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Students: Fees and Charges

Volume 476: debated on Thursday 22 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of equalising the tuition fee arrangements of part-time first-degree students with those of full-time first-degree students; and if he will make a statement. (202816)

There are around 200,000 part-time first degree undergraduates compared to around one million full-time. To estimate the cost to the public purse of giving part-time students the same tuition fee arrangements is complicated due to their diverse nature. We can give very broad estimates based on the assumptions we hold for full-time students and replicating the exact same package of support. This enables us to estimate the resource cost of fee loans in the region of £150 million per year if all part-time students had fees of £3,000 per year; and £75 million if we assume they are studying at 50 per cent. intensity and are charged fees of £1,500 per year.

These estimates assume that part-time students are identical to full-time students in every respect except they are part-time. They are highly dependent on uncertain factors such as eligibility for and take-up of support, level of fees charged and earnings following completion of the course, all of which have been assumed the same as for full-time students.

This Government was the first to introduce statutory support for part-time students, in 2000/01. In 2006/07, we introduced the most generous package of financial support ever for part-time students in England. This included increasing the maximum fee grant by 27 per cent. and an above-inflation increase in the income threshold for receiving this support. The part-time package is different from the support available to full-time students because it has been designed to meet the particular needs of part-time students. Unlike full-time students, many part-time students are in full-time employment—two thirds according to the Woodley report, published at the end of 2004. That report also found that 36 per cent. of part-time students receive full fee support from their employer. We must ensure that statutory student support is carefully focussed to achieve maximum benefit.