Should University Be Free?

Our writers weigh up the pros and cons of University Fees.


Let me rephrase that question. Why on earth is University NOT free?!

By Isaac Shabaz: @IsaacIbnShabaz | Image By: Mikhail Pavstyuk on Unsplash

With tuition fees and rising living costs, students could end up paying £50,000 for a three-year degree, and leave university with significant debts. Charging for university education may deter students and leave the UK with a shortfall of skilled labour – and arguably this will damage the long-term prospects of the UK economy. Furthermore, charging to study at university will increase inequality of opportunity as students with low-income parents will be more likely to be deterred from going to university.

The term ‘Social Mobility’ also plays a big factor in the discussion of whether university should be free or not as if it does become free then it has the opportunity to bring a lot of people out of poverty and in to education. There is a very strong relationship between high levels of income inequality and low levels of social mobility. Children of highly paid parents are more likely to be highly paid and children of low paid parents are more likely to be low earners, and the link between educational achievement and high aspiration is a key explanation for the association between low educational achievement and inequality.

Changes to the global economy mean that the UK now needs to specialise in higher tech and higher value-added products and services. The UK’s biggest export industries include pharmaceuticals, organic chemicals, optical and surgical instruments, and nuclear technology. Therefore, there is a greater need for skilled graduates who can contribute to these high-tech industries, allowing a continuous flow of positive contributions towards the economy. Most countries in the developed world have a higher percentage of graduates than the UK, and for the fifth year in a row graduate job opportunities have risen because the businesses that are growing fastest demand these skilled thinkers.

There are also non-economic benefits of education. It is tempting to think of university education in purely monetary terms. But graduates can also gain skills and awareness of civic institutions which offer intangible benefits to society. The private non-market benefits of individuals  having degrees include better personal health and improved cognitive development in their children, alongside the social non-market benefits, such as lower spending on prisons and greater political stability.

Finally, education has positive benefits for the rest of society. If university education is left to market forces, there may be under-provision, and the economy may suffer from a lack of skilled graduates. Furthermore, in a free market, higher education would become the preserve of wealthy families who can afford to send their children to university. Therefore, there is a strong case for the government to provide higher education for free.

The bigger the student debts get, the bigger the threat to our economy and the future of the UK. So to Theresa May or whoever has to make the final decision, please do the United Kingdom a huge favour, and make University education free.


University is far too expensive for today’s generation. With a total of 1.87 million people in the UK alone attending university, do these fees need to be so high?

By Dylan James Wardle: @DylanJamesWard2

Many people who attend university are stressed for numerous reasons, perhaps due to assignment deadlines or exams. But stressing about university before you even get in because of the large sum you have to fork out for? With an average cost of £10,133 across the board per year and 1.87 million students in the UK, universities are practically rolling in money. Though with facilities to pay for as well as equipment and teachers pay, that only takes away a little from their expenses.

And many students have started to do the math and ask questions, as evidenced by the numerous threads on student discussion forum The Student Room. “Surely tutors and lecturers don’t get paid that much when you add every students fees for a course so where is the rest of the money going?”, says username2324383. Emily Silver, a student studying at university said “Of course it should be cheaper, I’m only on minimum wage.” Other students have a slightly different perspective: whilst they’re more tolerant of tuition fees, they feel that the student accommodation is far too expensive.

Universities gain income not just from standard course fees, but also from international fees, university presses, conferences and more.

As of 2017 there are a total of 106 universities within the UK. There are some more expensive than others such as Oxford and Durham University. Though the most expensive university to study at overall are universities in London. Taking into consideration the travel, accommodation and other essential, it costs an average of £38,854 per course, in total.

This is way too much. Most students have to end up taking out student loans and this only ends up adding onto the stress of everything else. And whilst many enjoy the change of lifestyle and the new skills to be learned that university offers, there are those who pay so much only to become disappointed.

Many students need money for food, clothing, accommodation and other aspects of living. Can they then really afford to pay such a high price to learn? Think about it this way: our society builds upon young people. The young people today are our nation’s future. Potential doctors, lawyers, cooks, managers and so forth are what is needed for a working community. It doesn’t make sense to charge people so much to help build a better world.

Universities gain income not just from standard course fees, but also from international fees, university presses, conferences and more. They do not need so much from students as well. It shouldn’t be free but it should be cheaper. Taxes may slightly go up though that is a price many are willing to pay for a brighter and better future.

University shouldn’t be free. If it was there would be a number of negative impacts it would have. Taxes could go up majorly, and universities themselves would struggle to pay for the facilities they posses. But the price of university has more than tripled since 2003. If universities could work on what they charged then, why can’t they now?


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