Money, Support, Education and Fees

Let’s be quite honest: That Oxford and Cambridge want to charge the maximum fee is about as surprising as the sun rising every morning. Not because those two universities are Oxbridge but rather because it would take a pretty brave university to come up with a price that is lower than the maximum allowed. Simply because it would suggest that the university is delivering less – a little bit like a no-frills university: “We deliver lectures, you can bring your own tutorials.”

Of course, what will be really interesting to see is how the government plans to stop everyone from charging the maximum (and whom they will stop!). The problem that both sides can claim rights to charge the maximum is pretty simple (yet, seems to receive little public debate): On the one side, delivering a high quality educational experience is very expensive. So, good universities have some claim to charge the maximum. But, they also are likely to attract the very best students, which in turn are those students that have proven to be the most motivated (either by their own hard work, or by aspiring parents etc). Achieving the same learning outcomes with a highly motivated student, who has plenty of support both financially and educationally from friends and family is simply a lot easier, takes less effort and therefore is cheaper, then doing the same with someone who is lacking crucial support outside of the classroom. This is where the real paradox is: This would mean that those universities that are widening participation (i.e. mostly the post92 universities) should be able to charge the maximum fee – with the elite universities charging only the basic fee. Somehow I have my doubts that this will be the outcome of the fee debate, but if we are honest, any other outcome would be like paying for private treatment for affluent patients while starting to charge for NHS treatment for anyone with a working classing background. A very strange idea for the health service – but sadly not so strange when it comes to education.

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