Link university costs to economic benefit of subjects – education secretary

The government could consider charging cheaper fees for university courses which are deemed of less economic benefit in a major review of tuition costs.

The newly installed education secretary Damian Hinds has said that a major review of university education will look at all aspects of funding.

“We have a system where you have almost all institutions and almost all courses at those institutions charging exactly the same price where some cost higher amounts [to teach] than others and some have higher returns to the student than others,” he said, speaking to the Sunday Times.

Read more: Government proposes cheaper two-year degrees

“It’s right that we now ask questions about how that system operates. I would like to see options available which have different costs attached to them.”

He said he believes the cost to universities, benefit to student and benefit to "our country and economy" are the three things that must be considered when it comes to fees.

The full details of a review of tuition fees, which have tripled in the last decade, is due to be announced on Monday. The increase in costs gave universities the ability to charge up to £9,250 per year.

Hines said he was not in favour of allowing universities to charge more than that, but suggested that the government could subsidise more valued courses such as engineering and science.

Read more: Government "hides" £7bn of student loan write-downs from public finances

Also on the table is a rethink of the interest rate applied to loans, the threshold at which graduates must start paying them back, and the term of the loan of 30 years.

"I don’t think you can look at one individual aspect in isolation. I’ve no doubt that the panel will look at all these things together," he said.

The Prime Minister Theresa May has already promised to push the threshold up to £25,000 from £21,000 and freeze fees until 2019. The government has also proposed accelerated two-year degrees.

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