English students leave uni with more debt than American graduates

Graduates in England have the highest debts of any graduates in the English-speaking world, a study has found.

A report by the Sutton Trust has found that students graduating in England owe an average debt of more than £44,000: More debt than American students attending private colleges.

Double the debt levels of US students

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and Education Endowment Foundation said that the massive levels of debt faced by students in England had a major impact on their life decisions, such as whether or not they had children:

“The massive increase in tuition fees from just over £3,000 to £9,000 per annum and the abolition of the maintenance grant results in the poorest English university graduates facing debts on graduation of over £50,000.”

“These debt levels are by far the highest in the English speaking world and are more than double average debt levels at universities in the United States, where students study for four year programmes, rather than three."

“They impact on the ability of graduates to go to graduate schools, to afford a mortgage, the timing of having children and other major life decisions.”

Short-sighted and unsustainable

The Sutton Trust’s report, Degrees of Debt, says tuition fees in England are on average £8,800, whereas average US fees are £6,000 at home-state public universities. After university, a student studying in England faces more debt than an Australian and Canadian student combined.

Sorana Vieru, NUS vice president for higher education, called the situation unsustainable:

“NUS has been arguing for a long time that constructing an entire funding system upon collective graduate debt is shortsighted and unsustainable."

“We are seeing students be punished with higher levels of debt simply because they’re poor as they have to take out bigger loans.”

“In addition, planning to sell off the student loan book is yet another short-sighted move by the government in regards to student finance.”

Government reaction

A Department for Business, Innovation & Skills spokesperson, reacting to the study, said that the current system was fair and sustainable:

“More people than ever before are now able to benefit from higher education, and the application rate for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is at a record level."

“As the OECD has recognised, our student funding system is fair and sustainable."

“It removes financial barriers for anyone hoping to study, and is backed by the taxpayer with outstanding debt written off after 30 years."

“Graduates only pay back on earnings above £21,000 and enjoy a considerable wage premium of £9,500 per year.”

However, last week a leaked memo showed that the department for Business, Innovation & Skills are questioning whether £9,000 fees can ever be justified given the "quality and intensity of teaching" on undergraduate degrees at the UK's top universities.

England students, on average, pay the highest university tuition fees in the world, at around six times more students in Switzerland and Italy.

Want to know more? Check out the leaked memo which shows what Tories actually think of their own tuition fee policy