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The Changing Cost of Universities in London

I’ve always been amazed by the price of tuition here in Britain. At my home university, the yearly cost of tuition, coupled with room in board, is roughly $40,000 a year. Fortunately for me, much of the cost is offset by scholarship and financial aid, but a good deal is left for me to deal with personally; every year, the debt that I owe increases substantially.

Yet here in the U.K, education is highly state subsidized; British undergraduate students at Queen Mary University of London pay less than 4,000 pounds a year out of pocket for tuition, which is less than $6,000 a year, though there are exceptions with some degrees, such as Medicine and Dentistry. International students, however, pay a far more hefty 11,000 pounds a year for tuition, akin to $16,000 a year. However, students in the UK also save money because most programs are meant to last only three years, rather than the US standard of four, due to the fact that programs are always specialist in nature rather than following the liberal arts standard of studying a little bit of everything. At the same time, the discounts individual businesses give students are just as amazing; nearly every store and business in London seems to have some deal for students, such as cheaper movie tickets and 10% discounts on food.

Several of the American students expressed envy of the price that British students pay, while others have even gone as far as to wish that they had applied to schools here when they were deciding on where to go for college.

“I wish I had known about how affordable the university experience is in the UK,” an American friend of mine studying computer science told me. “Had I known, I would have looked into doing the full program over here rather than just a semester and I would have still paid significantly less than the debt I’ve racked up now which in all honesty, I doubt I’ll ever be able to fully pay back.”

However, with the economic crisis, there have been many threats to the affordability of education, as the government has begun a process of cutting from its budget. In addition to cutting funding given to school, the government has decided to remove caps on tuition fees. While this allows schools to make up for the budget deficits caused by the drop in aid, it guarantees that this cost will directly affect students; discussion has been of costs reaching 10,000 pounds a year. Students, as could be expected, have not responded favorably, and the outcry has been massive.

“It goes against all the rhetoric of our society,” first year student Jenni told me. “It’s really gonna create a bigger divide in society; I should be judged on my academic merit, rather than how much money I have in the bank.”

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There have been student rallies against funding cuts for several weeks, with an enormous one organized by multiple schools taking place just a few weeks ago. The vast majority of the protestors have been peaceful, shouting slogans and marching with signs, but some of it has turned violent. Much of the anger is aimed at one of the two political parties in control of government, the Liberal Democrats. They had originally pledged to work against all attempts to raise the out of pocket cost of university for students, and a large portion of their voters were students. Yet, when they formed a coalition government with the larger Conservative party, they went back on this.

“It’s ridiculous. It feels like you’ve just been backstabbed,” Aamna, another first year, complained.

Yet it’s not just the British students who are concerned; with the price that they pay for university increasing dramatically, there’s a high chance that international student fees, already high compared to domestic students, could sky rocket. Queen Mary has a large population of international students, all of whom are concerned over the future of universities in the country that they’ve chosen to study in.

“It’ll make more people think twice about coming to the UK, as if the home student tuition rises, I’m sure the International student fee will as well.” My friend Tristram noted while discussing the price he pays to attend Queen Mary. “

With all that’s going on, there’s sure to be a great deal of changes within the UK in the future. It really makes one consider the value of university, and how much the government should provide for education. At the same time, students like me have to wonder how this will affect future students interested in studying abroad.

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