Speaking at the start of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester earlier this month, Prime Minister Theresa May has unveiled plans to raise the earning threshold at which university graduates have to begin repaying their student debts to £25,000 per year.
Currently, graduates begin to pay back their student loans once they earn more than £21,000 per year. The policy is set to benefit low-earning graduates who struggle to pay off their student loan as it is.
The change will only apply to graduates who took out the higher rate of student loans which were introduced in 2012. But current students will not be the only ones to benefit from the policy, as recent graduates who have already started paying off their student loan might find themselves with more money in their pockets, even if they earn above the £25,000 threshold.
This is due to the fact that the student loan repayments are calculated as a percentage of a graduate’s earning over the threshold, not of their total income.
Alongside adjusting the repayment threshold, May has promised a general review of the student funding system and claimed that tuition fees are set to freeze the maximum cap of undergraduate tuition fees at £9,250, which was recently awarded to top performing universities including UEA.
Leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, has since criticised the Conservative Party on Twitter, noting that it was their decision to triple tuition fees in 2012 and recently increase them to £9,250. The leader of the Labour Party said: “Promising not to raise [tuition fees] again is meaningless.”
Other opponents of the government have suggested that the move is simply an attempt to put a positive spin on what is essentially political backtracking – a sin which Mrs May has been accused of in the past.
The changes to tuition fees came as a surprise to many, particularly as they follow the results of the Government’s ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’, which was intended to allow the highest performing institutions to raise their tuition fees as a form of financial incentive.