Means-test university fees so poor pay less, charity says

Students in library Students from poorer backgrounds should pay less for tuition, argues The Sutton Trust

Related Stories

University tuition fees in England should be means-tested to allow students from poorer homes to pay less, an education charity has urged.

Two-thirds (65%) of 11 to 16-year-olds polled for the Sutton Trust voiced concerns about university costs.

While an average 17% said cost was crucial in deciding whether or not to do a degree, this rose to 23% among those from poorer families.

The government said it was improving information on student finance issues.

In total, 86% of 2,595 teenagers at state schools in England and Wales said they believed going to university was important in "helping people do well and get on in life", with 81% saying they were likely to go to university when they were older.

Start Quote

We recognise it is vital to spread understanding of student finance issues”

End Quote Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Of the teenagers polled for the Sutton Trust by Ipsos Mori, 67% said exam results were the most important factor when deciding whether to do a degree.

And 28% rated tuition fees as their biggest source of financial concern - for 19% it was the cost of student living, while 18% pinpointed not being able to earn while they were studying as the main problem.

'More transparent'

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: "It is clear from this poll that many young people remain worried about the cost of higher education.

"Graduates face debts of over £40,000 with the higher fees and many will be paying for their university studies into their 50s.

"While there may have been some uplift in university applications this year, student numbers are not yet back to 2010 levels.

"We are urging the government to means-test university fees, as used to be the case, so that those from low- and middle-income families pay less for tuition."

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said changes meant the university system was fairer, more transparent and more progressive.

"No new student will pay fees upfront, there is more financial support for poorer families and loan repayments will be lower once graduates are in well-paid jobs.

"The rise in applicant numbers and the record number of applications from students from poorer backgrounds show that young people are not deterred by financial concerns.

"However, we recognise it is vital to spread understanding of student finance issues and that is why improving access to information is at the heart of our reforms."

'Biggest barrier'

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: "There are still many misunderstandings surrounding student finance.

"It is vitally important that young people, and their parents, have access to good information about tuition fees and repayments when making their decisions about university.

"The most important fact to remember is that students or their parents will pay nothing upfront - tuition fees are covered by loans from the government. Students don't pay anything back until they graduate and are earning over £21,000."

The head of higher education for the University and College Union, Michael MacNeil, said: "We need our brightest young people aspiring to university and the courses best suited to their talents - worryingly the biggest barrier is the increased cost of a degree.

"Charging for education in a recession makes little sense, risks stopping many talented young people from fulfilling their dreams and robs us as a country of their full talents."

Students from England who started their degrees after September 2012 have been charged fees of up to £9,000 a year. However, these fees are not paid upfront.

Fees at Welsh universities also rose to up to £9,000 a year, but Welsh students at any UK university pay only the first £3,465 of their fees - the rest is paid by the Welsh government.

Scottish students taking degrees in Scotland (and EU applicants who wish to study in Scotland) do not have to pay for their own tuition.

Students from Northern Ireland who wish to study there, (and European Union students who wish to study in Northern Ireland) will pay course fees of up to £3,575.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    If they want more poor children to go to university then try improving the standard of schools that they attend.

    As always, the lefts answer to everything is spend more money - despite the fact that this never worked when Labour pumped £billions extra into the system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Personally, I would encourage every young person to try for university that wants to go, rack up the debt and then get a nice, easy, low paid job somewhere. Has anyone worked out if it would be cheaper to give grants or loans to students in the long run? And why should it be means tested, surely at 18 they are adult and independent of the bank of mum and dad?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    re 3:
    Open University fees are "at today's prices, the fee for the full honours degree is £15,372" - not exactly cheap

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    What I don't understand is, if cost is so important, why so few Uk students go abroad and study in other EU countries where fees are much, much lower; €3000 per year at the highest. Even with the additional cost of flights, studying abroad still cheaper than in England. Some universities offer courses in English and all offer affordable language courses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    tuition fees should be scrapped totally - the idea of 40% plus of the workforce (aka graduates) being in debt for years is a disaster for the economy.
    means testing makes no sense - its not "poorer families" who pay fees - its the graduate who pays. It would mean a highly paid solicitor from a poorer family avoiding fees while a graduate doing a poorly paid but still valuable job lives in poverty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Students usually go to uni after 18 - ie legally adults. Why should family circumstances dictate what an adult chooses to do . My brother was compelled to support his kid til 25 (doctorate). She choose, he HAD to foot the bill.

    As tax allowances cannot be transferred from one to another how can income/wealth be taken into account when assessing costs of a third party!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I've always wondered - why are tuition fees not set according to subject? An Engineering/Medical student has around 30 hours of contact time a week compared to some "newer" subjects that are only timetabled for 4 hours a week. Yet everyone pays the same amount - I'd love to know the rationale behind that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    it is sickening that the ministers justifying these costs are well off graduates who received a free education. How about they set-up a charity and put something back to help?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I'm a single parent of 3 children. The eldest wasn't interested in Uni The second was but didn't want to get into debt. So she didn't go. My youngest is at Uni now and will be £45K+ in debt.
    If you bring your children up to think debt is bad and that you don't have things you can't pay for its very difficult to persuade them otherwise when it comes to tuition fees !

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    This should be applicable to everything in life.

    I earn £20,000 a year, yet have to pay the same speeding fine as someone who earns £1,000,000+ a year.

    Why do we all have to pay 20% VAT, it should be relative to wages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Anyone can take a student loan and pay it back when in work, the background is totally irrelevant here. Stop victimizing people and start encouraging them to work hard and achieve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Anyone going to University gets a loan for their tuition fees that you don't start paying until you are in full time employment and earning over a certain amount, so why should people from a poorer background have to pay less when they aren't required to pay any of their fees upfront!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    We've just gotten away from funding silly degrees, let's not go back to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Just charge students the same yearly price they paid to do their A-levels. If the rich kids could afford £30k+ then, they can afford it as undergrads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Excellent quality education should be free for every child irrespective of how rich or poor their parents are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Another ill-conceived policy Nu-Labour should hang their heads in shame for.
    This generation pays for the education of the next generation, so that the next generation can look after this generation – simple.

    Forget means-testing, just scrap the lot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Rather than trying to create the undoubted extra bureaucracy that means testing would bring, this group would be more help to the young if they tried to ensure that every student in the UK was paying fees at the same level, rather than based on which part of the UK they liven in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Education is the key to growth, you would not think so with this Governments lack of support for the Education system. Poor students who are Univeristy material should pay little or nothing so they can get a leg up out of poverty. May cost a bit short term wise but we would see the fruits later on. So yes Means testing is a great idea, dont expect the Government to agree though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    If you don't earn over £21,000, you never have to pay the fees back. How much more of a means test can there be?

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    1. Resurect grammar schools, polytechnics & technical colleges.

    2. Remove "University" status from all pseudo-"Universities" .

    3. Aim for a maximum of 10% of school leavers going on to proper Universities.

    4. Restore full grants to all University students, meaning any & all loans are unnecessary.


Page 12 of 13


More Education & Family stories



  • Atletico's Diego Godin celebrates his goal with teammate David VillaWeek in pictures

    Selection of the best news photographs from around the world

  • Susanne du ToitTop 10 Tips

    Portrait painter Susanne du Toit on being an artist

  • StampsPost Independence

    Will stamps get cheaper if Scots go it alone?

  • Rhea10 things

    Rhea birds can be extremely dangerous, plus other factlets

  • Plane at Shannon airportShannon's call

    The airport that hosted a roll-call of presidents

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.