As with all major policy areas, the Liberal Democrats set up working groups to design policy for the 2015 manifesto. The working group on higher education is already underway. Remember: · Going to university depends on ability – not the ability to pay · No-one pays a penny upfront. Students don’t pay, graduates do · For the first time, part time students don’t pay up front fees · No-one earning £21,000 or less will pay anything · Everyone will be better off per month · The lowest earning 25% of graduates will repay less overall The IFS report into the changes in Higher Education finance, said the new system introduced by the Coalition is ‘substantially more progressive’. The report said: · “The average student will also be better off while at university, enjoying an increase in cash support of some 12 per cent.” · “The poorest 29 per cent of graduates will actually be better off under the new system [and the others will pay more].” · “…the new system [is] substantially more progressive than its predecessor: the richest graduates are likely to repay ten times as much as the poorest, and would even pay back more than the value of what they borrowed.” · “As long as students are well informed and not averse to the kind of debt involved – repayments of which only depend on one’s ability to pay – participation rates should not suffer.” Key findings from the UCAS End of Cycle report for 2012 The overall acceptance rate for students applying under new tuition fee arrangements increased by almost one percentage point to 71.1%. Key findings in the report include: · Entry rates for disadvantaged 18 year olds increased in 2012 across the UK. · More students from disadvantaged backgrounds entered higher tariff institutions than in 2011. Entry rates for this group increased by more than they did for more advantaged applicants. · The entry rate for UK 18 year olds to ‘higher tariff’ institutions increased markedly in 2012 to reach its highest recorded level. · More 18 year olds entered higher education through preferred choice routes in 2012. Proportionately fewer were recruited through their insurance choice or clearing. The UCAS Chief Executive commented: “although demand for higher education has fallen in England, the actual entry rates for young people are close to trend. “The continuing increase in participation from more disadvantaged groups is very encouraging, as is the absence of any signal that they are turning away from higher fee courses. “Young women are now a third more likely to enter higher education than men, a difference that has increased this cycle. The fact that women remain more likely to enter higher education than men are to apply, is a striking and worrying finding.” So of course there are both good and less good outcomes, but the overall situation suggests that the system put in place is a progressive one that advantages most students, but particularly helps to offset the disadvantages under which poorer and less privileged students have laboured for so long.