Tuition Fees: Is Theresa May Right To Bring Them Back To Debate?

Ed Angeli
Managing Editor
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British university fees have been the cause of much debate since their rise to £9,250 in 2012. The general level of student dissatisfaction can be seen with 53% of UK students considering that the value for money at university was ‘good’, or ‘very good’ five years ago; this figure now lies at an all-time low of 35%.

Such unhappiness with the education system has seen Prime Minister, Theresa May, announce a year-long review into tuition fees. It’s a move that can be seen as a genuine ploy to solve student malaise or a bid to win back a large proportion of young voters following losses in the snap election last summer – either way, action must be taken on students levels of happiness with discontent running at an increasing rate.

Where the numbers make for more miserable reading for Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, is that only 20% of students say they receive enough information about the distribution of tuition fees and that only 14% of British students are satisfied with their lives. Easy to question the distribution of fees when vice-chancellors, such as Bath University’s, Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, annual salary was revealed to be at £468,000 per year.

“Young people are taking out substantial loans to pay for courses without much effective help and advice, and the institutions concerned are under very little competitive pressure to provide best value.

‘If this was a regulated financial market, we would be raising the question of mis-selling. The [DfE] is taking action to address some of these issues, but there is a lot that remains to be done.”

— Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office (NAO)

The inflated fees managed to create one of the most viral hashtags British politics has seen, with #NickCleggsFault a trending social media movement that started Clegg’s very own elongated Westminster exit seven years later.

However, despite the animosity, plus general fears that Brexit would lower the number of international students – made more concerning when eight EU countries offer free education –  applications from overseas are at an all-time high, and the number of first-class degrees was up to 25% last year from 17% in 2012. The teaching has improved, and the opportunities for graduates post-university have dramatically increased since the rise of fees.

This is the case in point that James Kirkup, editor at the Telegraph, reiterates; the higher the tuition, the higher the quality of output and education level. Universities – mainly the ones in the top 20 – are, therefore, well within their rights to charge high fees, and could demand more money should they choose to.

“For all the fury it will inevitably attract, the increase in the annual tuition fee for universities was inevitable, logical and sensible.”

— James Kirkup, the Telegraph

Kirkup’s message is that where the injustice about education comes from is those studying an economics degree to an arts degree, and those that attend a ‘lesser’ university with poor teaching and less qualified academics.

The fact an economics student – in general – will be earning twice as much as an art student post-university is another factor which causes poor balance in the education system, rather than the fees being too costly at face value across the board.

The argument is then made further that the relativity of an education fee is a fair reflection the qualification offers to a graduate. Where a student will be in around £50,000 of debt – a colossal bill when looking at it upfront – upon leaving university, the requirement to pay up to £50-60 a month (for a graduate on a salary between £20,000-25,000 per annum) is not an overpriced bill when considering the cost of other expenses to a young person in a month.

The life skills, and chance to be your own boss, likely to be the only time for the majority of students until retirement is a bill worth stomaching. Afterall, how many students do you hear mutter the words: “What I would do to be a student again?”.

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