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What are the arguments surrounding the cap on tuition fees?

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Tuition fees have in the past been restricted from rising above £9,000, but they will rise to £9,250 per year from 2017. These increases could apply to students who have already started their studies. Such fees are linked to a 2.8% inflation rate, which would mean that fees may rise above £10,000 in just a few years’ time.

The National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU) have spoken against the change, announcing that a protest demonstration will be taking place in November.

Here, we look at the pros and cons of lifting the cap on tuition fees.

Against the Raise

Since the EU referendum the UK has suffered economic instability, with Labour’s shadow education minister Gordon Marsden warning that future levels of inflation may suffer from a lack of stability, which could mean “significant rises in fee costs”. Already university-related debts after graduation in the UK are the highest in the English-speaking world.

In addition, Labour’s Stella Creasy argues that the rise in fees would limit social mobility, with the largest division in society being between those who can depend on their parents and those who cannot. This was further supported by Scottish National Party’s education spokeswoman, Carol Mongahan, who cautioned the “marketisation of the student experience.”

The UCU and National Education Opportunities Network have produced a report named Does Cost Matter?, the findings finalised a month after the Government’s white paper was released this summer.

The UCU’s general secretary, Sally Hunt, stated that findings from the report show that rising costs in university tuition would deter prospective students with disadvantaged backgrounds, where cost is more likely to be put at the forefront of their decision. This point has been seen to make reference to the government’s aim of doubling the proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and increase the number of black and minority ethnic backgrounds by 20% by 2020.

For the Raise

It has been argued, however, that as a raise in tuition follows inflation, and so although future students will owe more, they will also earn more when their studies have concluded. Additionally, as student loans are wiped 30 years after graduation if an individual fails to earn the minimum required salary to pay back the loan, students have the benefit of ensuring that regardless of the amount of the loan, it will be lost.

A statement has been published by Universities Minister Jo Johnson, which sets plans to link higher fees to better teaching. As tuition has not followed inflation, the extra fees could be spent on improving facilities and offering extracurricular activites. Ms Greening, heading a department that is responsible for schools as well as higher education, presented plans which encouraged the expansion of the number of universities available under the scheme and encourage more competition between institutions, thus improving the economy.

Neil Carmichael, chairman of the education select committee, supports such an idea where the opening of more universities would allow for the provision of more skills, as workers from the European Union would be able to use their skills as freely in the UK.

What's your view on the removal of the tuition fee cap? Let us know... 

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