Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged a change in her party’s approach on tuition fees in England, appealing to younger voters saying fees will freeze at £9,250.
Speaking at the Conservative party conference, the PM said fee repayment thresholds will also rise, so graduates will start paying back loans once they earn £25,000, up from £21,000.
Mrs May said the whole student finance system would be reviewed, looking at long-term issues, such as a return to maintenance grants and varying tuition fees for courses, but did not rule out a move to a graduate tax.
“We are pledging to help students with an immediate freeze in maximum fee levels and by increasing the amount graduates can earn before they start paying their fees back,” May said as the Conservative party conference opened.
The planned £250 increase in tuition fees for 2018-19 to £9,500 will not go ahead and fees will instead remain at the current maximum of £9,250 per year.
The moves come amid pressure on the leader following a snap election in which young voters overwhelmingly voted in favour of Labour and Jeremy Corbyn.
Students across the country have been faced with mountains of debt in recent years, with average debts on graduation rising close to £50,000 for those who began studying in 2012.
Michael Heseltine doubted the effectiveness of the appeal to youth, however, arguing that Labour would always “outbid” the Tories on promises to younger voters, after Jeremy Corbyn pledged to scrap tuition fees altogether.
In response to the announcement, Labour MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, Luke Pollard tweeted, “So your choice is annual tuition fees of £9,250 with the Conservatives or annual tuition fees of £0 with Labour.”
Labour’s shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, called the move, “a desperate attempt by the Tories to kick the issue into the long grass”, adding that “they have no plans for young people and no ideas for our country”.