Expensive education

George Jones, Renaissance College

The British government's plan to raise tuition fees will turn foreign students away

George Jones, Renaissance College |

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Britain is renowned for its higher education institutions. Its universities attract applicants from around the globe.

Yet such interest may wane after the British government has announced that universities may increase tuition fees. Under the new proposals, applicants from the UK and EU countries could see their tuition fees rise to GBP9,000 (HK$108,683) a year, almost three times the current rate. For overseas applicants from outside the EU zone, fees would be even higher.

The National Union of Students has called the plan "an outrage". Students across Britain have been staging sit-ins, walkouts and mass protests. In central London, students surrounded the government offices in Whitehall.

Several protests turned violent as students began hitting police with missiles, blocking roads and damaging vehicles. Someone painted the word "Revolution" on the walls of the Foreign Office.

The plan to raise tuition fees comes during a tough economic period for Britain. The recession has forced the new coalition government to review government spending. Cutting financial support for higher institutions has been one of the proposed measures.

These proposed cuts aim to help the government cut back on spending in an effort to balance the budget and put the country's economy back on track.

Politicians who support the proposal argue that by weaning universities off their dependency on government funding, they could become more financially self-reliant.

Yet such measures would hurt students and their families financially. Increased tuition fees may force many applicants to give up on their plans to pursue their studies at certain institutions, or even to turn their backs on certain fields of study and research.

Students from overseas would have even greater financial burdens to bear. Because of that, international interest in British higher education institution may decline. Many overseas students might decide to continue their studies in the US, Australia and Canada.

It is true that balancing the budget and creating financial sustainability are important steps. But increasing university tuition fees may not be a wise step. Higher fees will deter poorer students both from home and abroad from pursuing their studies. As the mass student protests indicate, Britain is in for some rocky times.