Should Higher Education be free?
Louise Franklin (2010)
Higher education is an optional continuation from college education; many students throughout the UK apply to universities every year. University’s in the UK are presently funded by an average payment of £3290 paid by the student per year regardless of which institution they attend, and the rest of the students fee is paid by the government.
However in society there is always the ethical issue concerning education and human rights. Like the NHS, healthcare is seen as a human right and it would be unethical not to provide people who can’t afford healthcare with no treatment. The government provides free compulsory primary and secondary education to all UK residents, so that those with no resources can achieve better prospects in life, and they also offer optional college education for free, but should the government also pay for all of our university tuition fees, part of them or should we pay for the whole costs ourselves.
In 2007, 39% of school leavers in the UK went on to gain a degree; this is up from 37% in 2000. We can see that there has been an increase of 2%, while this doesn’t sound like a huge amount, in comparison to the UK’s population, this is a considerable amount of pupils. There will always be demand for higher education, in order for students to gain intellectual satisfaction or they may see higher education as an investment in gaining a high paid job in the future, which will lead them into a higher standard of living throughout the years.
One factor that affects demand is price, although at present all university fees in the UK are around £3290 if this was to increase I’m sure demand for education would suffer slightly. However due to the equality of fees, demand is affected mainly by other factors, such as the location of the university, its accommodation facilities and its reputation (eg the reputation of Cambridge University is the reason for the large amount of applications each year).
Also the UK is the second-biggest educator of students from overseas, after the US, but the increasing fees for international students deters some poorer people from learning in the UK.
Most educated students are given the incentive to gain well paid jobs, which will in turn help society; jobs such as doctors and teachers. Also they will be paying more tax as they have a high paid job, which contributes back to society and helps the economy to excel.
However as demand increases and more people enter higher education, employers start to set their standards for the job higher, even though the contents of the job are the same. This is because of scarcity of jobs for university leavers; this mechanism restricts the amount of people who can apply for the job. Therefore high demand will decrease the value of a degree; this is a good reason not to make higher education free.
Also as the UK emerges from this recession, demand for higher education will be higher than ever. Some students have decided to work instead of studying at times like these as money is needed. This shows that demand for higher education is forever increasing. So if education was free then demand would increase further, as those who wouldn’t have entered education before may consider it now. Also classes may face the problem of disruptive pupils, these pupils may be turning up to enjoy the ‘uni life’ and to receive high bursaries and grants, and end up disrupting the whole class who actually came to learn. The value of education may also decrease if the class sizes were bigger, university resources would have to be stretched further, less one to one time between students and teachers and a higher burden will be left on the government.