We’ve talked about the prospect of £9,000 tuition fees, but many hoped that only the top universities would charge this. With most unis now planning to use this top rate, can they all represent value for money?
The government’s new regime will let English unis raise tuition fees from the current £3,290 to between £6,000 and £9,000 a year. These will then be paid off once graduates earn at least £21k.
Anger surrounding these fees doesn’t seem to be abating, and as more unis announce that they’ll charge the highest rates, students’ concerns are growing.
Opinions split on tuition fees
When our Money writer Laura Starkey raised the issue here on Conversation, the comments were split almost equally between those in favour and those against higher fees. Peter was in full agreement with the increase:
‘Perhaps, having to make a significant payment towards their costs, only serious students will bother to take university courses and perhaps they will take their studies more seriously and their social activities less seriously.’
However, Mark was opposed to tuition fees completely, ‘A well educated population is of benefit to the whole of society and, if a graduate earns more, he or she will pay more tax.’
When those comments were made, the question of whether £9,000 fees were fair seemed somewhat hypothetical. That fantastical maximum felt like it was a long way off, and more importantly, that it would only be charged in exceptional circumstances.
Most plan to charge top rate
However, an anonymous BBC survey of 54 English universities found that an incredible two thirds plan to charge the top rate for some or all of their courses. And the average new fee for all of those asked came to around £8,500.
It’s worth pointing out that some universities revealed that they’d offer more financial support to poorer students than others, such as a discount as high as £6,000.
Many institutions have also publicly announced their plans to charge the maximum nine grand, including Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, Warwick, Essex, Leeds, Lancaster, Bath, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sussex… the list goes on. Although all fees will need to be approved by the Office for Fair Access, this once dreamlike charge suddenly looks very real.
In a way, it feels like some unis want to charge the highest fees just to prove that they are at the ‘top of the university league’, even when their reputations may not be.
The question is, will students get value for money from each and every one of these universities? Sure, you’re expecting to get a world-class degree when you go to Oxford or Cambridge, but are degrees from other unis really worth that amount of debt?