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Higher Education: Improving Quality

Volume 710: debated on Monday 14 March 2022

For the first time ever, the Office for Students is setting minimum thresholds for completion and for progression rates to graduate jobs. We are also consulting on stopping the uncontrolled growth of low-quality courses.

The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) suggested that it was an injustice to introduce minimum requirements for going to university, but does the Minister agree with me that the greater injustice is that one in five students feels that their course did not add any value to their career? Moreover, the reforms to interest rates will now mean that nobody will pay more than they borrow in real terms.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. From September 2023, we are reducing interest rates on student loans to the retail price index only. This, combined with the tuition fee freeze for over seven years, means that students can graduate with up to £11,500 less debt from the off.

I fully support the idea of minimum eligibility requirements to maintain the high quality of our degrees. However, will my right hon. Friend assure me that students who do not meet those requirements will have alternative routes open and available to them, including via foundation years or college courses, that will allow them to progress subsequently to university when they are ready?

I agree with my right hon. Friend. Too many young people are pushed on to courses that they are not ready for at the moment, which is why we are capping the cost of foundation years to enable more people to use this as an access route. We are also introducing the lifelong loan entitlement, which will make higher education and higher technical education much more flexible.