Skip to the main content

For the third time in four years, general election season is upon us, and with that comes the usual round of manifesto releases to lay out what each political party would do in government with a fair bit of vote-grabbing pledges thrown in for good measure.

But how do these manifestos affect students? This is a party by party guide on what the five main political parties in England are saying about Higher Education:

Conservatives

Tuition fees

The Conservatives promise to consider the “thoughtful recommendations” of the Augar review which in May 2019 recommended cutting undergraduate tuition fees from £9,250 to £7,500 while extending the period before this debt is written off from 30 years to 40 years. Although they seem to be considering the Augur review, the Conservatives have not made any specific commitments. 

Loan repayments

The Conservatives will look into interest rates on loan repayments “with a view to reducing the burden of debt on students”.  

This currently sits at inflation plus 3% whilst students are studying and varies from inflation to inflation plus 3% for graduates, depending on levels of income.

Immigration

A promise to introduce an “Australian-style points-based system” with tougher immigration policies in many areas. This includes the provision for a student visa which allows international students to stay on to apply for work after they graduate.

Free Speech

Some mention in the manifesto for free speech on campus, promising to “strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities”.

Labour

Tuition fees

A promise to abolish tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants that were abolished in 2016. 

There are also promises to develop a new funding formula to decide where money goes within higher education which they suggest will provide “adequate” funding for teaching and research and a sustained focus on widening access to university and part-time learning.

University regulation 

Labour promises to replace the current regulator, the Office for Students, by bringing university regulation into part of their National Education Service which would cover other stages of education. They claim that this is to change the nature of how higher education is regulated, moving from a market-based system to one that is “acting in the public interest”.

Immigration

Labour promise to “establish a humane system and end the ‘hostile environment’ policy”, however, no specific commitments are made to how this would relate to international students and their situation either during their studies of after they graduate.

Liberal Democrats

Tuition fees

No specific pledges on the issue of fees, instead promising “a review of higher education finance” in light of the latest evidence. They do make commitments on the issue of interest rates, promising no retrospective interest rate rises or the selling-off of loans to private companies.

University regulation

The party does not promise to replace the Office for Students, instead suggesting it will strengthen the regulator to “make sure all students receive a high-quality education”. They also commit to improving university mental health services, requiring all universities to make these services accessible and introducing a law on a Student Mental Health Charter.

Immigration

To scrap the “hostile environment” policy, as well as pledging to create a new two-year visa for students to work after graduation.

Brexit Party

The Brexit Party released a ‘Contract with the People’ rather than a manifesto for this general election, claiming that “the old mainstream parties have made ‘manifesto’ a dirty word”.

Tuition fees

A promise to scrap interest on student loans, which they claim will “improve the debt recovery rate” on these loans.

Abolishing education targets

A promise to abolish the target to push 50% of young people into Higher Education, instead suggesting more investment in apprenticeships.

Immigration 

On immigration, the party also promises to introduce a points-based system, including a target to reduce annual immigration, suggesting that their system would be “blind to ethnic origin”. However, no specific mention is made of international students in relation to this policy.

Greens

Tuition fees

The Green Party also promise to abolish tuition fees, promising to “fully fund every higher education student”. In addition, a commitment is made to write off existing debt for former students who studied under the £9,000 tuition fee regime. 

The Greens vow to reframe the university experience, suggesting that courses will be offered “as learning experiences, not as pre-work training” and that “education will be for education’s sake”.

Immigration 

On immigration, the party also pledges to end the ‘hostile environment’ policy and promises to scrap health charges for migrants. No specific mention is made of international student visas during study or after graduation.