Is the government right to hike up tuition fees for higher education students? Should the government be making such savage cuts in funding to universities? What are the implications for students, businesses, the economy, the universities, and access to higher education in general?
Improved access to higher education, together with raised expectations to improve social mobility and individual living standards, has seen the number of students passing through our universities increase substantially over the past decade.
Aim: Highly skilled future workforce
Successive governments have argued that Britain needs a high tech economy, with the ability to compete on a global level with our competitors. This high tech economy will need a highly educated and skilled workforce to drive it, but will that workforce be available to us?
The government has effectively privatised higher education in England by raising the maximum tuition fee charged by universities from the existing £3225 to £9000 per year until 2012 (Scotland and Wales have different arrangements).The funding cuts to universities being made as part of the 2010 government spending review, amount to a whopping 80% reduction.
To soften the blow, the government has insisted that the maximum tuition fee of £9000 will only be charged in exceptional circumstances. However, back in the real world, the majority of the now cash-strapped universities has already announced that they intend to charge the maximum fee of £9000.
What happens to the overall financial status of the student?
The actions instigated by the government will leave the average student in debt to the tune of at least £27000 when they leave university. Students will have to weigh up the benefits of a university education, better career prospects, higher earnings potential etc, against the huge debt, which they will be forced to repay once they earn over £21000.
Impact of such expensive tuition fees on students
Many prospective students are already turning their backs on university life, and seeking alternative careers without a degree, or more significantly, the debt burden. This punitive level of tuition fee increase will severely restrict access for poorer families, cause untold damage to the higher education structure of this country, and severely limit our potential to compete in any global high tech environment of the future.
To sum up
Higher education is the future of any country - we should be protecting this most valuable asset.