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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Tuition fees becoming the norm
University tuition fees are becoming the international rule rather than the exception, according to government research comparing higher-education funding across 13 of Britain’s main international competitors. Eight of the 13 countries charge tuition fees and seven out of the eight vary their fees. In addition, intense discussion about the issue is currently taking place in Germany. The research shows that:
many English institutions are already successfully varying fees for non-EU students;
two of the biggest universities in terms of enrolments of non-EU students are Middlesex University and the University of Westminster;
fees have not damaged access;
the UK participation rate is currently less than the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average;
a graduate tax does not exist in any of the main competitor countries;
China and India are taking long-term strategic decisions to improve the quality of their best universities; and
UK spending per student ($9,657) is below the OECD average.
Alan Johnson, Minister for Higher Education, said:
Our proposed reforms are right in principle, fair in practice and most of all tried and tested abroad. Current funding levels per student are below the OECD average so we are right to increase higher-education spending by over 6 per cent in real terms each year of this spending-review period.
Some of our main competitors already vary fees and vary them successfully. Australia and Canada have increased participation by students from low-income backgrounds since introducing their fees arrangements and with our package, which makes higher education free at the point of delivery and fair at the point of repayment, there is no reason why we cannot do the same.
The Minister noted concerns about variable fees and their impact upon our universities. However, he pointed out that our universities already vary fees for around 50 per cent of students (part-time, postgraduate and non-EU students). The Minister argued:
Some of the most successful universities enrolling non-EU students on variable fees are modern universities such as the University of Westminster and Middlesex University. Our participation rates are below many of our international competitors and nearly all of them have expanded numbers further over the last two years. If we do not take up the challenge and improve our own levels of participation, we will gradually fall further and further behind. In the long term, this would spell economic disaster. The pace of change is also apparent in Asia. China and India are making huge strides and taking long-term strategic decisions to improve the quality of their best universities. We clearly cannot afford to stand apart from the international crowd.
The 13 countries in the study were Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, United States of America.