En 2010, David Willetts, le secrétaire d’État chargé des universités et de la science, a permis aux universités d’augmenter leurs frais de scolarité jusqu’à 9000 livres par an (environ 10 310 euros). Ce bouleversement, qui a permis aux écoles de tripler leurs prix, avait déclenché un soulèvement chez les jeunes. En effet, cette décision affecte directement leur vie étudiante et l’avenir des jeunes Anglais, en particulier.
In 2011, when the law came into effect, the most prestigious universities tripled their tuitions fees, then the other universities followed them, even the less prestigious establishments. This result was not expected by the government but now the price for studying in England is among the highest in Europe. It resulted in a rush of young people trying to enrol in universities before the law came into effect, as they were worried that they’ll be charged very expensive fees.
After tuitions fees tripled, students turned to other alternatives such as “Colleges”, the English equivalent for our French IUTs and BTSs, which promote sandwich training and in-house training. More than 260 colleges offer this kind of programme. But those colleges are dependent on universities to be able to deliver certain types of degrees, so universities exert pressure on colleges, thus triggering a price inflation of approximately 6000 £. Students found an other way out by studying in Scotland, which is also controversial.
However, the government introduced advantageous student loans guaranteed by the State in order to counter the effect of the 40% reduction of higher education subsidies. The new graduates won’t have to repay their loan until they earn at least 21,000 £ per year and the monthly payments won’t exceed 9% of their income. But the students’ debts will increase further and reach up to 45.000 £ when students enter the job market, which is a significant burden to carry. In 2013, the national student debt was about £ 46 billion with only 3 million students paying off. The Committee of public accounts estimates that in 2042, £ 200 billion will be borrowed for only 6.5 million students.
This measure was meant as a short term measure to balance the budget, but its long term effect may be to hurt the nation’s youth badly: it discourages high school graduates from taking a gap year before going to university, which is a widespread habit in the UK. Above all, it discourages from studying further (-5.5% enrolled students between 2012 and 2013). This last point questions the very essence of English social values.
Céline GAY & Gabrièle DELTOUR