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 84.

    The problem with means testing for students is that it assumes that those who have wealthier parents will receive proportionally higher amounts of money from them- This is inaccurate.

    With regards to tuition fees, government subsidisation should be based on academic ability; not financial stability of parents. Government needs to attract the smartest from all classes, not just from the poorest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I have never understood this obsession with punishing families where the parents have worked hard (over 30+ years) to earn good wages and then force the children into massive debt should they be suitable to pursue a degree. Scrap this target of 40-50% going to Universities and (as with older generations) make real degrees free, pay back to the country is in future tax returns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    I went to One of the best universities in the country back in the 1980's.

    I paid no fees and received the full maintenance grant, which was enough to live on with the addition of the money I earned by working full time in the Holidays.

    At that time over 65% of the students were from state comprehensives.

    Currently over 65% are from Fee charging Schools.

    Says it all really.

  • 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 12.

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


More Education & Family stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.