universities policies

The policies of each UK political party on universities and how much they plan to spend

The Green Party wants to abolish tuition fees

With the General Election just over a week away, it’s easy to feel like students and young people have been ignored by all the major political parties. But with their policies on universities ranging from completely abolishing tuition fees, to stopping cancel culture at uni and reducing the number of so-called “Mickey Mouse” degrees (I’ll let you guess which parties said which), each UK party has pledges about higher education in their manifestos.

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), alongside the Nuffield Foundation and London Economics, has just released a new report looking at the policies proposed by each major party on universities and higher education, and how much they will cost.

So, these are the policy promises of each UK political party on universities on higher education and how much they all plan to spend:


Via YouTube

The Tories’ manifesto mentions little about higher education, apart from the desire to limit the number of so-called “low value” degrees and use any cost savings to fund more apprenticeships.

The manifesto says that courses with excessive dropout rates or that “leave students worse off than had they not gone to university” will be stopped from recruiting new students. This will apparently “protect students from being missold and the taxpayer from having to pay where the graduate can’t.”

The Conservatives are proposing no changes to the current student loan and fees system for UK students. This is estimated to cost around £2.01 billion per cohort of undergrads students.

The taxpayer contributes 16 per cent of the total cost of higher education provision per year in England, while students contribute the remaining 84 per cent.


Via YouTube

Labour’s manifesto mentions that it will “continue to support the aspirations of every person who meets the requirements and wants to go to university”.

However, the report mentions that the lack of detail in the Labour Party’s manifesto means HEPI was unable to specifically model commitments on higher education fees and funding.

It does, however, say: “The current higher education funding settlement does not work for the taxpayer, universities staff, or students. Labour will act to create a secure future for higher education and the opportunities it creates across the UK. We will work with universities to deliver for students and our economy.”

Labour also plans to “better integrate further and higher education so that transition between the sectors becomes more seamless for learners.”

Green Party

universities policies

Via YouTube

With perhaps the biggest promises of all the parties, the Green Party plans to completely abolish tuition fees. This is estimated to cost the Exchequer six times more than the current spend on higher education with an increase of £11.95 billion per year.

They also plan in the future to cancel all graduate debt.

The manifesto reads: “Marketisation has been disastrous for higher education, changing the relationship between students and academic faculty, pushing universities into financial crisis, and burdening a whole generation of students with debts so high that they are ruining their life chances.

“We would fully fund every higher education student, restoring maintenance grants and scrapping undergraduate tuition fees. Our long-term plans also include seeking to cancel the injustice of graduate debt.”

Liberal Democrats

universities policies

Via YouTube

The Lib Dems are proposing the reintroduction of means-tested maintenance grants to benefit the least well-off students. The manifesto reads: “We will reinstate maintenance grants for disadvantaged students immediately to make sure that living costs are not a barrier to studying at university.”

This would cost £1.31 billion more per year, according to the HEPI report.

the Lib Dems also promise to: “Ensure that all universities work to widen participation by disadvantaged and underrepresented groups across the sector.”

Reform UK

universities policies

Via YouTube

Finally, Reform UK want to restrict student numbers, enforce minimum entry standards, stop “cancel culture” and make courses two years as well as remove student loan interest rates and extend the repayment period of student loans from 40 to 45 years.

This would cost the Exchequer £4.48 billion more, due to the elimination of inflation-indexed loan interest rates.

The Exchequer would contribute 52 per cent of the total cost of higher education provision. The extension of the loan repayment period would have essentially no impact in itself, and would therefore not impact any of the additional costs associated with the removal of interest rates, according to HEPI.

Reform UK’s manifesto regarding unis reads: “Scrap interest on student loans: Extend loan capital repayment period to 45 years. Restrict undergraduate numbers well below current levels, too many courses are simply not good enough and students are being ripped off. Enforce minimum entry standards.”

Reform also plans to “cut funding to universities that undermine free speech”. The manifesto says “allowing political bias or cancel culture must face heavy financial penalties.”

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