The findings of the Browne Panel Review are to be released today, revealing Lord Browne’s recommendations for the future of university funding in the UK.
The main conclusion of the review, which is viewed by many as the most significant re-evaluation of university financing since the introduction of tuition fees in 2006, is widely anticipated to be a proposal for a significant rise in the tuition fee cap. The cap is currently set at £3,290 per year.
The results of the Browne Review will coincide with the Government’s spending cuts, of which George Osborne is expected to announce the full details on October 20.
It was recently reported that the teaching budget for universities, including York, could be cut by roughly 75 per cent, falling from £4.7bn to £1.2bn.
“Universities have completely failed to make any case to justify charging students even more for their education.”
Aaron Porter, NUS President
However, cuts may be even more significant for arts and humanities subjects, where teaching funding could eventually disappear altogether.
Rather than a raise in the tuition fee cap leading to increased university revenues, the reduced teaching grants will instead mean that the higher fees are needed for universities to maintain their current financial balance.
Should subsidies for teaching in arts and humanities be abolished, it may force universities to raise fees to twice their current level in order to cover the funding gap. This would represent a major progression towards a free-market university funding system.
While more established and oversubscribed universities such as York look to suffer less from charging higher fees, it is the newer and less internationally reputable institutions that could struggle to attract students if rates are augmented. Currently, York has a significant amount of private funding, as well as a large income from international and postgraduate students, which leaves it in better stead to cope with any changes in application numbers.
“I think the graduate tax is inherantly flawed but I don’t think there is a rational argument against charging students for the full cost of their education.”
Poppy Garrett, Third Year Student
The University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Jane Grenville, commented: “To date, higher fees haven’t seen a downturn in applications nationally, but at York we believe that it is necessary to create support systems that will not deter the most disadvantaged.”
Nonetheless, if tuition fees increase, this method of finance may still not be a viable option to cover the drop in Government grants.
Officials have expressed concerns that should fee cuts take hold whilst the tuition fee cap remains stagnant at £3,290, universities nationwide may be left with a serious funding shortfall. Wealthier Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge are better financially equipped to handle cuts, there is a worry that the funding gap will hit the less affluent universities the hardest.
Students at York have also expressed their worries that the proposed, ‘graduate contributions’, could reach figures as high as £7,000 or £8,000, a sum many consider “unaffordable”.
Poppy Garrett, a third year student, commented: “I think the graduate tax is inherantly flawed but I don’t think there is a rational argument against charging students for the full cost of their education.”
Talking to Nouse, Aaron Porter, NUS President, stated his view that universities have “completely failed to make any case to justify charging students even more for their education” and have “not adequately explained where the money they’ve already received since fees were tripled four years ago has gone.
“Student satisfaction has not increased, bursaries have not been effective in getting poorer students into top universities and staff salaries have hugely increased.”