Thank you for contacting me about tuition fees.
No-one with ambition and ability, whatever their background and family income, should come up against barriers to accessing higher education. The number of students in higher education has exceeded half a million for the first time and more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university than ever before. This is fantastic news and shows the reforms are working as students understand they do not have to pay up front to go to university.
The new system of student finance is more progressive than the one it replaced. Not only do students not pay a penny up front for their tuition but graduates will only pay back their loans once they earn more than £21,000. I welcome the announcement that this threshold will be increased from £21,000 to £25,000 in April 2018,and will be adjusted in line with average income thereafter. Monthly repayments will be lower than under the old system.
Basing university funding on student fees and loans was a tough decision but avoided the situation where universities would have simply faced cuts which would have led to reduced student numbers. The cap on university places has been removed meaning there is no arbitrary ceiling and tens of thousands more can access higher education.
Going to university is still one of the best routes to a rewarding career and can boost lifetime earnings by over £100,000. Research commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills estimates that on average male graduates can expect to boost their lifetime earnings by £165,000 and females can expect a £250,000 boost. These figures are net of tax and loan repayments.
I am pleased the reforms and new funding methodology have ensured that institutions are investing significantly in widening student access to higher education. As part of their access agreements higher education institutions plan by 2018/19 to increase their spending on outreach, student success and student financial support measures to £735 million, up from £444 million in 2011/12.
I am encouraged by the Prime Minister's commitment to increasing diversity in our higher education system and giving students better value for money, and the promise to look again at the question of funding and student finance. Immediate action is also being taken to help graduates. Tuition fees will be frozen at their current level and the planned rise with inflation will be scrapped while the system is being reviewed.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me and sharing your views.