Sunday, 31 July 2016

University tuition fees in Britain

University tuition fees in Britain were introduced in September 1998 by the Labour government under Tony Blair as a way of funding undergraduate and postgraduate students at university. Since John Major’s initial commissioning for an inquiry into the funding of British higher education in May 1996, tuition costs in England have since increased to £9,000 per year. From September 2016, maintenance grants will be scrapped and it is likely that tuition loans will increase further in order to make up for the scrapped grants. From 2017, tuition costs will further increase, in order to keep up with inflation.
All this has subsequently led to England officially holding the rank of having the most expensive university costs in the world, ahead of even the United States, Australia and Switzerland. But why is this the case? Why does it now cost so much for a student to study and earn a degree in England? Why should a student get into so much future debt simply for wanting to study what they love? Will this deter future would-be university students from applying for a place at university?

The first thing that we should understand about university tuition costs in Britain is that it differs depending on which constituent country you are seeking to study in. English university fees are capped at £9,000 per year; Welsh university fees are also capped at £9,000 per year, but Welsh students are also able to apply for fee grants of up to £5,190, in addition to a loan of £3,810 to cover these costs; Scotland has been highly praised by students for charging no university fees and Northern Ireland only charges its university students a maximum of £3,805. Furthermore, the British government has recently stated that as of 2017, high-ranking universities – primarily Russell Group universities – will be able to raise their respective tuition costs higher than the £9,000 cap. Factors given for this potential increase in tuition costs include student satisfaction, teaching quality and employment outcomes.
Put simply, the better the university, the higher the costs.

So is it really justified for these high-ranking universities to take more money out of their students’ pockets, thereby increasing their student debt? If so, will future would-be applicants be enticed into applying for university study? In 2016, the Guardian newspaper published a report that stated that the number of disadvantaged students applying for English universities has in fact increased by 72% from 2006 to 2015, beating the number of applicants for other universities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Why is it that, despite their extremely high costs, English universities continue to attract not only British students, but also foreign students en masse? According to a number of governmental studies, the answer is simply that English universities are some of the most prestigious in the world and continue to offer an extremely high quality of education among its students. This is also reflected in the most recent drop-out statistics, which show that the student drop-out rate – since the tuition fees rose to £9,000 in 2010 – are at their lowest among English universities, especially among Russell Group and other high-ranking universities. This is in contrast to the increasing number of students dropping out of Scottish universities, which have since reached their highest levels in years.

Again, from this we can see that despite the increasing costs in university tuition, students continue to apply for English universities en masse. One theory is that the amount of debt that the student will eventually have to pay off is so high, it actually pushes the student to remain in university and work harder in order to achieve a better career with a high level of income, thereby making it easier to pay back their student debt.

For a student who is thinking about applying for university in Britain, the best advice anybody could give is that applying is quite possibly one of the best decisions a student can make in their entire academic life. Why? Because university – for all its high tuition costs and the future student debt that comes after graduation – provides the best education a student could possibly ever wish to get in whatever field of study they choose to pursue, and it opens so many doors for people in life that it is definitely worth the £9,000 a year – if you’re studying at an English or Welsh university. Especially with a strong postgraduate degree in the best fields of study, employment post-university will almost certainly provide a veteran student with income high enough to enable them to comfortably manage their student debts without so much worry and stress to hinder them in their respective future.

Author: Stefan Brakus

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