When I visited the US recently, I got talking to some American teenagers about
university. They (like me) had just left school and were trying to decide where to go next. I explained that in the UK, the Government’s plan to raise tuition fees to £9,000 a year had led to
riots. Their jaws dropped. They couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. In the US, fees can reach $40 000 a year for the private Ivy League colleges. The reaction in the UK seemed ridiculous
to them. They felt we should be grateful that we didn’t have to pay $40,000. [Although, to be fair, some state universities only charge around $5000].
There are plenty of reasons for English students to be justifiably upset: Scottish students still pay nothing, Clegg reneged on his key election pledge, and the prospect of paying £9000 per
year is daunting. My friends and I are all too aware of these issues.
Still, it’s possible to see why American students may feel the furious student response in the UK was an overreaction. Oxford estimates that it costs £16 000 to educate one of its
undergraduates for a year. It is not sustainable for universities to educate students at too much of a loss or to expect our cash-strapped government to subsidize them. If we are to keep pace with
the highly-skilled eastern nations, then our institutions of higher learning will simply need more cash, from other sources.