What’s been the impact of higher tuition fees on disadvantaged students going to university?

Published: 22nd Sep 2017

In brief


Higher tuition fees haven’t put students from disadvantaged backgrounds off going to university.


Higher tuition fees do not seem to have affected the longer term trend of increasing proportions of young disadvantaged students (and young students of all backgrounds) going to university. Mature student numbers have fluctuated. We don’t know if the numbers going to university would be higher if tuition fees hadn’t been increased.

“We’ve seen, statistics have shown, that the higher tuition fees haven’t really put people, students from disadvantaged backgrounds, [off] from going into university either.”

Dia Chakravarty, 21 September 2017

The 2012 increase in tuition fees doesn’t seem to have affected the long-term trend of growing proportions of young people—including from disadvantaged backgrounds—applying or going to university. It is harder to say what the impact is for mature students—the Office for Fair Access says that the evidence is mixed.

Looking at several different measures, the proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds applying and going to university in England is at a record high. Some of these measures do show a slightly slower increase in the past year or two. We’ve got more detail on this and other areas of the UK in this article.

There was a dip in numbers immediately after the 2012 fee increase, but numbers have since returned to record levels.

We can’t know what the numbers would have been if tuition fees hadn’t been increased.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.


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