Centre for Vocational Education Research LSE RSS Email Facebook Twitter


Journal article
Charging for Higher Education: Estimating the Impact on Inequality and Student Outcomes
Ghazala Azmat and Stefania Simion
January 2021
Paper No' :

Tags: career outcomes; higher education; inequality; means-tested support; tuition fees

Over the last two decades, undergraduate university education in England moved from being state-funded and free for students, to costing all students substantial amounts in tuition fees. In this paper, using detailed administrative longitudinal microdata that follow all students attending state schools in England (approximately 95% of student population), we causally show that, despite the substantial reforms, enrollment fell only by 0.5 percentage points, where the effect is largely borne by those in wealthier groups, reducing the enrolment gap across socio-economic groups. Since tuition fees were introduced in conjunction with the government offering generous means-tested maintenance (cash) grants, as well as loans, our results highlight the importance of reducing financing constraints. Beyond enrollment, we find that the reforms have limited impact on students' higher education choices, such as relocation decisions, university choice, and field of study. Finally, by tracking the students after graduation, we show similarly small effects on labor market outcomes. © 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston 2020.