The UK government is pressing ahead with plans to raise the annual fee cap to £11,100 for two-year degrees in England, to boost accelerated courses and “encourage new providers into the market”.
The Department for Education announced the move after a consultation on the plans, which will require votes in Parliament on secondary legislation to raise the fee cap for two-year courses.
While the move appears relatively uncontroversial, Parliamentary votes on any kind of fee rise may have the potential for an unexpected twist.
The DfE implicitly acknowledges this in its press release, saying there “has been historic cross-party support for this policy, from Shirley Williams in the 1960s, to Labour spokesman Lord Stevenson, Roberta Blackman-Woods, Lord Liddle and Lord Watson who all supported it in the passage of the Higher Education and Research Bill”.
The press release refers to an increase in the fee cap, but avoids any direct mention of the £11,100 figure.
The DfE says that “students who opt for a two-year degree will save at least 20 per cent (£5,500) in total tuition costs compared to a standard three-year course” with £9,250 annual fees.
Given that tuition fees are repaid by graduates contingent on their salary and that outstanding balances are written off after 30 years, it is impossible to predict whether a particular individual graduate would accrue savings in practice.
However, the DfE press release also makes it clear that “for the taxpayer, it means significantly lower tuition loan outlay, higher rates of repayment and therefore a lower cost to the public purse of higher education. A higher proportion of students on accelerated degrees will also repay their loans in full.”
The department said that two-year degrees would “encourage new providers into the market and help students fast-track their way into the workforce”.
Sam Gyimah, the universities minister, said: “Accelerated degrees not only make it possible for the next generation of students to access higher education and the undeniable financial, academic and personal benefits it has to offer, but drives the sector to offer dynamic choices that serve students’ needs.
“Providers will be able to tap into a new market of students, particularly mature students and those who commute, who were previously locked out of higher education. This provision creates a new arena of competition that delivers for students, taxpayers and employers.”
The government will publish its response to the consultation on 19 November.
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