The result is that tuition has gone through the roof. The same degree that was free for me 25 years ago now costs £9,000/year ($16,400/year). It is also now a 4 year degree (used to be 3 years) because of the lower standards in school. Of course this means that students acquire so much debt that they have to be extremely concerned about their potential salary after graduating. The puts an increasing pressure for universities to shift from the academic institutes of higher education which have served society for the best part of a millennium (or possibly longer in some cases) towards becoming vocational training colleges where each course is targeted to a specific career which provides enough income to pay of the massive debt so good luck finding the next generation of teachers!
The current UK system for tuition is really much closer to a graduate tax than "tuition fees". Everyone automatically gets a loan for the fees. The amount you repay is collected through the tax system, based on a percentage of your income above a certain level, after you've graduated. If you never earn above that amount (£25k currently), you never make repayments. If you reach age 65 without repaying the "loan", it gets written off. If you make yourself bankrupt, it doesn't go away. About the only meaningful differences are (1) you still have to pay it even if you move abroad/out of UK tax, (2) you can eventually pay it all off if you earn enough and (3) you can pay the fees at the time if you want to instead.
Compared to the "golden age" which many people think of in terms of UK university education, there's not much difference. Marginal personal tax rates are lower now than they were in the 60s, 70s and early 80s so people may well be better off on graduating than they would have been under the old system if taken in its totality.
The real difference is the fact that students are now expected to cover their own living costs while studying, vs previously receiving grants to cover these. That is a meaningful disincentive to go to university but the constant bluster from student "unions" that student debt is a problem is, I suspect, putting far more people off university under what is basically a relatively fair system.