A new report reveals just how badly Britain’s universities are failing their students

A stinging indictment

A new 150-page report- 'Timebomb: How the University Cartel is Failing Britain’s Students'- has delivered a damning verdict on higher education in the UK.

It comes a week after the Times Higher Education rankings which showed that of the 12 UK universities in the top 100 globally, a third had fallen down the table since last year.

The report, produced by the independent think-tank UK2020, has the signatures of the MP Owen Paterson, Labour peer Andrew Adonis, and Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, the UK’s first private university.

The report’s six chapters outline the funding of British universities as well as the development of university funding and student loans. Rising fees under several governments, as well as increasing interest rates on loans, have contributed to a crisis in student funding.

Degrees confirmed by former Bristol chancellor, Baroness Hale

Degrees confirmed by former Bristol chancellor, Baroness Hale

The report also explores how students feel about the cost of their education, cites alternatives abroad and shows the growing interest in two-year courses instead of the traditional three-years. Of the students polled by YouGov for UK2020, 47% showed interest in two-year degrees.

As well as offering more intensive learning, two-year courses would save students a fortune in living costs and free up housing in cities with large universities. Most UK universities, the authors note, do not even offer two-year degrees.

The ASS Library, home of social sciences at Bristol Uni

The ASS Library, home of social sciences at Bristol Uni

"It is not often that politicians from such different parts of the spectrum come together on a major question of such national importance" wrote the authors. "But we are united in our desire to find a solution to the crisis in how students and universities are funded."

The detailed report, using data from YouGov, the Higher Education Policy Institute and the Office for National Statistics, shows how universities have operated like cartels by offering the same tuition fees for nearly every course, regardless of the cost of individual subjects.

As a result, British students are the most indebted in the world, leaving uni with more than £50,000 of debt. The issue of tuition fees and student debt was arguably a major reason why so many students chose to vote for Labour in June's general election.

Read the full report here, or the brief summary here.