£9k Fee-Payers: Are They The Real Winners?

Are the £9k fee freshers actually better off paying three times more than the rest of us?

Last year saw eager school leavers scramble for a place at university to be the ones to nab a spot before the dreaded fee hike. Desperate would-be students were frantically calling UCAS and universities hoping to gain a place on clearing.

Some didn’t care much about which institution they’d end up in or even what course they’d spend the next 3 years of their life doing; they just wanted to get in whilst the £3k fee apple was still ripe on the tree.

But now universities across the country are admitting their first ever intake of the highest fee-paying British students and they’re keen to make sure these students are getting enough bang for their buck, and Southampton is no different.

New this year, the Uni has dipped its hands into its very deep pockets to offer all freshers the chance to feel less guilty about having to conform with the fee increase by offering them, in essence, free money. And to be exact, £300 PER STUDENT, PER YEAR OF STUDY, to be spent through the University. That’s enough to pay for a membership at Jubilee, course text books and enough stationery to open a new branch of Smiths.

"Look how many triples I can buy with this!"

To complement this entitlement, students in the lowest family income bracket are eligible to receive a 30% fee waiver from either their loan or up-front as a bursary, meaning the 21% of students (who meet the income requirements) starting this September could receive a tidy sum of £3000 every year straight into their paws from the University.

Compared to the existing students on £3k fees, eligible students are only entitled to a maximum of £1250 each year. The freshers receiving £3k cash, on top of grants from Student Finance, have no limits on what this free money can be spent on, whether it’s on basic living costs or fulfilling a true fresher lifestyle and blowing it in Bedford Place.

New students paying three times as much as their peers only a year older than them should therefore be expected to receive an education worth three times as much as their predecessors.

The University will soon be balancing two education systems for two different class of students and those on the new fee regime will undoubtedly still experience the hangover of the £3k fees; the transition of teaching and academic service quality from the cheap days won’t be complete until the remaining £3k students have graduated and joined the ever-growing dole queue.

SUSSED has received a revamp. The current students’ discontent with the outdated system had finally been accepted but it seems as if the introduction of the £9,000 fees have been the kick up the arse for the Uni to work on introducing a quality system. But this raises the issue that perhaps those on the £3k fees were not entitled to the best, most modern services. Of course, paying for a cheaper product would mean a reduction in quality but I can’t quite help but think the University have saved sorting out the troubles until they really have to.

The Vice Chancellor probably has a few of these dotted around his office

However, the £9k fees may have some long-term benefits. Universities have been heavily criticised for offering ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees, taken up by students who need an excuse to have 3 years of fun. Raising the cost of degrees may dilute down the number of dossers who come to university just for the experience, as the long term debt from higher fees may not balance 3 short years of a good time.

This of course can only be a good thing to those coming to uni to focus on good grades and, ultimately, good career prospects. Less students studying at universities could raise the credibility of a degree and potentially invoke some exclusivity about it and may eventually mean that triple the value is indeed worth triple the price.

What do you think? Will £9k fees benefit students in the future? If you pay the £3k fees, do you feel you’ve grabbed a bargain? Let us know in the comments.