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May says abolishing tuition fees not the answer as review into post-18 education launched

The PM says this would push up taxes, leave universities competing for cash and result in a cap on student numbers.

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Mrs May said university is often considered the best option for young people by default

Theresa May hit out at Labour's pledge to abolish university tuition fees as she unveiled a wide-ranging review of post-18 education.

The Prime Minister said such a move would push up taxes, leave universities competing with the likes of schools and the NHS for cash and result in a cap on student numbers being reintroduced.

"That is not my idea of a fair or progressive system," Mrs May said.

She added that it was her belief that "those who benefit directly from higher education should contribute directly towards the cost of it".

Labour said the review was an "unnecessary waste of time", with shadow education secretary Angela Rayner declaring: "Theresa May has finally admitted that her Government got it wrong."

Jeremy Corbyn's fees promise has piled pressure on the Conservatives to act, amid concerns about the debt burden on graduates.

Universities in England can currently charge up to £9,250 a year in fees, with the £3,000 cap being lifted in 2012.

The decision to abolish maintenance grants and replace them with loans has also sparked concern, with claims the policy hits the poorest students the hardest and saddles them with more debt.

The prospect of fees for certain kinds of courses being reduced has been raised by Education Secretary Damian Hinds, while the Government has confirmed the interest rates charged on loans will be examined.

But Mrs May was at pains to stress that the review would consider post-18 education as a whole, challenging the "outdated" view that only academic degrees are worthwhile.

The PM said Britain needed an education system that is "more flexible and diverse than it is today", with university often considered the best option for young people by default.

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