Possibility of reduced enrolment for domestic students due to the tuition fee crisis

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Experts and vice chancellors are warning that elite institutions may reject a growing percentage of UK students in favor of more lucrative international applicants in the coming years.

Since 2017, annual tuition for domestic students has been set at £9,250. Universities claim that £6,000 is much less than the cost to teach the average student due to growing inflation, which has eroded the real worth of tuition and fees since 2010. To offset these declines, many top-tier institutions have actively sought to recruit more international students.

Leading universities have warned that they will be unable to accommodate the increased demand for spaces from British sixth formers unless the government intervenes to stem the rising tide of people aged 18 in the UK. Cardiff University’s vice chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, told the Observer: “At a time of demographic growth among home students, it is inevitable that it will be more difficult to provide enough places.” Cardiff University is a member of the elite Russell Group. It won’t be due of space constraints, though; rather, it will be a matter of finances.

Riordan is determined that no university should ever find itself in this predicament. He argued that a British university’s primary purpose should be to educate British pupils.

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With a national election on the horizon, universities know full well that tuition costs, and especially any discussion of raising them, are considered politically toxic. Ministers, according to Riordan, need to have an immediate conversation on how to repair higher education funding, but he is skeptical that this will actually occur.

For the time being, “there is no foreseeable future other than the unit of resource continuing to shrink and things getting tighter and tighter,” he stated. There’s a precipice up ahead, and we’re just heading for it.

The Russell Group has calculated that by next September, institutions will be losing an average of £4,000 per UK undergraduate student taught. University advisory firm DataHE co-founder Mark Corver said, “The real value of the fee cap has now dropped to £6,000, and by the autumn it will have dropped even further.” There will be “major financial damage on universities, but in a way which isn’t immediately visible,” he says.

Ministers were mistaken, according to Corver, to “assume that the supply of places for home students will always be there.” It’s being asked of these companies, he continued, “to sell something for considerably below what it costs to make.”

Despite five years of industrial action, including a marking boycott that has left thousands of students graduating this summer without a grade, universities have exploited the diminishing real worth of fees to defend refusals to fulfill staff requests on wages. The Universities and Colleges Union argues their allegations of hardship are exaggerated, and that the sector can “more than afford” to improve pay after bringing in a record £44.6bn in revenue last year.

However, Nick Hillman, head of the Higher Education Policy Institute think tank, warned that ministers would face significant political pressure in the future years if an increasing number of domestic students were denied admission to universities in the elite Russell Group. He argued that policymakers would only care about an issue if it had an impact on the offspring of individuals like themselves.

In order to ensure they meet government standards on the proportion of students from less advantaged backgrounds, universities will, according to Hillman, be forced to limit the number of pupils they teach at a loss.

A lecture hall is a large room where students gather to listen to a speaker give a presentation.

It has been calculated that international students contribute 5% of total income to UK universities.

Because “demand for higher education is continuing to rise” and “the number of 18-year-olds is also increasing,” he argued that institutions need to grow. But alas, we have once again reverted to an informal population limit.

Professor of higher education at Oxford, Simon Marginson, recently declared a “existential crisis” for English universities.

When the coalition government raised tuition to £9,000 and cut all government financing for most degree programs in 2012, he claimed, “the wheels have now come off” the mechanism for funding universities that had been put in place at that time.

Marginson argued that raising fees at this time would be politically difficult because of the rising cost of living and the declining state of the National Health Service (NHS). He did say that the Treasury “resists any suggestion that it should subsidize teaching” because it had “gotten used to the idea that it no longer has to subsidize teaching.”

A Department of Education spokesman explained, “We are keeping maximum tuition fees frozen to deliver better value for students and keep the cost of higher education under control.”


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