Which political party's manifesto does the most to make student life and higher education better?

Party Manifesto Summaries 

We’ve laid out how their policies will impact university students as students. You’ll find the full range of promises from the main parties in the manifestos linked below   

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats manifesto ‘For a Fair Deal’ has a substantive section on their plans for higher education. Their commitments in this area include: 

Reinstating maintenance grants for disadvantaged students so that ‘living costs are not a barrier to studying at university’.  

Committing to review Higher Education finances in the next parliaments in order to ‘safeguard the future of our world-leading universities and the wellbeing of every student’. 

Focusing on the mental wellbeing of students by including policies which would introduce a statutory duty of care for students and making participation in a Student Mental Health Charter compulsory.  

Rejoining the Erasmus+ Programme.  

Committing to report international student figures separately from estimates of long-term migration and transferring decision making about international student visas out of the Home Office.  

Aiming to invest at least 3% of GDP in research and development by 2030, with a focus on small businesses and startups, in universities and in zero-carbon environmental and medical technologies.   

Create new Lifelong Skills Grants, giving all adults £5,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives, and aim to increase them to £10,000 in the future when the public finances allow. 

Continuing to participate in Horizon Europe and joining the European Innovation Council. 

Ensure there is no more retrospective raising of rates or selling-off of loans to private companies. 

Conservative and Unionist Party

The Conservative Party manifesto, Clear Plan, Bold Action, Secure Future, is a little lighter on their plans for universities than other manifestos. Their commitments in this area include: 

Courses that have excessive drop-out rates or leave students worse off than had they not gone to university will be prevented from recruiting students by the universities regulator. This will protect students from being “missold” and the taxpayer from having to pay where the graduate can’t. This will in turn fund their commitment of 100,000 high-quality apprenticeships by 2029.  

Cut 130,000 ‘low quality’ degrees 

Working with universities to ensure that students get the contact hours they are promised and their exams get marked.  

Preventing almost all international students from bringing dependents when they study in UK universities, increasing all visa fees and removing the student discount to the Immigration Health Surcharge.  

Increasing public spending on Research & Development by £2 billion, continuing to support large-scale computer clusters and the Catapult network.  

Introduce National Service for school leavers with military or civic service roles, this could mean some 18/19 year olds who take up miliary service would start university a year later. 


The Labour Party manifesto, Change, doesn’t have much in the way of detailed plans for higher education. Their commitments in this area include:  

Creating a secure future for higher education and the opportunities it creates across the UK. 

Improving access to universities and raising teaching standards, working with universities to deliver for students and the economy.  

Working with universities to support spinout companies to help grow innovation.  

Bringing universities and further education colleges closure together by establishing a post-16 skills strategy that sets out the role for different providers, how students can move between them, and strengthening regulation.  

Green Party 

The Green Party manifesto, Real Hope. Real Change., has policies that will affect university students throughout their manifesto. Their commitments in this area include: 

Fully funding every higher education student through restoring maintenance grants and scrapping undergraduate tuition fees.  

Cancelling graduate debt.  

Rejoining the Erasmus Programme would allow students to study for a year in another European country.   

Reducing visa costs, scrapping the Immigration Health Surcharge and reversing the current ban on international students (on taught degrees) on bringing dependents.  

Increasing investment into research and development by over £30 billion in the next 5 years, working with universities to assess the most economically and environmentally significant areas for research and development.  

Reform UK

The Reform UK Party manifesto, Our Contract with You, has policies that will impact university students throughout their manifesto. Their commitments include: 

Ending training caps for all UK medical students and write off student fees pro rata per year over 10 years of NHS service.  

Introducing new visa rules for international students that stop them from bringing dependents, closing down ‘fake courses’ and only allowing international students with essential skills to remain in the UK after graduation. 

Scrapping interest on student loans and extending the loan repayment period to 45 years. 

Reducing undergraduate student numbers ‘well below current levels’ and enforce minimum entry standards.  

Cuts to funding for universities that undermine free speech through amending the Free Speech Act.  

Introducing two-year undergraduate courses to reduce student debt and allow earlier entry into employment.  

Leave the Horizon Europe research & innovation funding programme.  

How do the manifestos stack up against our priorities?

Earlier this month we set out our key priorities for the next Government. We’re part of the Russell Group Students’ Unions collective, and one of 24 students’ unions that together represent over 700,000 students studying in world-class, research-intensive universities across the UK. The Russell Group Students’ Unions manifesto was created using research conducted at UCL and across the Russell Group.

The manifesto outlines our vision for the future of UK Higher Education - one in which the rising cost of living is not a barrier and where the Government meaningfully invests in universities.

We've looked at the main party manifestos and matched them to what we think needs to happen to make student life better.

Our policyconservativelabourgreenslib DemsReform UK
Student maintenance support must reflect the true cost of living and studying across the UK. Increase maintenance support, make all home-domiciled students eligible to the full loan, and introduce a tiered model for loan repayments.(Not mentioned)(Not mentioned) Partial match
(Commitment to reintroduce maintenance grants)
Partial match
(Commitment to reintroduce maintenance grants)
Partial match
(Commitment to scrap interest on student loans and extending the loan repayment period to 45 years)
Students should have equal access to free childcare, alongside others in society. For example in England, remove the clause which prevents postgraduate students who claim the Postgraduate Loan from being eligible for the Childcare Grant. (Not mentioned) Partial match
(Commitment to extend government funded hours families are entitled to)
(Not mentioned)Yes
(Commitment to ensure that all parents can access childcare that is flexible, affordable and fair)
(Not mentioned)
Increase funding for those wanting to study medicine and dentistry.(Not mentioned) (Not mentioned) (Not mentioned)(Not mentioned) Yes
(Commitment to scrap the cap on training spaces for medical students)
Increase the quantity, quality and affordability of housing available to students, including university owned accommodation and private sector housing.Yes
(Commitment to build 1.6 million homes in England)
(Commitment to build 1.5 million new homes in England)
(Not mentioned)Yes
(Commitment to build 380,000 new homes a year)
Partial match
(Commitment to reform planning system)
Strengthen legal protections for student renters, improve standards of housing and hold landlords more accountable.Partial match
(Commitment to pass the Renters Reform Bill)
(Commitment to abolish no-fault evictions, raise standards and overhaul regulation of the private rented sector)
(Commitment for new stable rental tenancy and ending no-fault evictions)
(Commitment to ban no-fault evictions and creating a national register of licensed landlords)
(Commitment to abolish the Renters Reform Bill)
Make sure students are no longer forgotten with additional financial support to help with cost of living pressures, including the introduction of a student winter fuel payment to prevent student fuel poverty.(Not mentioned) (Not mentioned)(Not mentioned) (Not mentioned) (Not mentioned)
Ensure the UK provides a positive welcome for international students by improving the student experience of the UK visa system. For example, phase out the NHS Health Surcharge for students and reduce visa application costs.No
(Commitment to increase all visa fees)
(Not mentioned)Yes
(Commitment to reduce visa costs and reverse the ban on international students on taught degrees bringing dependents)
(Commitment to remove international students from long-term migration statistics and transferring student visa decision-making out of the Home Office)
(Commitment to introduce new visa rules for international students that stop them from bringing dependents and only allowing international students with essential skills to remain in the UK after graduation)
Strengthen the future of the research and innovation sector by improving access to postgraduate research study. For example, increase the minimum UKRI stipend in line with the Real Living Wage.(Not mentioned) (Not mentioned)(Not mentioned)(Not mentioned) (Not mentioned)
Commit to a full review and reform of UK HE to build a future for the sector.(Not mentioned) Yes
(Commitment to create a secure future for higher education)
(Not mentioned)Yes
(Commitment to review higher education finances in the next Parliament)
(Commitment to reduce the numbers of undergraduate courses, withdraw from Horizon Europe and scrap all Net Zero related policies and subsidies)

Further analysis and resources

Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) is the UK’s only higher education think tank have further analysis of the parties positions which you can find here 

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) is the UK’s leading independent economics research institute. We are objective, non-profit and non-partisan. You’ll find analysis of the financial impact and affordability of manifesto promises on their site