Press release

MillionPlus comment on the ONS decision on its treatment of student tuition fee loans in the government’s accounts

17 Dec 2018

MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, has today (17 December) commented on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) decision on how it will treat student tuition fee and maintenance loans in the government’s accounts.

Dr Greg Walker, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, said:

“The decision announced today by the ONS concerning the classification of student loans and maintenance grants are clearly of considerable significance to the higher education sector especially in light of the potential £12bn addition to the government’s accounts.

“As the ONS has rightly acknowledged the scale of the work involved to implement the new system by September 2019 is large and will require continued dialogue with Department for Education, HM Treasury, the Office for Budget Responsibility and the devolved administrations. We would add that that it is also important to continue dialogue with the sector especially in light of other additional challenges facing the sector in the coming months.

“Though it’s not clear at this point what the precise impact on departmental spending limits may be, any response by the government to the new accounting method should be done in a way that does not diminish access to the benefits of higher education for people of all ages and social backgrounds. In particular, any government response to these accounting changes that seeks to ration places at university for prospective students would thwart attempt to improve social mobility in England.  

“We would also encourage any response by government to the new accounting method be done in a way that minimises the negative impacts on the quality of provision in our world-leading university sector. A reduction in the unit of resource invested in educating students will limit opportunities for them and set us back tremendously in achieving the government’s own oft-stated goal of improving both social mobility and economic productivity.”


Notes to editors

  • For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Jayne Hope on 07527 336 795 or email
  • The full details of the ONS decision and the technical note can be found here
  • MillionPlus is the Association for Modern Universities in the UK, and the voice of 21st century higher education. We champion, promote and raise awareness of the essential role and impact of modern universities in the UK’s world-leading higher education sector. More information can be found at
  • What are modern universities? Modern universities are long established centres of higher education in their communities with roots that stretch back decades, if not centuries. Many gained university title following legislation agreed by parliament in 1992. They make up almost half of the UK university sector with over a million students studying at modern universities every year.
  • Modern universities: key facts 2018