The Sunday Times is reporting that Oxford and Cambridge universities could be allowed to increase fees to as much as £16,000 a year under plans being considered for the Tory manifesto, David Willetts, the former higher education minister has revealed…
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Willetts said he had held talks with a dozen of Britain’s top universities to explore whether they would want to buy their students’ loan debts and try to collect them. In return, they would expect to raise fees above the current £9,000-a-year limit.
“There is a long-standing issue with Oxbridge, because their distinctive high model means that the £9,000 does not cover all their costs,” Willetts said.
Both universities confirmed that they estimated they needed up to £16,000 to cover the costs of teaching students in small groups and within the expensive college system and currently funded the gap themselves.
The government faces a debt timebomb. Latest estimates suggest that up to 45% of the loans students borrow for university fees and living expenses will never be repaid , because graduates will not command high enough salaries.
A research exercise tracking how successful 170,000 graduates have been in starting lucrative careers over the past 20 years is expected to spark demands that taxpayers stop paying for students to take degrees with poor salary prospects.
Willetts said he understood that the research by the Cambridge and Harvard professors Anna Vignoles and Neil Shephard showed “the most prestigious universities [such as Oxford, Cambridge, and the Russell Group institutions] had the best loans repayment rates”.
If they were to take on their graduates’ loans, he said, they “would have a pretty solid stream of income from repayments”. Graduates with some of the lowest salaries and repayment rates are understood to have studied for degrees at former polytechnics in inner-city areas.
Willetts pointed out, however, that the data was likely to be mixed. On computer studies courses, for instance, he said the unemployment rate six months after graduation varied from 20% at some universities to 4% at others, with Glasgow Caledonian University having one of the best employment records.
Willetts wants the Vignoles/Shephard study to be published so that 18-year-olds know which degrees will give them the best chance of high lifetime earnings. He said it would transform the debate on social mobility if teenagers understood where and what they needed to study to have a well-paid career…
More at: Students face £16,000 fees for Oxbridge (subscription required)
Whether linked to collecting loan repayments or not, does it not seem increasingly inevitable that the cap on university fees is going to be abolished before too long? Do you agree and what do you think the implications will be? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…
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