people writing on here have assumed that students are fighting for free education… but this is not the case. Students are fighting for the liability they are responsible for once they become students. why should this debt be increased to pay off all the frivolous spending by both the government and consumers!!!

Daniel Zylbersztajn says:
15 December 2010

Absolutely against any fees. I will rather leave the country with my daughter than let my daughter get poor here, and there are better unis on the global market if it needs to be than in the UK if we have to pay. What people don’t talk about, quite strangely other pressures after uni. Get a mortgage, sick and elderly parents, and generally building that young life. Also the fees are detrimental to humanities and arts, because people will rather choose save degrees with attached professions, like psychology, teaching, medical degrees, and law. But a nation without new heads that do the moral and philosophical thinking, historical contextualisation, sociological understanding, or appreciation of the arts and its experts and giving poorer students the same chances here is tremendously important. Britain is still undernourished in its intellectual heart beat, these measures will make it worse.

Mrs Sensible says:
16 December 2010

Other countries charge for university education too. america, where degrees are really valued, charges for more than even the £9,00 suggested here. Students just work their way thorough college. Lif isn’t meant to be easy if you want to achieve something! You have to work at it.

Falkenna says:
15 December 2010

I can’t believe that not a single person — except you, Laura — who has commented here, even seems to remember what a classical education is. Back when I got my degree — in America, in a state-supported university for which I paid some tuition — we were required to spend two years not specializing, but learning something from every field, in order to learn to *think*: critically, philosophically, analytically, and creatively. This is the ability needed by leaders in every field. To follow a stream of logic (or to spot illogic), to analyze a situation to find the best way forward, to refuse to be swayed by propaganda and pure nonsense, to have the vision to plot a new course to a better life — this is what university is all about. Forget fashion design and media (as mentioned by someone above); even computers and business administration should be polytechnic courses. University education is not about jobs, but about something quite different.
To return to current question, everything about this discussion has been about extremes. The ideal percentage to attend university is surely *between* the old 9% (which I found shocking on my arrival here) and 50% (which was, surely, always unsustainable in terms of quality as well as cost). The education of our future leaders should be funded *both* by the students and parents (but with enough notice for the parents to save; American parents begin the college fund in their children’s early years. Labour suddenly foisted this unforeseen expense on the populace, and now ConDem are tripling it), *and* by those of us who will benefit from having leaders who can see beyond the ends of their noses (which would be a welcome change). To force our best and brightest to begin adult life with crippling debt, is not the way forward. IQ and ability are *not* reliable indicators of who will be brave enough to face the terrifying prospect of owing the price of my house before their life has even started.
However, there is a further source of funding which should come to the fore if this government means anything it says about Big Society: gifts. In America — where tax law heavily favours personal social responsibility — alumni give millions to the university where they spent happy hours partying as well as studying. They fund whole buildings, professorships, research programmes. It’s just not going to happen here, to that extent, is it?
As a final word, I just have to say how utterly shocked I am that the classism exhibited by a few of the comments above still flourishes in 2010. “If their families can’t afford it, then they don’t deserve to be at university” is basically what some have said. But then, I suppose that is the attitude being shown by the government as well.

Mrs Sensible says:
16 December 2010

In America, taxes are lower, so rich people can afford to be philanthropic. Here, the politics of envy ensures that high earners are deprived of half their income, because the government thinks it knows best how it should be spent! Who on earth can agree with that – governments always make worse spending decisions than people do themselves left to their own devices.

I agree that too many students have emerged from university with a degree in something nonsensical that has made little difference to their skills for life or improved their chance of a better career. We should have been equipping some of our young people with training by means of apprenticeships, but it takes politicians with common sense and foresight to have worked this out. Unfortunately the last lot and the current lot in government were / are sorely lacking these two fundamental skills.

Manufacturing in this once dynamic country of ours is now almost a memory, but a steady stream of apprentices could have helped to keep our industries alive and competitive. I believe that most young people wish to gain skills and work, but without industry where do they work? Our governments have stood by whilst our country has become deskilled and manufacturing has been lost. The service, banking and entertainment etc industries should only be part of the picture and should not be relied upon for the country’s future.

We need to refocus on what our county needs in terms of skills, and work towards re-equipping our workforce with the skills we need to prosper. Training on the job, whilst earning a wage, in real industry is essential. It will allow those in apprenticeships a sense of worth and achievement, as well as financial gain. Once all the worthless degrees have been removed and replaced by apprenticeships, wherever possible, the essential remaining degrees would be much more affordable to the country.

Those skills that can only be learned in a university setting should not burden those that have to follow this route. As a country we need to be self sufficient in well trained professionals, and as we need them they should not be forced to bear the cost of their learning as it is not only themselves who will benefit. Consideration should be given for those who will potentially have an even greater debt due to the length of their course. For instance, a medical degree takes five years rather than three to complete.

This country will rely on these people in the future to heal us when we are sick, teach our children, protect us, plan our towns and infrastructure, judge us and govern us. We need to train them to be the best in their fields of expertise, for our own benefit. Those young people that are up to it should not be hindered by the short sightedness of our current government. We will regret at our leisure when we have a shortfall of doctors, teachers and other professional to cater for all our needs.

Which parents of potential uni students actually voted at the last election for the coalition which is doing its utmost, as ever by the Cons, to destroy the aspirations of working class children? You should have known that these particular big society cats never change their spots (sorry, pinstripes).

It is only by perpetuating basic unfairness in society (sorry, unreconstructed Thatcherites, but society does exist) that our “natural rulers” can keep their heels firmly on the necks of the hoi polloi and why the police have been highjacked into doing the dirty work for them.

Who really organised the assault on the royal car and were its occupants lookalikes, perhaps? Do please show us your scar, Camilla. Keep up the pressure, students everywhere

Mrs Sensible says:
16 December 2010

What an uneducated, classist rant. Only by encouraging self-sufficiency will the country ever advance. Even the rich don’t get a degree from Oxbridge without working for it!

Can I give some of the tuition fee supporters a quick mathematics lesson? Studies carried out have shown that graduates, over the course of a lifetime, earn approximately £400,000 more than their non-graduate counterparts. The Government will receive a minimum of £80,000 in extra income tax contributions alone, using 20% as the basic rate of income tax (160,000 at 40%). This doesn’t even take into account national insurance and tax on EVERYTHING else.

The introduction of exorbitant tuition fees will serve to deter many thousands of people from obtaining a degree. This will lead to reduced income tax contributions and therefore less money to spend on services.

The Government should pay for ALL education, no matter what level. It is an investment for the future of the country. As usual though we are subjected to short term, narrow minded bureaucracy from a bunch of bloody idiots.

Mrs Sensible says:
16 December 2010

A degree is not the only way to high earnings. Has no-one watched ‘The Apprentice’? Several of the candidates started with nothing, did not have a good education, yet have worked their way up. Higher education is only of value to those who work hard and can benefit from it; it is not an automatic route to a high-paying job.

It is absolutely right that students should have to pay for their own education, since they are the ones who benefit from a lifetime of substantially higher average earnings. Currently, the bill for subsidising their education has to be met through taxes which, as we all know, disproportionately hit the poor. Why should someone with no prospect of ever earning more than minimum wage have to pay for the education of a doctor who will earn more than £100,000 a year?

madame ping says:
16 December 2010

This does not deal with the waste of money which many uiversity management exploit. The Govt has not forced universitites to deliver a good economically strong workforce. Instead a Dean or major officiando of universities now pays themsleves like they are captains of industry or bankers. They use taxpayers money to attend international conferences but there is no product necessarily that the economy gets from these becuase in order to splash out more on marketing or international business level flights they have cut back on the parttime lecturers fees and increased numbers of students in the lecture rooms. Quality of teaching has gone down and as usual the universities then blame the quality of schools bringing in students levels to their standard.

Effectively if I were a rich Italien family it would still be more profitablefor me to send my kids to UK schools becuase the UK has not ringfenced its jobs – and that is the real problem of UK economy…instead of retraining or offering courses to UK citizens at preferential rates we have offered for over a decade to subsidise EU students attendance at UK universities if a Eu CITIZEN ATTENDS UK FOR TWO YEARS they can claim DOLE and can claim the freebie university loan. WHen they go back to Italy and are not paid a salary over £20K (or in Poland or SPain) then the UK taxpayer will once again be subsidising the students from the EU who will not be repaying their loans.

As for the head of Ofsted has a salary of £200,000 which means she can afford not only to pay for her kids to go to university but rather comfortably, and like heads of local council housing or social services or even waste disposal the vastg number of council heads and chiefs CAN afford to send their kids to university easily. So what if they repay the loans? That willnot make up for the large numbers of people who will be in NORMAL JOBS like social workers or teachers or police who will still be asked to repay it. Thus those who are most fortunate to get a job – if there are any will be over subsidising the head of Ofsted and the MPs kids education by paying relatively LARGER SUMS OUT OF THEIR INCOME THAN THEY CAN AFFORD whilst the BIG SKIMMERS pay relatively peanuts to their incomes and whine that they “deserve” more for failing to run the country or its economy or even scrutinise it (Ofsted being the inspection service for the council’s) …


Bruce Campbell says:
16 December 2010

I agree with the increase. If they truly wish to become what they are studying for they will happily pay for it. That will perhaps sort out those who are just in the system for a free ride and a good time and therefore free up places for those that has a wish to really learn and become something. In time the fees may reduce. Why should the tax payer foot the bill. No tax payer helped me or any of my colleagues with training fees of in excess of £50,000 to become airline pilots. Most of whome had to take out massive loans to do so. Why should they/we be any different?

Bruce Campbell says:
16 December 2010

Having said all of the above I do agree that massive cutback could be made in government.

Rosie says:
16 December 2010

Students are not protesting for free education. There’s not a doubt that university students should pay for their higher education – they (and I did also) have paid for university education for years, with fees steadily going up. Fees were a mere £1500 a year until the ‘rules’ changed in 2006, when fees were raised to £3000 a year.
The argument is not whether students should pay to go to university, because they already do, it is the extortionate rise in fees that people are angry about.

Mike Denley says:
16 December 2010

I think the increased fees are a direct result of the Blair/Brown ridiculous hyperexpansion of the university system. We clearly cannot afford such massive spending, and to what end? More dubious degrees from mickey mouse universities?. Universities should be centres of academic excellence for the most able and gifted students who need a university education to do their job(eg engineers, scientists doctors, teachers)and should be elitist for these students irrespective of race,class or financial circumstances. There is nothing wrong with elitism based on talent, Manchester United are elitist, otherwise we could all play for them! Grants used to be available for poorer students so that they were not financially disadvantaged. Surely this could be reintroduced for much smaller student numbers? Unfortunately the present wave of students are having to bear the cost of poor political decisions.

Philip Moss says:
16 December 2010

remember we are trying to reduce the increasing deficit, we have not yet started to repay the enormous deficit bequeathed by the Labour Gov.

No one has said where the money will come from if we do not increase tuition fees.
That said they are far to high,we could tax pensioner benefits, such as fuel allowance, the Christmas bonus,free TV licence, We would be effected but no matter this is fair.
We are told that there is to much tax avoidance and evasion, then increase Tax Staff and let us
collect it all.

W Smith says:
16 December 2010

The increases are an opportunistic device at a time of financial crisis to acheive the Tory aim of maintaining higher education for the privileged wealthy. Education should be funded by increasing income tax and more rigourous tax laws against avoidance and evasion.

Mrs Sensible says:
16 December 2010

That is nonsense. Why do you think the Tories only want education for the wealthy? They want education for the clever and talented, whoever they are, who will most benefit themselves and society. It may be that they come from better-off families, because they have inherited the genes, and been taught the value of hard work, by the parents who themselves are clever or talented in some way, and value a good education. I know that not all clever people are wealthy, but their must be a link to family encouragement of learning,

William Marsh says:
16 December 2010

I am a 70 year old pensioner so I am not affected by these rises, but it is very unfair that Scotish and Welsh students have a different deal. Surely everyone should be treated the same, as we are supposed to be a United Kingdom. I wouldnt like to start my adult life owing thousands of pounds.
All students should have a free education, but in latter life if they do get a well paid job, ask them to pay some extra tax, to cover some of their education.

But William – they already do – A graduate generally earns a higher salary – so pays higher tax.

In essence the new student will be asked to pay TWICE – once as a student loan – this is taxed – Then are taxed again when they work at their higher salaries.

@William Marsh – I agree – and now it’s been announced that English students will even have to pay higher fees if they study in Scotland too! Apparently the Scottish universities are worried that too many English students will apply to study North of the border if the fees are cheaper – well, who could blame them?!

Lynn, the reason is because that doctor earning £100,000 will be paying in excess of £40,000 in tax PER ANNUM. Isn’t that a reasonable return for paying for a University education? How much tax does someone on minimum wage contribute to the economy? Very little, if any. It’s the doctors and other earners that pay for this whole country. Remove that tax revenue and the country’s economy will be unsustainable. For example, the UK is facing a serious increase in the number of OAP’s over the next decade, all of whom deserve a good standard of living. Who do you think pays for the pensions, TV licenses etc.? The current wage earners. Wouldn’t it make sense to have as many people as possible, earning the highest amount of money possible, in that system?

Mr. Marsh, with respect Sir, they do pay extra tax. 20% of £100,000 is substantially more than 20% of £40,000. Admittedly, the person also receives a larger income, however, they have worked for it and do deserve it.

I think these fee increases will be bad for the country for decades to come. It’s not all bad, it will be of great benefit to my future children because I can afford to send them to University if they choose. With less graduates the jobs available and the wages will be greater. Thanks to all the people calling for University education to be priced out of the reach of normal, decent, hard working families, it’ll bite you all on the *** when there’s no money left.


Couldn’t have put it better. The student fees are a travesty of what our free education system should be.

The professionals in our country can earn higher salaries than tradesmen, but not always. A youngish workman who did some work on my house earns more than a doctor. He had virtually no qualifications, incurred no cost in relation to his education, worked Mon-Fri and only worked ‘tradesmen’s hours’. I needed him so I had to pay the price. I was pleased with his work, but in my opinion a tradesman shouldn’t earn more than a professional as they have received substantially less training. This is happening because there are not enough tradesmen. The reason we don’t have enough tradesmen is because they have all gone off to university to get a Micky Mouse degree, which is no good to them or to the country. Those that chose not to go to university are now sometimes much better off.

Professionals have usually studied over a period of many years, sacrificed much and dedicated significant time and effort, often unpaid, to complete their work and acheive their qualifications. They are highly trained and they deserve the money they earn. It isn’t anywhere near the amount many business people earn.

It is certainly not essential to go to university for some jobs, as the illustration above demonstrates. Some do need to attend university, and when this is required it should not be so prohibitively expensive. Those training for the professions should not suffer the burden of debt that their training will incur. They need to be trained, but our country depends on trained professionals. It is the country that should therefore pay.