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Labour's £6,000 fee plan - courses that already cost less than the maximum

19 June 2019

The Labour Party proposal (announced on 27 February) involves a promise that students taking a higher education course will be charged a maximum £6,000 fee from 2016-17 onwards. The exact mechanism for implementing the policy is unclear. An AoC paper sets out questions and comments on 10 issues. aoc 6000 fees in higher education 2 march 2015 CW (1).docx aoc 6000 fees in higher education 2 march 2015 CW (1).docx (DOCX,120.92 KB) An important issue is that substantial numbers of full-time higher education students already pay less than £9,000. The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) report on 2015-16 access agreements states that: 44 universities charge £9,000 to every full-time student while 87 charge lower fees in certain circumstances. Nine further education colleges have some full-time courses at £9,000; 40 have some or all of their fees in the £6,000 to £9,000 range while 160 have no fees above £6,000. Offa estimates that the average university full-time fee will be £8,830 in 2015-16 and the average college full-time fee will be less than £7,000. The majority of the 45,000 full-time college higher education students will pay less than £9,000, more than 23,000 of whom will definitely pay less than £6,000. In addition there are now more than 50,000 full-time higher education students enrolled at private higher education institutions who qualify for tuition fee loans of up to £6,000. However, their circumstances are very different because private institutions can, and often do, charge more than £6,000 (or £9,000). Further education and sixth form colleges are covered by the law in the Teaching and Higher Education Act 2004 which requires them to secure OFFA approval to charge more than £6,000 in fees. A key question now is whether the money made available for fee reduction will also be paid to those institutions who already charge less than the £9,000 maximum. If the policy involves paying a larger fee reduction grant to those institutions who charge the most, then this removes the last incentive for universities and colleges to keep full-time tuition fees affordable by charging less than the maximum. We have written a detailed paper setting out a total of ten questions