Chris Ison/PA Wire

Christian group calls for free tuition as Theresa May says fees are most expensive in the world

Mon 19 Feb 2018
By Tola Mbakwe

The Student Christian Movement (SCM) has urged the government to scrap university tuition fees after Prime Minister Theresa May announced a review into university finance.

Mrs May admitted there serious concerns about a system that leaves the poorest students in England with the highest debt.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the current system of university tuition fees of up to £9,250 a year had not resulted in the "competitive" market that had been expected and instead "we now have one of the most expensive systems" in the world.

 

In a speech she said the goal of making university accessible to teenagers from all backgrounds "is not made easier by a funding system which leaves students from the lowest-income households bearing the highest levels of debt, with many graduates left questioning the return they get for their investment".

Adam Spiers from SCM told Premier's News Hour he hopes the review leads to free higher education, not just reduced interest or lowering the tuition fee cap. There's currently 6.1 per cent interest on student loans.

"They should be taking into consideration the preferential option for the poor," Spiers said. "Over £9,000 a year is not good for poor and working class people."

"It [student debt] looms over you. You're always terrified of what you have and haven't paid what you should or should not be paying. It's such a huge number.

"Some people just give up on it. They just bury their heads in the sand because it's so huge they just don't want to think about it."

Spiers advised treating post-18 education funding like the NHS.

He said: "Look at things like our NHS... that is free at the point of need but we pay for it later through our taxation system and I don't see why the same system shouldn't be applied to higher education."

Former education secretary Justine Greening has urged the Government to reintroduce maintenance grants for poorer students.

Ben Stansall/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May talks with pupils and staff during a visit to Featherstone High School in west London ahead of the launch of the Government's review of post-18 education and funding.

 

Mrs May said the review will "examine how we can give people from disadvantaged backgrounds an equal chance to succeed" which includes "how disadvantaged students and learners receive maintenance support, both from Government and universities and colleges".

Compared with some of our nearest European neighbours, the cost to an English student of going to a UK university is heavy.

In Germany, there are no tuition fees for public universities for both domestic and international students, while in Denmark, higher education is free for EU students.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, standard fees start at around 2,000 euros (about £1,700).

Listen to Adam Spiers speaking with Premier's Tola Mbakwe:

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