Fees are a common subject on any student forum, being at the core of the High Education Crisis this country is currently facing as well as the subject of several student nightmares, terrified at the prospect of either running out of cash away from home or never actually being able to pay off the enormous chain of debt they will have to carry around for the next 30 years. This is particularly worrying when a huge hike in interest rates is due in the years to come following a sustained period at 0.5%. However, this week saw a revelation in the student funding gap.
Vive Michael Moritz
This Wednesday it was reported that Oxford University had been gifted a huge private donation in order to ease access for poorer students to the university. The enormous £75 million sum given by Michael Moritz, a former student of History at Christ Church college, means that students with an annual family income of less than £16,000 will be eligible to have the majority of their fees paid for them. Oxford is amongst the majority of British universities that have chosen to escalate their tuition fee levels to the maximum £9,000 per year, heaving student debt up to a minimum of £27,000 on tuition fees alone for an undergraduate degree.
Applications down by almost a tenth
The other universities that followed suit, Exeter I might add being third in the country to add its name to the £9,000 institutions, have led to a huge 8.9% drop in the number of university applications this year, the first time that figure has fallen for well over a decade. The difficulties of huge fees are no doubt putting off students as has been documented by several studies and this therefore raises two questions; firstly, do the universities need the cash and secondly, is there an alternative way to fund them?
A comparison carried out by the BBC found that there is what can only be described as a funding gulf between Oxford, perhaps not the best but arguably the most symbolic British university, and Harvard, the USA’s east coast answer. Total yearly income for Harvard amounts £2.5 billion whilst Oxford dwindles at only £920 million. Despite many students questioning where £3,000 let alone £9,000 per year has been spent specifically on their university experience, the main factor in this difference in income levels is that Harvard currently charges its students £37,000 per annum.
Giving something back
This is clearly not an option. So maybe British universities need to follow the lead of Oxford? Or rather maybe the wealthy alumni of other universities need to play a bigger role in maintaining their Almae Matres? Whilst dedicated “Alumni Relations” teams already scour their databases looking for ways of generating a bit of cash from former students, maybe the donation of large and regular gifts to the university from very successful alumni should become the done thing? It would reduce the funding gap and ensure that the bright yet brassic students aren’t left out in the cold.
With this in mind, I strongly recommend that UCL have a frank discussion with Chris Martin, Southampton gets in touch with Brian Eno and Exeter stops calling me and instead pays my fellow Exeter alumnus Jo Rowling a little more attention. Something tells me she may be able to spare a little more than me.