Idea for uni fees to be cut to £7,500 abandoned by the guy who came up with it

This bodes well

The idea for university fees to be cut to £7,500 a year has been abandoned by the man who proposed it.

Philip Augar, who produced a report for Theresa May’s government recommending tuition fees be cut to a lower level, now says “Covid-19-related disruption may now mean that such a fee cut would be too destabilising”.

Writing in the FT, former banker Augar instead suggests fees could be frozen for five years, and grants directed to students on “strategic subjects” like computer science, maths, or engineering.

Backed by Theresa May, the £7,500 university fees recommendation has all but disappeared from the radar under Boris Johnson’s government. Last week, the government said students should still expect to pay full fees next year even if courses are online.

Augar points out that the current system is designed so that some courses are, in effect, subsidised – the taxpayer picks up the cost of any debt written off after the 30 year threshold.

Humanities subjects, where graduates typically earn less and therefore pay back less of their loan before it is written off, effectively receive a higher subsidy.

One in five grads would have been better off if they hadn’t gone to uni, Augar notes.

Alternatively, he suggests that some courses could introduce number camps, or universities could receive incentives for investing in “priority” subjects.

Universities have found themselves in a precarious position during the current crisis. York and Cardiff have both warned staff of losses in the region of £100 million, whilst an expected exodus of international students has rung alarm bells for unis who rely on them for as much as a quarter of their income.

Amid this, universities are looking to secure their fees income. A support package for universities announced last week includes £2.6bn of tuition being made available to unis earlier than usual, in a bid to keep them afloat.

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