Differential fees for different courses: For or Against?

Government-commissioned research published recently has found that students could be “sold on the idea” to pay higher tuition fees for courses that traditionally lead to the highest-earning careers.

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) who carried out the research, revealed that while students are averse to paying more for particular Universities, differential fees for different courses is seen in a decidedly positive light. However, the National Union of Students (NUS) reported that “it would consign the poorest students to ‘bargain basement’ degrees.” Essentially, those unable to fund more expensive degrees will have their studying options narrowed and consequently their career opportunities significantly diminished. While the increase in tuition may improve the situation with higher education funding, it could be very damaging in causing further rifts between the lower and upper classes. It is a choice between economy and culture.

With degrees currently on one price level, going to University is not all about pursuing a career, but about finding out what is it we might like to do, what we are most passionate about and what does and does not look like a realistic prospect for us. By introducing differential rates, there would be significant pressure to choose the right course and to continue on, on the same track upon graduation. Traditionally, around 75% of Oxford Law graduates go on to work in Law. With a possible 25% of students pursuing other options, the hike would be unjustified and potentially bankrupting.

Opinions from Royal Holloway students show a mixed response to the proposal. While some feel pejoratively against the move, “It’s just not fair, if you don’t get a strong 2:1 in Law, you won’t get into a good chambers and you won’t make a great deal of money to make up for the hike in tuition fees” argued one RHUL student while another pointed out such a change, “makes a degree a commodity that can be valued – it would put an actual price tag on diplomas and would risk destroying the validity of other courses.” While others seemed strongly favourable to it, “Those hoping to become layers or bankers generally come from wealthy backgrounds anyway, the private schooling and training often needed to have a chance at success in these sectors is expensive, so why not take as much money as we can from them, before we start paying their bonuses.”

Any proposals to raise fees always result in a strong reaction from the student populace, as seen in last year’s “keep your cap on” campaign. This research marks a worrying development that potentially threatens to restrict university access.

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