The confusion and mess in English higher education
As English universities come to the end of the period during which they have had to decide on what fees they will charge domestic students, it has become clear that pretty well all of them have ignored the UK government’s suggestion that only a small minority should charge the maximum permitted £9,000. In fact of the 16 universities that have declared so far, ten have said they will charge the full £9,000, while the remaining six have all pegged their fees above £6,000. In fact it is now expected that no university in England will hold fees at £6,000 or less.
Meanwhile the British government is facing a serious problem because they had not budgeted for this; the government will have to pay the fees up front before they are, wholly or partially, repaid by the students some time after graduation.
Also, given the stampede of universities charging fees at or near the maximum level, the agency established to ensure that the institutions have viable access policies (the Office for Fair Access) will be in real difficulty as it does not have the staffing to manage the unexpected volume of business.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this situation has not been handled well either by the government (which looks amateurish in all of this and naive in not having anticipated what has happened) or by the universities (which look unimaginative and greedy).