Originally posted by: jencam
Superficially there is plenty of consumer choice in higher education but for some reason competition is not driving down costs to consumers. An overwhelming number of universities are charging as much as they can for tuition and higher education looks more like a cartel than a free market.
You are correct, it is a free market in name only. Obviously universities expanded like there was no tommorrow and from my experience of recent study they expanded their administration teams quite considerably. Salaries also increased.
An intelligent person should question exactly what they are getting for their money, where it is going, and whether cheaper alternatives exist.
Well from a point of view of fees, let's say, increasing from £3k to between £6-£9k the student is not getting any more for their money, same tutors, facilities, etc. So it's rather like the increasing utility and council tax costs, more money for the same provisions. So where is it all going? Well a lot of it is going into pensions because that was/is the timebomb area and which the government had to solve. The issue with all of this is that successive governments, and even to this day, still think the solutions are to increase debts and in most cases kick the problem further down the road. I really do not see how having young students start out with say £50k of government debt and then pay very high prices for their houses is actually going to help matters in the longer term. With regards to learning, cheaper alternatives do exist, online/books etc., as you say, but their certificates if issued do not carry the same weight as those given by say Oxford, UCL, Swansea, etc., University. If graduates get the jobs after then all will be more or less ok and will continue. We also now have this situation whereby when enough people have a qualification then when competing for a job we need that qualification just to keep up, and so we are more or less forced to get it....that means the seller can keep their costs high.
One speculated theory for charging full fees is fear and image in that if a degree course is cheap then employers might disfavour it or assume that the students are paupers and cheapskates.
There is a lot of truth in that and it will be part of the equation.
The door is now wide open for foreign competition in higher education charging lower tuition fees. This is something I have previously discussed here.
For example I know one top ranking Italian University who are changing their teaching to English and so now it's easier for our students to study there. The competition will come and we then ask ourselves how the government will cover the pension costs.....they may then have to do that old fashioned thing and raise income tax or national insurance. But anyway that will be when someone picks that ball up which is now further down the road.