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Theresa May Accused Of Ignoring Students' Fears Over University Tuition Fees

The PM said university had become more accessible since the tuition fee rise.

21/04/2017 15:25

Theresa May has been accused of failing to address students’ fears about tuition fees during a speech on the campaign trail. 

During an event at a GSK factory in her Maidenhead constituency, the Prime Minister was challenged by an employee over the Conservatives’ higher education strategy.

The woman asked May: “Over recent years there has been a rapid increase in student tuition fees. With student loan interest rates set to increase by a third, university is becoming less accessible. 

“What are your plans to ensure university is affordable for all?” 

POOL New / Reuters
Theresa May has been criticised for her response to a question about university access 

But the PM’s response led many students and graduates to accuse her of glossing over the issue and focussing on apprenticeships instead. 

Denying that university education has become less accessible since tuition fees were increased to £9,000 in 2012, May told the woman that more people now have the opportunity to get a degree. 

“When the tuition fees came in, a lot of people said that what they thought might happen was actually young people from less advantaged families might be less likely to go to university,” she said. 

“In fact, that’s not the case - the reverse has happened. So I think we have seen [people] crucially still being able to to take those university opportunities.” 

Veering away from the question about university access, May then went on to explain why she believes it’s “important” there are other career routes for young people. 

She continued: “I have spoken to apprentices elsewhere across the country too and the message everybody gives me is the same, which is it’s so important not just to think that university is the right route for everybody or that it is the only route.” 

Describing the apprenticeship levy and an increased budget for technical qualifications, May added: “I think what’s being done in apprenticeships... will give a wider variety of routes for young people, so that everybody’s able to say: ‘What works for me? What’s right for me for the future?’”  

May response hasn’t gone down well on social media. 

“Brilliant. Theresa May takes a question on tuition fees going up and making uni less attractive, so she answers that apprenticeships are good,” one man wrote.

May has already faced criticism this week over her student policy. 

On Thursday the Lib Dems accused her of “massaging” immigration figures after The Times reported May could be set to remove international students from net migration numbers to help push through the Higher Education and Research Bill before this parliament ends next week. 

But when asked about potential reform in this area, a Home Office spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK: “The government’s position has not changed.” 

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