You might have noticed on Wednesday that everyone was kicking off about the Queen’s speech. Every year, the Queen announces the new bills that the government will work on for the next twelve months, and delivers a speech to explain the new legislation. This year, part of the Queen’s Speech covered the Higher Education Bill, and outlined the government’s new plans to improve universities in the UK. But what’s actually changing and how will it affect young people?
A More Competitive Higher Education Industry
In her speech, the Queen announced the government’s plan is: “to ensure that more people have the opportunity to further their education” and that “legislation will be introduced to support the establishment of new universities and to promote choice and competition across the higher education sector.”
Essentially, the plans to make the higher education industry more competitive mean encouraging the introduction of brand new universities, but also, allowing top universities to charge more, in an attempt to encourage the best quality teaching.
The pros include; pressure on universities to provide better teaching, and new universities offering non-traditional courses.
The cons include; potential for a two-tier system in the university system which could mean that only more wealthy people will be able to afford to go to the best unis, and more student debt.
So what do the student unions think?
“The government claims social mobility is a priority but the time has come for it to take meaningful action,” Megan Dunn, NUS national president said in a statement. “Some proposals announced in the Queen’s Speech are promising, but we must now make sure the government delivers on its rhetoric of wanting to help the most disadvantaged in our society.”
“Higher education is facing its biggest overhaul in decades and it’s crucial the government gets this right.”
“We strongly oppose any further rise to already exorbitant tuition fees, particularly if they are linked to a teaching excellence framework, and we believe new providers must meet strict requirements so students aren’t ripped off.”
What do you guys think?
When we asked you lot on Twitter whether you thought it was OK for some top unis to charge more, an overwhelming 99% of you said no and that university is too expensive. Of the 72 people who voted, just 1% of you said that charging more would make the courses better.
“It’s already ridiculously expensive to pay for higher education, I’ve been charged interest before I’ve even graduated or got an above threshold job! I’m so angry,” Jess, a 21-year-old Journalism student told us on Twitter.
We asked Jess whether the financial expectations of university need to be more clear. “I think it definitely needs to be more transparent,” she said. “I feel like I was sold the idea of going to uni instead of deciding what’s best for me.”
So was Jess made aware of alternatives to university when the end of sixth form started looming? She told us it felt like her options were “pretty much uni or nothing.”
“I went to a successful sixth form, we were all expected to go to uni. Only a couple of people didn’t,” she explained. “We should definitely have been told about other ways of learning and employment, tailored to our options and interests. I’ve very much enjoyed my time at university in the last two years, wouldn’t change it and have had some wonderful experiences. But I honestly don’t think it’s worth the £9000 per year”.
“It’s pretty disgraceful that opportunities are always based on how much money you or your family have,” Kathryn, a 25-year-old Customer Service Assistant from Oxford told us. “Without grants, several of my friends would never have afforded uni. One of them has got an MA in Maths. There shouldn’t be other options for people who can’t afford uni; uni should be affordable for everyone.”
What do you think about all this? Let us know on Twitter @GoThinkBig
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