Saturday, 11 December 2010

University tuition fees. Good or bad?

The issue of university tuition fees has hit the headlines recently, mainly for all the wrong reasons. We've seen the violent protests, and the appalling behaviour of some of the demonstrators who have defaced the Cenotaph and urinated on the statue of Winston Churchill.

However, ignoring the mindless anarchists who have hijacked the protests for their own senseless, pointless enjoyment, the serious point is that of the funding of university tuition fees.

As reported in the press, the current annual tuition fee of £3290 is about to be raised to £6000 from 2012, with an upper tier of £9000 if the university can ensure access for poorer students.

From the student's perspective, this is obviously not a welcome change. Deciding whether you want to go to university will be as much about whether you and your family can financially subsidise such a venture, as it will be about whether university is the right choice for you, whether you have selected the right university or the right course.

There is now a formidable financial disincentive. Being faced with a maximum final bill of £27000 is enough to put anyone off applying for a university place, even those from middle class backgrounds and who are genuinely talented and / or hard working. The deterrent for those from poorer backgrounds must be greater still.

Another point worth making is that it is not just the students that benefit from graduating. Graduates with degrees in sought after courses such as the nursing, social care and health care professions will obviously benefit society as a whole.

On the other hand, is it fair to ask every family - irrespective of whether they have children, irrespective of whether their own children are going to attend university and irrespective of how financially destitute they may be - to subsidise every university student. Is it fair to ask a hard working family living in hardship, working to minimum wage, to fund a university student who may then go on to work in the investment banking sector earning a six figure salary?

The repayment terms for paying back tuition fees are very lenient. Your first repayment will be due in the April after you leave your course (the start of the new financial year). You’ll repay nine per cent of your earnings over £15,000 - but you can repay more if you want to clear your loans faster. The more you earn, the quicker you repay the loan. So, someone earning £18,000 a year (the average starting salary for a graduate-level job) will have to pay back nine per cent of £3,000 (£18,000 minus £15,000). This works out at around £5.19 a week - Directgov

If a graduate is earning less than the average national salary, they will never be subject to repaying their tuition fees at all. This will apply to many graduates. So in reality, many graduates will never have to pay back a single penny of their tuition fees.

The issue of tuition fees has polarised the population, with both sides of the debate never seeing the issue through the eyes of the other. It has resulted in a polemical debate without any clear consensus. There is never going to be any clear winner from this issue, and until each side agrees to compromise and listen to the other, then so the hostilities will continue.

No comments:

Post a Comment