As the prime minister commissions a review into the funding of post-18 education, the highly anticipated outcome is a cut in tuition fees.
While being a potential change that would be welcomed by the 2.3 million students at UK higher education institutions, there are worries of the repercussions the slashing of fees could cause.
Primarily, that worry centres on scientific research. More than 80% of the research coming out of the 24 ‘research-intensive’ Russell Group universities is classed as world-leading or internationally excellent. This is the research that has led to treatments for diabetes and Parkinson’s, police methods to cut violent crime, the sugar tax and even digital progress to help tackle online trolling.
It is this research that Britain is proud of, and that the government aims to prioritise amongst Brexit-gate to ensure that the the country remains at the forefront of future industries. However, with a drop in tuition fees on the horizon, inconsistencies in the government’s approach have been raised.
The Guardian reports that today the cost of UK teaching breaks roughly even because of tuition fees and government top-up. Despite this, research is still underfunded, with research councils covering just 72% of real costs and the remaining 28% comimn donations and international student fees.
Therefore, there are worries that cuts to student fees would decrease that 72% even further. What’s more, the trend of overseas companies coming to the UK to work with the countries’ world-class universities (AstraZeneca is currently moving its headquarters to Cambridge University) risks being reversed.
Some point to welcoming more international students to bridge the funding gap, although others warn against seeing these students as cash cows. What remains clear is that for the government to please students by cutting fees, there needs to be a back-up plan for a potential research catastrophe.