Universities may be seen as ‘greedy’ on fees, private schools warn

Big questions about teaching excellence framework ‘brushed aside’ in favour of fee rises, HMC senior figure claims

August 30, 2016
Greedy dog

English universities have come in for criticism from private schools for raising their tuition fees for the first time in five years.

Universities announcing rises for autumn 2017 over the summer break “have committed the marketing gaffe of alienating their own students”, said Chris Ramsey, universities spokesman for the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents heads of private schools, in an opinion piece for the TES.

The government’s teaching excellence framework is being used to judge whether institutions are allowed to raise fees in line with inflation.

Durham University, the University of Kent and Royal Holloway, University of London were the first to announce a £250 rise in annual tuition fees for courses beginning in 2017 – above the previous cap of £9,000 – and the University of Exeter has also announced that fees will rise for current students in a move that Mr Ramsey warned could be seen as “a bit of a betrayal”.

The headmaster of King's School, Chester wrote: “Do they really want to be seen as the greedy ones, when this year’s Ucas cycle has shown it’s a buyers’ market?”

Mr Ramsey said that the fee rises would prompt prospective students to think harder about their next steps.

He suggested that while many sixth-form students would continue to plan their futures at UK universities, others may seek alternative paths; giving more consideration to apprenticeships or studying abroad.

Mr Ramsey said that the TEF was “a fair plan, but it is still fraught with difficult questions”.

He added: “Above all, will it improve students’ experiences, rather than just validating ‘acceptable minimum provision’? Important questions, simply brushed aside by Exeter, Durham, Kent, will no doubt be brushed aside by other universities too.” 

Mr Ramsey also said: “So as teachers in my sixth form gear up for another year of personal statements and university choices, I’ll be suggesting they talk through some tough questions with their pupils. What ‘services‘ will they get, how often and how well will they be provided? What extras will they pay for (including clubs and facilities)? How often and how well will they be tutored? 

“And, as we take transition from school to university more seriously, it will be interesting to know how many of our graduates decide their degree was not worth the money paid.”

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