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Are UK university fees becoming too costly?

Is UK university worth the money? Source: Shutterstock

With university fees in the United Kingdom on the rise, questions are being raised over the value of splurging on a UK-based education.

A report released last week by the government’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO), said only 32 percent of students thought their respective courses gave them value for money, a significant dip from 50 percent in 2012.

“The NAO finds that the [Department for Education] needs a more comprehensive approach to the oversight of the higher education market, and must use the proposed regulatory reforms to help address the deficiencies identified in this report, if students and the taxpayer are to secure value for money.”

Undergraduate students living in the UK can expect to pay upwards of GBP9,000 (US$12,082) for only one year of university tuition, while international students will be asked for anywhere between GBP10,000 (US$13,425) and GBP35,000 (US$46,986) for a year’s fees, reported Top Universities.

Coupled with living costs, students living outside of London will spend an average of GBP36,138 (US$444,000) for groceries, rent and other expenses over the three-year span of the average UK undergraduate course.

And, if your dream is to study London, you can expect to pay an extortionate GBP45,540 (US$56,100) over three years of living costs. 

Fourth-year English Literature and French student at Queen Mary University of London Charlotte Stockton told Study International:

“London is an incredibly expensive city for anyone, student or not, so often the loans given just aren’t enough and people work lots as well as studying.”

Amyas Morse who heads the NAO told The Guardian: “Young people are taking out substantial loans to pay for courses without much effective help and advice, and the institutions concerned are under very little competitive pressure to provide best value.

“If this was a regulated financial market, we would be raising the question of mis-selling. The [Department of Education] is taking action to address some of these issues, but there is a lot that remains to be done.”

Labour MP and chair of parliament’s public accounts committee Meg Hillier has accused the Department of Education of “failing to give inexperienced young people the advice and protection they need when making one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives,” according to The Guardian.

Lauren McDermott, a second-year Liberal Arts student at the University of Bristol told Study International: “University is definitely not good value for money. Next term I’m only timetabled for lectures for three days of the week; I don’t really see how that can cost the university GBP9,000 per student. I don’t have a clue where my money is going or who I’m really paying and this isn’t broken down for us.”

McDermott said although she really enjoyed her course and the university lifestyle, she was aware students were being “grossly ripped off”.

Stockton added: “While I totally get why all degrees are priced the same, it doesn’t seem the same value for money if you’re a humanities student on six hours a week compared to some science courses with a lot more.”

While, third-year Biochemistry student at the University of Bristol, Rosie Armond, said: “With Biochemistry, it is easy to see what the tuition fees pay for: bench fees, expensive research equipment, textbooks and about 20-30 hours of contact time per week.

“On top of that, there is extensive careers advice available and I am confident that a STEM degree is valued in the job market. I am lucky enough to feel that my course is good value for money, which makes spending GBP9,000 on yearly tuition fees a little bit less painful.”

Responding to concerns after NAO’s report, a department spokesman told The Guardian that the UK government was already planning a “major review of funding” for tertiary education.

“Our reforms, embodied by the Higher Education and Research Act, are helping students make more informed choices about where and what to study, ensuring they get good value for money.”

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