The Conservative Party said during the election campaign that it would maintain the current cap on tuition fees, while removing the cap on numbers. However, the challenge of ensuring a sustainable funding model, while maintaining the quality of, and access to, higher education remains.
UK higher education remains a good investment for students, with graduates more likely to be employed than their non-graduate counterparts. In addition, graduates earn significantly more than non-graduates during their working life according to the Office for National Statistics – the average graduate premium is £252,000 for women and £168,000 for men*. However, students are facing an estimated average funding shortfall of nearly £8,000 per year, according to the NUS**. And students are likely to continue to experience a funding gap given the fiscal constraints that the government faces.
In terms of practical support, the new government could widen participation in the Professional and Career Development Loan scheme to include specialist student lenders, given that currently only two banks take part in the programme. The government and universities could also raise awareness of the financial options available to students to help them make informed decisions where their subsidised loans and bursaries are not enough.
These steps would help to facilitate an accessible, competitive and responsible marketplace for student finance, which is in everyone’s interest.
Future Finance is the UK’s specialist student lender. We have lent £7 million to university students across the UK. www.financemyfuture.co.uk.