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University tuition fees could be cut to £8,500, say sources

tuition fees

University tuition fees could be cut to £8,500, say sources

High-level discussions have been held in Whitehall over controversial proposals to cut university tuition fees from £9,250 to £8,500, sources say.

Officials from No 10, the Treasury and the Department for Education (DfE) are said to have been engaged in “lively” talks about a possible cut to fees but have struggled to thrash out an agreement in time for the chancellor’s spending review.

An announcement on changes to higher education is long overdue following the 2019 Augar review of post-18 education, which recommended tuition fees were cut from £9,250 to £7,500 as part of a radical overhaul of university funding.

According to one source, the Treasury has been pushing for a tuition fee cut to £8,500, which would reduce the amount undergraduates have to borrow and in turn the amount of unpaid debt picked up by the state if they fail to repay the fees within 30 years.

The cut is said to have been opposed by officials at the DfE and No 10, who warned it could have a devastating impact on universities’ finances when they are already under pressure from rising inflation.

Ministers have also been considering cutting the threshold at which graduates begin to repay their tuition and maintenance loans, from just over £27,000 to £23,000 as part of an overhaul of student financing designed to save the Treasury billions of pounds.

Sources suggested there may be little detail on higher education in the chancellor’s spending review on Wednesday, with an announcement at a later date once an agreement has been finalised.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) thinktank and special adviser to the universities minister in 2012 when tuition fees in England were raised to £9,000, said debates in Whitehall on the issue had been lively.

He thought that cuts on the scale recommended by Augar looked increasingly unlikely in the current climate, though a smaller reduction may be more palatable and might have stayed on the table.

“The Augar recommendation of a cut of almost 20%, to £7,500, has come to look implausible, especially in the context of rising inflation, as it would have a dramatic impact on institutional finances,” he wrote in a Hepi blog.

“Imagine being a Tory MP for a red wall seat with a higher education institution that might be pushed to the wall by such a cut: you are not going to hold your seat easily and, therefore, you are not going to support such a change.”

With outstanding student loans reaching £140bn last year, the Treasury is desperate to reduce the cost of the student loan system in England. Hillman later said the Treasury was “very, very keen” to save money on higher education.

“As far as I can tell there has been serious thought in the Treasury on the idea of lowering the student repayment threshold. My feeling is there will be no across the board reduction in fees right now.”

Under the current system, graduates repay 9% of their income over the first £26,575. Interest is charged on the outstanding amount but the total remaining including interest is wiped by the government 30 years after graduation.

On other possible higher education developments, Hillman said he was concerned there may be a “slowing down” of the government’s past firm commitment to have 2.4% of UK GDP spent on research and development by 2027.

A government spokesperson said: “The student loan system is designed to ensure all those with the talent and desire to attend higher education are able to do so, while ensuring that the cost of higher education is fairly distributed between graduates and the taxpayer. We do not comment on speculation in the run up to fiscal events.”

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Ondo Govt reacts to court judgement declaring new LCDAs ‘illegal’

The Ondo State Government says necessary legal action will be taken on the judgement nullifying the creation of the 33 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state.

The government’s reaction is contained in a statement by the Attorney General of Ondo State, Mr Kayode Ajulo SAN, made available to  newsmen on Friday in Akure.

Justice A.O Adebusuoye of the state High Court had in a judgement on Thursday described the creation of the LCDAs as unlawful.

The court said it was illegal for a governor to sign a law outside the State.

The court said that the Local Government Creation Law 2023 signed by the late Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in Ibadan was unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.

The statement said the government has taken cognizance of Ondo State High Court’s judgement and had requested for a Certified True Copy of it.

Ajulo said after it was studied and analysed, a legal opinion would be presented to the state government.

“Subsequently, all necessary measures, in accordance with our laws, will be taken to safeguard the interests of our citizens, foster peaceful coexistence, and uphold the rule of law.

“The Attorney General remains steadfast in his commitment to prioritizing the well-being and welfare of our citizens, working tirelessly to ensure that justice and the law are served,” the statement said.

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LASTMA impounds 40 vehicles in Oyingbo, ijora, idumota axis

The  Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) has impounded another 25 commercial and 15 private vehicles operating illegal garages and causing serious road obstructions around Oyingbo, Ijora, and Idumota areas of  Lagos.

Mr Taofiq Adebayo, Director, Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA, said this in a statement on Friday in Lagos.

Adebayo said impounding the vehicles at these areas was a decisive move by LASTMA to restore order and ensure the free flow of traffic.

He said the operation was led by LASTMA Head of Enforcement, Mr Kayode Odunuga, under the directives of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Mr Sola Giwa.

Adebayo that they were specifically directed to target illegal garages that had been a persistent source of congestion and inconvenience for residents and commuters.

He said the impoundment, which began in recent weeks, was part of a broader initiative by the  Lagos State Government to enhance the efficiency of the city’s transportation network.

He quoted Giwa as emphasising that government is committed to maintaining law and order on the roads, ensuring that all traffic regulations are strictly enforced.

“illegal garages have been a significant challenge in our quest to maintain a seamless traffic flow in Lagos.

“These impoundments send a strong message to all offenders that the state will not tolerate activities that disrupt public order and endanger the lives of our citizens.

“Our goal is to create a safe and orderly environment for all road users and this action is a crucial step in that direction,” Giwa said.

He noted that the targeted areas, Oyingbo, Ijora, and Idumota, are known hotspots for traffic congestion due to unauthorised parking and the establishment of makeshift garages.

He said that these activities not only obstruct the free movement of vehicles but also pose safety risks to pedestrians.

“LASTMA’s intervention aims to clear these bottlenecks and enhance the overall traffic situation in these critical areas.

“Residents and business owners have expressed their support for the government’s action, noting the positive impact it will have on their daily activities.

“LASTMA has also assured the public that the operation will be sustained and extended to other parts of the city where illegal garages and related activities are prevalent,” he quoted Giwa as saying.

He urged all vehicle owners and operators to adhere to the state’s traffic regulations and cooperate with authorities to avoid sanctions.

He reiterated that the government’s primary objective was to create a better and more livable Lagos for everyone.

He also urged motorists to take ownership of the roads and to promptly inform LASTMA of any broken down or abandoned trailers or trucks via the Agency’s hotlines: 0810056586008129928503.

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Emir of Ilorin commiserates with Saraki over mother’s death

Nigeria in very bad shape, only PDP can rebuild it —Saraki

Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, has commiserated with a former Senate President,  Dr Bukola Saraki, over the death of his mother, Mrs Florence Saraki.

This is contained in a condolence message issued by the emir’s Spokesman, Mallam Abdulazeez Arowona, on Wednesday in Ilorin.

Mrs Saraki died on Tuesday at the age of 89.

Sulu-Gambari described the deceased as a wonderful mother, great philanthropist and virtuous wife to  Dr Olusola Saraki, the late Waziri of Ilorin, whose contributions to humanity would forever be remembered.

According to him, the deceased lived a fulfilled life, with numerous accomplishments.

The royal father urged Saraki, a two-term governor of Kwara, and his siblings to be strong in heart over the demise of their beloved mother.

Sulu-Gambari, who is also the Chairman of Kwara Traditional Rulers’ Council, extended his condolences to both the immediate and extended family members of the Saraki dynasty.

“I pray that Almighty Allah grants the family and friends the fortitude to bear the great loss,” he said.

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