Debating tuition fees is a distraction from the real changes we need to see in our universitiesby Jo Johnson / August 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
It is worth taking a step back from the furore over Labour’s abandonment of its pre-election promises to ask why and how we fund higher education. In a global knowledge economy, in which countries are putting science, research and innovation at the centre of their productivity strategies, our student finance system must have three goals. It must: remove financial barriers; ensure our universities are funded efficiently and held to account for student outcomes; and share the cost of higher education fairly between students and the taxpayer, reflecting the mix of private and public benefits.
The English system of tuition fees and government-supported loans meets all three objectives. Young people from the poorest areas are now 43 per cent more likely to go to university than in 2009/10, and 52 per cent more likely to attend a high tariff institution. Statistics show the proportion of young people on free school meals going to university is at a record high. Drop-out rates, too, have also come down. Our universities now enjoy 25 per cent more funding per student per degree than seven years ago.