During this current time of economic and political uncertainty, it is unsurprising that university officials are pessimistic about the future. Among the biggest concerns are changes to government policy and funding arrangements. As a result, it is essential that future government incentives are informed by the needs of the public. Additionally, universities require the right support as institutions develop. Doing so will ensure universities’ long-term sustainability, rather than being influenced by immediate political concerns.
Potential Students Put Off by High Cost of University
One of the issues faced by university students is the matter of funding. Potential students shouldn’t be deterred from higher education by the fear of not having enough money. However, this still happens and is reflected in the failure of institutions to enrol more financially disadvantaged students. Even the reassurance of loans still brings about the dread of long-term debt after graduation.
The 2012 tuition fee settlement was a government incentive aimed at providing long-term stability to universities in the UK. However, it was still a blow to students who faced paying £9,000 per year in addition to any maintenance costs. A gradual repayment system was put in place when annual earnings reached £21,000 or over. Nonetheless, upcoming students still faced higher fees and the prospect of significant student debts.
Following the promise of a major review of student funding, uncertainty has been cast across the current system. So far, it has provided sustainable funding, yet the fear of funding the university experience is deep rooted, and students need more understanding about what their options are. Furthermore, maintenance loans need to be reviewed so that there is priority for students who are most in need of support.
Employers Want Graduates to Work For Them
It is important that the prospect of debt isn’t a deterrent because more employers are seeking graduates. The demand for employees with graduate-level skills is steadily increasing more than the need for medium or low-level skills. One of the solutions to the challenge of developing skills is to address the decline of part-time and mature students.
All Students are Welcome
Another way to improve the longevity of universities will be the enhancement of immigration policies. The government must allow more post-graduation work opportunities for international students. There should also be an expanded international communications campaign which highlights that international students are always welcome to study in the UK. Amongst the uncertainty caused by Brexit, it is more important than ever that international students are reassured that they can still attend universities in the UK.
Students and the public need to be reassured about applying for and attending university. Doing so will create greater stability, which is essential for the further education sector. Nearly £100bn is generated for the UK economy by further education, as well as keeping almost a million people in employment. Universities improve prospects, livelihoods and creates opportunities whilst changing lives through pioneering research. It’s clear that universities need not be a source of political gain but supported for the future.