811

How much should a degree cost?

James Dunn on the great tuition-fees debate
Commercial awareness
Politics and economics

The turn of the year saw the issue of funding for higher education return to the headlines. The Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, announced plans to cut government spending on tertiary education by £135 million. That's on top of existing budget savings of £180 million. Lord Mandelson also suggested that two-year degrees should be introduced. This idea has been heavily criticised by those who feel it would create a second tier of academic qualifications (or so called "McDegrees"), and thus devalue university education. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, spelt out the threat to universities: "We will see teachers on the dole, students in larger classes and a higher education sector unable to contribute as much to the economy and society." The main opposition to the government plans comes from within its own party. 22 Labour MPs have signed up to a National Union of Students (NUS) campaign to resist any increase in the £3,000-a-year fees. The Conservative Party is also committed to increasing tuition fees.

An independent review headed by Lord Browne is due to publish its report later in the year. Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West, is cynical about the timing. "This review is nothing but a conspiracy between Labour and the Tories designed to keep plans to hike up tuition fees off the agenda until after the General Election," he said.

The Liberal Democrats remain the only major political party committed to scrapping tuition fees (despite indications that they might drop the policy during the conference season). Nick Clegg has committed his party to phasing-out tuition fees over the next six years. However, they are yet to set out exactly how they would raise the £7.5 billion required to implement this policy.

Whilst politicians wait for the Browne review, debate over funding continues in the media. David Blanchflower, professor at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, recently argued in the The Observer that British universities should adopt the US cap-system, in which Ivy League universities can charge up to $50,000 (£31,000) in fees. The revenue generated is used to fund places for poorer students. His proposals will find few supporters this side of the Atlantic. Those on the left are likely to shrink from the prospect of a tenfold increase in UK tuition fees, whilst those on the right would baulk at such naked socialism. Professor Blanchflower's idea has at its core the principle that the rich should pay (a lot) more to help the poor into higher education. Under the current UK system, he argues, the poor actually pay through their taxes for the rich to go to university at a discount.

" What is crazy is that people are prepared to pay all that money to send their kids to private school - almost £30,000 a year to go to Eton - but they are not prepared to pay the money to go to university... The poor have been subsidising the rich. And now the rich are shouting because they are losing their subsidy - because they are paying £3,000 to go to Oxford and they should be paying £30,000."


Continue learning below

What is your Self-awareness score?
Take the test

Click an answer below to begin the test

I often reflect on my thoughts

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

I do not often think about the way I am feeling

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

I enjoy exploring my “inner self"

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

I often reflect on my feelings

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

Others would benefit from reflecting more on their thoughts

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

I am interested in analysing the behaviour of others

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

I value opportunities to evaluate my behaviour

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

It is important to understand why people behave in the way they do

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

When I’m feeling uncomfortable, I can easily name these feelings

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

I usually know why I am feeling the way I do

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

I am often on auto-pilot and do not pay much attention to what I am doing

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

Sometimes I am careless because I am preoccupied, with many things on my mind

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

I often dwell on the past or the future, rather than the present

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

My mind often wanders when I am trying to concentrate

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

I often find myself thinking about how to solve past negative events

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

When things go wrong, I often think about them constructively for long periods of time

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

I tend not to look back and think about how I could have done things better

< Strongly Disagree
Strongly Agree >

Add your email

What company do you work for?

What would help you increase your current salary?

Your personal development is important to us, by clicking "Submit Answers” you agree to Weavee's Terms, Conditions and Privacy Policy