Leading article: Confused signals from higher fees

 

Share

When the Government allowed universities to raise their tuition fees to £9,000 a year, it appeared that ministers expected a market to break out that would rate establishments and courses differently. That may be the eventual result. But the immediate consequence was that almost every university in the land raised its tuition fees to the maximum, or almost. The knock-on effects are now becoming apparent, and it is hard to believe that the architects of the policy intended all, or even any, of them.

There has been a fall of almost 10 per cent in applications from students in England, who will have to pay the higher fees, compared with a much smaller fall for students in Scotland. While the drop in England is not as steep as many had feared – and part of it may reflect the increased numbers applying last year to avoid the rise – the decline is still sharp, and it suggests that some of those who would be qualified and would benefit from a university education are choosing not to avail themselves of the opportunity – which is unfortunate. That a disproportionate number of those deterred appears to comprise mature students should be of particular concern.

Another effect has been to favour those establishments able to attract higher-paying foreign students. Universities that primarily serve the local population could thus suffer a double penalty. On the one hand, they now have fewer local applicants; on the other, they will not be able to make up the shortfall with students from outside the EU. Certain courses, mainly in arts and languages, have also lost out, raising the possibility that some colleges might have to close.

It can be argued that some of what is happening could in time produce universities that are better all round. The Labour government was undoubtedly misguided in wanting 50 per cent of school-leavers to go on to higher education. Britain probably has more universities than it needs, with courses that are not always up to scratch. A shake-out may not be a bad thing. But if this is what ministers aimed for when they sanctioned higher fees, they should have said so. As it is, with the figures out today, the policy looks fraught with unintended consequences.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A PHP Developer with knowledge ...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Engineer - PHP

£33000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas