By Emma Ogao
University tuition fees could potentially be slashed by 27% as part of the imminent Higher Education Reform proposal.
Commissioned by Theresa May, the proposal seeks to address issues concerning the higher education sector, with the first draft proposing that tuition fees be cut from the current figure of £9000 per year, to £6500 per year. A key intention of the plan is to ease students of financial debt, and make student finance more sustainable.
This academic year, undergraduates in Wales saw tuition fees rise to £9,000, just under the current English maximum of £9,250. Consequently, the average loan balance for Welsh students rose about £20,000 according to figures from the Student Loans Company – a record high for 2018.
“People are rightly concerned about value for money, that’s why we’re reforming the system to make it fairer. We have already increased the repayment threshold for graduates and are open minded in our approach” said a spokesperson from the Department of Education
The reveal of the plan has triggered a heated debate amongst both staff and students in the higher education sphere. With many UK universities in financial trouble, many worry that reduction in tuition fees could worsen their predicament, and could potentially see institutions that are currently struggling be forced to shut down. Higher education experts are also critical that the reform could impact student experience.
“Reducing funding for teaching would impact directly on the student experience, leading to higher student staff ratios, less hands on lab and practical work and student services stretched past breaking point” says Tim Bradshaw, the Chief Executive of the Russell Group.
UK Universities currently generate £9.5 billion per year, a number which is forecast to rise to £14 billion in the next five years due to the rising student population.
Thus far, the Treasury is understood to oppose the reform on the basis that it would lose approximately £3 billion – a financial drop which could result in the number of places available for undergraduates starting courses.