Thank you for contacting me about tuition fees.
I believe it is right that access to higher education should be determined solely by your ability, not your ability to pay. The current system has increased opportunity: in England, the number of young people applying from the most deprived areas has increased. There are now record rates of disadvantaged 18 year olds in higher education.
The system of student finance is deliberately designed to be more progressive than the one it replaced. Not only do students not pay a penny up front for their tuition, but the earnings threshold has also been raised to £27,295 as of 6 April 2021. All outstanding debt is written off after 30 years.
I do believe it is right that graduates should contribute to the cost of their higher education and that this contribution should be linked to their income. This means that those who have benefited the most from their education repay their fair share. This approach ensures that costs are split fairly between borrowers and the taxpayer and has helped more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds go to university than ever before.
In 2018 the Government launched a major review of post-18 education and funding. The findings of this landmark, comprehensive and detailed review were published in 2019, with recommendations including levels of tuition fees and in-study interest charges. The manifesto I stood on pledged to consider the recommendations made in the review and I welcome that the Prime Minister has announced that some of the proposals are being taken forward. Higher education loans will be made more flexible, so that students can choose the length and type of course that is right for them. It will be easier for adults and young people to break up their study into segments, transfer credits between colleges and universities, and study on a part-time basis. The Prime Minister also announced that we will be moving to a system where every student will have a flexible lifelong loan entitlement to four years of post-18 education
I believe that scrapping tuition fees would not just be unaffordable, but also unsustainable and unfair. Scrapping fees would be a socially regressive policy, as it would disproportionately benefit those students who go on to earn the most. It would also be unfair to expect hard working taxpayers in low-paid jobs to completely fund the education of students from more affluent families, who will then subsequently go on to earn more.
I understand that some employers wish to contribute to the cost of the university fees of their employees, who are studying whilst they work. I am aware that this can be part of a remuneration package, where the employer pays for the course fees and the employee pays tax and National Insurance Contributions on the payments made. Another option is a salary sacrifice, where part of the salary is sacrificed for education fees. I understand that you can also set up an Employee Scholarship Scheme.
Richard Fuller MP