It would seem that, once again, universities are demanding that the cap upon tuition fees be removed in order to assert their ‘top quality education’. Universities, at the moment, are set to a strict cap upon fees which sits at between £3,000 and £3,225. Reports from the BBC have suggested that universities wish to see fees rise to between £4,000 and £20,000 or have no ‘top limit’ at all.

Most universities suggested that a figure of £4,000 and £5,000 would be an acceptable level.

One such article suggested that universities were no longer being driven through a desire to provide a ‘good education’, but instead we were being driven to act ‘like a business’ and therefore have a business model.

One such university, the University of Swansea, reported that students were no longer academics but consumers. When snow fell and forced the university to cancel lectures, it was reported that students lost ‘£20 per lecture’ and thus were considering the ‘value of their education’.

This ‘campus culture’, as it has been coined, has been seen throughout the educational forum. It was reported that students were contacting lecturers during weekends, ringing them up for information and treating those lecturers as ’service providers’.

Recent reports suggested that a figure of 450,000 students applied for university but two separate reports showed an increase in the level of graduate debt which was being forced upon students.

Barclays reported that, in 2004, the average level of student debt was at around £14,000 whilst Natwest reported in 2007, student debt had fallen from £13,000 to £12,000 from 2006 to 2007.

One of the questions that is sparking the debate is the effect it will have upon those from a ‘poorer’ background, or from those who have unskilled parents. UCAS reported that had increased gradually from 15,000 applicants in 2005 to close to 20,000 in 2007.

This would suggest that students are not as concerned about student debt as is being reported in some newspapers. With support being provided by the government and debt being ’suspended’ until students earn a minimum of £15,000 per annum, it is not as negative as it seems.

What will the increase do to students who are worried? Will it cause a downturn in university applicants and see an increase in unemployment figures?

It would seem that, with the figures, this would not be the case. People would still apply for university and those from ‘poorer’ backgrounds take up only a small percentage of the applicants (15,000 of 450,000 applicants).

If the debate, which is set to begin this year, results in the £3,500 cap being removed, we could see student debt rising to levels around the £32,000 mark and students may begin to question the value of higher education.

It is a known fact that students have already questioned the value of a ‘degree’ which is now common-place. Will the increase in fees produce a new standard of degrees that will help differentiate between the good and the best?


2009. “Universities push for higher fees.” BBC, March 17 (Accessed March 17, 2009).

2009. “University and fees in figures.” BBC, March 17 (Accessed March 17, 2009).

2009. “Fees fuel campus consumer culture.” BBC, March 16 (Accessed March 17, 2009).

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Comment by Ian on February 2, 2010 at 9:58am
Look backwards for a solution, perhaps?

I went to Loughborough Uni in the late 70's. I paid no fees and also received a grant to cover my housing and food. My parents were middle class (money wise, at least. They were both college lecturers, so we got a good education even if our clothes were a bit worn) and couldn't have sent any of us to University without major government support.

The theory was that the best educated would get better paying jobs and end up paying more taxes. Why not give the very best students a free ride, possibly with some diminution based on parental income? The only rule I would add would be that they have to work for at least 5 years in the country that paid their way before they emigrate to the US. The US has decided that education is a consumer product and should be made of sugar as opposed to anything with an academic nutritional value; therefore, the US has to import a vast number of specialists of all sorts. Why anyone would risk coming to to this Fascists-for-Christ powder keg at present, I have no idea.

Good luck at Hull, and keep the thoughtful posts coming. I enjoyed hearing your views.
Ian - Which is a sufficiently rare name that the locals can't pronounce it!
Comment by Ian Caithness on June 1, 2009 at 3:15pm
I did speak to numerous American friends of mine having written this post a few months ago and their reflection was much the same; that the education system was nothing more than a microcosm of a business, modelled on profit margins, student intake and maximising value.

I ask the question; how is it that we, the people, have allowed the education system to become in such a state that it can no longer be called a meritocracy? If anything, it represents a gross mutation of capitalism. This is not what education is about.

Education has two parts to its core [at a higher educational level such as University]; the experience and the education. The experience should be second to education. In the UK, the experience seems to have merged into the common mindset of what education consists of. Tutors and lecturers give good grades because of a required quota, to push them up the rankings.

I would go so far as to suggest that, if the education system at a higher level is not working, we need to do one of two things; fix the problem or scrap the system entirely and start afresh [which is a solution in itself]. To what extent can the Obama administration (I'd be interested to know his policies on education reform) and the Brown administration ignite action on this matter?



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