Since the £9,000 tuition fee hike in 2012, it seemed like prospective university students begrudgingly accepted a fate of high debt once graduated. However, the snap general election gave students hope to their future debt-filled pockets. Jeremy Corbyn preached a UK with bursaries and without tuition fees. But whilst students remain wide-eyed at the idea of free university, it comes with dire consequences.
The big advantage is it would allow students who would not be able to afford to go to university, an opportunity to take that option. This is sure to increase the amount of students enrolling to university. UCAS reported that the number UK university places had decreased by 4% from last year, with one of the potential causes being high tuition fees.
More students applying to university will make places become more competitive and universities may opt for higher grade students. Taking this into consideration, high class degrees would be awarded more often according to a study by The University of Warwick. It found that degree performance was positively influenced by A-Level score.
Whilst this seems positive, it contributes to an already major issue. The value of the degree is becoming saturated and even more so if university were to be free. The Global Employability Survey 2016 showed that having excellent academic results were one of the least important predictors of employability. Employers favoured professional experience and having a high degree of specialisation.
Yazid Lallmahomed, founder of student career website robincould.com, explains further. “If the graduate market is filled with 2:1 and first-class degree achievers, how do employers differentiate between them? Employers are already relying on other experiences to decide who to employ. If university were to be free, degrees would be valued similarly to GCSEs – a basic necessity.”
Already, the amount of graduates being awarded first class degrees have trebled since the last decade, according to HESA. Yazid feels that through expert career advice and a revamp of degrees, they would be more valuable. “Ultimately, the reason why employers are looking at other experiences is because degrees are not teaching enough transferrable skills. Degrees need to be more designed to specific careers. With this, expert career advice needs to be provided in order to guide students to a fulfilling career.”
Scrapping tuition fees has now developed into a big debate in Higher Education. Particularly with recent reports that current tuition fees are being misused to fund for extortionate salaries. Whilst it is questionable to see the extra value that the current tuition fees are providing to students, getting rid of tuition fees may cause even greater damage.
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