Earlier this month the prime minister put forward a proposal to cut fees from the current £9250 to £6500.
Almost immediately, Tim Bradshaw, the chair and chief executive of the Russell Group, posed the question: “Would the Treasury offer to cover the funding shortfall in full?” With the potential cuts, there could be detrimental effects on the quality of university teaching and facilities.
Since 2006, tuition fees have risen massively in order to fund new, innovative research, specialist equipment and and general student facilities. As well as this, the cost of £9250 goes toward the upkeep of local amenities, such as free libraries and museums.
According to Professor Chris Day, the vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University, these would be one of the “first things to go.” Furthermore, the vast number of bursaries for people who have every right to study would not be available without the contribution of tuition fees. This was supported by Professor Michael Arthur, from the University College London, who said that cutting fees will have a “devastating” impact on universities’ ability to recruit students from deprived backgrounds.
The rising fees has not deterred people from applying, as 500,000 students are attending university compared to 68,000 students in 1980s. Despite the cost of fees, a degree still appears to be a highly desirable qualification.
One of the main reasons people debate over the high tuition fees is because no matter what the contact hours, or type of course, all the fees are the same. Bradshaw disputed this, saying: “That level of fee cut being talked about would affect every university and every course.”
Nevertheless, the prime minister was put under pressure after the pledge Jeremy Corbyn issued about abolishing fees was backed by the majority of young voters.
By cutting the fees to £6500 in order to please the young population, universities would be losing a third of their income which is vital for high cost subjects like science and engineering. The government itself would have to increase its funding for such subjects to avoid the quality being threatened by lack of financial aid. The outcome of this alternative method is still unclear, and university chancellors are sceptical about whether this change would be beneficial for students’ education.