British proposal would tie a university's tuition to its teaching quality

Posted May 23

As part of a recently announced education improvement plan, Britain will allow some universities to charge tuition based on quality of teaching. According to Quartz, the proposal is intended to encourage competition among schools and increase educational value.

"If a school's teaching is considered high enough, it would be allowed to charge a fee above the current ($12,900) cap," according to Quartz.

News reports do not explain how the quality level of the teaching would be determined.

The proposal would mean newer colleges that aren't as established as the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge, but offer high-quality education, "will be able to compete on equal terms with quicker entry to the sector," according to the improvement plan.

“Information, particularly on price and quality, is critical if the higher education market is to perform properly,” stated the proposal presented by minister Jo Johnson. "Without it, providers cannot fully and accurately advertise their offerings, and students cannot make informed decisions."

According to the Financial Times, "some fear it could be the first step in allowing colleges to set their own tuition fees. Labour's shadow universities minister described the move as a 'Trojan horse' for eventually removing the fees cap altogether."

But how does tuition compare from Britain to across the pond in the U.S.?

The Guardian reported that in OCED's annual survey of education of 34 countries, Britain had the highest tuition followed by the U.S. and Japan.

The average cost of tuition in Britain is $12,900 per year where in the U.S. it is $9,410 for state residents at public colleges. College tuition in the U.S. has increased by 500 percent in the past three decades.

Critics are worried raising the tuition cap could increase Britain's debt to the level of the U.S. According to Market Watch, the current level of student loan debt in the U.S. is over $1 trillion and increases by $2,726 every second.

According to BBC News, U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are pushing for lower the cost of higher education. Sanders has promised to scrap tuition altogether where Clinton wants to make college more affordable.

Earning a bachelor's degree in Britain takes three years where in the U.S. it can take four. College tuition in Britain, though, is not paid up-front. Repayments begin when the student is earning above $30,000 and disappear after 30 years. If a student takes out a government loan in the U.S., monthly payments begin six months after graduation.

Will you get more bang for your buck with college education in Britain? It depends.

The University of California, Berkeley, where in-state tuition is $13,342 per year, has recently released a "Middle Class Education Plan." The plan involves offering financial support to students whose parents have a combined income of $80,000 to $150,000, "who might be income-rich but cash-poor," according to BBC. According to the U.S. News and National Report, Berkeley is ranked No. 20 in the publication's 2016 Best National Universities rankings.

According to BBC, six of the world's top colleges are located in Britain. These include Cambridge, University College London, Imperial College London, Oxford, University of Edinburgh and King's College London.

Megan McNulty is an intern for the Deseret News National Edition. Contact her at


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