Tuition fee proposals

Two-tier undergraduate tuition fees have been considered by the Higher Education Review. As part of the UK Government’s Higher Education Review, due for publication in early 2019, there has been unconfirmed reports that the Review’s recommendation will be to set different tuition fees for arts and science students.

It has been widely reported that under these proposals annual fees may be reduced to £6,500 for arts courses, but could be raised to £13,500 for science and medicine courses. As science courses typically require more equipment and teaching, and on average lead to higher graduate earnings, some may see this is a fair approach.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimated that economics and medicine degrees give up to 60 percent higher average earnings than arts subjects.

Concrete spoke to students across various schools on the proposals. Joe Williams thinks ‘it’s a terrible idea’ and will lead to a ‘slippery slope of an Australian pay-per module system’. Claire Bilsborough (LDC) says she feels the two-tier tuition fees may put prospective students off STEM subjects and could ‘potentially create a stigma for arts students’. Politics student Callum Gray was in agreement, querying whether the fee changes could see a reduced budget for arts subjects and push them out of the ‘frame of academia’.

Tony Allen (LDC/HIS) said, ‘it’s a dangerous thing when you start valuing degrees differently and could push people in one direction or another for financial reasons’. Robert Pitt (PPL) also voiced concerns about how students may be put off from more expensive courses ‘further damaging social mobility’. Sylvie Tan raised an important point querying how any fee changes could affect international students’ fees, something which is likely to appear in Augar’s Review.

However, Eve Mathews (LDC) said ‘as an arts student, my fees shouldn’t be used to subsidise anyone else’s. If your degree costs £13,500 to run while mine costs less than half of that, then we shouldn’t be paying the same price’.

These changes are not definite as the Review, led by Philip Augar, is still in consideration and their report is unpublished. The Review was promised by the Conservatives in their 2017 General Election to help ‘seek value for money for students’.

A group of MPs, the Commons Education Committee, said earlier this month that students were ‘left with big debts for too little payback’. Some UK Universities have reacted strongly in protest to these proposed changes, raising concerns about how they will recruit financially disadvantaged students to science courses.

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January 2022
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