Increase in tuition fees in the UK 'has not driven teaching improvement'

Thursday, 08 January 2015
Increasing the tuition fee cap to 9,000 pounds a year within the UK has not helped bolster improvements and innovation within teaching, in spite of the governments belief that it would improve overall teaching standards, according to the recent study update from the Universities UK's Student Funding Panel, which was set up last April to explore the current system and develop options for its future developments.


The Student Funding Panel, which consists of educational specialists, experts and high-profile individuals, spoke to a number of prominent figures in higher education and policy making before finding that there is "little evidence that the reforms have improved incentives for institutions to pursue innovations in teaching". The panel also believe that the fee increase has led to a decline in the amount of "flexible" places open to students, as the 2012 reforms corresponded with "the number of part-time undergraduate entrants to institutions in England having almost halved between 2010-11 and 2013-14".

Regarding the payment of tuition fees, the panel also shared concerns surrounding the amount of money being repaid by 2012-post undergraduates, with several members suggesting that the repayment period of 30 years was too long. The panel also voiced its thoughts regarding the current level of support available to students who struggle financial difficulties paying for tuition "who do not qualify for the full package of maintenance support".

Data published by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) reveal that 130 out of 172 universities and colleges will charge 9,000 pounds per year for at least one course in 2015-2016. Several arts and fashion institutes including Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion have increased tuition fees for new full-time entrants in 2014/15 to 9.000 pounds per year for their undergraduate courses for 'home' or EU applicants and note that "the tuition fee for subsequent years of the course may increase to the maximum permitted."

Despite the panel questioning the teaching benefits of increasing tuition fees to 9,000 pounds, a number of leading UK universities have also declined to reveal how they are spending their students fees.Influential think-tank, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), asked a range of higher educational institutes to share how they were spending the fees, but the majority of the institutes questioned, which include some of the UK's top universities, declined to answer. The director of HEPI, Nick Hillman argues that this silence would make it all the more difficult for these institutes to convince future MPs to increase the 9,000 pounds a year cap unless they became more transparent concerning their financing.

“I’d like to see our universities adopting an approach similar to the local authorities on how they spend their council taxes where they itemise spending on individual services,” he said to the Independent. The OFFA noted universities were investing more on fee waivers for potential students from poorer backgrounds, as well as scholarships bursaries and grants for existing students struggling financially. One such is the University of the Arts London, who has revealed that it is in line with guidance from the OFFA and committed to spend 25 percent of the additional tuition fee income from each new entrant in 2015/16 on "measures to improve access and retention" of students.

The panel stresses that "the higher education system needs to deliver value for money for the students - but also provide a stable funding environment and be sustainable for government."

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