Feb 2018The Student Life

A lot has been happening within the UK University sphere this week, especially surrounding tuition fees, lecture strikes and loan repayment thresholds. We thought we’d tie it all together for you in a quick news blast, to keep you in the loop about what’s current!

First things first, tuition fees.

The issue of young people from low-income families wanting to go to University is a widely discussed one, and with the government admitting the system isn’t working, it will continue to be, until action is taken. More and more people are having to either actively decide to not go to University due to insufficient funds, or are going and ending up in a spiral of debt due to their parents not being able to support them whilst they are away. After the scrapping of maintenance grants in 2015, it has become harder than ever for those whose parents earn under a certain threshold to attend University as they simply can’t afford it.

The Conservative party are attempting to address this issue with Theresa May’s proposed fee review, and the debate surrounding this is more fired up than ever. The prime minister wants to cut the current cost of tuition fees at Universities in England from a staggering £9250 per year to £6000. This comes in line with current policies throughout the rest of the UK, which all offer reduced fees for domestic students. However, despite this being a seemingly idyllic proposition on the surface, the issues that could arise from these cuts are far more deep-seated. If they were to reduce these fees for students, this could cost UK universities losses of up to £3 billion a year, which would, in turn, be detrimental to departments, lecturers and ultimately the students it would supposedly ‘benefit.’

What happens after the cuts?

 These cuts would also cause the government to provide further funding for higher cost courses such as medicine and science, which in turn is raising questions surrounding whether these cuts will, in fact, make any difference to students careers, as the ultimate effect may simply be a reduction in the quality of teaching due to lack of funding. However, it has been argued that reduced tuition fees would help one group – higher earning graduates. As students don’t have to pay back their tuition fee loans until they are earning a significant salary, these cuts wouldn’t affect a large proportion of students in terms of payment, however, it may affect the level of tuition they receive.

This is furthered by the announcement to increase the tuition fee repayment threshold from £21,000 to £25,000 back in October 2017. This dramatic increase means that the proposed tuition fee cut would affect an even smaller proportion of low earning graduates than before, as they now have to earn an even higher salary before they start repaying their student loan. Theresa May sought to attract the support of young people through these changes, however, the success of these are yet to be proven.

Thirdly, hot in the press this week, are the lecture strikes currently happening across UK universities.

The effect of this has been far-reaching for both lecturers and students alike and has affected 64 universities across 14 days. These strikes come as members of the university and college union disagree with changes made to the Universities Superannuation Scheme which looks after university staff’s pensions.This could essentially mean lecturers could be left almost £10,000 a year worse off in their retirement than before, with younger academics having the potential to lose almost half of their total earnings – making it a pressing issue for University staff.

We interviewed some of our student audience to see what they had to say on the issue.

Anna from Cardiff University said,

“I fully support our lecturers strike, recession affects so many sectors and Universities aren’t excluded from this, so action needs to be made to ensure staff get the funding they deserve.”

Although many students are understanding towards their lecturers needs to take action against these injustices, many are concerned about the effect this may have upon their studies in the long term.

We spoke to Danielle from Newcastle who explained

“I feel really worried about my final exams – I have a module test next week where I needed lab results in order to answer one of the sections, however, our practical was cancelled and now we all feel like we’ve been left slightly in the lurch. I understand why the lecturers are striking, but if it affects my overall grade this could be detrimental to my career.”

These opinions are just two of many being voiced both in person and over social media, as the debate continues to spiral nationally, making it abundantly clear that action needs to be taken imminently in order to mutually benefit University staff and students alike.

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