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England set to be world's most expensive country for university education

1 October 2010

Analysis by UCU of fees charged by publicly-funded universities around the world reveals that increasing fees to £5,000-a-year would be enough to give England the unenviable tag of supplier of the world's most expensive degrees.

England, already the fourth most costly place to study, will become the most expensive country in the world to get a degree at a public university if the forthcoming review of university funding leads to an increase in tuition fees to just £5,000-a-year. Recent reports have suggested that fees as high as £7,000 and £10,000 are being considered.

Analysis of fees charged by publicly-funded universities around the world by the University and College Union (UCU) released today (Friday) revealed that increasing fees to £5,000-a-year would be enough to give England the unenviable tag of supplier of the world's most expensive degrees.
 
Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed that six of the 22 developed nations it scrutinised charged no fees at all.
 
The analysis also revealed that:

  • The international average annual fee was $2,259 a year (£1,427 at the current exchange rate)
  • Only Iceland, America and Norway charged more than England
  • Iceland, Norway and England are the only European countries that charge more than the international average.

The union warned that the analysis suggested that plans to allow more for-profit private universities would lead to even higher fees. In countries where a significant number of students attend independent private institutions, they paid much higher fees.
 
In the US one-third of students attend independent private institutions and paid an average of $21,979-a-year (£13,877 at the current exchange rate), compared to the $5,943-a-year (£3,572 at the current exchange rate) that the majority of American students paid in public universities.
 
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'England has much to be proud of when it comes to higher education. We are recognised as a leader both in research and teaching and continue to punch considerably above our weight. However, we do not want to be the most expensive country in the world for domestic students to do a degree.
 
'Students have been contributing more and more to the cost of a degree over recent years and now is the time to explore other options. If the forthcoming review of university funding by Lord Browne just lists ways to squeeze more money out of students and their families then it will have spectacularly failed its remit.
 
'Lord Browne and the government must look seriously at the idea of taxing big business for the substantial benefits it gains from a plentiful supply of graduates and using that money to expand, rather than reduce, opportunity to study.'

Table 1
CountryAnnual average tuition fees charged by public institutions* for full-time students ($) 2006/07 apart from countries marked with #Equivalent cost in UK £ at the current exchange rate of $1 - £0.63
Iceland6,4494,072
United States #5,9433,752
Norway #5,2473,313
England #^4,8623,070
S Korea #4,7172,978
Japan4,4322,798
Australia4,0352,548
Canada3,6932,332
New Zealand2,7341,726
Netherlands #1,7541,108
France #1,206762
Italy #1,195755
Portugal1,178744
Spain854539

Austria #

821518
Belgium (Fl) #586370
Czech Republic00
Denmark00
Finland00
Ireland00
Mexico #00
Sweden00
Average2,2591,427

Table 2
CountryAnnual average tuition fees charged by public institutions* for full-time students in $. Equivalent cost in UK £ at the current exchange rate $1 - £0.63Percentage of students in public institutionsAnnual average tuition fees charged by independent private institutions for full-time students in $. Equivalent cost in UK £ at the current exchange rate $1 - £0.63
United States5,943 (£3,752)6721,979 (£13,877)
S Korea4,717 (£2,978)228,519 (£5,379)
Japan4,432 (£2,798)256,935 (£4,379)
Mexico0 (£0)664,847 (£3,060)


Notes

* Public institutions include Government-dependent private institutions
# Reference year 2007-08
^ England figures are based on the maximum undergraduate fee in 2007-08 of £3,070 as OECD figures were for the whole UK
The full OECD table can be found in Education at a Glance 2010 at indicator B5 'How much do tertiary students pay and what public subsidies do they receive?'

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