Rather depressing data was recently released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It revealed that the UK is now the third most expensive place worldwide to attend university. Fees are scheduled to increase next year, leading some experts to fear that UK tuition will top future international league tables.
Only students in Korea and the U.S. pay more to obtain a university degree than those in the UK. During the 2008-09 academic year, UK students paid nearly the equivalent of £3,100 annually for a university course. This caused UK tuition to surpass Australia and Japan. Tuition in the region is even much higher than competing European countries like the Netherlands, France, and Sweden, which have free tuition.
Not only are UK students faced with high costs, they are contributing to the fees. The OECD reported that UK students pay two-thirds of degree course costs. This is approximately twice the figure reported ten years ago and more than double the average included in the OECD study. To fund their education, many rely on cheap loans designed for students.
For students taking courses in 2012, the maximum tuition fee will nearly triple, reaching £9,000. This could cause the UK to top the international league table in the future. One unfortunate result could be what is occurring in the U.S. The sharp increase in American higher education costs has brought enrollment figures to a near standstill.
A bright spot is that unlike Korean and U.S. students, those in the UK have access to generous loans backed by the government. That being said, the enormity of loan repayments presents a rather unpleasant psychological roadblock for the most financially needy students. For now, the higher education system in the UK remains strong but the risk of unmanageable fees makes future problems a possibility.