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Rising tuition fees cost young people dearly

November 3, 2010

It was decided today that the government will lift the cap on tuition fees to £9000 per year from 2012. Universities who choose to charge over £6000 will have to pay towards a £150 million scholarship scheme for poorer pupils.

There has been great debate about the effect that this increase will have on future undergraduate students. The BBC today posted an article on their website about the potential changes that we could see as a result of the rise in tuition fees. Within the article, a question was raised about whether the increased fee amount will motivate greater demand for shorter , cheaper courses which allow you to study from home.

It was proposed that universities should offer more flexible forms of studying which would include shorter, two year courses and courses which require you to complete the majority of work on your own time with perhaps a weekly one-to-one meeting or discussion with a tutor. Although this might seem like an incredibly simple and effective solution for those who feel that higher fees are out of their reach, but what many seem to forget is that university is not, for many, merely a means to a good qualification. I for one would have been devastated had my three year course at Warwick been cut down to fit into only two years. Indeed, it took me the full three years before I really felt like I had got to grips with everything that the university had to offer me, including the wide range of subjects which could not have been covered without the full three years that the course required.

University is not just about the education, despite what I am sure many parents would like to believe! For many, it is an opportunity to live away from home for the first time, to gain some independence, meet new friends and to, shock horror, make mistakes. Restricting and diluting this experience in any way would be to deny any future undergraduates a valuable life experience.

To my mind, the increase in tuition fees can be seen as nothing other than a great blow to the success of higher education. While I understand that various budget cuts and increases are entirely necessary to the stability of our economy, it seems to me that denying future students the chance of a (relatively) cheap degree is the wrong way to go about it.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2010 5:39 pm

    I think you are touching on a key issue here. A fundamental right of passage in British society is at risk of being lost!

    For the last 50 or 60 years, going off to University has been the moment when kids leave home! The potential consequences for our societal norms are massive. Whether or not UK Universities are persuaded to offer OU type ‘home study’ courses, for many students in the future, accommodation away from home, on top of these outrageous fees, is going to be a loan too far. So more students are likely to study at Universities within commuting distance of their homes, similar to the US model.

    This means that already strapped families will have older children remaining at home, living off their parents. This in itself brings changes to family life, the family ‘pecking order’ disrupted for younger siblings. There is also less likelihood that these students will move away after their graduation, they will not have had that vital stepping stone in life’s journey! But of course at the same time, the Government wants a more mobile workforce.

    I don’t think that this has been well thought through, or proper consideration given to the broader implications for our society.

  2. November 3, 2010 5:49 pm

    While I disagree with degrees costing more, it angers me greatly that the students who are vox-popped on TV and in newspapers just show a total lack of knowledge regarding the Browne review.

    I’ve heard current undergrads vehemently oppose the Browne review and they talk about how there should be no fees at all and education should be free etc….well, that’s all well and good, but that’s not the issue with the Browne review. A university education will still be free at the point of entry, and poorer people won’t be any less off as they will be repaying their loans etc at the same time as all their fellow students…ie. when they have a job and can afford to do so. It always seems that those talking about this issue never acknowledge that.

    So, while the Browne review is bad, bad, bad, in terms of the amount students will have to pay ion the long run, I believe that student protests and campaigns would fair much better if they came across as much more informed.

    Down with Browne.

  3. Jamie permalink
    November 3, 2010 7:26 pm

    Agreed, Catherine. I’ve always found the NUS’s focus on ‘graduate debt’ as if it were credit card debt that you’d have to repay no matter what your circumstances very unhelpful in that respect. The graduate tax would have been an absolute wreck, too, although I’m not a fan of the government’s proposals.

    The other risk is that the proposals will encourage students to see undergrad degrees as even more of an economic investment than they do now, which could turn them off learning for its own sake and possibly damage humanities courses. Whether that *does* happen will be important.

  4. Jamie permalink
    November 3, 2010 8:37 pm

    Okay, just done some very, very rough calculations.

    The spending review announced it would cut about 40% from Higher Education (page 52 http://cdn.hm-treasury.gov.uk/sr2010_completereport.pdf). Using this year’s HEFCE allocation that makes £2.9424bn in cuts (http://www.hefce.ac.uk/news/hefce/2010/grant1011/announce.htm).

    In 2008/9, the last year I can find full statistics for, there were a total of 1,747,030 students studying at undergrad level, including part-time and EU students (http://www.hesa.ac.uk/dox/pressOffice/sfr142/SFR142_Table1.pdf)

    Therefore, in order to make up the funds lost through the cuts, HE will need to increase fees by about £1,680 to £4,970 per student per year.

    The cuts to HEFCE might affect some unis more than others – it depends a lot on how much they currently receive and which types of HEFCE funding will take the hit. Cuts to research councils will also have an impact. It’s very rough – but might give an idea.

  5. November 10, 2010 12:26 pm

    Jamie I completely agree with you that the increase in tuition fees will see a number of potential undergraduate students deciding not to make the huge financial commitment to their higher education, particularly with humanities subjects. I studied English at Warwick and, although I loved the three years that I spent there, I did feel like my fees were being taken from me and channelled towards the science subjects – I had 7 hours of contact time per week, my housemate, a chemist, had 25. So there will most certainly be a number of students hoping to study a humanity who feel that the increased fees are not worth the number of hours teaching that they will receive.

    As with the majority of the budget cuts I believe that such a severe increase in tuition fees is too much, too quickly. The enormous hike is going to put people off starting courses will most certainly put some people off starting higher education because the potential financial burden will just be too great.

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