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Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, responds to the publication of the Augar Review.

Commenting Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:

“The Augar Review is Theresa May’s final mistake. Notwithstanding some sensible suggestions, the headline reforms to student loans are expensive, regressive and pointless. The next Prime Minister should reject this final legacy of the current Prime Minister”

“Reducing the tuition fee cap, and the interest rate on student loans, sound good, but basically amount to a tax cut for the wealthy, running counter to the whole purpose of the Augar Review, which was to do more for those who don’t do well out of university, or indeed don’t go at all.”

“Worse, it proposes extending the total repayment period, thereby making low-and middle-income graduates who have their loans written off pay more overall. Even on a monthly basis, the Augar Review is asking those on modest incomes to contribute more, with its proposal to lower the salary threshold for student loan repayments. And, to compensate universities for the loss of income from the tuition fee cut, it proposes increasing direct state funding for those offering high-cost, high-value subjects.”

“Put another way, all these changes would mean the most successful graduates paying less for higher education and everyone else – including non-graduate taxpayers – paying more for it. This is absurd.”

“Restoring maintenance grants for students from low-income backgrounds to replace part of the maintenance loan they current receive is a well-intentioned but ill-judged policy: the only financial beneficiaries would, again, be older, affluent graduates, albeit originally from low-income backgrounds. Since the maintenance loan is junior to the tuition fee loan, most low- and middle-income graduates presently will not even get round to paying it. The Government should instead focus on extending the amount of maintenance loans available to students, including enabling apprentices to access them.”

“Encouragingly, the Augar Review does seek to increase funding for – and widen access to the student finance system for those enrolling in – further education. It suggests that both further and higher education students access tuition fee loans for any course they wish to take throughout their lives, including dropping the restrictions on eligibility for those taking equivalent or lower qualifications. But the amount of loans available needs to be much higher than the maximum cost of a four-year undergraduate degree. A more generous lifetime loan account should be offered to all adults.”

In 2015, Bright Blue published a report, entitled Going part-timerecommending the introduction of a lifetime loan account for all adults to participate in any type of post-18 higher or further education course.