If you thought that in between unprecedented inflation and wage stagnation, university bosses might be wondering how to best protect and support students… you’d be sorely mistaken.
According to the Sunday Times, bosses are actually calling for tuition fees to be raised closer to the £24,000-a-year average that international students pay. They claim that if tuition fees had kept pace with inflation, UK students would be paying £12,000 a year rather than £9,250. Never mind the fact that students are some of the worst hit by the cost of living crisis, or that the average student already leaves uni £50,000 in debt, or that a fee increase would deter disadvantaged students from going to uni!
Sir David Bell, the vice-chancellor at the University of Sunderland, said: “You cannot expect to run universities on a fee level of £9,250 a year, which by 2025 will be worth around £6,000 in real terms because of inflation. If you want to keep running universities even at the level we have now, you have to increase the tuition fee at some point.”
Bosses are warning that keeping tuition fees at the same rate for UK nationals is “forcing” them to take more students from overseas. A record one in five young undergraduates starting at top universities this autumn are international students, while the number of British undergraduates has declined by 13 per cent. But a Department for Education spokesman said: “It is a myth that offering a place to an international student takes a place away from a student in the UK,” they continued. “They actually support the creation of more places for domestic students.”
It makes sense that universities need more money – inflation is impacting everyone, after all. But it would be grossly unfair to hike up fees at a time when one in ten students are using foodbanks, and when vice-chancellors are paid an average £269,000 per year.
“The student finance system must be fair for students, universities and the taxpayer, and it is right that we have frozen tuition fees to reduce the burden of debt on graduates,” the Department for Education spokesperson added. “To support universities, we’re providing £750 million extra funding over the next three years.”