Future of further education

July 06, 2011, 6:05 PM GMT+0

Nearly half of British people believe that the proportion of young people who go on to university from further education is too high, compared to less than a quarter who think that the number is about right, our poll has found.

The poll also reveals that nearly three in five people oppose the new system of tuition fees in England in which most universities will be charging fees of between £8,000 and £9,000 a year, and nearly three quarters believe that tuition fees at this level will lead to fewer people attending university. Nearly half of people believe that with new tuition fee changes graduates will end up worse off in the long term.

  • 46% of British people believe that the proportion of young people who go on to attend university is too high
  • 23% think the quantity of people going on to university is about right
  • While 13% think that the number is too low
  • 58% of people oppose the new system of tuition fees in which students will pay back their loans after graduation once they are earning over £21,000 a year
  • Just 28% of people support the changes
  • 68% believe that placing tuition fees at between £8,000 and £9,000 a year will probably lead to fewer people attending university
  • While just under a quarter (24%) think it will not lead to a decline in numbers
  • 46% of people think that an average student’s debt of around £27,000 plus living fees will leave students worse off in the long term, despite the fact that graduates can normally expect higher salaries over their working lives
  • But 37% think that most graduates will end up better off in the long term as their increased earnings will eventually outweigh the costs of going to university

The increase in tuition fees to between £8,000 and £9,000 a year following the recommendations of the Browne Review has sparked controversy since its inception. In April this year, almost three quarters of universities in England declared their plans to raise tuition fees to the maximum £9,000 a year for some or all courses, despite the Government having calculated that most Universities would not charge the maximum. Aaron Porter, who at the time was the outgoing president of the National Union of Students, accused the Government of causing ‘costly chaos’ with its university reforms.

Both the current Government and its Labour predecessor have been strong proponents of reforms to the university system, including a fee increase of some kind, for several years. ‘Top-up fees’ were introduced under Tony Blair’s Labour Government in 2006, which increased fees from £1,000 to £3,000, and which had risen to a cap of £3,225 by 2010. The target of getting 50% of young people into University was also a policy first proposed by Blair’s cabinet, continued by Gordon Brown, and still seen as a valid target by David Cameron’s Coalition.