While coughing fits and pranks might have garnered the majority of media buzz following Theresa May’s 2017 party conference address, there were also useful takeaways on several fronts, including higher education. Here’s a closer look at what May had to say about the Conservative party’s plans for university students, as reported by The Guardian.
Taking on Student Debt
Professing her belief in the importance of access and high standards in the educational sector, May expressed concerns about student debt and -- more specifically -- about whether graduates were getting enough out of their investment. In response, she announced plans for a comprehensive review of university funding and student financing aimed at addressing key issues such as varying tuition fees for courses and a return to maintenance grants, according to The Guardian.
Fixing What’s Broken
May also reiterated plans to immediately address problems with tuition fees by freezing maximum tuition rates at £9,250 throughout the duration of the review and eliminating a fee increase looming for next year.
There’s good news, too, for students saddled with high loan repayments. May also spoke of the party’s intent to increase the income level which triggers loan repayments from £21,000 to £25,000 annually. One problem with this plan, according to The Guardian? “The change is likely to apply only to those graduates who took out the higher rate of student loans introduced in 2012, which perversely means that earlier graduates will have higher loan repayments even if they are on the same income level as later graduates with much higher debts.”
May’s speech echoed an underlying theme present throughout the conference: winning the support of the country’s skeptical younger voters. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond kicked off the gathering with the vow that the country’s youth would be “better off than us; and that their children will be better off again than them.”
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