At a glance: Browne report


A look at the key points from Lord Browne's long-awaited review of England's higher education system, which recommends sweeping changes to the university funding system.

Tuition fees

Browne proposes that:

  • There should be no limit on fees charged by universities
  • The government will fully underwrite fees charged up to £6,000
  • Universities would be subject to a levy on all fees charged above £6,000, which is used to cover the cost to the government of providing students with upfront finance
  • The university would get to keep a diminishing proportion of fees over £6,000 - 40% of the first £1,000, 45% of the second, 50% of the third etc
  • Browne models the levy up to £12,000, but says there is "no robust way" to identify an upper limit, and says fee caps distort charging by institutions
  • The levy begins at £6,000, which may be less than needed in order to replace current public funding - this is to instil "a focus on efficiency" in the system
  • Public investment should continue, at a level similar to the current one (£700m per year) to support certain courses, such as science and technology subjects, medicine, nursing and "strategically important" language courses
  • Universities will no longer have to provide a minimum bursary (currently £329) for students on full grants - the cash will be distributed through the grants system instead

Browne proposes that:

  • Students should not have to pay any tuition fees up front
  • They would begin to repay the cost of their fees when their earnings reach £21,000
  • Until their earnings reach £21,000, the money graduates owe would rise in line with inflation - no interest would be charged
  • When their earnings reach £21,000, graduates would begin to pay their loans back and interest would be charged at the cost of borrowing to the government (currently 2.2%) plus inflation
  • All students would be entitled to flat-rate maintenance loans of £3,750 per year, rather than the current system, where loan sums are means tested
  • Maximum maintenance grants would be increased from £2,906 to £3,250 - as currently, these would be available to students from households with incomes of less than £25,000
  • The upper threshold under which students receive partial maintenance grants would rise from £50,020 to £60,000
  • Unpaid student debt would be written off after 30 years, rather than 25 years
  • Part-time students would be eligible for loans for their fees

Browne proposes that:

  • Four existing higher education bodies (Higher Education Funding Council for England, Quality Assurance Agency, Office for Fair Access, and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator) would be abolished and replaced by a single Higher Education Council
  • The new body would be responsible for investing in priority courses, setting and enforcing quality levels, improving access and attainment for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, ensuring students benefit from increased competition in the sector, and resolving disputes between students and institutions
  • All new academics with teaching responsibilities should undertake a teaching qualification
  • An Access and Success fund should be set up to help universities recruit and retain students from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • The HE Council should have the power to bail out struggling institutions
  • It would also explore options such as mergers and takeovers if institutions are facing financial failure
  • Universities charging more than £7,000 a year would be subject to increased scrutiny over student access
  • New providers will be allowed to offer higher education teaching
  • Funding system will allow a 10% increase in university places over three years
  • Government will set a minimum entry standard, in terms of UCAS points, each year, taking into account the demand for university places and the budget available to pay for them - students would not be eligible for financial support if their grades were below this level
  • The report models an 80% cut in the teaching grant to universities, showing a slight drop in their overall income if all universities charged fees of £6,000, and a slight rise if they all charged £7,000