Tories pledge to scrap fees and funnel £21bn more into education

A Conservative government would provide an extra £21 billion investment in higher education, and scrap student fees in favour of loans, it has emerged today.

Shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins said that £3 billion of the extra investment would go directly into modernising teaching facilities, while the University Access Regulator and Labour's 50% admissions target will both be abolished.

The Tories claim that under their plans, the average graduate would leave college with a debt of £10,000 - nearly half the present £19,000. Graduates would start repaying loans once they earned more than £15,000 a year and debts would be written off after 25 years.

A graduate on average earnings under Labour's plans takes 14 years to repay debt, and the interest and principal they have to repay is a little over £24,000. Under Tory plans, they finish paying off their interest two years early and they would pay £7,000 less, Mr Collins claimed.

The Conservatives said that annual university income for UK undergraduate teaching would rise by £900 million from 2006/7 – "a funding boost two years earlier than under Labour's plans".

And "genuine financial independence for our universities" would be triggered through an £18 billion endowment programme, with private contributions matched by the state, the Opposition frontbencher said.

Mr Collins said that the package would not cost the taxpayer a penny more than Labour plans, while universities and students would get a better deal for the same level of spending.

Mr Collins added: "Labour have broken their promise and scrapped free higher education. We have kept our promises and will restore free higher education. This government is giving more money to poorer students, but taking it straight back through higher fees. Under a Conservative government there will be lower student debt and grants for poorer students."

Student loans would not be means tested, and students would pay a commercial interest rate on their loans – approximately 6.5%, with a maximum ceiling of 8%, the Tories said.

However, students would also be able to borrow higher amounts to replace expensive credit card and overdraft debts, Mr Collins added.


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