CGHE seminar 94

Who borrows for higher education? The determinants of student debt in England

  • Thursday, 08 Nov 2018 12:30 - 14:00
  • Room 604, UCL Institute of Education
  • Claire Callender, UCL Institute of Education and Birkbeck
  • Ariane de Gayardon, UCL Institute of Education
  • Francis Green, UCL Institute of Education


Recent changes in higher education financing policies in England have led to more students taking out student loans to fund their studies, and the amount borrowed has been increasing. However, little is known about who does and does not take them out and what determines loan take-up – gaps this paper addresses.

Unlike previous studies, we analyse loan take-up by type of loan – maintenance and tuition fee – using Next Steps, a unique dataset with rich information on students’ backgrounds and attitudes to debt. Students’ family wealth, gender, ethnicity, and attitudes to debt are all associated with loan take-up, patterns which perpetuate existing social inequalities.

Disadvantaged students are less likely to take out maintenance loans. This is associated with the adoption of debt avoidance mechanisms, like living at home, which can have damaging effects on their higher education experience and their social mobility, suggesting that policies need to focus on students’ living costs if the government is committed to widening participation.

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Claire Callender

Claire Callender

Claire Callender is Deputy Director of CGHE, and leads CGHE’s social and economic impact of higher education research programme. Claire is Professor of Higher Education Studies at UCL Institute of Education and at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research, writing and policy advice are focused on student finances in higher education and related issues. Claire was awarded an OBE in the New Years Honours 2017.

Ariane de Gayardon

Ariane de Gayardon

Ariane de Gayardon is a Research Associate on CGHE’s social and economic impact of higher education research programme. Ariane holds a PhD in higher education from Boston College, where she worked as a research assistant at the Center for International Higher Education. She is also a graduate from the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre and the École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Saint Étienne.

Francis Green

Francis Green

Francis Green is a Co-Investigator on CGHE’s social and economic impact of higher education research programme. He is Professor of Work and Education Economics at UCL Institute of Education and writes on skills, education, training, job quality and industrial relations issues. He has worked as an advisor to the OECD, the European Union, the World Bank, and the UK and Singapore governments.

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