With news that university applications have dropped 8.7% in one year across the whole of the UK, many will be speculating why this may be. Many, however, will not. To a lot of current and prospective students, the trebling of fees at most universities to £9,000 is the biggest factor.
When broken down, the results show a huge 8.7% drop in English applicants, but a less significant drop in Welsh (1.9%) and Scottish (1.5%) figures. It doesn’t need the wit of Sherlock Holmes to deduce that these smaller figures are because Welsh and Scottish students have their tuition subsidised.
Under a complicated financial equation used by the Government, English citizens are, in effect, paying for Scottish and Welsh tuition. More money is spent per head in Wales and Scotland than is in England, the justification being that they are supposedly more deprived than England. This has enabled the Scottish and Welsh governments to subsidise tuition fees amongst other things, such as medical prescriptions.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU lecturers’ union says that England is now the “most expensive country in the world in which to gain a public degree”. This is simply disgraceful. The idea of a United Kingdom is becoming less of a certainty, and more of an idealistic fantasy. Either everybody should pay the same, or nobody should pay at all.
Consider this bizarre (yet not at all hypothetical) situation: a non-British EU citizen will be able to study at any Welsh university and pay fees of £3,290 a year (the current level of fees which has been frozen by the Welsh Assembly), whereas an English student following the same course at the same university will have to pay £9,000 a year.
Not only are students within our own devolved United Kingdom getting more rights than English students, so now are foreign students. The UK government has set up a system of tuition fees which can be described in no simpler terms than astonishingly – and unjustifiably – racist.
And politicians wonder why social unity appears to be a thing of the past – it’s been abandoned at the very top of the ladder.