Leading article: The perils of wishful thinking

Share
Related Topics

Most British universities, it now seems clear, will soon be charging their students £9,000 a year in tuition fees. The Government's proposed maximum has become the norm. It was always likely to be so, given the shock that has been administered to universities' finances. They are losing 80 per cent of their teaching grant from the Treasury. Direct funding is being wiped out for almost all subjects other than science, engineering and medicine. There are big cuts in research funding. Fees from overseas students are evaporating under Coalition immigration policies. Billions of pounds are being lost.

On the other side of the ledger Cambridge University this week estimated that the actual cost of a year's undergraduate course is £17,000 a year. The average UK university science course costs £13,000 a year to run, with about £8,000 for an arts one. Ministers' hopes that the average fee would be fixed at £6,000 were always delusional. The idea that those universities who charge full whack will be forced to take more poor, disabled or ethnic minority students is also looking like wishful thinking. The Office for Fair Access has no new legal powers to force universities to do that.

That is not the only problem. Students won't have to start paying back the fees until they are earning £21,000 a year. That means costs will start racking up next year; but repayments won't begin till 2015, at the earliest. In the interim the bill for the trebled fees will be added to the public sector borrowing requirement. The reforms will create a new £1bn black hole. Ministers' pledges to find this within the higher education budget can only mean even bigger cuts to the teaching budget. Or they could axe 38,000 university places to bring costs back into line with Treasury forecasts.

The idea that students should pay more towards their education is a good one. Those who benefit should pay. But a market in university fees was never going to work unless cuts to university funding were spread over several years to allow that market to develop organically. Evolution not revolution was required. Ministers got that badly wrong, and now seem in denial as to how big a mess they have created.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower