Up and down the country at the moment Universities are trying to decide what fees to charge for students starting in 2012. The government expects most to charge £6,000 with only a few charging the maximum £9,000. However, with most universities having their funding cut by 80%-100% charging only £6,000 would leave them with a huge shortfall.
Apart from the obvious impact this uncertainty has on prospective students it also leaves staff in HE facing many questions.
With the increased fees how will students expectations change?
As students could be paying £27,000 or more for a degree, they will surely want more for their money than those who have paid £9,000. The problem universities face is how to meet this increased demand with no more money? How do you improve service whilst making budget cuts?
Will poorer students be put off from applying?
Universities want the best students, not just the richest. With the new fees universities charging over £6,000 will have to take measures to ensure they are widening participation for the poor. Unfortunately, HE institutions and their staff have no idea what these measures will be or how effective they will be. How do you ensure that the best students aren’t put off from applying due to fees?
Will different courses cost different amounts?
In simple, practical terms a course such as chemistry costs more to run than History. Although I’m no chemist, the labs, chemicals and safety equipment must be expensive. Therefore should a Chemistry degree cost more than a History degree? If so does that undermine the History course and make students feel undervalued?
I could continue but each question leads only to further questions that cannot currently be answered.
The point is that an effect of the government’s decision on fees is to create an uncertain atmosphere in Universities for both staff and students. The quicker it is resolved the better it will be for all concerned.