No cap on tuition fees? No, it’s definitely a bad thing


The Browne Report, if implemented, is nothing short of a complete restructuring of our higher education system.

Before 1997, students in Britain didn’t pay to go to University. But in under 13 years, it looks as if the majority of the financial burden for university could be passed to the student.

So what does this mean in practice?

Well firstly, and most bluntly, less poor people will be able to go to University. Yes, we will have a national scholarship fund, but they can not feasibly pay all the fees of the many, many people who would see £36,000 for a three year degree as an unjustifiable financial burden.

In addition to this, cutting back teaching budgets except in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but leaving research funding untouched will hit the new universities hardest. They focus more strongly on teaching and humanity based subjects. The Financial Times is already predicting that many may close. And these are the universities which take the largest proportion of state school students, and those who are first in their family to go to University.

So participation will decrease, but mainly from the lower end of the wealth scale.

Secondly, these plans could see us lose the essence of university education to the harsh reality of economics. Even if you can’t value a degree in pounds and pence, even if it doesn’t turn out the kind of research that businesses and governments pay millions for, it may have an importance which supercedes that. We need people to study and understand history, philosophy and the arts, not because of the job you might get with it, or the money you might make, but because those things are important to us as a society.

But without their teaching budgets, how can these courses continue? Future students, looking at the spectre of debt that could last for their entire working life, will go for the degree that pays most. So with less students paying, and no money from the government, these courses will close. That’s what the market will demand.

Further, even though the lack of government funds is being held up as the reason for these changes, it is important to remember that all the fees will still be loaned to students. So until the graduates make it all the way through university, and find a job that can pay off a total of £50,000 of debt, the financial burden will still be on the UK’s budget. With so many problems already caused by our debt culture, is the state handing out enormous loans to so many students wise governance – especially with such a voliatile job market? These plans make neither economic nor practical sense.

The Browne Review could herald a new era of higher education in this country. But the future it offers, unless you are an exceptionally rich prospective science student, is far from bright.


Discussion4 Comments

  1. avatar
    Peter Apps

    Thanks Nicki. This article is meant to be read with this one to show both sides of the coin, hence why it is opinionated.
    On another note, I do pay a large chunk of the cost for my degree, more than any generation of students that has been through uni before me. This makes higher education something that is far less attractive for people from lower income backgrounds, and lifting the cap would flat out exclude a lot of them.

  2. avatar

    Paying for higher education makes it less attractive for everyone. Not just people from poorer backgrounds


    Surely you understand why this is illogical? It makes it MORE unattractive for those from poorer backgrounds…
    Who can manage the debt better, someone from a rich family, or someone from a poor family? Those who don’t have inheritance, property, trust funds to look forward too, who will already need to support relatives in later life, who are struggling as it is with increasing living costs and property prices, they’re the ones who will look at the total debt a degree will give them and not go to uni.
    For those from rich backgrounds, it will be less attractive, but for a lot of them, not enough to stop them going.

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