Britain's most prestigious universities should be allowed to charge higher fees for their courses, the leader of the country's university vice-chancellors says today.
In an interview with the Independent, Professor Steve Smith, President of Universities UK and Vice Chancellor of Exeter University says he would like to see “more of a market” in university fees. His comments come a month before the publication of the long awaited inquiry into student finance led by Lord Browne.
Currently, universities can charge top-up fees of up to £3,225 per year. Almost every university currently charges the maximum. An eventual removal of the fee cap has been advocated by the Russell Group in its submission to the independent review. It is thought amongst other sources that the Browne review may favour allowing elite universities to charge more, or by increasing the charges for popular courses such as Medicine and Law.
However, Professor Smith argued that all universities should be able to charge differential rates, adding that charges must remain internationally competitive to maintain the UK’s higher education position in the world.
Furthermore, raising the cost of higher education may have a negative impact on the number of students willing to undertake degree-level study. A researcher informed the Times Higher that enabling a free market in the higher education system could also potentially reduce institutions overall income, adding that it could be likened to “Turkeys voting for Christmas”.