Degree costs hiked up 312% since 1988 and set to rise another 101% by 2012

10 November 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

The annual cost of studying for a degree has increased by 311.5% since 1988, according to research released today by UCU.

On the day thousands take to the streets of London to protest against cuts to post-16 education and the rise in student fees, the spiralling cost of going to university is put into context by the research that shows that a shopping basket of everyday household items rose by just 127.1% in the same period - between 1988 and 2010.

If the weekly shop had increased at the same rate as going to university then a pint of milk would now cost over a pound (£1.07) and one kg of sausages close to £8 (£7.86). Despite the rocketing cost of a university education, the student:staff ratio has also increased. In 1988 the student:staff ratio was just 12.6:1. Two decades later (the most recent figures available are for 2008-9) the ratio was 16.3:1.

The union said plans to raise annual tuition fees to £9,000 would be the final nail in the coffin of affordable university education and the end of genuine choice of degree for thousands of people. If Parliament allows tuition fees to rise to £9,000, students starting university in 2012 will face a bill for the first year of their degree (tuition and maintenance loans) 101% higher than their contemporaries who started this year.

In further education colleges, the government is pursuing a similar policy of transferring costs from state to student, by introducing a new loans system for students over 24, who previously had free access to certain courses. Younger students (16-19) have also been hit as the education maintenance allowance (EMA) - a weekly payment to support the costs of study - is set to be cut.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Politicians have consistently let students down over the years. However, these latest set of proposals go too far. If implemented, the government's plans will completely change the landscape of further and higher education. They would represent the final nail in the coffin of affordable university education and the end of genuine choice of degree for thousands of people.

'The rest of the world is investing in education yet we're doing the opposite. College grants that are often the difference between some students being able to study or not - the EMA - are being axed and university students are expected to shoulder the burden of punitive cuts to teaching grants. Wednesday is another step in our campaign against the cuts to education and the fight for an education system that is fair and progressive.'


Table one - rising cost of degrees and shopping baskets 1988/89-2009/10

Shopping basket

cash cost in pence 88/89

cash cost in pence  09/10

cash change

RT cost in pence in 09/10

RT change

Cash cost in pence if item had increased at same rate as university cost (311.5%)

RT cost in pence if item had increased in RT at same rate as university cost

RT index

Cheddar cheese per kg

300

750

150.0%

382

27.4%

1235

629

127.4

Eggs per dozen (size 4)

95

274

188.4%

140

46.9%

391

199

146.9

Pint of milk

26

44

69.2%

22

-13.8%

107

54

86.2

Sliced loaf white bread

46

123

167.4%

63

36.2%

189

96

136.2

Butter

54

102

88.9%

52

-3.8%

222

113

96.2

New potatoes per kg

48

154

220.8%

78

63.4%

198

101

163.4

Apples per kg

76

153

101.3%

78

2.6%

313

159

102.6

Bananas per kg

106

93

-12.3%

47

-55.3%

436

222

44.7

Pork sausages per kg

191

402

110.5%

205

7.2%

786

400

107.2

Chicken

183

290

58.5%

148

-19.3%

753

384

80.7

Tea bags per 250kg

100

179

79.0%

91

-8.8%

412

210

91.2

Instant coffee per 100g

131

226

72.5%

115

-12.1%

539

275

87.9

Pint of lager

99

280

182.8%

143

44.1%

407

208

144.1

Packet of 20 cigarettes

148

543

266.9%

277

86.9%

609

310

186.9

petrol per litre - diesel

34

104

205.9%

53

55.8%

140

71

155.8

AVERAGE

1637

3717

127.1%

1894

15.7%

6736

3431

115.7

RPI all items

437.9

859.6

96.3%

438

0.0%

1802

918

100.0

         

cost of uni. £

1545.5

6360

311.5%

3240

109.6%

6360

3239

209.6

RT = real terms (ie with the effect of inflation removed)


Table two - student:staff ratios 1988/89-2008/09

 

UK HE SSR*

1988/89

12.6:1

1989/90

13.1:1

1990/91

13.5:1

1998/99

16.7:1

1999-00

16.4:1

2000-01

16.3:1

2008/09

16.3:1

Full-time equivalents. 1988/89: combination of Pre- and Post-92 HEIs, UCU FTE calculation: all student:staff ratios for Pre-92 universities were derived from are derived from USR volume 3.  Post-92 HE students and lecturer SSR derived from DfE/DFEE annual reports. 2008/09: data supplied to UCU by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.


Table three - cost of going to university

 

1988/1989

2009/2010

2012/13

Average gross household income (£ a year)1

19210

45699

Above grant threshold (£42,000)

RPI 2

37709

45699

 

Tuition fee loans 3

0

3225

9000

Living cost 'top-up' loans 3

0

3940

3750

Living costs parents 3

1797.5

0

0

Tuition fee upfront 3

0

0

0

TOTAL

1797.5

7165

12750

Living cost grants 3

252.5

805

0

TOTAL MINUS grant

1545.5

6360

12750

RPI 2

3034

6360

 

Index

   

%age of hh income

8

13.9

 


All calculations assume full-time English domiciled undergraduate dependent on parental income studying a three-year course at an institution outside of London

  1. Source: Office for National Statistics: Average Incomes of households before and after taxes and benefits; 2 adults with children non retired households 1988/89-2008/09. Later figures were calculated using Consumer Price Index forecasts from Budget 2010 Report, June 2010 (table 1.2, p18)
  2. RPI calculated using Retail Prices Index: Long Run Series 1947-2010 from Office for National Statistics
  3. Source: Education (Student Support) Regulations Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI)

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