Tuition Fees and Controversy

April 15, 2009

It would seem that, once again, universities are demanding that the cap upon tuition fees be removed in order to assert their ‘top quality education’. Universities, at the moment, are set to a strict cap upon fees which sits at between £3,000 and £3,225. Reports from the BBC have suggested that universities wish to see fees rise to between £4,000 and £20,000 or have no ‘top limit’ at all.

Most universities suggested that a figure of £4,000 and £5,000 would be an acceptable level.

One such article suggested that universities were no longer being driven through a desire to provide a ‘good education’, but instead we were being driven to act ‘like a business’ and therefore have a business model.

One such university, the University of Swansea, reported that students were no longer academics but consumers. When snow fell and forced the university to cancel lectures, it was reported that students lost ‘£20 per lecture’ and thus were considering the ‘value of their education’.

This ‘campus culture’, as it has been coined, has been seen throughout the educational forum. It was reported that students were contacting lecturers during weekends, ringing them up for information and treating those lecturers as ’service providers’.

Recent reports suggested that a figure of 450,000 students applied for university but two separate reports showed an increase in the level of graduate debt which was being forced upon students.

Barclays reported that, in 2004, the average level of student debt was at around £14,000 whilst Natwest reported in 2007, student debt had fallen from £13,000 to £12,000 from 2006 to 2007.

One of the questions that is sparking the debate is the effect it will have upon those from a ‘poorer’ background, or from those who have unskilled parents. UCAS reported that had increased gradually from 15,000 applicants in 2005 to close to 20,000 in 2007.

This would suggest that students are not as concerned about student debt as is being reported in some newspapers. With support being provided by the government and debt being ’suspended’ until students earn a minimum of £15,000 per annum, it is not as negative as it seems.

What will the increase do to students who are worried? Will it cause a downturn in university applicants and see an increase in unemployment figures?

It would seem that, with the figures, this would not be the case. People would still apply for university and those from ‘poorer’ backgrounds take up only a small percentage of the applicants (15,000 of 450,000 applicants).

If the debate, which is set to begin this year, results in the £3,500 cap being removed, we could see student debt rising to levels around the £32,000 mark and students may begin to question the value of higher education.

It is a known fact that students have already questioned the value of a ‘degree’ which is now common-place. Will the increase in fees produce a new standard of degrees that will help differentiate between the good and the best?


2009. “Universities push for higher fees.” BBC, March 17 (Accessed March 17, 2009).

2009. “University and fees in figures.” BBC, March 17 (Accessed March 17, 2009).

2009. “Fees fuel campus consumer culture.” BBC, March 16 (Accessed March 17, 2009).

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