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Squeezing our Students? An English/OECD comparison of the student finance burden

The post-2010 reforms to the financing of higher education at English universities have proved extremely controversial. Students on most courses now face the prospect of being charged tuition fees that can cost up to £9,000 per year, and having to pay a higher interest rate on the debt than previous generations of graduates.

But how does the new student finance burden in England compare with what students in other countries have to face? IF has undertaken a major international comparison that examined the levels of fees that students can be charged at higher education institutions in other OECD member states, in addition to comparing the student finance systems in these countries and the amount of interest charged on student debt.

This revealed that under the new English system, students are now being charged the highest headline tuition fees of any public university system in the world, in addition to the third-highest rate of interest on government-backed student loans. People who graduate under the new system are also likely to be severely disadvantaged in the future, as they face the prospect of having to repay 9% of all income above the repayment threshold – effectively a graduate tax – and the government has retained the power to adjust their repayment terms at any point in the future. IF calls for urgent debate among the higher education sector and education policy-makers about whether this system will really benefit Britain in the long term.