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Student tuition fees in England fail to go towards teaching

Much funding towards teaching?: The current allocation of tuition fees involves less than 50% going towards teaching. Source: Nick Youngson via Creative Commons

By Mel Lynch

With tuition fees having trebled in 2006 and trebled again in 2012, there is often curiosity among students about how such rises help the operations of universities, despite the rapid increases in student debt they have caused.

Figures directly from the Student Loans Company show their registered debt level has near doubled in the last four years. This augmentation has led to 74% of students calling for transparency in where it is these fees actually go.

A recent report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has revealed on average only 45% of tuition fee income paid by students in England is spent on the cost of teaching. Of which, it was revealed a large proportion of the student fees are spent on University facilities such as student support, library services and IT.

However, an unsettling finding was not the break down of the fees themselves, but the lack of Universities that publish accessibled information about where their spending is allocated.

Of the Universities that did publish break downs of their expenditures, HEPI observed that different institutions have different levels of dependency on the yearly tuition fee of £9,250.

For instance, whilst Falmouth and Nottingham Trent relied upon the fees for over 80% of their income, at Cambridge this was only 15%.

The HEPI authors recommend that going forward a lexical change needs to be made to call the costs ‘student fees’ instead of ‘tuition fees’.

Noting that: “This is a more accurate description of the many uses to which the money is put and consistent with the underlying legislation” and that using the phrase ‘tuition fees’ means “it’s easier to discover where the money goes when buying an iPhone than it is for a degree”.

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