Until 1998 the majority of University funding came from central government. In 1998 the then Labour government introduced tuition fees at a maximum of £1000 per year . In England, in 2006, the maximum fee rose to £3000 per year and in 2009/10 the maximum fee was raised to £3250 in line with inflation. In the 2010 General Election the Lib Dems stood on a platform of ending tuition fees, which caused a massive boost in their votes, particularly amongst the young . In 2010 the Conservative / Lib Dem coalition nearly tripled the maximum tuition fee in England that a university could charge to £9000 per year .
Following devolution in 1999, the newly devolved governments in Scotland and Wales brought in their own acts on tuition fees. The Scottish Parliament established, and later abolished a graduate endowment to replace the fees. Wales introduced maintenance grants of up to £1,500 in 2002, a value which has since risen to over £5000
In Scotland tuition is handled by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), which does not charge fees to what it defines as "Young Students". Young Students are defined as those under 25, without children, marriage, civil partnership or cohabiting partner, who have not been outside of full-time education for more than three years. Fees exist for those outside the young student definition, typically from £1,200 to £1,800 for undergraduate courses, dependent on year of application and type of qualification. Postgraduate fees can be up to £3,400 .
The majority of universities are charging the maximum fee allowed, regardless of the course .
In 1999–2000, maintenance grants for living expenses were replaced with loans and paid back at a rate of 9% of a graduate's income above £10,000. In 2006 the maintenance grant was re-instated at the same time as maximum tuition fees were increased to £3000 per year . Families on higher incomes (above £33,000) could still apply for loans .
- Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998, https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/30/contents
- Lib Dems to scrap tuition fees, 18 December 2009: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/lib-dems-to-scrap-tuition-fees/409672.article
- Tuition fees and the Lib Dems, Channel 4, 11 October 2010: https://www.channel4.com/news/tuition-fees-and-the-lib-dems
- Revealed: Lib Dems planned before election to abandon tuition fees pledge, Guardian, 12 November 2010: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/nov/12/lib-dems-tuition-fees-clegg
- Senior Lib Dems apologise over tuition fees pledge, BBC, 20 September 2012: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-19646731
- Tuition Fees at English Universities to Increase in 2017, Top Universities, 27 December 2016: https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/university-news/tuition-fees-english-universities-increase-2017
- Tuition fees guidance for students undertaking a full time course 2019-2020, Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), 2019: https://www.saas.gov.uk/_forms/fees_student.pdf
- Are students overpaying for tuition fees?, BBC, 14 November 2018: https://www.bbc.com/news/education-46180849
- Teaching and Higher Education Act, BBC, 1999: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/how_the_education_systems_work/legislation/134626.stm
- Sttudent Fees, 2006: https://www.achieveability.org.uk/files/1270738642/student_finance.pdf
On average a student will leave university with debt of £50,000. This debt will grow at between approximately 3.3% to 6.3% per annum depending on the graduates salary. Interest starts accumulating on the debt as soon as the loan is taken, so students debt is increasing while still at university and students are not in a position to pay off the increasing debt .
- The average student leaves university with £50,000 debt: who's really paying? The Telegraph, 25 August 2017 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/student-money/average-student-leaves-university-50000-debt-really-paying/
- Student loan 6.3% interest – should I panic or pay it off? Money Saving Expert, 4 January 2019: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/repay-post-2012-student-loan/
Student fees have left universities in a much less stable position. Rather than being funded centrally to allow them to plan they are subject to government policy impacting on student numbers. In the auger report of 2019 the government suggested moving funding away from universities to further education. This will de-stablise universities and create a situation where only wealthy students can attend university .
Because the government is looking at cutting the maximum tuition fee, but is not backing this up with a return to central funding, there is a serious risk of many universities going under. There has been a tendency for some universities to lose large numbers of students over the last few years, particularly where the cost of living is higher .
- Universities hit back after report proposing funding cuts, Guardian, 30 May 2019: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/may/30/augar-post-18-report-leaves-university-leaders-fearing-cuts
- Will universities go bust if fees are cut?, BBC, 18 February 2019: https://www.bbc.com/news/education-47204922