The coalition must go further on tuition fees

The decision by the coalition government to raise the cap on tuition fees to £9,000 per annum is a step in the right direction, but to be truly competitive in the global economy British higher education needs leaps, not mere steps.

The colossal increase in those attending university has made the old system of funding increasingly unsustainable. But it is also morally right for students to bear the cost of their own degree courses. The £9,000 cap is still too limiting for top universities providing the highest quality courses and it is likely that it won’t be too many years before the limit is raised further still. The sooner the better.

In the meantime, one can expect institutions to try and find inventive ways of effectively charging students a higher fee without this formally constituting part of the tuition fee.

Read the rest of the article on the Politics.co.uk website.

The two British universities with which I have had a long association (Cranfield and Buckingham) have not been subject to any cap on tuition fees — Cranfield because its degree students are all postgraduate and Buckingham because it is not part of the state system.I have been trying to get discussions going on whether (and if so, to what extent) taxpayers should be expected to subsidise the provision of Aston Martin cars to young people. It’s true that the Liberal Democrats (as far as I’m aware) didn’t make any pre-election promises on this particular subsidy); but even so it’s disappointing that nobody seems willing to enter the debate.

If we follow your argument then all foreign graduates who can’t provide an invoice for their degrees should also be charged for them. Pay for jobs that require a degree will need to increase dramatically. And what about all those who choose to emigrate to avoid the degree tax? If degrees are determined by the ability to pay for a piece of cardboard, which the provider is incentivised to provide by gaining an income for so doing, what value do they have beyond that of the cardboard?

Surely the university system needs to be completely decoupled from government price-fixing altogether. As long as politicians and bureaucrats get to decide tuition fees, the system will forever be corrupt and inefficient. The issue isn’t whether tuition should rise or fall, but that universities are quite able to market themselves to students for prices they believe to be reasonable. At that point, students and consumers of the service will either choose to utilize it or not. Universities should be free to compete, not live at the behest of government.As a supposed free-market think tank, I would think you would support market mechanisms in higher education.

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