Students taking Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine will not have to pay back tuition fees under a UKIP government.
The UK Independence Party points out in their 2015 manifesto that graduates leave university with a debt of £44,000 and 47% of graduates were ‘under-employed’ in 2013, taxpayers fare no better as 45% of student loans have to be written off. For this reason the party will encourage students to chose careers that will help fill the current skills’ gap by making tuition free for approved STEMM degrees. “This is on condition that they work in their discipline and pay tax in the UK for at least five years, after they complete their degrees.”
The Fiscal Plan in the manifesto highlights the party’s expected spending on this policy, “Higher education tuition fees [will be] abated after 5 years for STEMM students” which UKIP costs at 1.79bn in 2015-16 rising to 1.98bn in 2019-20.
The party will also drop the ‘arbitrary’ 50% target for school leavers going to university, although the target itself became redundant after participation levels hit the mark, and government priorities shifted over time. “We will not increase the current level of undergraduate courses until we can be sure there are sufficient vacancies in the economy to provide at least two-thirds of students with skilled graduate jobs.”
For international students, UKIP would stop giving tuition fee loans to EEA students once Britain had left the EU. “We are currently obliged to give tuition fee loans to EEA students as a condition of our EU membership, but as of March 2013, only 11 per cent of EU domiciled students were making any repayments.”
Though the party points out that these students will be welcome to “apply for places at UK universities as self-supporting international students.” This is a subtle change to their previous policy which was similar but did not include the initial requirement of leaving the EU, and so ensures that their new policy does not fall foul of the law.
UKIP would also categorise international students separately in immigration figures as they are in Britain only on a temporary basis. The manifesto continues; “All non-UK undergraduate and post-graduate students will be required to maintain private health insurance for the period of their study.”
The party would also “review which educational institutions are eligible to enroll international students and prevent abuse of the student visa system. Students not attending courses will have their visas withdrawn and colleges not reporting absentees will be barred from accepting international students.”
Find the full UKIP manifesto here.