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What are your tuition fees spent on?

Nearly three-quarter (74 percent) of students want to know where their money goes to. Source: AFP/Paul Ellis

Every year, close to two million undergraduates fork out around £9,250 for their tuition fees. For international students, the costs go up to between £10,000 and £35,000 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees. For an undergraduate medical degree, the costs can go over £35,000 annually.

Given that even domestic students are said to be “ripped off” with these exorbitant amounts (as said by a parliamentary committee, no less), it would be calming to know that they are put to good use, giving students value for money and in the future, produce a return of investment.

A new report by think-tank Higher Education Policy Institute details where every pound in these fees goes to – and the findings may not invoke feelings of calm among students anxious to see their student debt was all worthwhile.

“Tuition fees were introduced 20 years ago and they’ve been tripled twice. Ministers and regulators have repeatedly demanded information on where the fees go. Yet there is still little information available and three-quarters of students want to know more,” HEPI director and report co-author Nick Hillman said.

But can they handle the truth?

Well, here it goes. HEPI’s study found that less than half of their fees are being spent on teaching.

“… the figures suggest most universities spend somewhere between 40 percent and 45 percent of their income on the direct costs of teaching,” the “Where do student fees really go? Following the pound” report revealed.

“The rest goes on a mix of other academic purposes (like buildings, IT and library provision) and
non-academic uses (like administrative costs, mental health support and maintaining institutional reputation),” it added.

At the University of Essex, for example, 45 percent is spent on teaching, while the rest is spent on items “essential to successful teaching too”. This includes the 20 percent used for teaching buildings, IT and the library account, while the balance one-third of the income goes to student welfare and careers support, administration and widening participation activities.

Students don’t exactly agree on this manner of spending their money. Unsurprisingly, they want teaching-related spending to increase and less on marketing and community engagement.

More than 14,000 current full-time undergraduate students were surveyed as part of the 2018 HEPI / Advance HE Student Academic Experience Survey. 65 percent and sixty percent listed “Teaching facilities” and “Teaching staff” respectively as a “reasonable use” of their tuition fees.

This is followed by “Student support services” (57 percent), “Campus development” (52 percent), and “Financial support for students” (49 percent).

Students did not think “Investing in the local community” (12 percent), “Raising the university profile” (on percent) and “Student recruitment” (16 percent) as reasonable uses of their money.

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