Research conducted by The Guardian has revealed that vice-chancellors across the UK are paid significantly more than others in executive positions across the public sector, including senior figures of NHS hospital trusts and local authorities in several cities.Written by Thom Dent on 21st March 2018
News Analysis: Should ‘Elite’ Universities Charge Higher Tuition Fees?
After Theresa May promised to review the growing issue over tuition fees, there has been widespread dispute over what students should have to pay after they graduate
A recent Guardian report has described this sticking point as a ‘small civil war looming among the institutions themselves’. University officials are currently discussing whether fees should be made ‘variable’ (and therefore different for each university), or whether they should stay the same for everyone.
One vice-chancellor who wanted to remain anonymous stated, ‘the elephant in the room is whether all institutions should charge same fees’, before settling on the stance that they probably shouldn’t. He went on to say that it is unnecessary for many universities to charge the maximum amount of tuition fees possible (£9,250) and claimed that ‘new’ universities who choose to charge the maximum amount were never asked to do so.
The vice-chancellor of Worcester University, however, disagrees. He believes that ‘those calling for variable fees…are very unlikely to be successful’. Instead, he argues that the government and firms should be making more of a contribution in order to help graduate students pay off the staggering sum of money.
One solution on the table is that tuition fees should reflect post-graduation salaries. However, this has been viewed as being a controversial proposal, as it relates to the quality of university degree obtained. For example, salaries of those five years after graduating with business or administration degrees ranged from £19,400 with a degree from the University of Wolverhampton to £71,700 for those graduating from the University of Oxford.
This suggests that if you go to a better university, you will end up earning more once you graduate, thus reducing the amount payable of tuition. This becomes problematic when examining how much each university charges for their students; if universities charge a higher amount then this makes it difficult for students to cope with debt, but could be better in the long run as they’ll supposedly have a higher earning salary as they went to an ‘elite’ university. Yet, if universities charge a lower amount, this will be easier to manage, but not in fact beneficial in the long run as you will supposedly not be earning a high amount of money, making it harder to pay off your debt. Either way, problems arise.
This data, based on the Longitudinal Education Outcomes research, is controversial, according to Nick Hillman. As the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute Think Tank, Hillman warns that there are ‘dangers’ with this data being available to the public. This stems from the fact that ‘salary isn’t the motivating factor for many students’. Indeed, not all students base their choice of university solely on how much they want to earn once they graduate.
Clearly, if elite universities raise their tuition fees, they are doing so because they know graduates will get a well-paid job, so they can easily pay back the money they owe. However, many would view this as greatly problematic, as higher tuition fees may decrease the availability - and accessibility - of university places.
This is a problem that has caused great rifts between institutions, simply because of the wide range of opinions and solutions within the education sector. The question is, how long will it take for the government to reach a compromise that leaves both sides content?