University tuition fees for UK residents will be temporarily frozen before the government comes to a decision about whether to cut them, according to the government’s interim response to the Augar Review of post-18 education.
Tuition fees for UK residents have been capped at £9,250 since 2017. Fees have not risen in line with inflation, leading some universities to complain that they lacked the money to fund some degrees as a result. The Department for Education said: “We intend to freeze the maximum tuition fee cap to deliver better value for students and to keep the cost of higher education under control. This will initially be for one year and further changes to the student finance system will be considered ahead of the next comprehensive spending review.”
The review outlines the government’s plan to make technical education more attractive to school leavers. Only 10% of British adults hold a level 4-5 technical qualification as their highest level of education, compared to 20% in Germany. The government says their expansion of apprenticeships and increasing investment in technical education will help them achieve this.
The review shows that the government is considering implementing the Augar Review’s recommendation that students would have to meet a minimum entry threshold to attend university and be eligible for student finance. This is intended to reduce university drop-out rates.
President of Universities UK, Julia Buckingham, criticised the plan: “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.”
The Augar Review recommends that minimum entry requirements would be subject to a contextual evaluation of a student’s circumstances. By the review’s calculations, if minimum entry requirements were set at 88 tariff points, 38,000 students from England would not be accepted to university. After applying “a specific version” of the UCAS Multiple Equality Measure to contextualise their applications, the number of ineligible students would fall to 6,000.
Commenting on the report, the National Union of Students expressed concern that “setting a minimum entry requirement to higher education will be a significant barrier to students’ choices and their potential. We must ensure that our funding and admissions system makes higher education accessible to all.”