Image may contain: Sign, Crowd, Arm, Person, People, Human

Are changes to university fees really going to help students?

The government’s latest plans to overhaul the system


There has been another iconic announcement from Theresa May in which she has decided to spend an ENTIRE YEAR (365 days) looking into university tuition fees. This comes after the shock realisation that fees that may increase every year could be unfair on the poorest students and most 18 year olds who do not currently have £40,000 to spare. But are these reforms going to help students or are the likely to simply be another education policy that doesn't really work?

Image may contain: Leisure Activities, Woman, Girl, Female, Blonde, Person, People, Human

Theresa May – Queen of Grain

This change has involved the Education Secretary Damian Hinds suggesting that changes to tuition fees should be in line with the 'prospects' and financial returns that the degree would get. Arts and humanities degrees, which have been shown on average to promise lower salaries than science degrees, would therefore charge less. But before all the classicists and English students of the world start jumping for joy, think of our poor science-studying comrades. This could mean that their fees would be higher, a natural deterrent for people from disadvantaged backgrounds applying for them. The education secretary has labelled the changes as a fair alternative to the current system yet variable fees would only be fair on the richest students who can afford to pay more to study science degrees.

Image may contain: Person, People, Human

Damian Hinds – Education Secretary: Looking like that friendly uncle who suggests you eat fewer avocados so you can afford a house

Furthermore, education experts have argued that you cannot judge the value of education based on the likely financial returns of it as well as the fact that these reforms could pose universities long-term damage. This reform would supposedly create more competition within universities, but that was also the justification for the rise to £9,000 back in 2012. A competition that never took place. Instead, all universities simply increased their fees to £9,000 which benefitted absolutely nobody so how can the government guarantee that any universities will actually change their fees at all.

Some universities have embraced competition through offering unconditional offers, bursaries and incentives such as gym memberships (gainz) to study there but this has not taken place among universities that prefer to rely on their reputation to get applications. As a result this reform could create even more of a wealth gap between those who can study certain courses at certain universities and those who cannot afford to do so.

Image may contain: Tree, Plant, Flora, Street Sign, Sign, Road Sign

Brunel University has been offering grants of £6,000 to lure in students

However, there is also the argument that with many science degrees being much more expensive to run than arts and humanities degrees that some students are subsidising the education of others. According to the government, if some degrees were cheaper than others it would mean you were getting better value for money. Yet, coming from a generation of politicians that received their university education for free and were responsible for creating one of the most expensive university fee systems in the world (this isn't fake news), it seems a little hypocritical.

These reforms come after studies have shown that students will likely never pay back their debt by the cut-off age i.e. 30 years after graduation. As triggering as it may come to the likes of Bojo and Jacob Rees Mogg, most people take a while to pay off £40,000 of debt with 6.1% interest. In addition to rising fees, the government also recently removed maintenance grants, leaving students thousands of pounds less well off as the government instead replaced them with larger and more expensive loans. Other ideas that the government has toyed with are cutting fees or indeed raising the threshold of when you have to pay back the loan from £21,000 to £25,000. As nice as these ideas are however, they do not deal with the fact that many people are still put off university by the lack of government help and the rising costs of living and tuition.

So there you have it. Is the government going to help us out or are we instead going to be even worse off than we were before? Is my French degree going to become less expensive due to my own personal lack of ambition and prospects? Will reduced fees inspire a whole generation to become artsy Puffa-jacket wearing, rollie smoking, fake edgy English students? Only time, and Theresa May, will tell.