In 2010/11, government funding for UK universities will be 7 per cent less (£518m) than in 2009/10. This has led to calls for substantial increases in student fees in order to stave off a serious funding crisis for many universities. One such call has come from David Blanchflower. As the first article below states:
“A leading economist has called for students from well-off families to be charged the ‘market rate’ of up to £30,000 a year to go to university. David ‘Danny’ Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, said the “poor have been subsidising the rich” for too many years.”
But just what are the arguments for and against a substantial rise in fees and who should pay any rise in fees? Should it be only students of very well-off parents or should it include middle-income parents too? Or if student loans are available to cover higher fees, why should not the same fees apply to all students? Then there is the question of who benefits from a university education? How much should external benefits be taken into account?
Call for universities to charge well-off students £30,000 a year Observer, Anushka Asthana and Ian Tucker (27/12/09)
A rise in fees would make university education fairer Observer (27/12/09)
Who wants a two-year degree? Independent on Sunday, Richard Garner (27/12/09)
Briefing: University funding Sunday Times, Georgia Warren (27/12/09)
Universities face £500m cut in funding Financial Times, Nicholas Timmins (22/12/09)
The nightmare before Christmas: grant letter announces £135m cut Times Higher Education, John Morgan (27/12/09)
Fast-track degrees proposed to cut higher education costs Guardian, Polly Curtis (22/12/09)
- Why is the government planning to make substantial cuts to university funding?
- What are the arguments for and against the university sector bearing a larger percentage cut than most other areas of government expenditure?
- Should any rise in fees be born by parents or by students from future income?
- Identify the external benefits from higher education? How does the existence of such externalities affect the arguments about the appropriate charges for higher education?
- What are the economic arguments for and against moving towards more two-year degrees.
- Discuss the case for and against increasing the participation rate in higher education to 50 per cent of young people.
- Is higher education a ‘merit good’ and, if so, what are the implications for charging for higher education?
For some time now, education has been a top priority for the government. They have been tackling standards in schools and have a target of a 50% participation rate in higher education. Most people agree that school education should be free, but opinion is divided when it comes to higher education. Is the return to the individual greater than that to society or vice versa? Is it the same for all degrees? This is one of the questions that affects funding. Should the individual pay? Or the government? Or should there be a mixture of funding?
The question of university education has become even more of an issue in the current recession, with many seeing a university education as a way of avoiding, what could be, inevitable unemployment. With this increase in demand, there is increasing pressure on the funding: it is simply not fiscally feasible to fund everyone’s university education. As such, business leaders have advised a rise in tuition fees. Students could be charged thousands more and made to face a higher interest rate on any loans. This highly contentious issue is considered in the articles below.
Charge students more, say bosses BBC News (21/9/09)
Middle class university students ‘should pay more’ Telegraph (21/9/09)
Elite universities plan to cut UK student numbers amid funding drop Telegraph (20/9/09)
Fee rise must aid poor students BBC News (27/7/09)
Loans delay for 150,000 students continues Daily Mail (19/9/09)
‘No fee degrees’ university plan BBC News (8/7/09)
‘New market’ in education (podcast) BBC Today Programme (8/7/09)
Bring back tuition fees for middle class students Scotsman (11/9/09)
CBI advises raising university fees to £5,000 a year to tackle funding crisis Guardian (21/9/09)
University ‘way out of recession’ BBC News (8/9/09)
Schools secretary Ed Balls under fire over education cuts Mirror (21/9/09)
Students should pay more – CBI (video) BBC News (21/9/09)
- Why is education described as a merit good? Explain the characteristics and why it constitutes a market failure.
- Identify any externalities involved in higher education. Do they imply that the free market would led to a level of higher education that is above or below the social optimum?
- List the costs to society of a university education. (Think about opportunity cost).
- What are the arguments for (a) only the individual funding their university education (b) the government funding university education (c) a combination of both?
- Is it a reasonable policy to increase university fees? If so, should students receive loans to cover this increase? If not, what do you think is an alternative option to help this funding crisis?