The government is due to announce a major review of higher-education funding which could lead to reductions in student tuition fees
According to reports in the national press, prime minister Theresa May and education secretary Damian Hinds will launch the review today (19 February) in response to concerns over the cost of completing a degree.
Ministers are understood to be considering cutting the maximum fee to £6,000 a year – down from £9,250.
The review is expected to examine whether it is feasible to charge different fees for different courses, depending on their likelihood of producing high-earning graduates.
Speaking to The Sunday Times yesterday, Hinds said: ‘We have a system where you have almost all institutions and almost all courses at those institutions charging exactly the same price where some cost higher amounts [to teach] than others and some have higher returns to the student than others,” he said.
‘It’s right that we now ask questions about how that system operates. I would like to see options available which have different costs attached to them.’
John Assael, chairman of Assael Architecture, said that any review should look at charges paid by post-graduate students.
‘Any news about changing the system is welcomed,’ he said. ‘Students of architecture are a special case because they need to pay for a master’s and the Part 3 examination as well as their first degree.
‘To ensure diversity in our profession we need to attract people with ability – not just with rich families.’
But Harriet Harriss, academic and architecture education author, said that the announcement was ‘characteristic of a government that regularly issues statements of intention that are devoid of any real commitment to a tangible policy or strategy’.
‘What the government really mean by “competition on price” is to push towards creating a stratified system of fees that will allow the wealthy, research-active universities to increase their fees and the see the smaller, regional, teaching-focused universities forced to reduce theirs,’ she said.
This is not a step towards abolishing university fees
‘This is not a step towards abolishing university fees, but instead a disguised attempt to bring us closer towards the USA’s Ivy league system – where the elite universities charge a staggering $60,000 [£42,000] per year for a degree and [students] are collectively in debt to the tune of $1.4 trillion already.’
She called for a commitment to free education, to ensure access to education was based on talent, rather than wealth.