UK university funding "unsustainable": Students more indebted as government writes off loans

Jessica Morris
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The government is funding higher education by writing off student debt, the report found (Source: Getty)

The oulook for the UK's higher education sector is dogged by financial uncertainty, according to new research.

A nine-month inquiry by think tank the Higher Education Commission found the coalition's reforms have put the sector on long-term footing that's "far from clear".

The post-2012 reforms increased how much students pay for a university education to an average cost of £44,035, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Before the reforms were introduced, most students left university with a total debt of £24,754.

The government is funding higher education by writing off student debt rather than investing in teach grants, according to the report. While the government continues to invest in higher education they're not getting any credit for it.

Yet as graduates become increasingly indebted many will struggle to repay their loans in full. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that the future figure will be around 73 per cent, compared to just 25 per cent under the old system.

Inquiry co-chair Dr Ruth Thompson said:

We have at present a funding system that represents the worst of both worlds, where all parties feel that they are getting a bad deal. While our higher education system has the strength and resilience to withstand considerable turbulence and volatility, the Commission found that present levels of uncertainty and risk mean that the future financial sustainability of the current funding model is far from guaranteed.
We have not identified a crock of gold or magic bullet solution. What we have done is identify a number of recommendations for action, and lay out six potential options for further consideration.

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