Is your tuition fee a status symbol?
For those observing the admittedly extraordinary spectacle of tuition fee announcements by English universities, a statement by one university head may have raised eyebrows even more. The Vice-Chancellor of Teesside University, Professor Graham Henderson, in announcing tuition fees of £8,500 (just below the maximum permitted) was reported in the Daily Telegraph as saying that ‘imposing fees “at the bottom of the spectrum” would make undergraduates feel substandard.’
So is this true? Will students conclude that any university charging £7,000 must be nearly 30 per cent worse than all those institutions charging £9,000? Indeed is Professor Henderson suggesting to his undergraduates that their university is just over 5 per cent less good than, say, nearby Newcastle University or Brighton University down south, but 6 per cent or so better than the University of Derby? And more to the point, do students really see it this way? Are Teesside students mightily relieved and pleasantly re-assured that their fees will be £8,500 rather than £6,000?
Professor Henderson is not alone in this view; other university heads have suggested something similar. But this is driving higher education into quite absurd realms, where it is intended to persuade us that students will be influenced positively by high fees. It underscores again the bizarre impact of the new English funding and resourcing framework. The fear must be that English higher education is being seriously compromised by it. Others will hope that this effect can be contained within England.