Students: Fees and Charges

Department for Education written question – answered on 26th March 2021.

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Photo of Claudia Webbe Claudia Webbe Independent, Leicester East

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of abolishing tuition fees (a) for the duration of the covid-19 outbreak and (b) in perpetuity.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Minister of State (Education)

The government is committed to a sustainable higher education (HE) funding model that supports high quality provision, meets the skills needs of the country, and maintains the world-class reputation of UK HE. We recognise that tuition fees must continue to represent value for money for students and taxpayers, both during the COVID-19 outbreak and after.

The government has already announced that the maximum tuition fee cap will remain at £9,250 for the 2021/22 academic year in respect of standard full-time courses at approved (fee cap) providers. We also intend to freeze the maximum tuition fee caps for 2022/23 to deliver better value for students and to keep the cost of higher education under control, the fifth year in succession that maximum fees have been frozen. Our income-contingent student loan system helps remove financial barriers to study and means that no eligible student needs to pay tuition fees upfront.

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to be a difficult and uncertain time for students. The government’s expectations are very clear: HE providers should maintain the quality and quantity of tuition and seek to ensure that all students regardless of their background have the resources to study remotely. The HE regulator in England, the Office for Students (OfS), has made it clear that all HE providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and standards. The OfS is taking very seriously the potential impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on teaching and learning. It is actively monitoring providers to ensure that they maintain the quality of their provision, that it is accessible for all, and that they have been clear in their communications with students about how arrangements for teaching and learning may change throughout the year. The OfS is also following up directly with providers where they receive notifications from students, parents or others raising concerns about the quality of teaching on offer and requiring providers to report to them when they are not able to deliver a course or award a qualification. If the OfS has any concerns, it will investigate further.

If students have concerns, there is also a complaints process in place. They should first raise their concerns with their university. If their concerns remain unresolved, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) to consider their complaint. The OIA website is available at: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/.

After finishing study, we believe that it is right that students should contribute to the cost of their HE, and that this contribution should be linked to their income. Only those who earn above the repayment threshold, which is £27,295 per year from April 2021, are required to make repayments. This system of income-based repayment means that those who have benefited the most from their education repay their fair share and helps to ensure that costs are split fairly between borrowers and the taxpayer.

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