‘Tuition fee variety’ won’t help working class students, it will disadvantage them
It’s turning uni into Waitrose vs. Lidl, with prospective students shopping where they can afford
Theresa May has announced a review of the tuition fee situation in the UK, which will likely include the idea of 'a variety of tuition fees'.
The changes would mean that degrees are priced differently based on the course and the university, as explained by Education Secretary Damian Hinds yesterday. To put it frankly, what he's saying is that Oxbridge should cost more than a polytechnic and Economics should cost more than Sports Science. Of course, Hinds only had to pay about a grand a year for his PPE degree at Oxford, so perhaps he's slightly distant from what this means for our society.
There's this idea that all parents of our day want us to go to university, but for working class kids that's not always the case. Our parents worry about the copious amount of debt and often limited maintenance loans we'd struggle to survive on, and tend to encourage staying at home with an apprenticeship or job instead of going to university. Let me clarify, that's a fine route to take, but we shouldn't be scared off of uni because it's unaffordable.
If we can convince our parents that uni is what our heart is set on, with this proposed variety of fees our Mum's will say "why go to Oxford when you've got a perfectly good university on your doorstep for less?" and so someone who could have been Oxford's next top doctor lowers their personal standards because the state have pushed their aspirations out of reach.
This eases up the application process for rich kids, whose parents will encourage only the top universities for their children, and they'll end up making more money because of it whilst those who go to a less elite and cheaper unis will statistically earn less. It's turning one uni into Waitrose and another into Lidl if you ask me, with prospective students shopping where they can afford.
A degree in a uni like Sheffield Hallam might be the perfect for someone who's capable to get into a Russell Group uni, it shouldn't be seen as cheaper. By the same token, if Manchester is someone's ideal choice, they shouldn't be swayed away because they can't afford to go there. This new proposed system creates even more unnecessary, avoidable stigmas and widens the class gap. If you want a society with working class lawyers and doctors, making those fees more expensive than others won't help.
Each degree should be as economically accessible as another, because education is about passion and interest – the idea that a humanities degree is worth less than a science one will only discourage the next great writer or budding historian. It's all a load of bollocks.
Whilst most working class students don't pay their fees back, it's a confusing and intimidating system for many parents to get their head around, and high costing degrees would only decentivise bright working class individuals. In fact, reducing fees slightly across the whole board, which may happen under the review, would only help the middle and upper classes as fortunate parents who can pay fees upfront would pay less. Working class students would still be saddled with debts and interest that they'd never pay off, as lower earners do not pay back their full loan.
We'd be kidded into believing lower fees are good for us, when in reality it's only helping those who aren't struggling already.
If the Conservative government want to do anything, they should leave tuition fees (because they're not going to abolish them like Labour) and focus on maintenance. All students know that right now, that's the real issue. It's sad to see someone whose mum earns a semi-decent amount, but can't afford to support her child at uni because she has four other kids and a mortgage to pay off. I'm lucky enough to get a maximum bursary which I can easily live off, but there are so many flaws in the system that leave students who can't be supported by their parents.
The money should be spent on them and invested in their livelihoods instead of messing around with an already broken system.