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Looking for
some information about the tuition fees in England, I found that there are lots
of authors who published books, articles and policy papers about the history of
the fees and the impact they bring. On the grounds of all these works, my goal
in this paper is to define what are the tuition fees; how did they increase in
England over the years; and what aspects are taken under consideration to
determine the level of the tuition fees. Therefore, according to all these
aspects, I am going to raise an issue of the impact of the fees on the students
to apply to the universities.

    In the first place, I want to point out the
definition of the tuition fee. The Oxford Dictionary defines this term in a way
that the tuition fee is “a sum of money charged for teaching by a college or
university”. So what is the history of the tuition fees in England?

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To write
this paragraph, I used a policy paper with the title: “University fees in
historical perspective”(2016)written by Robert Anderson. So, I want to begin with
those such universities in England, as Oxford and Cambridge, which the author
said that they were ” . . . the only English universities until around 1830. .
.”(Anderson 45), did not previously need any state subsidy. These universities
“. . . had rich endowments, mainly in the form of land, and a wealthy clientele
which could pay high fees”(45/6). After 1850, the role of the universities in
the education has increased significantly. The state needed more and more
highly educated people, the elite of the nation. Because of that the
universities “. .needed to be unlocked to serve new purposes”(57), so they were
reformed by the Parliament. It is said that in those days the most prestigious
universities as Oxford and Cambridge “were still able to survive on their
endowments”(57). But there appeared also new universities. This is worth
mentioning that these colleges did not receive any extra endowments, therefore
these universities condition “. . . depended on fees, public appeals, and a
constant search for donations”(59/60). For this reason, the universities in
England from 1889 “received a Treasury grant, initially of £15,000, shared
between institutions”(61). The Treasury grant increased significantly over
years until 1919, when the government created the University Grants Committee.
It is said that the UGC  “. . . was
acting as a ‘buffer’ between the Treasury and the universities”(86) because the
UGC role was to examine the financial needs of the universities and to advise
on grants. It must be mentioned that these grants were eligible to cover “only
current expenditure”(89), so every university had to acquire further funding.
In 1989 the UGC was replaced by other separate funding councils, that were
directly responsible to Parliament, to coordinate state support of higher
education. Since 1998 the grants were turned into the present system of student
loans. Therefore, the Labour government introduced a university fee, instead of
grants and loans, that were “. .paid up-front . . .”(179), of £1000 per year. In
2004 they were increased to £3000. And once again in 2010 students fees were
raised to annual £9000. In 2016 that limit was raised to £9,250 in the long run
with plans to allow further increases.

As well as
the tuition fees were introduced, their level depends on the prestige of the
university and the fee status of the potential student. “There is no attempt
here to claim that all universities are equal or that all degrees meet the same
“gold standard”(Anderson 186). The gold standard of universities means the
highest standard in terms of teaching, learning and potential employment
outcomes for students. Accordingly, to these standards, we can say that every
university has its own position in the global rankings. Therefore, we can
assume that every university, accordingly to the high standard and the prestige
that represents itself, have the right to increase their tuition fees.

It is
obvious that position in ranking is not the only one aspect that gives the
right to increase tuition fees. The tuition fee level can get substantially
higher also in terms of the programme of studies. It is generally said that
popular courses at the top ranking universities can be much more expensive. The
cost is determined also by what the potential student status is. As I read in
the Oxford University website, student fee status has four types:  Home (students from the United Kingdom), EU (
students from the European Union), Overseas (students from outside the European
Union) or Islands (students from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man). For
every Home and EU students the tuition fee will be permanent, for example, in
Oxford, the tuition fee for 2018 will be £9,250. In addition, it is said that
“UK and EU students can access a loan from the UK government for the full amount
of your tuition fee and do not need to pay any fees upfront.”(Tuition fees for
2018-entry, 11) On the other hand, every Overseas and Islands students “. .will
be charged a significantly higher level of tuition fee, which will vary
according to their programme of study. . .”(37/38)(it is obvious that fees for
the programs such as medicine, business, technology costs more than education
or journalism)  and “will not be eligible
for any tuition fee support from Oxford or the UK government.”(36)
Consequently, it can be said that the amount of student fees varies. I want to
add that, for the benefit of every student, they should find out every
information about the costs of studies before submitting the application to the
chosen university.

And
finally, respectively to all aspects above, I want to consider whether fees
affect the number of students.

As I
previously mentioned, there was a reform which increased the maximum level of
tuition fees to £9,000 per year in 2010. The fee increase was about 3 times
bigger than in 2004. As a result, several students made petitions and hold
protests against these fees.  Accordingly
to their arguments with which they protested, I want to prove that the tuition
fees has a slight influence on the number of students.

Accordingly,
to the article, which author is Louis Trupia, the first argument of students
was that the fee increase “will stop bright children from poor backgrounds from
applying to university”(Trupia 15/16). 
So I wanted to find out whether tuition fees truly cut applications over
the years and I found an interesting article, which author is Sean Coughlan.
According to the statistics, included in this BBC report, we can see that in
1990 there were only about 300,000 applications for full-time undergraduate
university.  But this number has
increased significantly over the years – from 300,000 applications in 1990 up
to 700,000 in 2014. That is a huge difference, but it looks rather that
applications are only growing. Even though there was some decrease in
applications after the 2010 increase of the tuition fees, today there is a
record number of students accepted into universities. As Sean Coughlan said,
“it looks as though the massive underlying demand for higher education has
snow-plowed its way through the financial barrier of trebling fees.”(Coughlan
9/10) Obviously, it is easier for the child from the wealthy family goes to
university. But it can be said that students(and their parents) do not want the
higher fees but these days it is better to take the debt rather than not having
a university degree. There is always a possibility to earn a significant sum of
money while working or obtaining scholarships. It is important to mention that
“students (or rather their parents) always paid fees until the 1960s. On the
other hand, they hardly ever paid the full market rate, and there were always
scholarships and bursaries of various kinds” (Anderson 186)

The second
argument was that the tuition fees will also change after Brexit. So I looked
forward some information and I found a report, written by Laura Bridgestock, in
which she wrote what does Brexit mean for students. And there is a separate
paragraph regarding the tuition fees after Brexit vote.  And it is officially announced by the
government that “. .fees and financial aid will remain the same as before the
Brexit vote, regardless of when the UK actually leaves the union”.(Bridgestock
25/26) By this words, the situation of students commencing studies in 2017/2018
is clear, there will not be any changes in tuition fees. On the other hand, it
can be said that if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, presumably
only the EU students will have to pay the fees as those from Overseas or
Islands.

As we can
see the tuition fees have a slight influence on the number of students. But
there is one more aspect to consider. As I mentioned previously, most of the
universities hold the right to increase fees. Indeed, “according to the Offa
(Office for Fair Access),36 universities have been approved to charge the
higher fee £9,250 for all subjects, while 121 out of 123 universities with
full-time undergraduates plan to charge £9,250 for some of their
courses”.(Trupia 51/54) Consequently, fees are affecting directly students at
university appropriately to what contract did they sign. It all depends on the
decision made by universities relatively to whether they will increase fees for
current students or not.

In
conclusion, the relation between the British universities and the state has a
long history. The fees for studying have changed significantly over the years,
and the amount of fees depends on many aspects. It is obvious that the tuition
costs in the following years will certainly change. And the question is whether
this change will be better or worse? We will see. But the most important aspect
is to consider whether this change will affect students because without
students and their willingness to learn (and of course their money, which they
are going to spend on learning) all of these universities will fall.

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