Is 2014 the year when tuition fees rise yet again for struggling UK students? According to the BBC, UK universities are already dissatisfied with a tuition cap of £9000, a price that remains unreachable by many. In fact, President of Universities UK Sir Christopher Snowden has been reported to say that the previous cap which caused such controversy is "not sustainable" and that "fees can't remain frozen forever."
Some analysts agree that another increase in tuition costs is unavoidable. The Telegraph further reported that "the deficit in the University pension scheme is as much as £10.5 billion and to plug the hole institutions may need to raise fees by £1,000 a year." However, the same article asserts that the universities themselves concede that it is unfair for students to be supplementing pensions far more generous than they are likely to receive when they are older.
Rather than charging UK students, another way for universities to remain profitable year over year has been to recruit international students. Previously, this model involved attracting international students to the UK to study, charging them as much as three times the tuition cost compared to local students, while also requiring them to incur additional living costs. But with rising fees and stricter visa regulations, this option is also on the decline.
So what is the answer? The delivery of UK programmes to international locations seems to be the clear solution for both institutions and students alike. And we are not the only ones to take this stand. About this time last year, The Guardian reported that "the number of students studying for UK degrees in overseas countries increased 13%," and "international offshoots of UK universities, partnerships with foreign institutions and online study mean there are now more students on UK university courses abroad than there are international and EU students coming to the UK to study."
In my column last month, I introduced the fact that London School of Marketing is investing in Local Access Points around the globe, allowing for access to students who cannot afford or obtain a visa to travel to the UK to earn an international qualification. We believe it is important to use our expertise and technology to remove the boundaries to education, and empower students all over the world to develop their skills and improve their career prospects by providing a globally recognised British qualification. And it seems the timing could not be more appropriate.
It's no surprise that international students are clamouring for a UK education. According to a study released by the British Council, employers place high value on UK credentials. Among the statistics revealed, almost two-thirds of employers in the United States and Canada place equal or higher value on degrees earned in the United Kingdom compared to those earned locally. The study further states "while most employers are favourable towards UK degrees, they are not very knowledgeable about the UK higher education sector as a whole. Much of the positive response can be explained by the "halo effect" cast by the UK's top universities."
Of course, it is difficult for even the savviest of educational providers to know what the future will hold. Even the British Council recognises that trends beyond our control, such as the economy, political conditions and global workforce demands will force the evolution of education in ways we may not be able to foresee. But we do remain firm believers in one thing - that quality education which can enhance skills and further careers should be accessible to all.