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Jo Johnson defends student loans system as fair and sustainable

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said most graduates would still be paying students loans into their fifties.

Universities minister Jo Johnson has defended the student loans system even though it leaves graduates with twice as much debt as their US counterparts.

Mr Johnson said current arrangements were allowing more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to go to university than ever before.

The remarks came after an Institute for Fiscal Studies probe said that most graduates would still be paying students loans into their fifties, and more than 75% of debts would never be cleared.

Asked if he was happy that UK graduate debts of £50,800 were double regular American debts, Mr Johnson told BBC Newsnight: “We need to ensure that we have a sustainably funded university system and that the cost of that funding is shared fairly between the general taxpayer who may not have the chance to go to university, or who may not have gone to university, and the individual student who will have a much higher life times earning trajectory than the general tax payer.”

Pressed on whether he was happy with the situation, the minister said: “Yes. It’s a fair system to share the cost of funding higher education in this country.

“What I’m happy with is we have a sustainable student finance system that enables more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to go through university than ever before.”

Despite First Secretary of State Damian Green saying that the country may need to have a national debate on tuition fees, Mr Johnson insisted the fundamental features of the system would remain.

“We have got a good system. It’s working. We have a world class system, and we wouldn’t want to change the fundamental features of it. But, of course, we always keep it under review to ensure it’s fair and effective and that will remain the case.”

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