The English way of doing things
So there it is, then. The final day came and went for universities in England to declare if they were proposing to charge fees in excess of £6,000, and a number came forward, mostly as we have come to expect declaring they will charge £9,000 (the upper limit permitted by the government). Some made a point of declaring their intentions to do all sorts of good things for access students from some of the proceeds, and some pointed out how hard (apparently) it had been to take this decision.
What happens now is not easy to see. The British government clearly did not anticipate how its new funding framework would operate, and seems to have been taken by surprise by something almost everyone predicted, and may also be in some denial. The universities in turn have behaved with very little imagination and innovation in setting fees. The declaration by the 1994 Group of universities that these fees are really all in the students’ interests may not seem obvious to every one of those students.
But more than anything else, most of those observing the events in England may be driven to conclude that this looks like a higher education system that has money rather than education at the heart of its strategy. That would be an unfair conclusion, but both the government and the universities have done little to dispel it.
In the meantime, the reason why those of us working in higher education elsewhere in the UK might also be concerned about all this is because what has happened in England may affect our financial stability and moreover may affect our reputation, as international observers don’t always realise that the new funding and fees framework in England does not apply in, say, Scotland. The confusion in England is bad for all of us.