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Browne review : Rich graduates to fare better in tuition fees shake-up - Patrick Wintour, Jeevan Vasagar, Jessica Shepherd and Allegra Stratton, The Guardian, 11 octobre 2010

mercredi 13 octobre 2010

Graduates earning less than £60,000 likely to pay back more than those earning over £100,000, according to analysis

Graduates earning between £35,000 and £60,000 a year are likely to have to pay back more in fees and interest than those earning more than £100,000, according to an analysis of plans due to be unveiled tomorrow by Lord Browne on the future of university education.

Browne’s long-awaited review is expected to propose that universities in England be allowed to raise tuition fees to a maximum of £6,250 a year while protecting lower earners by raising the salary threshold for repayment of loans to £21,000.

Nearly 30 Lib Dem backbenchers are prepared to rebel by voting against the government over a rise in tuition fees, the National Union of Students claimed tonight. At the time of the election, all sitting Lib Dem MPs, including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, signed up to a pledge to vote against any increase in fees. The coalition agreement allows the Lib Dems to abstain.

Cable was meeting Lib Dem MPs tonight in an effort to convince them to back the coalition’s plan. Cable hoped he could make Browne’s proposals more progressive by having a variable interest rate that would be linked to a graduate’s income. Lib Dem MPs might have to vote on the issue in as little as six weeks’ time.

Greg Mulholland, Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West, said he would vote against any rise in fees. "I am trying to make it clear to government that we simply wouldn’t accept a rise in tuition fees. I hope that the government will heed the message and will come up with a proposal that isn’t an increase to fees," he said.

As well as raising the cap on tuition fees, Browne is expected to propose a maximum maintenance loan of £3,750 – which would take the maximum student loan debt to £30,000 over three years.

Browne will seek to protect the poorest by arguing that the earnings threshold at which repayment should be made should be raised from £15,000 to £21,000 a year.

On the assumption of a real interest rate of 2.2% and a maximum repayment period of 30 years, Labour believes this will hit middle-income groups most since they will be unable to pay back the debt as quickly as those on £100,000.

Based on models prepared by the National Union of Students, the total cost of repayment for those in the income group £35,000-£40,000 would be £37,800 assuming a 30-year repayment period ; for those earning £100,000, the cost would be £31,849, assuming a repayment of only four years.

No one will be required to pay back any money if, 30 years after completing their course, their earnings have not exceeded £21,000.

Browne will also propose that the government should provide loans for fees up to £6,250. Any university charging above that would have to reimburse a percentage to the government. This will be a viable option only for the most prestigious universities, who can charge high fees for the most competitive courses.

David Cameron admitted at a Downing Street press conference today that the issue was "very difficult" for the coalition. "Everybody has to compromise because the truth is that we all want the same thing," Cameron said.
"I think that on all sides, those of us who want well-funded universities, bright children from poor homes being able to go to those universities, universities that can be the best in the world – we need change. "And what the coalition is determined to bring about is to bring about the change although it will take some very difficult decisions for all involved. But I am heartened by the fact that whether it is Conservative colleagues or Liberal Democrat colleagues we all want to achieve good universities, social mobility, fairness and a progressive system.That is exactly what I think we will do."

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