As you all know the government jacked up tuition fees sometime ago. The upper limit was set at £9,000, but dont panic they told us, only a few universitys will charge such high rates and then only in a few years time and probably only for things like medicine, etc.
Fast forward to today and it seems numerous universities are planning to start charging the full monty ASAP. And while we had previously been assured that these £9-6,000 scale fees would be confined to a few courses in Russell group unis (where most of us mere mortals have little chance of attending as we didnt go to Eton and Daddy doesnt play golf with the Dean) now even universitys outside the Russell group are charging 9 grand a pop. You may ask why? and the answer is obvious, so obvious in fact that if you meet any ministers soon Id recommend you check theyre pulse to make sure theyre not (brain) dead.
Its about creditability. If Oxford charges £9,000 for engineering, well obviously Cambridge has to do the same, as will Exeter or anyone else who reckons theyre engineering course is as good as Oxford. If, say, Exeter only charges £6,000 for the same course, well everyone will assume that those charging £9,000 must be offering a much better course, consequently Exeters student numbers would actually fall in this scenario rather than go up. Market economics doesnt work in these situations! Give a footballer a choice between a £200,000 car and a $500,000 one (with a wing mirror falling off) and hell take the more expensive one, as obviously it must be better. Give me (a climber) a choice between a carabiner costing £23 and one costing £9.99, I’ll probably go for the more expensive one as I don’t want to be contemplating how they made it cheaper while dangling off it over a cliff.
And theres also a matter of keeping the riff-raff out. Its been point out (see link below) that for example Harvard university could easily afford due to its huge endowment fund, to allow its undergrads to study free of charge – yet instead it charges some of the highest fees in the world for study. Why? Well obviously because we cant have ordinary folk walking the hallowed halls (then getting those top jobs, I mean good grief a commoner running a major US company, oh! the horror!).
While the UK Russell groups universities arent quite so well endowed (Wahoo! :>>), they arent far off it and could easily afford to fund themselves with much lower tuition fees, but again we cant have members of the great unwashed wandering around the Radcliffe.
Then, theres pure greed to consider. If the universities can charge £9,000 well thats a lot more lolly to managements pay packets, so of course theyre going to take the money and run. A lot of people seem to think that universities are still run by crusty old, slightly dotty, learned academics types, a sort of modern day Dumbledore the reality is most unis these days have a pretty face as a Dean, some minor celebrity usually, whose sole purpose is to make a nice photo for the Prospectus cover. The day-to-day decisions at universities are now usually taken by some Gordon Gecko style corporate types who are about as committed to education as a office psycho is to veganism. Theyre only goal in the job to milk the post for every penny they can, balance the books/make money, increase market share, or make at least make it look that way…course they may well have screwed the uni over to the verge of collapse (as nearly happened with caley a few years ago!). These managers can then justify a ridiculously high salary and an opulent executive compensation package when they move on to theyre next victim…sorry job!
So for the government to have expected the universitys to voluntarily hold back from applying these high fees, after they introduced legislation allowing it, and at a time when theyve been cutting funding to the universities, it means that they are either A. naive or B. stupid or C. back to theyre old nasty, Tory-selves.