May 102011

Today a Tory let slip that some in the Tory party may be thinking of letting Universities supplement their income by offering additional places over the current quota to UK students which would be charged at the same rate as non-EU students. Of course they very rapidly back-pedalled from this position, but was it a slip or something that the Tories are planning … in a year or five ?

First of all, a little background. UK Universities are free to charge non-EU students pretty much what they want to within the constraints of supply and demand – pretty much like a business. This can be pretty lucrative for many Universities, and there is a fairly active pursuit of foreign students.

There are benefits and disadvantages to this of course. Foreign students may not always have the best possible English language skills which can conceivably have a detrimental effect on teaching. However offering a limited number of places to foreign students does have advantages that counter this – first of all exposing “native” students to foreign students widens the experience of both groups, and recruiting foreign students adds to the possible pool of expertise to hire the best researchers from.

But allowing Universities to recruit UK students on the same fees as non-EU students ? Well it might sound ok – allow the Universities to recruit students from anywhere to supplement their quota of UK students, but it is an obviously slippery slope from that. Over time the Tories could slowly cut the student quota and leave UK students with eventually little choice other than to pay the “full price” with no support for their education.

Of course the Tories claim that there are no such plans, but do we believe them ?

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