Alliance Fees report shows myths are more of a barrier than the system itself

University Alliance report shows that ‘misunderstanding and myths about university fees are causing more of a barrier to entry than the system itself.’

In line with the Independent Review of HE Funding and Student Finance, University Alliance has undertaken a thorough and robust consideration of the evidence regarding the impact of fees.  The report ‘Impact of Fees: A review of the evidence’  takes a detailed look at the consequences for students, graduates and access to university as well as the wider impact on Government and the political outcomes of Fees. Libby Aston, Director of University Alliance, said:

“There is clear evidence that the system itself has not had a negative impact on participation or access to higher education in England.  New IFS research shows that for every £1,000 of upfront fee cost, there is a 4.4 percentage point decline in participation but this was countered by the introduction of fee loans, grants and bursaries in 2006. We know that demand for higher education has continued to increase since 2006.  Indeed, growth has been higher in England than in Scotland (where there are no fees) and highest amongst students from the most disadvantaged areas.

“Attainment, not cost, remains the strongest determinant of participation in higher education.  Evidence shows that the disparity of access to university by socioeconomic background is deeply rooted in the stubborn correlation between attainment and social class; with less-able pupils from the richest backgrounds overtaking better able pupils from the poorest backgrounds by the age of 6.

But the report highlights some serious failings of the current system.  Libby Aston said:

“Misunderstanding and myths about the current system are causing more of a barrier than the system itself. Many people still think that there is an upfront fee to pay and there are myths about the burden and possible accumulation of graduate debt. The 2006 changes introduced what was, in effect, a graduate contribution scheme with no upfront cost to the student and little or no financial risk to the graduate but this is not widely understood.

“The current system is unaffordable and unsustainable for Government because of poorly targeted blanket subsidies in the system. Even though 97% of male graduates will pay off their loans in full, they will still receive a Government subsidy of 27% of the value of their loan. The high cost of the current system is causing a restraint on publicly funded student places and limiting access to university for qualified students.

“Furthermore, new analysis of demographic trends has shown that there the young population with the highest propensity to enter HE is not about to decline, putting further pressure on funding for university places. The need for reform is urgent.”


Notes for Editors

The full report ‘Impact of Fees: A review of the evidence’ is available to download here.

About University Alliance

University Alliance represents 22 major, dynamic, business-like universities at the heart of the sector that deliver world-leading research with impact and are actively business focussed.  Alliance universities educate 26% of all UK students and achieve some of the highest graduate-level employment rates.  These universities offer a research-informed, academic learning environment and a culture of entrepreneurialism, equipping graduates for the 21st century.

Alliance universities

Aberystwyth University, Bournemouth University, University of Bradford, De Montfort University, University of Glamorgan, University of Gloucestershire, University of Hertfordshire, University of Huddersfield, University of Lincoln, Liverpool John Moores University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Northumbria University, Nottingham Trent University, Open University, Oxford Brookes University, University of Plymouth, University of Portsmouth, University of Salford, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, University of Wales, Newport, University of the West of England.

For further information, please contact:

Alexandra Harris, University Alliance on 0203 178 7491

or email

Further reading