Budget 2017: Speculation tuition fees to be lowered

Photo: Wikicommons

For the last several years Scottish university fees paid by rUK students have been on the rise, causing many to worry that they may not be able to afford the fees that top universities like the University of St Andrews are asking. It would seem that these worries are finally being addressed.

While nothing has been officially confirmed, The Sunday Times recently reported on Chancellor Philip Hammond considering slashing university fees in response to the outrage that students demonstrated by voting Labour in the last election after they were promised a free university education. This would mean that students would pay a tuition fee that would cap at £7,500 per year, a decrease from the £9,250 currently paid.

Scottish students pay no tuition fees for attending universities like St Andrews as their tuition is paid for by the government. For many English students this is a point of contention. Second year student Isabella West said, “Originally my dad was against my attending a university in Scotland because not only would I have to pay for university while Scottish students don’t, but I would be paying for an entire extra year of it that I wouldn’t be paying for if I went to school in England. So it’s great that I might be able to pay less, even though it’s still upsetting that I have to pay at all when others don’t.”

The Times reports that surpluses have built up at universities as fees have continuously climbed for the last several years. Rather than face the anger of students stressed that all of their hours in the library won’t result in anything other than hardship after they graduate, it would seem that the chancellor is looking to simply alleviate this particular stress on the students, though not completely erase it. This would aid in the general perception that the government is looking to over-pay their vice chancellors while they bring in fees from arts students that will struggle to find jobs once their diploma is placed in their hands. A recent article in The Economist also discussed this topic, comparing graduate earnings based on degree and university, showing that this is a relevant topic right now.

There is talk that fees will be charged based on degree type, with those that are less likely to be high earners after graduation having to pay less for the privilege of doing so. These tuition fees would be based on graduation earnings reports and would mean that if a student’s English degree was going to pay less than one in Economics, they could at least feel like they weren’t made to pay the same fees as if it were.

While upon graduation the typical debt height is roughly £50,000 for a student weary of the real world before they’ve even entered it, Mr Hammond would be cutting the interest rates by 6.1 per cent, meaning that while students would still be racking up their debt as they bury their heads in textbooks, they wouldn’t have to worry about beginning to pay back these debts until their salaries reach at least £25,000.

This would allow students with a passion for a subject that might not offer as high earning prospects upon graduation to pursue it, knowing that their debt levels should not suffer directly because of it.

One student said, “University is a really stressful time. It can be really fun but also really stressful with deadlines and labs and essays that seem to be due every time you turn around. Constantly being stressed about graduating with an enormous amount of debt doesn’t help that.”

These proposals could come into effect as early as the next academic year.


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