British University Crisis: Funding Threatens Teaching Quality

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A report from the House of Lords published this month states: the funding system for British universities is failing. Around thirty establishments lost money during the last academic year and the number of universities in difficulty could triple during the year which begins. A situation which is not without consequences on the quality of education, notes The Wall Street Journal.

“Although British universities are still generally considered the best in the world after American universities, they fall in nine of the thirteen criteria assessed in the Times Higher Education rankings, particularly with regard to the international reputation of teaching and research .”

Registered for biology at the University of York – one of the twenty-four Russell Group universities, considered the best – Isabelle Cory, 19, is disappointed. Of the six courses she had to take in her first year, five were taught online, with students often dealing with pre-recorded lectures and rarely having the opportunity to meet their professors. This year, half of its courses will still be taught remotely and delayed.

“To make ends meet, universities are cutting back on everything, research budgets, teachers’ salaries, dormitory places – and they are resorting more to online courses,” explains the American daily, which emphasizes that establishments the most pestigious – such as Cambridge, Oxford, King’s College or the University of Birmingham – are not spared.

An impact that goes beyond the UK
The problem comes, according to the Wall Street Journal, from the capping of tuition fees paid by British students. Since 2012, they have only increased once: in 2017, they went from 9,000 pounds (10,390 euros) per year to 9,250 pounds (10,679 euros) – an increase of 2.8% . If they had kept up with inflation, they would have stood at nearly 14,000 pounds (16,160 euros) today.

Hence the priority given to foreign students who, for their part, saw their tuition fees rise on average to 23,750 pounds (27,422 euros) in 2022 (compared to 18,000 pounds in 2017). The proportion of international undergraduates at Russell Group universities has increased from 16% five years ago to 25.6% today.

However, if the government does not decide to intervene, even the most prestigious establishments risk finding themselves in a delicate financial situation, which will result in a further deterioration in the quality of teaching and research, deplore many officials.

However, underlines the Wall Street Journal, the health of British higher education – “which has eleven universities among the hundred best in the world, three of which are ranked in the ten best” – has a “considerable” impact not only on future of the sixth largest economy in the world “but also on the progress of research in the world”.

This article is originally published on courrierinternational.com

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