Intense competition among universities may have adverse effects on students

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The higher education landscape in Britain is undergoing great adjustment as a result of the reforms implemented by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. Besides adjusting universities’ tuition fees charges to a maximum of £9,000 ($14,000); it also abolished the limit on student figures which had controlled government spending by restricting the enrollment rate among institutions. Without the ceiling, universities now have to compete to enroll as many scholars as they can in order to avoid cost-cutting scenarios. The government hoped that the competition would increase the number of undergraduates, thus widening access to tertiary education and help boost the quality of teaching.

The initiative has yield positive results to a certain extent. Despite increasing tuition fees at Britain’s public universities, the number of low income students enrollment continue to increase. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of students from lower socioeconomic groups that attend university increased from 14 to 20 percent. However, although there is a drop in the number of part-time and mature students who receive less support, it urges the concern about the “homogenisation” path Britons take through higher education. Until now, students of lower socioeconomic status have been enrolling in low-ranking universities.

However, they may soon be able to gain access to the top ranking ones. Since 2014, the numbers accepted by English members of the Russell Group of top universities have increased by approximately 6%. As Nick Hillman of the Higher Education Policy Institution, pointed out, this means that poor students no longer have to oust their middle-class peers to gain entry. All students are now more likely to gain a place at their first-choice institutions too.

The growing number of university students has propelled the expansion of campuses. Universities are making large investments to better their facilities as it acts one of the attraction factors for students. Some 87% say they are satisfied with their libraries, compared with 78% in 2010, according to the National Student Survey, an official poll. The promise of good employment opportunities is another unique selling point for universities. As such, all tertiary institutions now have in place strategies to enhance graduate employment.

However, others have concern that the competition may backfire.

According to a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, a grant-giving agency, reminded of the dropping cash levels and an escalation in universities’ loans that could prove unsustainable. Many institutions that are facing difficulties under the new regime are in the parts of the country that the government has promised to restore. They are more likely to be attended by poor, local students. The government will have to decide if their decline is a price worth paying for more competitive universities.

Source: The Economist

Therefore, in your opinion, what do you think is the best solution that leads to a win-win solution for students and universities, particularly in the Middle East and Africa region?

Join us at QS MAPLE 2018 – Middle East and Africa’s Annual Strategic Summit, as we gather prominent speakers and outstanding academics to discuss on “Advancement of University Excellence in all its Forms”.