It’s no surprise that the University of Kent wants to hike fees to the maximum permitted £9,000.
Most universities are going for the higher figure and the rest will not wish to signal that it’s a “cheapjack” uni.
Spending cuts will affect higher education and universities want to claw back as much as they can.
The Coalition Government was naive to believe that the outcome would be anything other than a near-universal clamour for the top whack.
Of course, the Office for Fair Access (a weird PC name if ever there was one) will have to decide whether universities bidding for nine grand have strengthened their case by pledging enough sweeteners to students and their hard-pressed families.
The main political concern seems to be avoiding putting off students from poorer backgrounds and attracting as many as possible from homes without a university tradition. Actually, this group will get a lot of financial help.
It is the usual suspects in the middle who will worry most about this hike. They will qualify for next to nothing but are already feeling the pinch from all sides - lower tax threshold, higher National Insurance, lower benefits etc. They will have taught their children to put money aside for pensions, and to buy a starter home as soon as they can – all adding to the overall debt burden.
Discussions are going on all over the country about whether their offspring should place themselves in hock to the tune of £50,000 or more for university education. They will weigh up the cost benefit analysis. Will their sons and daughters be able to use their degree to enhance their incomes sufficiently to merit the hard work and financial sacrifice necessary? OK, it will be fun, but will that come at a price?
When you have huge youth and graduate unemployment, when many employers have not increased pay for years, when the public sector is taking on fewer, if any, trainees, they will have to consider whether three years’ practical experience will be more useful than three years’ study and graduation well behind their working peers. You certainly don’t need a degree to be an entrepreneur.
These are difficult decisions for people looking at jobs for which a degree is not compulsory, such as law or education.
Schools are keen to push their students to university, but it might not always be the best route. All this uncertainty gives a golden opportunity to enlightened employers keen to take on young talent and nurture it. Come 2012, there will probably be a bigger pool of people with A Levels available to the labour market than before.
KPMG, Lloyds TSB Bank and others have launched schemes to tap talent early. I hope there will be more, so that bright young people are given a promising alternative to years of stressful debt.