PM Launches Extensive University Fees Review

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By GRAHAME ANDERSON

Prime Minister Theresa May has admitted UK university fees were the world’s most expensive on launching a review of the cost of courses. In the majority of cases Universities charge £9,250 per year, with most students graduating financially toward spiralling debt as a result. She did however, rule out scrapping tuition fees, also citing it wouldn’t be fair on taxpayers who didn’t go to university. “It would leave higher education in a losing struggle for funding with schools and hospitals, she said: “And it would mean limiting university places and funding.”

The Opposition

The Labour party are in favour of scrapping fees as things stand. Tuition fee architect the Labour peer Lord Adonis, called for a return to fees of £3,000 a year saying:  “Universities have become extremely bloated, due to the hike in fees, resulting in sky-high salaries for vice chancellors and management staff.”

A Complicated System?

Things are further complicated given the connection to the loan system underpinning the market, with companies pushing up interest charges. The highest current rate is standing at 6.1 per cent. In light of this the Government could well decide to drastically reduce the rate.

Rather than creating a new system it seems more likely the current one will be changed, though the Government would like to encourage a variation in fees across the board. As an example, according to education experts, courses – such as arts and humanities – could be made cheaper than sciences, which are more expensive to deliver, and where graduate earnings are potentially much higher.

This also means students will still be required to pay fees as a starting point, though ideas of a graduate tax are being pushed to one side. It’s not all about full time students either, with ministers aware more support is needed for those wanting to work and study at the same time. Vocational and technical training could also receive more support.

Yorkshire Insight

Yorkshire has some excellent universities with three here given all round scores made up of entry standards, student satisfaction, graduate prospects and overall quality.

Leeds currently stands 14th in the university league table with a score of 850. The university of Bradford meanwhile is in 58th position carrying a score of 675, with Huddersfield sitting in 72nd place on a total of 635.

Looking ahead

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Unit, said: “The Prime Minister’s review team had enormous expectations on their shoulders. There is a long shopping list of demands for reducing fees, and at the same time increasing levels of support. The Government has encouraged this speculation, but it will be hard to satisfy all the hopes, especially if the Treasury is not willing to allow additional public spending on post-compulsory education.

It’s reported the Government has been impressed by the Welsh system, whereby students receive greater maintenance support while studying.

Blunt Reaction

Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers’ union, stated: “The review must be more than tinkering at the edges. There needs to be a fundamental review of university funding.”

The Russell Group of leading universities has warned any changes to fees and funding should not mean places suddenly become limited. A spokesperson said: “Finding the right balance is likely to involve making a series of difficult trade-offs.”

This Government-led review will examine all aspects of student funding, including maintenance grants. The current rate of fees will stay in place at least until the application cycle for 2020-21, in the light of both the freeze on fee rises and this year-long review.

 

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