Charging for Higher Education: Estimating the Impact on Inequality and Student Outcomes

Ghazala Azmat*, Stefania Simion

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
227 Downloads (Pure)


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 percent of student population), we causally show that, despite the substantial re- forms, 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 gen- erous 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175 - 239
Number of pages64
JournalThe B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2020

Structured keywords

  • ECON Applied Economics
  • ECON CEPS Education


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