Highest student loan in the UK tops £231,000

28 Mar 2024

Student loans in the UK are back in the headlines again, with one graduate accumulating up to £231,000 of student debt new figures show. According to campaigners, this figure is "jaw-dropping" and evidence that tuition fees are in urgent need of reform. The Student Loans Company (SLC) which published the figures, said this balance pertains to a Plan 2 borrower, implying that the loan could have been acquired only after 2012.

Back in 2021, the largest student debt reached £189,700, The Guardian reports, whilst in September last year, around 8,000 people with Plan 2 loans owed over £100,000. Grads on Plan 2 contribute 9% of their income over £27,295 to debt repayment, written off after 30 years.

Indeed, a junior doctor told the BBC he had "no hope" of paying off his debt exceeding £103,000. After graduating in 2022 following seven years of study, Dr Luke Amos said the debt amount "still shocks friends and family."

Average student debt

According to a spokesperson from the SLC, graduates typically leave uni with an average debt of £44,940 in England. Higher balances are often the result of students pursuing multiple courses or engaging in longer degree programs. According to Save The Student spokesman, Tom Allingham the data is "truly eye-watering," and a recent poll conducted by the finance site shows 67% of graduates express concern about loan repayments, while 64% believe they will never fully clear their balance, Sky News reports. Allingham said the £231,000 balance is "something I've never come across before," adding "for so much debt to have accumulated in so little time is astounding, though it is worth noting that this example is very much an outlier. Regardless of the size of their loan, graduates will only ever repay 9% of their earnings over the repayment threshold. What's more, student loans don't operate like traditional debt - including, crucially, the fact it won't impact your credit score," he added.

UK education system

According to the vice president of higher education at the National Union of Students, Chloe Field: "These figures are an indictment of our education system. The UK cannot pretend that university is accessible to everyone when there is the possibility of students incurring over £200,000 worth of debt." Field went on to caution that student debt often acts as a deterrent for individuals from working-class backgrounds to pursue a university degree. "People are only eligible for student loans once. This means that if someone wanted to retrain later in life, they would have to pay their student debt in full. The only viable solution is to create a higher education system which is fully funded and free at the point of use," she said.

What is the Department for Education saying?

"It's vital we have a sustainable student finance system that is fair to students and taxpayers. We've frozen tuition fees for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years to deliver better value for students," according to a spokesperson from the department. "New borrowers will also not repay more than they originally borrowed when adjusted for inflation, and graduates who earn less than the repayment threshold will not have to make any repayments. Any outstanding debt will be written off at the end of the loan term."