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Is the UK right to charge its students for higher education? Show more Show less

Just over twenty years ago, higher education was free in the UK for any student who secured a place on a university course. Flash forward to today and students graduate with an average debt of £50,000. Critics claim this is wildly unfair and inhibits social mobility. Others claim that high fees improve equality. With both sides aiming to reduce inequality, why do the positions on implementing fees and reducing grants contradict each other?
Others believe that charging for education is the only certain way we can guarantee a constant source of funding for universities, and that it is fairer to only charge those who use the service for accessing it.
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Charging students has meant that the cap on places has been removed.

It is actually increasing places not decreasing fees that reduces inequality.

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Context

Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are almost twice as likely to go to university than they were in 2009 [1], and this change has been credited to the removal of the cap on student places. For this reason, the argument equally stands that charging for tuition increases equality.

The Argument

Proponents of this argument believe that students from poorer backgrounds have been hampered not by their finances, but by competition for too few university places, which were mainly given to those who had higher grades, often as a result of private education. The introduction of fees has meant that the cap on student numbers can be removed, as each university is in charge of its own intake, and the government is no longer paying for every place. If the lack of student places is the root of inequality, then paying for tuition has reduced this problem.

Counter arguments

There is some question about the reliability of these statistics, with evidence showing whilst the number of young people at university increased, the number of students in all types of higher education (such as vocational courses and apprenticeships) actually decreased [2].

Premises

P1. The lack of places at university is the root of educational inequality. P2. Charging tuition fees has allowed for the cap on university places to be removed. P3. Consequently, charging tuition fees reduces inequality.

Rejecting the premises

Rejecting P3. It may be that those who were previously more likely to study for an apprenticeship or vocational course are pushed into university courses which have now become the norm for higher education.

References

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/04/tuition-fees-best-way-make-higher-education-fair
  2. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/805127/Review_of_post_18_education_and_funding.pdf

Proponents

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 4 Dec 2019 at 15:18 UTC