The average female graduate will never repay her student debt under government plans to raise student borrowing to cover top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year, according to new research by the Liberal Democrats.
Work by the party shows that the average female's earnings are insufficient to keep pace with the inflationary interest that accrues on graduate debt.
It means that the rate at which women are able to repay their loans - which is pegged to earnings - is balanced by the annual interest levied on loans.
The average man, whose pay will rise faster and who will end up earning more than the average woman, will repay his loan within 23 years.
The Liberal Democrats say that their calculations show that the government's plans for higher education, which were announced in January's white paper, do nothing to take into account the imbalance in gender earnings.
Phil Willis, the Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, said: "The implications of this paper are enormous and reveal that the average female graduate will never be able to repay her student debt unless she is given external support."
The Liberal Democrats want to abolish tuition fees and to raise the additional funding needed for universities by levying a 50 per cent tax rate for those people who earn more than £100,000 a year. They say they would also introduce student grants worth up to £2,000.
REPAYMENT OF GRADUATION DEBT
Years after Graduation Source: Liberal Democrats