Anthony Hilton: A spotlight on the real cost of education

Undergraduates should decide on the financial soundness of where they enrol

We heard on Thursday that applications for university next year had risen, more than compensating for last year's sharp dip. A relieved government says this shows that the sharp increase in tuition fees was not putting off young people from applying.

Chatting to Professor Ian Diamond, principal of Aberdeen university, provided a clearer insight into what was going on. He said the biggest drop-off last year when the new fee levels came in was not from the poorer households but from the more affluent students, as judged by their postcodes.

This of course is counter-intuitive. His explanation is that the better-off students often take a gap year but seeing the looming hike in fees many cancelled their plans so they could enrol a year earlier before the costs went up. Thus in the first year of the increase numbers fell, but mainly because a significant number were already enrolled. The real test of the new system will not be in terms of overall numbers, he says, but in a flight to quality. The government is gradually lifting the cap on the number of undergraduates any one university can enrol. This will obviously favour the better-regarded institutions, which means the less favoured will see their numbers drop. One or two are already feeling the financial strain. More are likely to follow.

It may not be too long before one goes bankrupt, given that several are already in difficulties. So on top of everything else potential undergraduates should perhaps take a view as to the financial soundness of the institution where they choose to enrol.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York gave $1bn (£632m) to Johns Hopkins university the other day, becoming only the latest in a long line of successful United States businessmen who give to charity on a truly massive scale.

Over here it is different – not necessarily less generous but often much less ostentatious and harder to track – though as a guest at lunch noted last Monday, it often felt that half the buildings which make up the heritage of the City of London had been built by voluntary donations.

Our location was one of them, the Charterhouse, which is hard by Smithfield market in London and undoubtedly one of the most important Tudor monuments in the capital, given that it belonged to the Dukes of Norfolk, Elizabeth I had her first court there and it later housed Oliver Cromwell.

The complex as a whole with its buildings and quadrangles is more reminiscent of an Oxbridge college than a house at the heart of the metropolis. But most people, including the thousands who walk past it every day, barely know it exists.

It was also originally the home of the eponymous school, before that was moved out to Surrey and it remains the site of a small hospital, which provides accommodation, rather like the Royal Hospital in Chelsea does, to a small number of "brothers".

The money for the past few hundred years has come from an endowment provided by Thomas Sutton, a wealthy businessman of the time.

But inevitably it is no longer enough. The bad news is that the Charterhouse needs about £10m to maintain the fabric of its astonishing buildings; the good news is that it understands that to achieve this it will have to open itself up more to visitors to get much better known.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own