Researchers from the University of Leicester have surveyed students and found that “increasing tuition fees – even to £10,000 per year – would not significantly reduce applications for university in England.” This is hardly surprising, just on the basis of a cost-benefit-analysis, many courses would still open up the possibility of earning more throughout one’s career than the costs of paying for university. Of course, more than future earnings are taken into account, but it must be a significant factor in explaining the results.
It is also unsurprising that “[t]he survey shows that while the most prestigious universities would not lose applications from a fee increase, there would be much greater resistance to pay higher fees at new universities.” That there is some correlation between the prestige of a university and the amount that students are willing to pay is not headline news. That potential university graduates are hesitant about paying for a course that would not offer them the same opportunities is also to be expected. It would have been remarkable if the survey had found anything else. This is precisely why the price mechanism needs to be allowed to function, with different courses at different universities charging varying amounts, with all the feedback to customer and supplier that a more open market allows.
In response, NUS president, Aaron Porter claims ”Fees have always unfairly impacted those from poorer backgrounds”. He is not entirely wrong about the impact; people from poorer backgrounds are more likely to take courses that are currently less value for their money compared to those from wealthier backgrounds. Removing the cap might mean that the poorer will have to pay more, or they may choose not to go university at all. However, this just brings to light the fact that prior to university, many poorer students are not adequately taught by their schools to compete with those educated privately – and lets not forget that these schools are funded through general taxation, heavily regulated and run by the government.