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Escape of the wealthy: The unfairness of the English student finance system

This report looks at the UK higher education fee regime and finds that 10% of the 1 million+ UK-domiciled full-time and part-time students studying first degrees at English universities are likely to escape the student fee system by paying their fees up front, undermining successive government claims that the current system is progressive.

The research tests the relationship between socio-economic status and undergraduate self-funding and finds a particularly strong relationship between the Russell Group of universities. Six Russell Group institutions have self-funding levels for full-time first degrees at more than twice the national average of around 7.5%: King’s College London (20%), Cambridge (16%), Oxford (16%), University College London (14.5%), Imperial (14%) and LSE (14%).

Paying up front means that students avoid around £6,000 of interest while at university, unlike their peers who are currently charged 6.3% interest. This is more than four times the government’s borrowing rate of 1.5%. Neither will these students have 9% of income over £25,000 a year for the next 30 years deducted from their pay packets. This puts self-funders at a serious economic advantage to fellow graduates in terms of saving power, spending power, and the ability to borrow to buy a home for many years after university.