UK students leave university owing more money than anywhere else in the English-speaking world
Do you remember when we all said that tuition fees were too high, and the Conservative government bumped it up to £9,000 a year anyway – then again to £9,250 a few years later? Well, Prime Minister Theresa May has just realised that the current system doesn’t work.
Higher education fees have been a major sticking point since 2010, when almost 50,000 young people took to the streets of central London to protest the trebling student debts that leaves most students owing around £50,000. That’s more money owed than anywhere else in the English-speaking world.
To curry favour with young voters (who despise her party), May has announced she plans to overhaul the entire system admitting: “We now have one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world.”
However, the Prime Minister’s reasoning on the issue makes little sense. In her speech, May said that the system of variable fees has not resulted in the “competitive market” originally envisaged. Presumably this means that when they set the maximum charge for universities at £9,250 the government thought that some might price their courses lower to attract more students – they didn’t, of course.
“All but a handful of universities charge the maximum possible fees for undergraduate courses. Three-year courses remain the norm. And the level of fees charged do not relate to the cost or quality of the course,” she said.
The government will launch a review into post-18 education that aims to look at how to “give people from disadvantaged backgrounds an equal chance to succeed and “that includes how disadvantaged students and learners receive maintenance support, from both government and universities and colleges”. May’s review will also try to get rid of the favouritism towards academic skills over technical and vocational qualifications like healthcare and art.
However, her comments stand in stark contrast to the new legislation her government pushed through before the general election that gave universities in England permission to increase tuition fees year-on-year.
Many of us will also remember that it was Labour and Jeremy Corbyn that pushed for the abolition of tuition fees last June, attracting the attention of the country’s youth. Apparently, the government’s motto is if you can’t beat them be them: the Tories are now just cherry-picking issues and pledges from the Labour manifesto, from student debt to organ donation.
While we’re behind anything that cuts the huge amount of debt we’re in let’s not forget that May has been behind every recent hike in course prices. As Jeremy Corbyn pointed out on Twitter earlier today, May originally voted to triple tuition fees – meanwhile, he’s pledged to scrap them all along.