HC Deb 11 September 2003 vol 410 cc453-4W
Mr. Rendel

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the name given to the student contribution towards tuition costs. [128967]

Mr. Charles Clarke

The White Paper "The Future of Higher Education" makes clear that, from 2006, neither students nor their families will have to make any contribution towards tuition costs while they are studying for their degree. Instead, they will be able to pay through a Graduate Contribution Scheme, as set out in the White Paper.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to change the interest rates charged to students who receive loans from the Student Loans Company. [129460]

Alan Johnson

Student loans are not commercial loans. The Government subsidise the actual cost of interest on the loans. However, to make sure that all borrowers pay back the same amount that they borrowed in real terms, the Government uprates the value of what is owed in line with the general rate of inflation. This is done by using the Retail Prices Index (RPI) and fixing the interest charged to that rate. The interest rate on student loans is set every year from 1 September and is based on the RPI for the previous March. This is the only way in which it changes. There are no plans to change this basis of setting the interest charged on student loans.

Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the effect of the introduction of top-up fees on the debt problem for students from a poorer background entering into a career in medicine. [128405]

Alan Johnson

[holding answer 9 September 2003]: My Department has responsibility for fee support for English domiciled medical students in years 1 to 4 of their courses. During those years they have the same student support as any other eligible higher education students. Subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary legislation, from 2006–07 students will be liable for tuition fees of up to a maximum of £3,000 pa which they can defer, adding to their loan instead. Students from poorer backgrounds will continue, as now, to receive means tested grants for fees of £1,125 pa (2003–04 rate). Three in ten of all students will also receive means tested Higher Education Grants of £1,000. Many poorer students should in addition be eligible for bursaries and other support from universities under arrangements agreed by the Office of Fair Access. We therefore anticipate only a small average increase annually in low income students' loans as a result of the introduction of variable fees, and thus in their debt on graduation.

Fee support for English domiciled medical students in years five and six is the responsibility of the Department of Health. Currently students in those years pay no contributions to fees. In addition students may also receive a means tested NHS Bursary of up to £2,703 for those students studying in London. They remain eligible for the reduced rate of loan under the student support regulations. Department of Health Ministers have indicated that, whatever the future levels of tuition fees, they will take measures to ensure that any increase in the cost of university courses will not have an adverse impact on the supply, retention, diversity or quality of students on health professional courses, including medicine.

Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will(a) defer the payment of tuition fees until after students have completed their university course and (b) freeze tuition fee levels. [129093]


Students at English Higher Education Institutions will be able to defer payment of tuition fees charged in respect of academic year 2006 onwards until after they have completed their course: they will start repaying when their salary is above £15,000. The Government has made it clear that HE Institutions need greater levels of funding to compete internationally, and that it is right to seek a greater contribution from students towards the cost of their course. It therefore intends to give HE Institutions the freedom to charge fees of between £0 and £3,000 from 2006: those that wish to charge above the standard fee will only be able to do so if they have an access agreement approved by the Office of Fair Access (OFFA).