The government shouldn’t be surprised at universities charging £9,000

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This article will anger people. It will anger people because it will say Lancaster should charge the whole £9,000 for tuition come 2012. Now we are the situation where funds are being cut and fees are raising, there is nothing else the University can do to other than charge this amount.

We need to consider what is best for Lancaster University. If students are paying over £6,000 in fees they will want their education to come from a good university: one that will impress future employers so they can get a well-paid job and start paying back that hefty loan.

For our University to stay on the same level as those at the top of the league tables we need to charge as much.

But now, the government has decided that they will fine universities that charge an “unreasonable” amount for tuition. What an “unreasonable” amount is is yet to be known. The baseline for fees is £6,000 so surely anything above that is “unreasonable”?

Of course not, nothing in this overhaul in university funding could be that simple or, in fact, fair. Some universities will be allowed to charge that £9,000 for tuition but for other universities such a move would be “unreasonable”.

One could guess that a reasonable amount of money is enough to fund the students’ education plus some to develop the university. It all seems very vague as to which universities will be allowed to charge a “reasonable” £9,000 and which will not, especially when the argument for the variable fees system was that students would vote with their feet which universities were worth paying for. Surely students will decide which university is charging an “unreasonable” amount by simply not applying there.

It seems to me that the government is backpedaling. First of all they offer universities the choice of how much they can charge and then are surprised at the fact that most universities want to charge the maximum. There are always going to be people that want to go to university and will pay the £9,000 for it. If students think it is “unreasonable” they won’t pay that much and will go somewhere else where the fees are either cheaper or the student deems it reasonable for the level of education they will receive.

Now the government have implemented this system it is the students’ choice where the fees are “unreasonable”. It is not for the government to stick their noses in. They cannot have their cake and eat it.

They have obviously seen that universities are going to charge the maximum £9,000 and students are willing to pay that for a world-class education. Now they are wondering where on earth they are going to get the money to lend to these students who won’t be paying it back now until they are earning over £21,000 a year, leaving the government out of pocket for a very long time. Someone somewhere didn’t think this through.

There is the danger of universities becoming like designer clothes shops, just because they are more expensive doesn’t always mean they are more fashionable or better quality. But nine times out of 10 they are. As the (former) students’ favourite, Nick Clegg, said: “I cannot think of anything more absurd than a university saying, to prove that they can offer a good education, they can whack up the price to £9,000. They are not Harrods.” No, universities are not Harrods and we never wanted them to be.  In case Clegg didn’t notice, we protested and complained about it quite a bit about the Harrodisation of higher education. But he and the rest of the Conservative led government have put universities in this situation, where the better the university, the higher the cost. So it wouldn’t be totally ignorant, if a little naïve, to assume that the higher the cost the better the university, so why should universities be punished for wanting to make their university look and be better? The government created this situation, they cannot complain and try back out of it now.

 

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