Increasing the cost of tuition
Chapter 10 Section 2
On a balance of considerations, we recommend to the Government that it introduces arrangements for graduates in work to make a flat rate contribution of around 25 per cent of the average cost of higher education tuition, through an income contingent mechanism, and that it ensures that the proportion of tuition costs to be met by the contribution cannot be increased without an independent review and an affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. The contributions made by graduates in work in this way should be reserved for meeting the needs of higher education.
10.5 In its initial response to the Committee’s report on 23 July 1997, the Government accepted the Committee’s guiding principle that the costs of higher education should be shared between those who benefit. Compared with those without degrees, graduates on average see their earnings rise by as much as £4,000 for every £20,000 of earnings. As graduates benefit, so the Government believes that it is right that they should share the cost.
10.6 The Committee recommended that students should pay a tuition fee of £1,000 – a sum which represents around a quarter of the average cost of a course – with the other three quarters being met from public funds. The Government supported this principle. The investment of the nation must be balanced by the commitment of the individual.
10.7 The Government has built on the Committee’s proposal, together with the proposal for replacing grants by loans in the Labour Party’s pre-election policy statement Lifelong Learning. The Committee recommended a flat rate fee; and its preferred option kept support for living costs in its current form. In building on the Committee’s proposal, the Government has however built in two safeguards. First, in line with its commitment to secure access to higher education, the Government is determined to ensure free higher education for the least well off. Students from lower-income families who would have been eligible for a maximum maintenance grant under existing arrangements will pay no fee at all. This means that in England and Wales around one in three (in Scotland over 40%) of all students whose parental income is assessed will receive free tuition and another third will not have to pay the full £1,000. Second, additional maintenance loans are being provided in order to ensure that no student, parent or family need be worse off than under the present arrangements. The expected parental contribution towards fees and maintenance will be no more in real terms than the expected contribution to maintenance costs for students at present. The Government will monitor the impact of the new arrangements on participation in higher education to ensure that its policies for increasing participation and widening access are working.
10.8 Students on courses of initial teacher training (other than BEd, BA or BSc degree courses) will continue to receive free tuition, in recognition of the Government’s key interest in the supply and effective training of teachers. Special arrangements will apply to students on nursing and midwifery courses, courses leading to qualifications required by professions allied to medicine and to new full-time medical and dental students when they reach their fifth and later years.
10.9 The Government accepts the Committee’s recommendation that there should be safeguards against increases in the proportion of tuition costs to be met by private contributions. The Teaching and Higher Education Bill currently before Parliament provides that an affirmative resolution of both Houses would be needed before the level of the contribution could be increased above the rate of inflation. The need for Parliamentary approval in this way will provide an important safeguard and the Government does not see the need also for an independent review.
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