In an interview with the Times Higher Educational Magazine, Sir Howard Newby, Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool University, said that the “most rational” way to deal with the problems relating to Student Fees is to have no cap on them at all, to simply charge as much as possible. His comments have followed other Russell Group university chancellors from Oxford and Surrey Universities who said that the current cap was “simply not sustainable” and that a £16,000 cap on Fees would be more appropriate.
I wonder though, where is this extra five thousand pounds a year is meant to be coming from?
The majority of students are already taking out loans of a crippling nature; I consider myself lucky to have only £10,000 in fees for my three year course t0 pay back at some point (on top of the living expenses and general debt students end up in) but current students are going to be in debt for somewhere in the region of £30,000 plus living expenses. Where does is this climb in cost going to come from? Russell group Universities – who are notorious for having a higher percentage of wealthy students – may be able to sustain their prestige and exclusivity by recommending a staggering £16,000 fee per year but this price only serves to cater for those rich enough to afford it.
The Chancellors may have recommended making “adequate provisions for looking after students who can’t afford to pay that fee,” but what will they do? Are they going to give discounts? Grants? Or more loans?
I would guess the latter. They say that the fees system for Universities needs to be put on a more sustainable long term plan which is completely true, it was recently reported that an incredible 45% of students will NEVER be able to pay back their loans; and the government is picking up the bill, something the average taxpayer probably isn’t happy about. Inevitably it would be the case that if the fees were to increase by another 50% more students would fail to pay it back and the government would pay for more and more. But this begs the question, why are we bothering to sustain a private sector business like Universities with ever growing public expenditure? If the government is happily funding our education via loans, grants and other financial support then why are the Universities even independent from the public purse?
We spend three or four years piling money into these institutions and slogging away to get a slim chance at a job in our chosen career and who really benefits here? We may get a job and eventually pay off our debt but we will suffer in the mean time (especially if fees keep climbing), the government’s increased investment may help improve our employability in some way but it is worrying how little return it will see. But don’t worry, the benefits are there for someone…
All of this government funding and student loan heads straight into Universities’ bank accounts, and the Vice-Chancellors are seeing massive portions of that dropping into their pockets. This March, the Guardian reported that the average salaries of these new “fat-cats” has seen a bump of about £20,000 to almost £300,000 a year. It’s not surprising that the Chancellors are claiming fees are too little; they haven’t quite paid off their second house and fancy a new Ferrari.