Students in England are paying the highest university tuition fees in the world, according to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
According to the Independent, the state-of-the-nation report on world education systems shows the £9,000 fee being charged at most universities means that – on average – English students are paying more than their counterparts in the United States.
Researchers acknowledged that the high cost of fees at America’s Ivy League universities could push its average higher but insisted that was still lower than the English figure.
However, Andreas Schleicher, head of education of the OECD, argued that the English system was “fair, efficient and likely to be sustainable”. Students do not have to pay any fees upfront – taking out loans to pay for their courses.
The figures in the report show that 19% of the English higher education system was funded by private sources compared with just 14% on average for European countries. It is still far behind the US figure of 46%.
Mr Schleicher said the UK government appeared to have made a “wise choice” in determining its present system. One of the spin-offs was more money coming into higher education at a time of recession which had paid off in allowing them to pay higher salaries for professors. Despite the high fees, take-up of university courses is high.
The US was in second place, charging about $8,000 or £5,300 a student. Japan was third on $5,000.
The findings come at a time when the government is considering allowing universities to charge higher fees. A green paper on higher education last month indicated those with high-quality teaching should be allowed to increase their fees in line with inflation.
However, student leaders are worried that – with the axing of maintenance grants planned for next September – young people from disadvantaged backgrounds could be put off from applying, fearing they would face rising debts.
The report said: “Higher tuition fees increase the resources available to educational institutions. On the other hand, lower tuition fees can help to promote student access and equity in higher education.”