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Former May adviser Nick Timothy calls student fees ‘a Ponzi scheme’

University tuition fees are an “unsustainable Ponzi scheme” and should be radically reformed, Theresa May’s former chief of staff has said. Nick Timothy likened the fees system in England to the well-known investment scam.

Tony Blair’s Labour government was the first to introduce fees for university students in 1998. Before that, the cost had been met by the student’s home local authority, which also provided means-tested grants which students could top up with loans to help meet living costs. The upper fees limit rose to £3,000 in 2004, before the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government approved an increase in the ceiling to £9,000 in 2010. Fees in England now stand at £9,250 for those studying in 2017-18.

Students from Scotland can claim grants to cover fees charged by Scottish institutions, while grants reduce the level of fees in Wales and Northern Ireland, as a result of the policies of those nations’ devolved governments.

Nick Timothy wrote

“With average debts of £50,000, graduates in England are the most indebted in the developed world.”

Mr Timothy, who resigned as a Number 10 adviser following the 2017 election result, backed “a single financial entitlement” which a student could spend on any kind of tertiary education, including technical courses which “were often cheaper”.
He argued that successive governments had assumed, wrongly, that an increase in university graduates would boost economic growth, but instead technical qualifications were more likely to boost productivity.

Qualifi provide cost effective higher education qualifications; vocationally relevant qualifications (VRQs) that are Advanced Learner Loan recognised and which also provide an alternative route to Honours Degrees and Master Degrees. A means by which students can continue their education without necessarily incurring the levels of debt referred to above.