MPs are to debate a petition calling for reductions in tuition fees, and for the holding of live debates between MPs and university students on issues of concern in higher education.
The Petitions Committee has announced that e-petition 550344 will be debated on Monday 25 October, with the Government to send a minister to respond to points raised.
The petition, entitled “Reduce University student tuition fees from £9250 to £3000”, attracted 581,287 signatures before it closed earlier this year. The petition calls for a reduction in tuition fees, but also argues “live Parliament debates involving MPs and students are crucial to give them the opportunity to raise the issues of concern in particular reducing University student fees & other matters impacting their lives including accommodation costs.”
The levels of tuition fees in the UK have attracted criticism from young people for some time, with this criticism increasing significantly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. During much of the pandemic, many students received limited teaching but were expected to pay the full fees, which universities can set up to £9,250 for home students.
Responding to the e-petition, the Government said;
“Tuition fee levels must represent value for money and ensure that universities are properly funded. Government is not considering a reduction in maximum fee levels to £3,000.”
“The maximum tuition fee cap has been frozen for four years and will remain at £9,250 in 2021/22 for standard full-time courses. HE providers are autonomous and responsible for setting their own fees under this level. In deciding to keep charging full fees, providers will want to ensure that they can continue to deliver courses which are fit for purpose and help students progress their qualifications. The Office for Students (OfS) has made it clear that HE providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and academic standards, which set out requirements to ensure that courses are high-quality, that students are supported and achieve good outcomes and that standards are protected, regardless of whether a provider is delivering its courses through face-to-face teaching, online learning, or a combination of both.”
Most universities have now returned to some form of pre-COVID style teaching, though many are still delivering some content online. Other issues, including around student accommodation and mental health, have also been raised by some students during the pandemic as needing addressing.
A number of similar petitions, including one seeking tuition fee refunds for people studying during the pandemic, were debated towards the end of last year and received government responses.
The debate on Monday will be opened by Petitions Committee member Tom Hunt, who is the MP for Ipswich, and the debate will be available to watch live on Parliament TV.