Photo by Steve Smith

The Big Debate: Should We Raise the Cost of Tuition Fees for Home Students?

Earlier this year, an anonymous contributor reached out to us wishing to write an article about why tuition fees for home students should be higher than they already are. Taken aback by their demand, our News Editor Davina suggested to create a debate: they would write one side of the argument, while we would let another contributor write an article on why tuition fees cost should not be raised. Here’s the debate:

Hear Me Out: The Case for Increasing Home Tuition Fees

Written by Anonymous

The price difference between home & international fees

For full-time home undergraduate students starting in 2022, the tuition fees will be £9,250, exactly as they have been since 2016. These fees are set as the maximum amount a university can charge by the government, but when they were first introduced a large amount of government funding to universities was pulled so universities rushed to charge the maximum amount to save their finances.

Here at Bath overseas students’ tuition fees range from £19,800-24,500 for those starting in 2022, depending on the course.

These are not regulated by the government; they are purely set by universities to fulfil costs and sway to market forces. So why the big price difference between home and overseas students? Does it really cost £10,000+ more than a home student to educate an overseas student?

University Finances

In 2012 home tuition fees were set at the maximum of £9,000 which many universities opted to charge. Since then inflation has affected how much this amount is worth to the university to spend, essentially they can buy less with £9,000 now than they could in 2012. While they increased the fees to £9,250 in 2016, this has not offset the effect of inflation. Taking into account this increase in fees and the effect of inflation, the ‘real terms’ amount universities now receive per student is roughly £6,500 (as of 04/07/21, this will have likely decreased further given the recent jump in inflation).

The University of Bath’s income for the 2020/21 Academic Year

While our university receives other income as seen here, the majority of this is tuition fees with some income from grants and some from research. However, research funding usually doesn’t cover the full cost of the research so it must be supplemented with tuition fees and other income. Given residency income is ring-fenced to be reinvested into halls of residence and we can guess the effect of COVID-19 on catering outlet income, I doubt the yellow income stream can fill any gaps others don’t fill.

A 2018/19 study estimated the average cost to educate a student for each course ranged from £9,121 for Sociology to £23,282 for Veterinary (£13,650 for Chemistry is the highest course stated that we do at Bath). The Russell Group have even admitted to the presence of this deficit. So if home fees don’t cover the majority of the students’ course costs and tuition fees also supplement research costs then where is the money coming from?

The money from the Office for Students (orange) goes towards funding high-cost courses. This is also likely where overseas students step in being charged £19,800-24,500, to cover the costs of home students’ degrees, research and the decreasing amount universities get from home students due to inflation. 

The Solution

So what if home students paid more? This could help reduce the burden put on overseas students to fund universities. This could help provide better facilities, more study spaces, and more lab space. However, why should they pay more?

Who pays?

Home students have the option to get a student loan, which many of them take up. These are only paid back once you earn over £27,295 and then 9% of earnings above that are used to pay it back. After 30 years from the April after your graduation, all debt is wiped. Therefore, it is projected by the Institute of Fiscal Studies that only 17% of students will pay back their loan in full. 

Therefore, only the highest-paid graduates (less than the top 17%), who already pay back all their loan, will pay back any increase in tuition fees. The rest will be fulfilled by the government as already happens when we don’t pay it back. Making it even more of a graduate tax, where students who do better as a result of their degrees contribute more to the service they benefited from. 

So should we be utilising this more as a graduate tax where the highest-paid graduates pay more towards the system they benefited more from? To make it more equal for overseas students and improve all of our university experiences.

Why we shouldn’t attempt to ‘bridge the tuition fee gap’ between home and international students

Written by Elliot Rose

This year, the government has announced its most radical overhaul of student loan repayment in several years. The Tory Government, facing the troubling prospect of a sizeable amount of student loan debt weighing the economy down, naturally decided the only rational way to reduce student loan debt was to put even more pressure on the average member of our ‘equal’ society. As is typical of Conservative Government policy, the attitude of ‘we don’t have to cover our ears as the majority of the populace most harshly effected by our policies don’t have a voice in our society anyway’ shines through once again. 

So, what are the new student repayment policies? Simply put, for UK students undertaking higher education from the year 2023 and onwards, University is likely to appear as even more of a naïve economic risk in comparison to now. Graduates will now be forced to pay back their loan up to 40 years after their endeavour into higher education and will start to pay back their loan from an earning figure of £25,000, lower than the previous figure of £27,285. This is in the midst of a society facing an increasingly worrying housing crisis, oppressive inflation rates, and an encroachingly narrow labour market. The only caveat to this scenario is that UK students will be taking out loans now instead of 50 years’ time, when the Government will probably be forcing us to pay our student loan into our hundreds. 

The fact that the Tory Government has implemented a string of harsh economic policies on people who just want an education is one thing, but does this directly correlate to the current tuition fee gap between home and international students? At the University of Bath tuition fees for international students range from £19,800-24,500 from 2022 onwards, a difference some would consider extreme in comparison to UK students, who’s tuition fees are capped at £9,250. On the contrary, is there far more than meets the eye when observing this lack of parallels? The key term that should be replicated when mentioning higher education is accessibility. For many working-class aspects of British society, the prospect of higher education has a mirage-like quality and is seen as being ‘not for the likes of us’. A 2019 NEON study found that up to half of Higher Education Institutions in the UK have fewer than 5 percent white, working class students. A 2020 Government report found that whilst participation in higher education was widening, the UK still has a vast journey to embark before achieving complete educational equality. 

The reality is that for many aspiring young people of our society today (in particular those who would be the first of their families to attend university) are in a constant battle between the prospect of attending University and it being out of reach. Any increase to Home Student tuition fees is likely to diminish that notion of accessibility. In comparison, the majority of international students do not face such a prospect. Whilst this is not necessarily the case universally, many have the option of attending a Higher Education institution in their home country at a much-diminished rate. From an accessibility standpoint, surely Higher Education policies should focus on making Higher Education more accessible to the working class, rather than a demographic that find it so accessible that they can travel abroad to receive it, a luxury firmly out of the grasp of many UK students.

Are tuition fees too high for international students? Certainly. But should we attempt to ‘bridge the (so called) gap’ between home and international student tuition fees? Certainly not. The only scenarios that could lead from the reduction of international tuition fees is a significant University funding gap or an increase in home student tuition fees. Both will lead to Higher Education becoming far less accessible for many. We all know that the current Government could supplement the funding gap through other methods, such as taking a less laissez-faire attitude to corporate tax rates, but it would be unlike them to make a decision that would be in the interest of the many, rather than the few.

Latest from Comment


Editorial Disclaimer: This is a comment article. LESS is MORE: How the University of Bath cut the