English universities should be allowed to charge students with unlimited fees, according to the suggestions made by a university funding board led by Lord Browne.
The review has recommended that the £3,290 cap on fees should be removed and a new model of charges should be introduced, which could reach heights of £12,000 a year. Just as the current system operates, students would receive a loan to pay for the annual fees.
Lord Browne said if the plans were to go ahead students would be “paying the same interest rate as the government uses to borrow. They will only pay it back when their earnings go above £21,000”.
He continued: “If you choose to go into a job which doesn’t pay very much or if you choose to go out of the workforce to build a family, you won’t have to pay it back”.
However, the National Union of Students said the uncapped fees could leave students with “crippling levels of debt and many universities face utter devastation as a result of horrific cuts”.
Other groups are worried that the recommendations mean that some families will be unable to afford a university education for their children – under the review board’s suggestions poorer people would be able to borrow more than better off families but this has led to concern that middle class households who are not eligible for extra loan top ups could end up being the worst hit.
Pam Tatlow, chief executive of university think tank Million+, said: “Fees at this level – even if they are backed by state-funded fee loans – will undoubtedly mean that some students who would have gone to university will decide not to go”.