University education has become a major hot topic recently as governments have struggled to find the funds for universities. Therefore, there have been many debates raised of what the best way to fund university education is and whether it should be free or not. Firstly, we will start by going over why tuition fees were actually introduced. The idea began in the labour party manifesto in 1997 when Education was known to be the biggest priority as Tony Blair called for ‘Education, Education and Education’. Tuition fees were all paid by the governments before and many more grants were given out.
However, throughout the years the government had lost the money and had no income to be able to pay for university education so therefore top-up-fees started. This was a way in which universities can charge fees for whatever price they wish. When labour came to power in 1997, there were no fees but there were only means-tested maintenance grants. But after one year grants were no longer available and a means-tested fee regime of £1,000 a year was introduced. In 2004 the higher education bill brought in top-up fees of up to £3,000.
The tuition fee limit has remained at about £3,000 up to now and there are current plans and proposals to increase the fees even further. Some senior former advisers at the World Bank argue that some university institutions should even charge up to £20,000 a year. This is because some economists and professors argue that UK institutions could do better by just charging full fees as it would free them from the state and allow them to produce greater revenue for hiring out top academics and bursaries for able students who cannot afford tuition fees.
There are many reasons why education should not be free. Proposals have been made to ‘reflect the true economic costs of undergraduate education’. Firstly, British higher education needs income if it is to continue to compete in the global stage and to provide students with the quality of education they expect. Many professors state that an ‘average graduate earns £160,000 more over their lifetime as a result of gaining the degree’. So, therefore students should contribute a bit more towards the costs of the fees as they will profit from gaining education.
Also, raising tuition fees may help to alter the career path of many students as they are likely to receive better quality teaching and a more high class degree. Also, many people argue that there isn’t enough funding in the education sector and that extra income has to come from somewhere else. Some vice-chancellors think that funding should come directly from students and the National union of students (NUS) thinks it should all come from public money through taxation of the rich. Therefore, the most viable method is for students to pay for high education fees.
Also, many students need to realise that the benefit of education is to get a decent job and higher salary so therefore charging fees seems to be quite a fair method and a student should somehow pay for the personal benefit he receives. Also, by education not being free to students it reduces the chances of people wasting time and as there is already a high-dropout rate of students. If there was free education then fewer students will be committed and will not focus or work that hard but if education was to be paid for then more students will be seriously committed and will only study if they really want to.
Also, another reason against free education is that the money for education has to come from somewhere and it’s unfair if it just comes from the majority of general taxpayers who didn’t even directly benefit from higher education. Also, students need to realise that entry into university should be based on their ability to achieve and not to pay. However, many argue that higher education should still be free. The government should still provide university education free at the point of use and make it available to everyone. This is because it gives every single person in the country an opportunity to study and to achieve a degree.
Therefore, this avoids a means testing system which is a system which applies to students who are eligible for both further and higher education support. So, free education will bring greater equality. Also, because of higher education being free then it will encourage less people to not enter education at the age of 16 or 18. This will also mean less students dropping out and will not disadvantage any other people especially from slightly deprived backgrounds with low family income. University education gives benefits to the whole society and higher social benefits.
Having free education also avoids any sort of financial stress from a very young age and particularly in the UK high debts has become a major issue. This forces a lot of students to take on part-time jobs while they’re studying. The controversy of university higher education is an example of market failure. Market failure occurs when markets are operating without government intervention and fail to deliver an efficient level of resources. Market failure exists when the outcome of markets is not efficient from the point of view of the economy.