LONDON (Rahnuma): Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed Thursday a shake-up of student tuition fees in England that will see the cost of going to universities reduced more than 6,630 U.S. dollars over a three-year course.
An expert panel set up by May has published more than 50 recommendations after she ordered an independent review of post-18 education.
The prime minister commissioned the study specifically to ensure young people have more choice and can access the highest quality courses.
The review has also been designed to ensure students repay more of their debts built up during their study periods. Under the current system all outstanding student debts are cancelled 30 years after graduation, with projections showing that 83 percent of students will have some of their debt written off.
May wants to see the reintroduction of student maintenance grants to help support students from poorer families. The report says a minimum grant of around 3,800 U.S. dollars a year for the lowest income families would see debt for those students reduced by over 11,400 U.S. dollars.
The report says the removal of maintenance grants deters some less well-off young people from studying at universities, and recognizes strong concerns about the highest levels of debt being incurred by disadvantaged students following grants being abolished.
The report also concluded that too few graduates are meeting the full costs of their studies. It says they should start repaying their loans sooner and continue to make payments for a full 40 years after leaving university.
In return, fees should be cut from 11,683 dollars a year to 9,473 dollars, with the interest rate on loans reduced to the level of inflation while they are studying.
May described progress as being too slow with some universities failing to improve their intake of students from disadvantaged backgrounds for the first time in more than a decade.
The measure to help less well-off students could cost the government several billion dollars a year, the report says.
Urging her successor as prime minister to restore student grants, May said Thursday it would be up to the government to decide, at its upcoming Spending Review, whether to follow the recommendation.
May said: “Removing maintenance grants from the least well-off students has not worked, and I believe it is time to bring them back,” adding more must be done for the 50 percent of young people who do not go to university.
The Times newspaper in London said it would mean some students still paying off their student debts into their 60s.
The Times quoted Bill Rammell, vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire and a former higher education minister, describing the proposal as “a complete con” saying it would lead to students contributing more to the cost of their university education.
In Germany, 20 percent of 25-year-olds hold a higher technical qualification, compared to Britain where it is just 4 percent, said the Department for Education.
May added: “More also needs to be done to ensure that further and technical options are every bit as attractive a path for students as more academic options, including by reforming the sector so that colleges can thrive.”