UP to 40 of Britain's top universities will introduce full top-up fees as soon as they can, it was reported by the English press recently.
This follows recommendations made by the British Government's white paper on higher education released on Jan 22, which among others proposed top-up fees and increased concentration of research funding.
Nottingham University Vice-Chancellor Sir Colin Campbell, who described the fees as “infinitely small” compared to those of North American universities, told The Times that a large group of universities will top-up their fees to the proposed £3,000 (RM18,600) straight away, particularly the Russell Group and 20 others. Currently, universities charge home students a nominal fee of £1,100 (RM6,800).
The Russell Group is an elite network of 19 of Britain’s “top” universities, of which Nottingham University is a member.
Imperial College London, another Russell Group member, confirmed that it would be among the first to introduce the new fees in 2006.
In a press statement, however, the college which has previously argued that it should be allowed to charge £10,500 (RM65,100) a year, expressed disappointment in the amount approved, as it will continue to lose around £1,000 (RM6,200) per student per year despite the increase.
It lamented the government’s failure in taking the “historic opportunity” in assisting the country’s best universities to “raise sufficient private funding for their continued success.”
Birmingham University also announced that it would move towards the full charges as soon as they were introduced, while Bristol and Durham said they were considering doing the same.
In contrast, Cambridge said it did not need to raise new revenue. However, many of the new universities condemned the plans to introduce top-up fees.
Coventry University Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Goldstein said universities that already serve the affluent would be able to charge more and increase expenditure on facilities and teaching staff.
He warned of the dangers of a two-tier system where those who can afford would be able to obtain a far better funded educational experience than those who can’t. He added that this was “social and economic elitism” in the extreme.
The British Medical Association (BMA) warned that the fee increase would cause a recruitment crisis for new doctors.
Dr Colin Smith, the chairman of the BMA's medical academic staff committee, told The Guardian that if universities were allowed to set their own fees, medicine was likely to be hardest hit.
“Medical students already qualify with an average total debt of almost £13,000 (RM80,600) and this will rocket under the government’s plans for reform.”
Sir Alistair MacFarlane, chairman of the education committee of the Royal Society, the UK's national science academy, said it was critical to the health of British science that the proposed differential fees system did not create a disincentive against candidates seeking courses in “expensive” scientific and engineering subjects.
The long-awaited government white paper also ushered in other good tidings, including an increase in taxpayer support, increase in annual funding for universities, and a pledge to widen access to higher education. – Agencies
Key changes to UK higher education funding
Note: In Malaysia, the British Council reiterates that the changes, particularly the fee hike, will not affect international students.