UK/August 22, 2022/By Serina Sandhu/Source: https://inews.co.uk/
‘The prospect of a huge financial commitment is especially likely to be off-putting for students from households in relative poverty,’ the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders warns
However, some figures in the sector said higher education funding needs to be reconsidered as universities begin to buckle under soaring inflation.
University vice-chancellors have said that fees need to be raised for domestic students in order to keep running, according to The Sunday Times. They warn they are increasingly forced to offer places to overseas students – who pay thousands of pounds more a year to attend than their British counterparts – to bolster their incomes.
But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We would be extremely concerned about any big rise in university tuition fees, particularly in terms of disadvantaged young people and the potential to deter them from applying for university courses.”
Although students pay for university through loans, Mr Barton warned “the prospect of a huge financial commitment is especially likely to be off-putting for students from households in relative poverty”.
“It needs to remembered that this is only one part of the cost of university, and that there can also be significant maintenance costs for food, accommodation and bills, and at least some of these costs are likely to rise because of the cost-of-living crisis. Now really isn’t the time to be talking about huge increases to tuition fees.”
It comes after university bosses told The Sunday Times that they could not continue running their institutions with a fee level of £9,250 from domestic students, which has been frozen for a decade. By comparison, the average yearly fee for overseas students is around £24,000 a year, the newspaper reported.
Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor at the University of Sunderland, said fees of £9,250 will be worth around £6,000 by 2025 because of inflation. Universities, he added, “cannot afford not to take more overseas students”.
But the Department for Education said it was “a myth that offering a place to an international student takes a place away from a student in the UK – places are offered to UK students and those from overseas in two separate streams”.
“International students make a significant contribution to our universities which actually supports the creation of more places for domestic students, not fewer,” the department said.
“The number of UK students studying in the UK is going up, not down, and that has been the case for the last five academic years. Last year, over two million UK students chose to stay in the UK for their higher education, and UK students take up the vast majority of places on university undergraduate courses, accounting for 84.3 per cent of the undergraduate student population.”
The Education Policy Institute said higher education funding is in need of a shake-up due to inflationary pressures and the growing imbalance between international and domestic students.
“UK universities must remain accessible to UK students and any change to the funding regime should seek to either maintain or increase accessibility for those from disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Natalie Perera, chief executive of the think-tank.
“Avoiding a system in which tuition fees vary by subject or university is important, as this might entrench systemic inequalities and deter students from pursuing costly but important subjects, such as nursing.”
“Vice-chancellors should get out of their out-of-touch ivory towers and see what the current student finance system is inflicting on past students before demanding an increase in course fees for future students: 42.25 per cent marginal tax rates and 40-year loan terms from 2023/24.”