I can remember acutely the sense of anger that many people felt when in the early months of this government about changes to university funding and tuition fees. I personally regret deeply making a promise that we could not be certain we would be able to keep.However, I also believe that the changes we made were an improvement on the unfair system that had existed before.
No student has to pay back a penny until they are earning over £21,000 - and even then only through their tax bill. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the new system is “significantly more progressive” than Labour’s tuition fees scheme - with much more of the cost being paid by those earning the highest salaries in their careers following university.
And that view has been strongly supported by the latest university entry figures published last week: the rate of disadvantaged students applying to higher education has hit an all time high with the most disadvantaged students in England 72% more likely to apply to higher education now than 9 years ago. In Labour’s last year in government 14% of the most disadvantaged went to university, and this is now 18%.
We are also breaking the glass ceiling that stops many of the brightest graduates being able to fulfil their career potential by introducing new student loans to support those going into postgraduate education - which is required for more and more roles in our highly-skilled economy. From 2016/17 those going on to postgraduate education below the age of 30 will be able to access a £10,000 government loan scheme to cover their course fees.