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Tuition fee ‘cut’ to cost grads more in debt repayments

Students could end up paying more after graduation under the government’s new tuition fee proposals, a Cherwell analysis can reveal.

The Government-commissioned Augar Review, published in May, has proposed a cut in tuition fees to £7,500 and a scrapping of interest rates during the period of study. However, the income threshold at which graduates begin to pay off their debt would be lowered from £25,716 to £23,000.

The effect of lowering the income threshold outweighs the effect of the fee and interest rate cut, Cherwell’s analysis shows. Graduates at Oxford, in virtue of having among the highest prospective incomes within the first five years of graduation, would be among the most severely affected by the proposed changes.

Research by Cherwell compared four undergraduate courses (Law, History/Philosophy, Engineering and English) taught at six different universities (Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Durham, Coventry and Leeds Beckett) using median income data from the Department for Education.

Our analysis found that graduates from Oxford University, who already pay off among the highest levels student debt within five years of graduation, faced the biggest increases in debt repayments of the six universities under the proposed changes. The debt repayment for a Law graduate from Oxford five years after graduation is set to increase by around £1,200 on average. This is in comparison to the repayment for a Durham Law graduate, which will increase by around £960. The debt repayment for an Engineering graduate from Oxford five years after graduation would increase by around £1,200 on average, compared with repayments for a Coventry Engineering graduate, which would increase by around £1,080.

Our analysis also found that differences in debt repayments vary to a much greater extent between universities than between degree subjects, relating to respective differences in earnings. The median incomes of Law graduates five years after graduation at Oxford versus at Coventry are £61,400 and £21,400 respectively, a near threefold difference. Contrariwise, the median incomes of Coventry graduates studying Law versus English are £24,000 and £21,400 respectively, a difference of only 12%.

The median incomes of Philosophy graduates five years after graduation at Oxford versus at Leeds Beckett are £38,100 and £19,600 respectively, a difference of almost 200%. But Philosophy and Engineering graduates at Oxford will earn £38,100 and £42,800 respectively, a difference of only 12%.

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