EuroTrack: two thirds of Britons say higher education is not affordable

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
June 28, 2021, 9:36 AM UTC

The British public are also more likely than Swedes, Germans, Danes and French people to say too many people go to university

The architect behind the current student finance system in England has said the fairest way to fund higher education would be to lower the income threshold for repayments from £26,000 to £19,000.

But new YouGov data shows that two thirds of Britons (65%) already think higher education is not affordable. This is much higher than in four other European countries, with around half of French people (52%) and Swedes (49%) feeling the same. Germans (35%) and Danes (11%) are the least likely to say so.

While students in England pay up to £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree, Swedes and Danes don’t pay anything. German students have to fork out between £85-300 in admin fees per term, while French students pay around £145 each year.

Despite Britons feeling more strongly than other nationalities in the survey that their higher education system is unaffordable, they are also the least supportive of tuition fees being entirely funded by the taxpayer. Only one in five people (22%) are in favour of it, compared with half of Danes (52%), two in five Swedes (43%) and 27-29% of people in Germany and France.

The most popular approach among Brits is a system that is partially funded by the taxpayer and partially by students, with over one in three people (36%) favouring this option. This is most akin to the current system in England, where the outstanding balance from student loans is written off after 30 years. According to London Economics, students under the current fees regime graduate with an average debt of £47,000, of which 54% will be written off after three decades, meaning the rest of the bill falls to the taxpayer.

Britons are also the most inclined to support higher education being entirely funded by students, either through tuition fees or a graduate tax. Three in ten people (29%) are in favour of this, compared with a quarter of Germans (25%) and French nationals (24%), a fifth of Swedes (19%) and one in eight Danes (13%).

Britons most likely to feel too many people go to university

Two in five people in Britain (40%) feel that too many people go to university – the highest among the five countries in the survey. Sentiment in Germany is similar at 38%, while around a quarter of people in Denmark (25%) and France (23%) feel the same. Swedes are the least likely to agree at 15%.

Around a quarter of Britons say the numbers who attend higher education are about right, while only 14% say not enough people get a degree. Swedes are the most likely to believe not enough people are attending higher education at 23%.

See the full results here