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Fees and Funding

Education funding is always one of the most active debates in the national student movement. It includes fees for tuition, hidden course costs and student financial support. We also work to influence government structures and policies on education funding.

Governments and national bodies make funding decisions on:

  • How much money is given to colleges and universities and for what purpose
  • Which courses can charge fees and to what level
  • Who is eligible for student fee and maintenance grants and loans
  • Arrangements for financing student loans and terms and conditions of repayment
  • Any conditions on the distribution of national student maintenance funding

Colleges and universities make funding decisions on:

  • Fee levels, where they are charged
  • Hidden course costs
  • College and university bursaries and hardship funding

Further Education

Further Education funding for 16-19 year olds has taken a serious hit in recent years, overall the Association of Colleges estimates that funding has fallen by 27% since 2010. 

This has led to many institutions facing severe financial difficulty and the Government hopes to make institutions more financially stable through a series of area reviews and potential mergers. NUS is working with student representatives through the #FEunplugged campaign to make sure the needs of learners are considered in this process.

Learners over the age of 24 must cover the full cost of accessing Level 2 and 3 courses with advanced learning loans. Since their introduction in 2010 there are 1.3 million fewer adult learners. From 2016 loans will also be available to those aged 19 and above studying technical and professional qualifications at levels 3 to 6. NUS believes that extending FE loans is making it ‘normal’ for students to get into debt, no matter what their level of study. This is unacceptable. We're calling for the government to scrap advanced learning loans and cover the costs from public funding.

The government has also committed to raising an extra £3 billion for apprenticeships through a tax on employers and if colleges expand their apprenticeship numbers, this could be a welcome source of new funding. We believe that apprenticeships should be an education for a career, not just training for a job and NUS is working with the government to ensure the new apprenticeships are created with the needs of students in mind. 

We are also campaigning for a new Education Maintenance Allowance to support participation of the poorest students in further education. We want an EMA that can ensure young people can afford the bus or train to get to college and the books and materials they need to complete their course.

Undergraduate Higher Education

Increases in undergraduate tuition fees have saddled students with record amounts of debt and loaded universities with increased financial uncertainty. The complexities of the student loan system have loaded the public finances with a ticking-time bomb of unpaid loans.

The government decision to cut maintenance grants for the poorest students and replace them with loans is only going to exacerbate this problem further and prohibit more and more students from accessing higher education.

In May 2016 the government announced a series of reforms within the HE White Paper, including plans to increase tuition fees and move further towards an increasingly marketised model of education through the introduction of private providers.

NUS are proposing an alternative: free, publically funded education for all.


Postgraduate Taught and Research

Following our 2015 #CapsOff campaign, the Government has agreed to raise the age cap for postgraduate taught (PGT) loans from 30 to 60 as of 2016.

NUS have campaigned for several years for a proper system of postgraduate funding and support.  Whilst providing loans for tuition for up to 60’s is a step in the right direction, we believe that the burden of debt and the cost of postgraduate study presents a major barrier to many who would otherwise choose to study at postgraduate level. 

NUS will continue to fight for postgraduate education that is accessible for everyone.

Postgraduate Funding Proposal
Accessible Postgraduate Funding General Election 2015 Briefing
Postgraduate Champions Checklist by Postgraduate Studentships
Postgraduate Champions Checklist by Find A University Ltd
Postgraduate Champions Checklist for MPs
Postgraduate Champions Checklist for Vice-Chancellors

Mature and Part-Time

Mature and part-time students come from a broad range of backgrounds and are studying a wide range of qualifications in higher and further education. This diverse population have a wide variety of needs for representation, support and protections, particularly around fees and funding.

International Students

Each year 175,000 international students find their fees increase often without notice, reason or support. Our fixed fees campaign has one simple goal: to abolish in-course fee increases.

We want all universities and colleges to commit to a fixed fee guarantee for all international students. As fee level decisions are made locally, it is within your institution's power to decide whether or not to exploit international students and it is within your power to make this change.

International Student Fees Charter
Fix International Fees Campaign Pack
AUSA Fix International Fees Policy
Social Policy Briefing: International Student Fees