Top UK universities may be able to charge annual fees of £20,000 in the future, the University of Northampton’s Vice Chancellor has said this month.
Speaking in a Times Higher Education podcast, Nick Petford said that if the fee cap remains at £9,000, even for the next decade, then “a number of universities – including [Northampton] – could potentially be in financial difficulty”.
He added that he thought it was “naïve of politicians to think that there would be a spectrum, and that there would be lower-cost providers and higher-cost providers”, once the cap was raised from £3,000 in 2012.
He went on to say that the UK’s leading universities form a “luxury brand”, and that fees for some could exceed Oxford’s Vice Chancellor’s estimate of £16,000, reported by Nouse last month, before demand for places falls.
A University of York spokesperson said: “It seems highly unlikely that any Government will agree to raise fees to £20,000 anytime soon. However, from York’s perspective, the cap on fees will have to be lifted at some stage if UK universities are to remain among the best in the world.
“We need to continue to spend on reducing staff student ratios, renewing facilities and buildings improving other aspects of the student experience.”
Just this month, accusations have already been made by senior political figures that the affluent middle classes dominate the upper echelons of British society, including higher education.
The University commented further that it was “anxious to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds and ensure that very able students from all income groups are able to benefit from a York education.”
Matthew Noden, a first year Politics student, described the prospect of £20,000 fees as a “disgrace”. He said: “I was talked into paying £9,000 a year by family members, I wasn’t going to come. There’s no way I’d pay anything over £10,000, and I don’t think that’s just me. It’s especially bad for a course like Politics which has so few contact hours. I can’t figure out what I’m paying for.”
He added: “students probably do underestimate the costs involved in running a university, but that doesn’t make it okay to charge such huge tuition fees.”
Petford also acknowledged that alternatives to fee hikes did exist for those universities who are struggling to raise funds: “Universities should be continuously seeking to be more effective and more efficient in how they run their financial business”.
Discussing whether universities could raise more funds from philanthropic sources, he added: “I think what investors… will be looking for in future are projects to invest in that actually show real good and social value and social return to the communities that universities are based in. So I think that’s an area that we want to explore in more detail.”
Kallum Taylor, YUSU President, told Nouse, “The prospect of fees rising further is a frightening one. For us it is simple: education should not be toyed and tampered with for political means, and the debate urgently needs swinging back to it being seen as a social good. If things carry on as they are, then education’s going to be seen as some kind of super-contained product which individuals purchase for the benefit of themselves only. We’ll have a very bleak future if this was to become the case.”