After a dramatic tripling of Warwick University fees for home and EU students, the tuition battle has now been moved to the international front. In an unexpected move, the University has announced its intention to significantly increase undergraduate and postgraduate fees for overseas students starting their studies in 2012 – some by as much as 18 per cent.
Tuition fees rise on a yearly basis for all students due to inflation, which is currently set at 6 per cent. However, all of the increases this year will be above this, ranging from between 10 and 18 per cent depending on the degree level and the type of course.
Overseas postgraduate students will be the worst hit by fees rising by £4,000 to a staggering £18,560, but international undergraduates will not escape unscathed with an expected 12 per cent tuition fee increase. A degree in a Band 2 course like Economics, some sciences and WBS degrees will set an overseas student back £17,200, making that three-quid Costa coffee not sound that bad after all.
Even more troubling is the permission given by the University to the individual academic departments to charge as they see fit above the proposed tuition floor.
In response to this, Sean Ruston, Education Officer for Warwick Student’s Union (SU) commented that the SU is “firmly against increasing international fees above inflation” and that it is “deeply disappointed that the University has decided upon such an extortionate increase for international students starting their studies in 2012.”
He went on to explain that the Students’ Union’s “belief is that the increase is derived from the deeply concerning and problematic idea that international student fees can be viewed in terms of how much the market can bear without any justification, based upon costs or improvements in the quality of their education…”
There has been some indication that the plans to raise the tuition fees to a level much higher than it is currently is based on a desire to consolidate Warwick’s position within the top five universities. An anonymous source commented that: “There is a misguided perception that the more expensive a course is, the higher its quality, and that to improve the reputation of a University, fees must be increased accordingly.” This, the source claimed, is the logic which rules the education sector in Britain.
So far the University has proposed no additional services in return for the fee hike to cushion its financial blow. Last year, the Government attempted to persuade students that they were getting value for money from going to university by increasing the student experience, and noting that they cannot raise fees above a certain level without increasing access for poorer students from lower income backgrounds.
Leo Boe, President of the SU, commented that while nothing has been announced in direct response to the fee rises, the university is continually looking to ensure that Warwick is seen as “naturally progressive and modern.”
He said that the general reason for the fee rise is that Warwick as a university does not see itself as competitive as other universities.
Boe reiterated Ruston’s concerns, and commented that fees shouldn’t rise simply as a “tool for market positioning.”
However, due to the potentially unlimited amount that individual departments can change, the Students’ Union are afraid of raising fees to what markets can bear rather than a figure based on the quality of the course.
The Union is planning an information gathering effort with international students to gauge details about how much they think their degrees are worth, in order to provide information to departments.
The news has provoked angry reactions from students. Jasmine Chan, a final-year Law Student, could see both sides of the debate. “I’m personally annoyed… although I do think that it’s justified to some extent…This is a bad move because it will deter foreign students from studying at Warwick, which in turn will affect the University’s income,” she explained.
A spokesperson from the University commented that: “Our fees for international students are significantly lower than those of some of our major competitors in the UK.
“As the university is doing with the increase in homes fees, we are investing to ensure we significantly enhance the student experience when they come to… Warwick.”
Although postgraduate fees for home/EU students are yet to be announced, this news, combined with last year’s drastic tripling of home fees, makes it seem as if postgraduate fees may follow the same fate.