‘We [in England] now have the worst of all worlds – a scary sticker price for a degree, coupled with a scary sized loan book, of which only slightly over half ever gets repaid’, (Barr in Fazackerley, 2017).

Before 1998, the cost of a university degree in England was entirely funded by the government through general taxation, however, over the last two and a half decades, it has increasingly been transferred from the state to the student (Wilkins, Shams & Huisman, 2013). In 2012, annual university tuition fees in England trebled to £9,000; as a result, those graduating in 2015 left university with an average debt of £44,000, compared to £26,000 for graduates in 2014 (Crawford & Jin, 2014). There is, however, limited research exploring how this increased indebtedness is experienced by graduates after leaving university. Much of the existing literature relating to the £9,000+ fee regime has instead focused on prospective students’ perceptions of debt, its impact on access to Higher Education, and the economic impact of increased fees on undergraduates. 

To centre graduate experiences of indebtedness, this event will: 

  • Draw together a wide array of research on the under-explored question of contemporary graduate indebtedness in England, providing historical overviews and current insights;
  • Discuss policy divergence across the home-nations and provide an overview of funding considerations in Scotland; 
  • Bring in personal perspectives from graduates affected by the fee rise. 


11.00 – 12.00

Arrival, sign-in and lunch

12.00 – 12.10

SRHE welcome and housekeeping

Introductions and overview of the session

12.10 – 12.55

Prof Claire Callender: England’s changing higher education funding landscape

12.55 – 13.10

Dr Helen Carasso: Experiences of students of the 2006 fee regime

13.10 – 13.40

Prof Steve Jones: Perceptions of ‘value for money’ among final year undergraduate students paying lower and higher tuition fees at universities in England

13.40 – 14.10

Dr Farhana Ghaffar: Everyday indebtedness amongst graduates of the 2012 cohort

14.10 – 14.40

Prof Claire Callender: Graduate experiences of the 2006 and 2012 cohorts

14.40 – 14.55


14.55 – 15.10

Dr Josh Patel: Personal experiences of graduate indebtedness

15.10 – 15.30

Ellie Gomersall: Scottish context: student and grad experiences

15.30 – 16.20

Panel Discussion and Q&A led by:  Steve Jones, Claire Callender & Ellie Gomersall

16.20 – 16.30

Summary and close


Crawford, C., & Jin, W. (2014). Payback time? Student debt and loan repayments: what will the 2012 reforms mean for graduates? (No. R93). IFS Report.

Fazackerley, A. (2017) Grace is 25. Her student debt: £69,000. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/jul/11/student-debt-graduates-tuition-fees.

Wilkins, S., Shams, F., & Huisman, J. (2013). The decision-making and changing behavioural dynamics of potential higher education students: the impacts of increasing tuition fees in England. Educational studies, 39(2), 125-141.


Speaker bios

Claire Callender (BSc, PhD) is Professor of Higher Education Studies at the Institute of Education UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society. She is Deputy Director of the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), an international research centre funded by the ESRC partnering with the universities of Oxford, Lancaster and Birmingham. Claire’s research focuses on higher education student finances and its consequences. Her ESRC funded research has focused on the impact of student loan debt firstly, on prospective students’ HE decisions about entering HE and what and where to study and secondly, on graduates’ lives. She also has contributed to some of the most significant UK inquiries into student funding and presented evidence to Parliamentary Select Committees. She was a New Century Fulbright Scholar at the Harvard, USA from 2007-2008. In 2017, she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for services to higher education.

Helen Carasso is an honorary fellow in the Department of Education at the University of Oxford. Her research interests focus on policies and practices relating to student fees and funding, with a particular interest in undergraduates in England. This work is informed by Helen's previous professional roles in marketing, communications and student recruitment and admissions within higher education; she continues to combine consultancy for universities with her writing. In 2023, Helen was commissioning editor for the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) 20th anniversary publication UK higher education - policy, practice and debate during HEPI’s first 20 years.

Josh Patel is Researcher at the Edge Foundation. At Edge, Josh has contributed to research projects on topics including degree apprenticeships, New HEIs, and T levels. Josh has contributed to Edge’s ‘Learning from the Past’ series on General and Liberal Studies in English FE Colleges, and manages Edge’s regular publications including their Skills Shortage Bulletins. Prior to joining Edge, Josh was an Early Career Teaching Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning at the University of Warwick, where he co-convened interdisciplinary modules including Rethinking Education. He completed his PhD, titled: ‘Imagining the role of the student in society: ideas of British higher education policy and pedagogy 1957-1972’ in 2021 also at Warwick, funded by a full History departmental scholarship. Josh has published a number of journal articles on the history of British higher education and has had comment published by HEPI and London Higher.

Steve Jones is Professor of Higher Education at Manchester Institute of Education, which is part of The University of Manchester. Co-author of commissioned reports for the Sutton Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and HEFCE, Professor Jones is particularly interested in how the marketisation of English Higher Education has impacted on staff and students. He is a prominent commentators on English universities, having written op-ed pieces for the Guardian and other newspapers, and made regular contributions to WonkHE, HEPI and the Times Higher. Always keen to disseminate his work to as wide a range of stakeholders as possible, he has presented research findings to Universities UK, HM Treasury, the Association of School and College Leaders, and the Sunday Times Festival of Education, and given evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary University Group in the House of Commons. Professor Jones’s latest book, Universities Under Fire, was published in 2022.

Farhana Ghaffar is a researcher and evaluator specialising in social mobility and inequality within Higher Education. Her research draws upon collaborative, creative and participatory research methods and she has worked on a diverse range of community research projects. Previously, she has been commissioned by the Social Mobility Commission, the Office for Students and the Higher Education Funding Council for England to explore racial inequalities within Higher Education. Focusing on the trebling of university tuition fees in England in 2012, her doctoral research used creative and affective methodologies to explore the long-term impacts of student debt on graduates.

Ellie Gomersall [to be added]




June 20th, 2024 from 11:00 AM to  4:30 PM
Society House
8 Regents Wharf, All Saints St
London, N1 9RL
United Kingdom
Event Fee(s)
Event Fee(s)
Member Price £0.00
Guest Price £75.00
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