“Lectures not loans” was one of the many chants heard in Newcastle last Wednesday, when a group of Durham students took part in the NUS national day of action, to highlight problems with higher education funding.
Currently your level of financial support is based on parental income, with the assumption that your parents can and will support you at university. This ignores the plight of families with two children at university at the same time. The repayment loan scheme is also unfair: if you graduate and become a highly paid lawyer you pay your loan off in a couple of years. If you become a teacher it takes far longer, and due to the interest on the loan you will end up paying more despite earning less. This is grossly unfair. At the moment you are looking at graduation debts of at lest £20 000-£25 000, or more if you get the full loan, or do a four year course.
Next year the government is legally required to review the current tuition fee system. At the moment there is a £3145 cap, but some universities see this as their chance to charge even higher tuition fees: anywhere up to £15 000. If the cap is raised then graduates will be leaving with mortgage-sized debts. I think this would be a terrible idea and would result in students choosing universities based solely on the price of their degree courses and not academic ability.
We need to come up with an alternative system and not just tinker with the current one. I wish higher education could be free, however nothing in life is free and universities have to be funded somehow. What I think we need is a fairer way to pay for higher education. This is something DSU and NUS are working on. Suggestions are very welcome. Check out the “Degreez Meanz Feez “ Facebook group to learn more.