Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has announced that his party would lower fees as of September 2016 if elected, something he said “will benefit those starting courses next year” and “will benefit those already at university”.
Apparently many students would welcome this change in policy and it would potentially help make higher education more accessible to poorer students, so I am told (although £6,000 is no small amount either). It is unclear who really benefits from this lower cap; after all how do well funded universities now feel about this toing and froing regarding funding? Surely, they will only want this to go ahead if state funding is protected and that they can be sure that it would be sustainable funding.
Before £9,000 tuition fees were even introduced much was said about how this would stop people going to University. However the figures have shown that higher education fees did not stop people applying to Higher Education Institutions, in fact the applications continued to roll in and places got snapped up, the result of which was well funded Universities.
With Labour’s potential policy (which incidentally took them 5 years to come up with –I am not politically minded either way – I am just making an observation) Universities will have to clamour to ensure that their funding stream remains consistent. The problem with all this chopping and changing is that long term the student misses out. Universities can only deliver quality tuition if they know how much they are getting and where it’s coming from. For continuity and consistency among cohorts the funding aspects need to be known well in advance.
A potential knock-on effect of Labour’s announcement is the possibility of student deferrals for this academic year. Some are saying students may now defer their University placement for academic year 2015/16 to academic year 2016/17, which in turn will impact on the potential number of places being offered in 2016/17. If students do decide to defer, what about the potential funding gap that will be created this forthcoming academic year within Universities?
I believe that there now needs to be consistency in policy, so everybody knows where they stand, students and Universities alike. Only then can academic standards and student expectations align…maybe.