The Labour Party have (finally) announced what their policy on student funding will be for the 2015 general election. The headlines are:
- a reduction in the full-time undergraduate tuition fee cap in 2016 for home and EU students, from £9,000 to £6,000
- an increase in maintenance support for students from lower-income households (as predicted by HEPI yesterday)
- a reduction in pensions tax relief and higher repayments from better-off graduates
The reduction in fee is no surprise – it was first announced by Labour in 2011 – but it has moved from ‘what we would do were we in office now’ to ‘what we will do if we win the next election’.
Nick Hillman, HEPI’s Director, said:
‘Our polling shows students, unsurprisingly, like lower fees. We also know students want more maintenance support because the British model of moving away from home for three years to attend university is an expensive one. Many students will welcome the proposals.
‘Universities will continue to worry whether they will be as well funded in the future as in the recent past, although Labour say they will fully fund the change.
‘It’s a pity that we didn’t hear more about the decline in part-time student numbers of the challenge some people have in accessing postgraduate study, but it is good that voters now have a clear policy choice before them.
‘One big outstanding question is how many university places will be available once the new rules come in. The Coalition are letting universities recruit as many students as they want. But there is a trade-off between the cost to the taxpayer of higher fees and the number of places that can be funded. Labour have, to date, refused to match the commitment to let universities recruit everyone they want to – and that may have just become a little harder for them to do.’