Theresa May demands better value for money for university students

Posted On: 
19th February 2018

Theresa May will today highlight the eye-watering cost of university as she calls for better value for money for students.

Theresa May will announce a shake-up of university funding
PA Images

The Prime Minister will say students in England face “one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world” as she launches a wide-ranging independent review of higher education finance.

She will also blast the “outdated attitudes” that university offers a better career bet than technical education.

Former education secretary Justine Greening warns cheaper degree plans could stifle social mobility

Education Secretary drops major hint that arts degrees will be cheaper

Universities Minister: Two-year degrees will save students thousands

The year-long review will consider all options to shake up the system except for funding degrees from general taxation.

But top Conservative figures have already warned against proposals to lower the cost of some courses that are less career-boosting, cheaper to run and of less value to the economy.

In a speech today Mrs May will lament that hopes for the tuition fee system - that universities would themselves offer different prices for different courses - had not materialised.

“The competitive market between universities which the system of variable tuition fees envisaged has simply not emerged,” she will declare.

“The level of fees charged does not relate to the cost or quality of the course.”

She will acknowledge that after maintenance grants were scrapped in favour of loans the poorest students are leaving university with the highest levels of debt.

Maintenance loans - which were dumped by the Tories last year - will come under the scope of the review, as will the interest rate on student loans, which currently stands at 6.1%.

Mrs May will also blast the “patchy” landscape in technical training and call for an end to “false boundaries” between vocational and degree education as well as better careers advice.


Yesterday Education Secretary Damian Hinds suggested universities could offer cheaper degrees for arts and social sciences subjects and more expensive courses for science and engineering.

But his predecessor Justine Greening warned that the plan could harm social mobility and leave poorer kids unable to study the subjects they want to.

And Tory peer Lord Willetts said higher fees for courses that lead to the highest graduate earnings could become a “reverse pupil premium” and hand more cash to the most advantaged institutions.

Labour's shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, has called for education services, in further and higher education, to be free at the point of delivery.

"It's time the Tories just accepted their tuition fee system is unsustainable, scrapped fees entirely and brought back maintenance grants and the Education Maintenance Allowance, as Labour has promised to do,” she said.