Since the proposal to raise university tuition fees this topic has been pretty constant in the media. And so it should. It's something which I have always maintained a slight mixed view of, recognising mostly the shortcomings of this change but also some positive aspects. Firstly, I would perhaps be more sympathetic of the rise in tuition fees if such a rise was coupled with changes within HE itself. As far as I can see, the increase in fees has not been coupled with an increase in student experience. Courses are indiscriminately charging the higher end of the fees, regardless of their rating compared with other courses at other universities e.g. universities which rank low in terms of student experience have still charged the same in fees as universities which have ranked higher. It's frustrating when perhaps these universities have made no changes to justify the increase. However, it could be argued they've done so because of the economic climate in HE more generally - that an increase in tuition fees has been to recognise the continuing financial issues suffered by universities. But there seems to be no evidence of this. Even just anecdotally - speaking to those working in HE reveals most believe the financial situation is worse than ever. From what I can see, the government aren't justifying it through such ways either, with the focus being on students making a contribution or 'paying their way'. Now, whether or not I agree with the increase, I take the position that this should
not deter students from progressing onto university. I understand the concern about debt and the large
amount of debt but I stand my ground on the belief that a tuition fees loan is not like other debt. I've never had someone knocking on my door or letters through the post demanding a payment. And if I don't earn enough, I'm not repaying it and if I don't ever repay it all, I'm not particularly bothered (sounds really flippant, I know). Regardless of how I feel, I can see that students do
worry about this. Not all of them, but more than before the increase in fees. So I do believe that the rise in tuition fees might be putting off students from lower economic backgrounds. And that's a major issue for me. It might be suggested that a rise in tuition fees means that a degree becomes less of a rite of passage which most people will go through and that it makes degrees more valuable, decreasing the number of graduates and moves us away from the situation where we have too many graduates for not enough graduate positions. I kinda agree with that. BUT, we'll be moving to a smaller number of graduates with most of these graduates coming from a particular economic (and social) background. The potential held by a number of working-class students who do not progress to university because they're put off by the debt will be wasted. So whilst I can see some value to the rise in tuition fees in HE I think there is a lot more damage done than good. And it's certainly not being justified with the right reasons.
Labels: education, government, politics, students, university