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Vice chancellors speak in favour of raising tuition fees

Universities in the UK are taking in more international students to boost their income as the freeze on tuition fees stops them boosting fees for students from England and Wales.

Vice Chancellors in England and Wales have argued that domestic tuition fees for UK students should be raised to approximately £24,000 per year, an amount which would bring fees in line with the amount paid by international students. Currently, annual tuition fees are capped at £9,250 for students in England and Wales, a policy which has been in place since 2017 after it was raised from the initial cap of £9000 set in 2012.

Inflation is listed as one of the main reasons for the desired increase. With the current frozen price cap, vice-chancellors argue that the income universities make in real terms will fall over the next few years and become unsustainable. International students are one of their biggest sources of income, and closing the gap between what these students and domestic students pay would create a necessary income boost, argue the universities.

The number of international students starting courses at UK universities this academic year has increased 7% compared to last, at a record of one in five new students.

The Russell Group analysis states that their institutions are losing £1,750 a year for every home student enrolled, and that this figure will increase to £4,000 by the 2024/25 academic year. International students pay up to £30,000 a year in tuition fees, and this number could increase since there is no tuition cap for international students.

Some universities, such as Loughborough University, are freezing the number of local students they accept to make room for more international students due to their financial benefit. Meanwhile, domestic tuition fees staying at the same figures could in hand cause a rise in international student fees; Manchester Metropolitan University intends to raise international student fees by roughly 125% compared to their 2016 figures.

Speaking to The Times, vice-chancellor of Cardiff University, Professor Colin Riordan stated that the government has a “national duty to ensure that it was at least viable for us to teach students from this country”.

In response to the proposal to raise fees, Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, noted that students are already facing many other financial burdens due to the rise in cost-of-living. He stated: “the prospect of a huge financial commitment is especially likely to be off-putting for students from households in relative poverty”. It is estimated that maintenance loans for English students will rise by 2.3% over the next academic year despite the prediction of a 12 percent inflation hit this autumn.

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