All entries for Wednesday 15 February 2006

February 15, 2006

Student Union on Tuition Fees

Yesterday’s Warwick Boar briefly touched on union president Brian Duggan’s view of tuition fees.

Students will expect a lot more, because they’re paying a lot more, from their institutions and their unions and we’ll have to be at the forefront of direct representation for students not only to make sure students are getting value for their educations, but to ensure we’re providing the right representations and services, and also making sure we fight fees..The only thing that has been done on fees in the past four years is this leaflet that I’ve made.

That’s fair enough. I hadn’t seen the leaflet he refers to, but there’s some info on tuition fees on the student union website. As regards undergraduate fees for domestic students it says the following

Labour promised not to introduce Top-Up Fees…and then they did. From next year Home Undergrads will pay £3000 a year tuition fees. They will leave Uni with an average debt of £20–25k each. Applications are down across the country; clearly high tuition fees are a barrier to involvement. Students from lower socio-economic backgrounds will recieve help, however the system is confusing and offputting, with many students simply not even considering University because of a fear of debt.

Won't the money be useful to Uni's?

We are all being told that Top-Up Fees are necessary if we are to have enough funding in our Uni's for decent facilities and teaching. This is not true! Fees don't cover it. There is a serious funding problem in Higher Education but £3000 per student does not come close to fixing the problem.

Read in full here.

The first paragraph makes a fair point. The prospect of debt will be a deterrent to some groups even if they would be well equipped to make future repayments. Could we encourage teachers to stress the upside potential to such groups? Could short term grants and bursaries help overcome resistance? Who knows; it’s not discussed. The second paragraph appears confused. It admits to a serious funding problem in higher education, but seems thinks that because £3000 fees are insufficient, we should maintain the status quo. Perhaps the author meant the burden should be shifted to taxpayers. Or maybe the benefits of a relatively cheap education far outweigh the benefits of more money and more resources. Again, we’re not told.

Merely saying that ‘Everyone has the right to education that is FREE, FAIR and FUNDED’ doesn’t make it so. The union needs to better explain why a free university education leads to better outcomes than the alternatives. I don’t mean better outcomes for just the students involved. One must consider all the other parties affected: the lecturers, the universities and the taxpayers who never had the benefit of a university education themselves. I know it's not supposed to be a means of getting change, but the union website seems like a perfect place to fully explain the tuition fee stance to those who're unsure; a place to dismiss the notion that students are selfish and unwilling to endure discomfort for long term gain. At present, it just seems lazy.

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