Tuition fees in England are to be frozen for another year under new proposals set out by the government.
The plans will also review minimum entry requirements to universities as part of reforms, in an effort to provide more accessibility for students.
Freezing maximum fees
The government intends to freeze the maximum amount a university can charge in tuition fees at £9,250 per year to offer “better value for students” and keep the cost of higher education “under control”.
The proposals would see the maximum tuition fee rate frozen for one year, but further changes to the student finance system will be “considered” ahead of the next comprehensive spending review.
Several recommendations were made in the Post-18 Education and Funding review – an independent panel led by Philip Augar – which was published in 2019, including cutting the tuition fee cap to £7,500.
The government has now released its interim conclusion to the review which says that ministers are committed to introducing further reforms that will ensure a “just and financially sustainable” student finance system, drive up the quality of higher education provision and promote accessibility for students.
This will include consideration of student finance terms and conditions, minimum entry requirements to higher education institutions, the treatment of foundation years and “other matters”.
The government plans to consult on further reforms to the system in spring this year before setting out its final conclusion of the Augar report alongside the next spending review.
Reforms ‘must be for benefit of students’
In May 2019, the Augar review recommended that graduates should have to repay their student loans over 40 years and the interest rate on loans should be reduced to the level of inflation.
The independent panel also recommended that maintenance grants for disadvantaged students, of at least £3,000 a year, should be reintroduced.
However, University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady said it was “not good enough to kick the issue into the long grass” until the spending review.
She said: “Sadly this interim response confirms that there will not be a radical change to the current system.
“The Westminster government is wasting an opportunity to make a real difference for students and institutions.”
Professor Julia Buckingham, president of Universities UK (UUK), added that any education reforms that are made “must be for the benefit of the students”, and said enforcing minimum entry requirements on students would be a “regressive move”.
She said: “Any reforms must be for the benefit of students, the economy and society and be backed by sufficient funding to ensure that every student receives a high-quality education which best suits their needs and aspirations.
“Enforcing minimum entry requirements for prospective university students would be a regressive move, preventing students from disadvantaged backgrounds whose prior educational experiences have adversely affected their grades from attending university and ignoring the evidence that many of these students excel at university.
“A university degree remains a good choice for many and a growing number of jobs in business and public services require graduate-level skills; the economy and society cannot afford a reduction in the number of graduates.”