There’s quite a lot of confusion over the new tuition fees scheme. One minute the government are saying you can only charge the top fee in special circumstances, next (when a high number of British universities somehow fit into the special circumstances category) they announce universities overcharging will be disciplined and finally it is suggested you will be able to buy your place at university, providing you have enough money. Of course, it turned out the latter was a load of nonsense- or was it?
Certainly in the case of home students it is. Even if there is a loophole that might allow universities to boost their student numbers through keeping their outright fee paying students off the official student count, we still have to go through UCAS and earn our place based on our academic achievement. While foreign students subscribe to the same process, it cannot be ignored that overseas students bring extra monetary value with them, making them undeniably more financially lucrative applicants.
Between 2010/11 and 2014/15 the University of York is set to increase its overseas student population by 13.4 per cent. It is not just York though; Durham University is increasing its intake by 97 per cent. Durham are claiming, “All of our students benefit from the diverse educational environment which produces global citizens.” They neglected to mention that this increase would be a financial goldmine as overseas students yearly fees are currently averaging at £11,435.
We all applauded as LSE announced it was keeping its fees down at £8,500. But what we didn’t take into account was how it was legitimately able to do so. LSE has the biggest population of overseas students in the world, with only a third from the UK. The uncomfortable truth behind their lower fees then is that they can afford to keep them down because the mass of overseas students makes up the loss. LSE stands as an exaggerated version of what all other universities are doing too; foreign students are paying for the British to be educated.
This might be ok if they then benefited from the British economy in the long run, using their British degrees to get a job here. But new visa laws severely restrict the ability of foreign students to stay on in the UK after they graduate. They simply pop over for a three-year stint, providing financial support for British universities and then get sent back once they become a costly citizen. These new visa laws also prevent any foreign students at private colleges from working during their stay. The money they are pumping into this country offers no return, they are expected to survive on any surplus cash they have floating around.
The increase in international students at York and across Britain at this time of severe university budget cuts should be questioned. The danger is, if it hasn’t already happened, that foreign students will just become a sum of money. Home students could end up being overlooked for financially attractive foreign students, whilst overseas students end up burdened with rescuing British universities from financial shortcomings . Mr Cameron might state that you can’t buy your way into university but has he forced universities to rely on overseas students to do just that?