Following on from the June election Theresa May’s Conservative party look to be attempting to bring young voters who feel let down back into the fold.
In what appears to be an obvious reaction to the incredible statistics that were released after the election results, showing an incredible 63.66% of 18 to 30 year olds voted Labour, Theresa May has been giving interviews as part of the Tory conference suggesting she will freeze tuition fees.
Given the fact that youth vote increased in turnout by almost 20% this year, coupled with widespread resentment over the rising cost of higher education, it’s hardly surprising that the Tories are sitting up and paying attention to the changing tide of public opinion.
Broadly speaking, as we know, the popularity of going to university is showing no signs of slowing down despite market factors such as rising costs and Brexit. According to UCAS figures, student numbers this year, and especially foreign student numbers, have remained steady or in fact risen for some institutions.
As reported by The BBC, after an interview with Andrew Marr, May has admitted a change in her party’s approach on tuition fees in England, saying she has listened to voters and fees will freeze at £9,250.
Fee repayment thresholds will also rise, so graduates will start paying back loans once they earn £25,000, rather than £21,000, the PM said.
She said the whole student finance system would be reviewed and did not rule out a move to a graduate tax.
In the same article, they reported that other ideas being considered by the government as part of the overhaul are cutting the interest rates on loans and introducing lower fees for students studying certain subjects, such as engineering, where there is a skills shortage.
Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said he wanted to see the government going further by reintroducing maintenance grants for the poorest students and reducing interest rates for low and medium earners.
It’s an interesting change of tack for the government who had previously indicated that they were relaxed about the idea of raising fees for students as well as cutting maintenance grants for poor students. Student nurses have been hit especially hard by the changes to the maintenance structures.
Student property and student investment are currently booming, with demand far outstripping supply across the UK and in cities such as Manchester and Nottingham as well as in the capital London. Yields, capital appreciation and rental incomes are all flying high with many foreign funds now scrambling to get into the asset class. Huge multi-million and even multi-billion pound funds have started to invest in cities like Birmingham, with projects in Aston, and areas in Scotland with some even constructing their own projects.
The hope, following this announcement, is that the government have finally found a focus for students and higher education to compliment the growing interest from home and abroad in building and investing in Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA).
PBSA has already rocketed in overall value just this year as investors buy up new projects and existing student ‘pods’, rooms within specialised student accommodation.
Many sources from university boards and related companies have already said that a rise in fees given the current political climate and the lack of a government majority would be suicide, notwithstanding the fact that the government would find it nearly impossible to push through parliament.
The more significant news for students is likely to be the raising of the threshold from £21,000 to £25,000 for yearly income before students are required to start paying back their loans. The repayments currently allow graduates to earn up to 21k per year but this could effectively save students thousands if it takes them longer to hit that threshold as student loans are written off after thirty years.
With student landlords and investors already making significant returns on PBSA, this could be very positive news indeed for encouraging the next generation to make the most of the UK’s world class higher education system.