Yesterday students from across England, led by the National Union of Students, lobbied MPs not to remove the cap on University top-up fees. David Blunkett, former Education Secretary, was also there and said, "it would at this time of global financial downturn be unacceptable to lift the cap and have a free-for-all across universities." Personally, I think 'unacceptable' is a bit light, I would have gone for disastrous, but then he is a politician!
Considering that the students who went to protest will not even be affected by the fee increase as they will have graduated, they must feel pretty strongly about it. I can't say I blame them and this is why:
A BBC News survey showed that, "two-thirds of vice-chancellors, speaking anonymously, said they needed to raise fees, suggesting levels of between £4,000 and £20,000 per year." Let’s assume that they go for a middle ground, £12,000 per year. The average student does a three year degree so without a maintenance loan or interest they will graduate with £36,000 worth of debt. That is considerably more than the annual salary of a graduate. When you add the maintenance loan, of an average £4,000 per year that is £48,000 PLUS INTEREST. There would be absolutely no incentive to go to University. A well paid graduate could earn £48,000 in two years but so could someone who did not go to University and had spent three years working their way up in a company and they would not have the debt!
Adopting this policy could have serious negative consequences on the UK skills pool. Only the very privileged will be able to pay for their fees and only those guaranteed a very high salary will be willing to take on the debt burden. Many skills can be found from other sources, through training courses, work experience or self-education and more people will be forced to take this option. However, there are specialist skills which require a University education and are vital to society; medicine, pharmacy, legal studies, psychology and so on. If students cannot afford to study then where will we find future doctors, lawyers, psychologists etc? Another knock-on effect would be that those who do study will expect, quite rightly, a higher salary. This will put greater pressure on the government to increase pay for public sector jobs, which will obviously affect the economy and so on. This really needs to be considered from 'outside the box' and hopefully by doing so MPs, Vice-Chancellors and everyone in between will realise this is NOT A GOOD IDEA. We can only hope.