Controversy has been caused by a rumoured leak of the Browne Review into university fees and funding.
The review, entitled the Browne Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance, is now expected to call for a removal of the cap on tuition fees, meaning that some degrees could cost as much as £14,000.
Fears that the removal of the cap on fees would deter some students from courses and prestigious universities have immediately been voiced. High ranking universities such as Oxford and Cambridge would charge far higher fees than other institutions, and the cost of science degree schemes would also rise. Students have voiced concerns that such changes would reinstate the issue of elitism in the higher education system.
However, over the past weeks rumours leaked in the Guardian have suggested that the current maximum amount that universities can charge undergraduates, £3290, will be scrapped. The justification rumoured to have been given is that costs need to go up in order to keep British universities at world class levels.
A spokesperson for the review said that no firm conclusions have yet been reached, and that findings will be published in October this year. Despite this the board did report back in March, stating that bursaries are not widely publicised enough to be beneficial to students, and that there needs to be more information about the style of teaching given on some courses before students apply to them. Further, it was reported that over the past five years student participation has widened, although not at the very top universities.
They also found that a minority of students are put off higher education altogether by the discussion of top up fees, which makes the rumours that have now appeared seem difficult to justify.
The National Union of Students (NUS) is currently running a petition against top up fees, which has been signed by many current MPs, although new Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw is not amongst them.
Wes Streeting, President of the NUS, has called for all students to speak out against a hike in tuition fees, and has said that a removal of the cap on tuition fees would create a ‘nightmare scenario’.
Second year English student Megan Wall said “I think tuition fees are too high anyway. If they raise them much more they’ll have trouble finding people who are willing to pay, or parents that are willing to support them.”
This view seems to have been echoed across campus, with hundreds of students signing the NUS petition.
The Browne Review began in November 2009, and is looking into “the balance of contributions to universities by taxpayers, students, graduates and employers.” Lord Browne, the chair of the review, has also stated that he will be taking into account Labour’s goal of widened participation in higher education.