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HEi News Roundup live

Live higher education news roundup

New HE agency ready to consult on its services

Advance HE, UK higher education's newly formed agency, is setting out its stall and preparing to consult with the sector on the services it provides. Its Chief Executive Alison Johns outlines its plans and aims.

Advance HE formally launched

Advance HE, the new sector agency to be formed from the merger of the Equality Challenge Unit, Higher Education Academy and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, has been formally launched after the three agencies signed the documentation to effect the merger.

HEi-think: Evidence needed from HEIs on barriers to growing UK’s HE export potential

As the Higher Education Commission gathers evidence for its inquiry into the export potential of UK HE, it is particularly keen to hear from HEIs about barriers to international growth as Brexit approaches, says Dr Mary Bishop, HE Commissioner, TEF Panellist, and JISC HE & Student Experience Expert.

HE Commission seeks evidence on inquiry into UK HE exports

Universities have been invited to submit evidence to the Higher Education Commission's sixth cross-party inquiry, examining the export potential for the UK’s higher education sector.

Higher education under the microscope

As higher education faces an unprecedented period of scrutiny and change, Claire Lorrain, Chair of the Association of Managers in Higher Education (AMHEC), looks at key issues to be explored at AMHEC’S annual conference in April.

Half of students think feminism is "too radical", survey finds

Over half of students feel the feminism movement is too radical, according to a survey conducted by The Student Room.

HEi-think: Celebrating and supporting women in HE

As we celebrate International Women’s Day , Professor Yvonne Barnett, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research at Nottingham Trent University and Professor Shearer West, Vice-Chancellor of University of Nottingham, look at what universities need to do to support female academics and how the two institutions are working together to do just that.

Graduate debt in England higher than other Anglophone countries

English university graduates face higher debts on graduation than their American counterparts, and owe more than those in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, according to a new Sutton Trust report.

Drawing on the most recent published data from respective countries, Degrees of Debt shows that while the typical US graduate faces debts ranging from about £20,500 for students studying at public/ private non-profit universities to £29,000 at private for-profit universities, their English counterparts, graduating from last year under the new £9,000 fees regime, owe an average of over £44,000.

The Sutton Trust also warns that the replacement of maintenance grants with higher loans in England this September will leave the poorest students with debts of over £50,000. The government has also decided to freeze the threshold at which graduates start repaying loans at £21,000, which will accelerate the rate at which students pay back loans resulting in higher monthly payments.

Partly due to generous scholarships, the average graduate of private non-profit US universities, which include the Ivy League, finishes with £23,000 of debt despite the typical course lasting four years compared to three in England.

However, the report notes that UK graduates benefit from an income contingent system held by the state. These are compounded by interest rates of up to 3 per cent over inflation, but some of their American counterparts face even higher interest rates, with loans that are not income contingent. While UK and Australian graduates can take a ‘repayment holiday’ when their income dips, only 19 per cent of US students receiving the most common federal loans are enrolled on similar schemes.

Tuition fees in England are higher at an average of £8,800 (the maximum is £9,000) than for students going to a home state public university in the US (about £6,600). Fees for students out-of-state and at private universities are often higher in the US, but many have generous bursary schemes that offset fees for low and middle income families.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and Education Endowment Foundation said today: “The massive increase in tuition fees from just over £3,000 to £9,000 per annum and the abolition of the maintenance grant results in the poorest English university graduates facing debts on graduation of over £50,000 with interest rates on the debt compounding at up to 3% over inflation.

“These debt levels are by far the highest in the English speaking world and are more than double average debt levels at universities in the United States, where students study for four year programmes, rather than three. They impact on the ability of graduates to go to graduate schools, to afford a mortgage, the timing of having children and other major life decisions.

“The cost of going to university has become so expensive that more young people should seriously consider higher level apprenticeships, preferably to degree level. By choosing this route they will earn while they learn, incur less debt, and develop skills which are greatly valued in the workplace. We need more good apprenticeships to offer genuine alternatives to university degrees.”

The report also highlights the growing complexity in arrangements in the UK nations, with different fee levels in Scotland for those from the rest of UK, for example, and grants in Wales that enable Welsh students to take up places at English universities for less than £4,000 a year rather than up to £9,000.

It notes that while undergraduate recruitment for disadvantaged students has continued to improve since the introduction of higher fees, the numbers of mature and part-time students have fallen significantly.

The Sutton Trust is recommending:

• The Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee in the House of Commons should monitor and report on higher education funding and provision each year, assessing the impact of changes on disadvantaged students, as well as mature and part-timers;
• Better co-ordination between higher education ministers from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to rationalise student funding policies across the UK;
• An investigation by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) into the impact of the latest changes to grants and loans, to ensure value for money for students and taxpayers;
• Stronger evaluation of university spending of £750m a year on outreach and access programmes to maximise their impact.

Dr Philip Kirby, the report’s author said: “There are features of the UK system that are better than those in the US – particularly the income contingent loans collected by HMRC – but, with significant access gaps remaining, proper monitoring of the changes to student funding from this September is crucial.”

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