University courses 'should provide more value for money'

An independent review of university funding in the UK is to look at options to make higher education more affordable for students, including varying fees to reflect the quality of the course.

University courses “should provide more value for money”
Theresa May has announced an independent review into higher education funding which is likely to recommend that some institutions cut fees for certain courses to reflect the salaries that students can expect on graduation.In the UK, maximum university course fees are capped at £9,250 by the government, but most universities charge the maximum fee regardless of the course.

UK tuition fees: highest in the world

UK university students face fees that are amongst the highest in the world. In some countries such as Denmark and Iceland higher education is entirely free. In others it is heavily subsidised.A report last year by The Student Loan Calculator revealed that tuition fees in the UK are now the highest in the world for public universities.According to the website, students in the UK face an average annual cost of £9,188, significantly more than students face in the US, where the average cost is $9,410 (£6,710) per annum.
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Sorana Vieru, Vice President, Higher Education at the National Union of Students (NUS) said, “The current fees system in the UK makes Higher Education inaccessible to many, and those who do attend University are likely to be paying for their degree for most of their adult lives.”Mrs May is to announce a year-long independent review into university funding which will see the current £9,250 cap remaining for at least another year during the review.

Reducing interest rates on student loans

In addition to fees, the review will also investigate other ways to reduce costs to students, including reducing interest rates on student loans, which are currently up to 6.1 per cent. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, students can accumulate an extra £5000 in debt from interest rates alone before they have even finished their course.

Maintenance grants

The government is also considering reintroducing maintenance grants – non-repayable fees intended to help poorer students to pay for living and study costs – which were scrapped in 2016 amidst backlash from student bodies and the Labour government.The current provision enables poorer students to take out bigger loans but they are left sidled with huge amounts of debt and critics argue that, this alone is enough to deter students from disadvantaged backgrounds to taking up a course.In fact research from the University College Union (UCU) showed that those from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to prioritise cost when choosing a university, often choosing those close to home that offer cheaper study options that can be combined with part-time work.
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When the grants were removed, Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, a foundation which aims to improve social mobility in the UK, said, “The abolition of maintenance grants means it is the poorest graduates who are getting the worst deal, with debts of over £50,000 on graduation.”

More ‘variety’ in fees

The new education secretary, Damian Hinds has also said that he wants to see more variety in fees to reflect the long term benefits to students of pursuing a particular course.In his first interview since he was appointed as education secretary on January 8, Mr Hinds told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, “What we need to look at is the different aspects of pricing – the cost that it is to put on the course, the value that it is to the student and also the value to our society as a whole and to our economy for the future.“What we are doing in the review is looking at how that system works, making sure there are alternatives, making sure there is more variety.”

Vocational and technical training

Ms May also explained that the review will look into possible support for vocational and technical training. Recognising that university may not be the best pathway for some students she said that she wanted to challenge the out-dated attitude towards technical education.Said Ms May, “What we’re doing today is announcing a review of higher education, of tertiary education, which is both about the whole question of the concern that students and parents and grandparents have of the cost of the debt that students get into when they go to university, the cost of fees and so forth, whether they’re getting value for money.”“But it’s also about making sure that we have a system that enables students to make the right choices. So for those for whom a technical education, a vocational education, or an apprenticeship is right, perhaps rather than going to university, that they’re able to be aware of the opportunities that are open to them.”For related news and features, visit our Education & Schools section. Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory