Raising tuition fees for the best universities would only help the rich get richer

It’s completely elitist


Today the government announced plans that would allow universities to charge more than £9,000 a year in tuition fees if their teaching quality meets the national standard. As if paying £9k wasn’t enough already.

Ministers have defended the reforms arguing that it will encourage universities to improve their standards of teaching, giving students “better value for money”. What they haven’t explained though is where this extra money will actually go.

Changing the current tuition fee structure and allowing universities to charge more for better teaching would be a fundamentally elitist move. Students are already crippled with debt when they leave university, with few having any hope of ever repaying it back. The only redeeming aspect of the current system is that at least we’re all in the same boat. We currently pay the same fees no matter how highly ranked our university is.

But this new move from the government will change the playing field completely. Private schools already allow some children to have access to better education purely because they come from a more wealthy family, and now the same might happen at universities. The teaching in private schools is almost always of higher quality with fewer students per class and more resources. These children are already at an advantage, and once the best universities can charge more they’ll keep that advantage for the rest of their lives. Being able to study at a university solely because you’ve got good grades won’t be enough.

If this change goes ahead, I doubt students from working-class backgrounds are going to be able to afford to keep up with the fee rises and many will face a difficult decision as to whether they take a risk and commit to paying more in student loans and having more debt to pay off afterwards. If too many students from poorer backgrounds decide they can’t take that risk, this unequal access to education will just be one more way to encourage wealth disparity, where the rich keep getting richer and poor keep getting poorer.

This might all sound too speculative and I’m sure the government will point to the fact £9,000 fees didn’t seem to put people off applying for university but there will be a knock-on effect. Young people from poorer families are going to have not only less access to education but also to employment opportunities and our divided society will become even more fractured.

Besides, does the government really think students don’t pay enough as it is?