According to the new universities minister, David Willetts, students are a ‘burden’ on the taxpayer.
Mr Willetts has indicated that the higher education system and its fees structure is now ‘unsustainable’ and needs ‘radical’ reform.
The government is trying to cut Â£200 million from the higher education budget and they have written to every university and college to try and get them to do more with less money. Or, more accurately, how to do less travel, recruiting, hospitality and spending on allowances, whilst keeping or increasing current educational standards with less money overall. The government also wants more school leavers to consider an apprenticeship as opposed to a university course.
The former head of BP, Lord Browne, is currently engaged in a review of the student funding system due to report in the Autumn and has been receiving calls for an increase of the tuition fees, which currently stands at Â£3,225 p.a. the report is actually expected to recommend a scrapping of any tuition fee cap.
Currently students take out cheap loans to cover course and living costs. These loans are only repayable once earnings exceed Â£15,000 a year and then at below market rates.
Although the Tories won’t rule out a rise in tuition fees the other half of the coalition, the LibDems, want the fees scrapped altogether. It is unclear how these differing views can be reconciled.
Also, are the students the burden, or the debt they will carry to pay for a better educated society?