Universities in England have faced a rapid reform in funding policy since the introduction of the current coalition government. The controversy of the affordability with the new £9000-a-year maximum fee system, for student and state, is by no means the only issue being raised by concerned students and education professionals.
Numerous professionals within education have expressed concerns over whether or not many university places will be taken up by prospective students, who are put off by the cost of the courses, as well as the ever-rising cost of living. A recent London School of Economics study suggested that there could be a large drop in applications, with seven and a half per cent of males and five per cent of females avoiding university because of the cost. The study also suggested that universities of a lower standard would have to work harder and provide more incentives to find prospective students, if they charge the maximum fee.
Over a third of universities in England plan to charge the maximum fee. However, within the last month up to twelve universities have expressed a desire to lower their initial set charges for the 2012/13 year. This has come after ministers announced a White Paper indicating that universities which were inclined to lower their fees below £7,500 would be able to apply for up to 20,000 student places. The Business Secretary Vince Cable suggested that the number of places on offer could possibly increase and also stated he remained ‘optimistic’ about attendances next year.
Questions have also been raised about the quality of education given by English universities for the amount of money spent. Many universities throughout the Europe and the world can provide higher education that can rival English Universities for a cheaper price – or even free of charge. There could be a surge of enthusiasm by English students over the coming years to move and study abroad. There are huge government subsidies for higher education across many parts of Europe; Denmark, for example, provide free education, in English, to students from the EU and boast the University of Copenhagen which ranks within the top 100 in the world. An average cost of £5 per pint though could put some off.
English universities will soon become the second most expensive in the world, only surpassed by the colossal prices of Ivy League schools in the US. This, combined with abolished funding for the arts, social sciences and humanities, could encourage students from England to search out degrees elsewhere, from Belgium, Holland and Germany to Singapore or Hong Kong, where tuition fees are all significantly lower.
So come 2012/13, will it be better than before? Right now, that seems unlikely. However, English universities thrive off a reputation of value high quality education, and will no doubt continue to attract many students from Britain and around the world. The government’s changes though, may see this reputation change sooner than they think.