The tuition fees debate

By: Kathryn Bradbeer

Work Experience Student

Friday 09 March 2018

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The university tuition fees debate, has once again arisen in the news and work experience student, Kathryn, explores the issue further from the perspective of someone on the cusp of making decisions on her future.

Recent news reports suggest that universities are currently charging the maximum fee for a university course, standing at a huge £9250 a year. With this in mind, some have accused universities of taking advantage of students who feel forced to pay the fee with a lack of information about alternatives available for them.

Theresa May admits "the level of fees charged do not relate to the cost or quality of the course", causing many to question the fairness of the system. The suggestion of abolishing fees, however, has been disregarded by Theresa May, who launched her review of tuition fees and funding on Monday.

Tuition fees are seen by Theresa May and others as obligatory for students’ own development and direct and indirect benefit. Although university education is recognised to significantly contribute towards enhancing society, the university system must, in my opinion, be questioned and reviewed. Society is now starting to challenge the motives of university and investigate the extent to which they are potentially exploiting students.

UK universities generate £95 billion for the country’s economy and support more than 940,000 jobs across the nation, according to an analysis from Universities UK. £95 billion refers to the contribution after the multiplier effect of university expenditure was calculated, suggesting that universities do enhance numerous aspects of the UK economy.

However, with the high cost of university expected to stay frozen for at least another year during the review, the benefits of university are decreasing rapidly. Students are facing excessive debt and with competitiveness for jobs and places at the university themselves at an all-time high, this gives universities an incentive to continue to charge high prices.

77% of students will reportedly not pay their loans back in full, contributing towards a financial deficit in the UK economy and suggesting Government spending is not being allocated in the most efficient and beneficial way. One solution is to push alternative career routes, reducing pressure on university and steering students away from getting into extreme debt, in an attempt to reduce the financial deficit in the UK economy and to help students reach their full potential.

With this in mind, it’s highly possible that in the near future there will be a rise in the amount of people taking different routes into higher education, with alternative routes, such as apprenticeships, being recognised as just as valuable. The government has pledged to create a further three million apprenticeships by 2020, implying a need for more options, reducing pressure on university and thus reversing the diminishing value of a degree.

University study is primarily focused on education and research and although it is respected, in a traditional sense, for the depth of knowledge and transferrable skills which it provides, the high expenses and costs which it now yields cannot be ignored. Whereas apprenticeships offer students valuable practical experience and allow students to develop transferable skills, which are highly valued by employers. Students taking an apprenticeship also earn a wage and contribute directly towards the development of society, helping the UK economy to thrive and improve.

The time has clearly come to challenge the traditional UK university system and work towards resolving the information failure which victimises students. Theresa May admitted students face ‘one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world’, implying universities are now taking advantage of students’ education and are focussing more on business-related motives rather than the correct motives of encouraging student success. It is possible that with information provision relating to higher education, society will become aware of the problems and pressures they are facing, and will make their own decision accordingly.

I’m hopeful that the upcoming review will look for ways to push down the cost of university - such as lowering interest rates, restoring maintenance grants or reducing fees for some courses. There is also suggestion of changing the flexibility of how courses are delivered and the cost of a course being dependent on its value to society. An increase in variety would allow students to have more choice and therefore make the best decision for them as an individual.



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