£9,250 is a lot of money for one year of tuition. However, increased university fees to £9000 were introduced back in 2010 by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. This was with the aim of bringing a higher quality of teaching, a better choice for students and to help universities get their finances on track.
The tuition fee cap rise to £9000 came into effect for the 2012-13 academic year, trebled from the £3000 cap set by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 2006. Before this £9000 cap was introduced, universities were typically charging £3290 per year. According to a BBC report, the Russell Group of leading universities said that this rise in 2010 was crucial in the UK if it was to remain being ‘a serious global player in higher education’.
Nick Clegg made a promise to students regarding tuition fees shortly before the general election in 2010, pledging to oppose any possible increase in university costs for students. He was then ridiculed when he played a part in the trebling of the university cap.
Tuition fees were then increased further to £9250 in 2017 by the Conservative government. This move was linked to inflation. Jo Johnson, the universities minister at the time, also linked the rise to a better quality of teaching at universities in a report that he published.
However, there is now the serious consideration of reducing these fees in order to try and help students who are from poorer backgrounds.
My university feels like it already has to make cuts based on the prediction that tuition fees may be reduced in the near future. This includes £3.5 million worth of staff cuts, which will adversely affect our university if the changes do go ahead and take place.
Our vice chancellor also cited Brexit uncertainty as another reason why these planned cuts could be necessary. The impact that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have on European international students remains to be seen. Organisations have been affected by all this uncertainty. The Government needs to conclude negotiations swiftly to reduce the chance of several other universities taking this drastic action.
International students are very important financially for UK universities; their tuition fees are often higher, so they bring in the finance that these institutions need to thrive. Staffing is not the only cost that universities need to consider. Paying for industry standard equipment as well as constructing/refurbishing educational buildings on campus is often very costly.
If tuition fees are reduced very soon, it could plunge some universities into a financial crisis.
Even without the possible reduction, some universities have reportedly struggled financially in the past year. This includes the Office for Students giving a £1m bail out to an unnamed university in November 2018.
If fees do decrease by the £2000 or £3000 figures touted, this could have an awful impact on universities across the UK, which could result in widespread university staff redundancies, less campus refurbishments and a narrower range of course choices for future students as a result.
Whilst reducing fees is seen as a great idea, the Government needs to weigh up the pros and cons of doing this before they make any concrete decisions. Consultations with universities would be a good start to this potential fee-reducing process.