Average student debt three times higher in England than Scotland, new figures show

Average student debt in England is almost £45,000 – three times higher than in Scotland, new figures have revealed.

By comparison, a Scottish student who graduated from one of the nation’s universities in 2022 owed an average of around £15,000.

The figures were released by the House of Commons Library and commissioned by the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Debt for students in England was on average £44,730 last year – a rise of more than 16 times since 2000, when they owed £2,690.

In Scotland, there has been an increase of more than five times – from £2,620 in 2000 to £14,770 some 22 years later.

Carol Monaghan, the SNP’s education spokeswoman at Westminster, said the figures showed Westminster “has completely failed young people”.

The analysis comes as political parties come under pressure to act on tuition fees amid the cost of living crisis and stubbornly high inflation.

Scottish and EU students in Scotland do not have to pay for their studies, the costs are covered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (Saas) for those who are eligible.

In England, fees are a maximum of £9,250, having previously been capped at around £3,000.

They rose under the 2010 coalition government of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in plans that were fiercely resisted by students at the time.

Sir Keir Starmer had previously pledged to scrap tuition fees during his campaign for the Labour leadership but has since rowed back on the promise, citing the current financial situation.

“We are likely to move on from that commitment because we do find ourselves in a different financial situation,” he told the BBC in May.

Ms Monaghan accused Westminster of “forcing [young people] into obscene levels of debt” and Sir Keir of “robbing young people of the same opportunities” he had while attending university, including free tuition and maintenance grants.

“In his own Nick Clegg moment, Starmer will burden the average graduate in England with a debt bomb of around £45,000 before they’ve even started their working lives,” she said.

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“It’s no wonder young people are finding it impossible to get on the housing ladder or afford a family – when they are drowning in debt imposed by the Tories and pro-Brexit Labour Party.

“The SNP is the only party offering real change with independence – and we will always stand by our commitment to free education, which has left graduates in Scotland thousands of pounds better off as a result.”

The Conservatives have also laid out plans to overhaul education, with PM Rishi Sunak calling for a cap on the number of students who study so-called “rip-off” university degrees.

Under the plans, the Office for Students (OfS) will be asked to limit the number of students universities can recruit to courses that are seen to fail to deliver good outcomes for graduates.

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