[Tom Boon | Contributing Writer]
The government has announced plans to increase university tuition fees above £9,000 a year at universities with ‘better’ ratings. This comes after the fees for higher education were fixed at £9,000 by the coalition government in 2012.
The proposals set out in the Green Paper are intended to ensure that students get value for money from their course, saying: “We will reward excellent teaching with reputational and financial incentives”. Whilst this means that some universities will receive more money from educating students and a higher budget to put towards the cost, it also means that students could leave university with even more debt than recent years. Currently, a typical student on a three year course will have a £27,000 debt on tuition fees by the end of study. If that student then earns £30,000 a year, it will currently take them approximately 33.5 years to pay for their tuition fees alone, that’s if they do not receive a promotion or pay rise.
When approached for comment, Jack Amos, President of Hertfordshire Students’ Union said: “I am worried of the impact that allowing universities to charge over £9000 because there is ‘good teaching’ under the Teaching Excellence Framework. Students expected good teaching when the fees were closer to £3000 and definitely do now they are paying £9000. They should not be paying more because of a good quality of teaching.
“There is strong concern that the TEF, alongside the changes from maintenance grants to repayable loans, will increase the price tag of higher education even further, and the poorest of students will be the worst affected.”
The Minister of State for Universities and Science commented in the Green Paper: “The regulation of higher education must evolve to champion value for money for students making big lifetime investments.” This indicates that the government want to put more emphasis on a university education as a product that students are paying for. The NUS responded to the green paper on Friday 6th November, with NUS National President, Megan Dunn, saying: “Change should be driven by the people at the heart of the system – students, teachers and staff. It will not be good enough for the government and institutions to decide what is in students’ interests without asking them.”
When asked for comment, Stan Tunstall, a Welwyn, Hatfield Conservative councillor said:
“When tuition fees were first introduced, I didn’t like the principle. People should only be accepted to university once they have achieved a reasonable academic standard. However, once I understood people would only need to repay their student loan once their income exceeded a threshold that seemed fair. The problem I now see is if the amount that universities charge becomes too high, it could deter people from attending university. I’m against the proposal.”
A Welwyn Hatfield Labour Councillor, James Broach, commented: “It is only fair that it is the contents of a student’s brain, and not the family bank balance, that should dictate the ability to access higher education.”
A representative from the Welwyn, Hatfield Conservative Association added
“No-one with ambition and ability whatever their background and family income, should come up against barriers to accessing higher education. The number of students in higher education has exceeded half a million for the first time and more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university than ever before. This is fantastic news and shows the Government’s reforms are working as students understand they do not have to pay up front to go to university.”
As this is only a Green Paper, there is yet to be confirmation as to whether the changes are to go through. If you have an interest you can voice your thoughts by contacting your local MP.
What do you think of the proposals to increase fees? Tweet us @TridentMediaUK