Students paying higher fees is simply detrimental to both short term and long term financial viability. The possibility of a lift on our current cap is a worry to students across all universities and the realisation that this might bring yet greater financial hardship across the board is not an issue to be taken lightly.
However, beyond our distain for Lord Browne’s personal preferences in the distribution of higher education costs, we must begin to accept the inevitable and look at the benefits of such a change. Browne’s thoughts are positive in some aspects. We must respect the sentiment of fairness that the government is trying to implement.
The disparity induced by a cap lift is not necessarily an unfair one. This is an opportunity for students to revel in true fairness and although any rise in fees is intrinsically bad for us, we as students must accept that some degrees perhaps should cost more than others. The lack of contact hours for humanities students are unacceptablely priced at the current £3,225. Although a proposed £7,000 is an eventual possibility, it compares with £14,000 for the vastly greater number of hours for other subjects.
The NUS’ decision to oppose the hike is admirable and truly representative of students, but the reality is that under the system preferred by Browne, money paid would reflect the cost of a degree. The worry, as pointed out by NUS President, Wes Streeting, is that this may lead to an inevitable choice between cost and suitability.
Students should not have to choose between these aspects, despite promises by institutions that lower income families would not loose out. Already we have a system whereby students choose their degree on the basis of future merit instead of genuine curiosity. A difference in cost for certain degrees will move students further away from the instinctive interest that universities were founded upon. Although vocational drive is a powerful and important quality, students must be allowed to learn, instead of just retain information. The likely fee hike does not just endanger our pockets, it endangers our education. We are here to learn, to absorb and enquire. An unequal fee system, however representative, will actually mean less choice for the majority that can’t afford to study what they want to. We must not support a lift on the current cap; for ourselves and for the future generations that wish to be educated.