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The Pros and Cons of Tuition Fees

Tuition fees –the debate that just won’t go away. It was a major policy point at the General Election of June 2017 with Labour pledging to abolish them altogether. Introduced in 1998 under Tony Blair’s Labour at a cost of £1,000 per year, the issue came to a head in 2010 when the LibDem partners in the coalition voted to increase them. While most campaigners are opposed to tuition fees, there are advantages to universities charging students to study.


Pros of Tuition Fees

The government continues to defend its policy, pointing to the advantages and dispelling the myths of the present system:

  • Funding provides extra income for universities so they can compete on the world stage in terms of research and education. The UK’s top institutions are able to continue to aim for and deliver one of the highest standards of university-level education anywhere in the world and it’s largely thanks to the introduction of tuition fees
  • It reduces the tax burden on the rest of the UK population, many of whom have not and will not have gone to university. It’s been a tough time with wages driven down and the cost of inflation that eliminating tuition fees now would inevitably mean tax rises for everyone
  • Not all graduates will have to pay back their student tuition loans, only the percentage who earn over the necessary threshold. For those entering low-paid graduate work, they may never have to pay back their tuition fee loan
  • Our present system is considered one of the fairest in the world by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development who consider it “sustainable” as a form of higher education financing


Cons of Tuition Fees

The tuition fees are almost universally opposed by past, present and future students and many representative groups:

  • While acknowledging that many students will not have to pay back their student loans, opponents point to the fact that the tax payer is already (and will continue to) making up the shortfall for low-earning graduates. This model, they say, is unsustainable
  • They also point to the benefits of how an educated population benefits everyone. Even school leavers benefit from the expertise of graduate training – Doctors, engineers, chemists, biologists, technology, cars and aircraft… all of these things are available to all of us. Therefore, putting off students from studying due to cost makes us all poorer financially and industrially
  • Repeated studies have shown that social mobility has dropped since the increase in tuition fees came into effect. Fewer students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are going to university
  • There is also the feeling that those who benefited from a free university education should not impose a new system on others when the older system worked well enough. There were always methods of encouraging students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, but this current system is not it