OPINION: Are universities just money making machines?

UK students have seen significant increases in university tuition fees in the past years. This has started widespread debate across undergraduates in the country: Is a university degree worth it?

UNIfied’s Adam Pond weighs in on the topic…

I am a first year creative writing student who currently pays £9,250 per annum for my course at Canterbury Christ Church University. From the 12th of December 2018 to the 28th January 2019, I have no seminars or lectures scheduled. This is about a month and half worth of education I am paying for but not receiving.

To be exact, despite having no lectures, this is costing me £1,275. Additionally, over my small class of 30 people – we are being charged a total of £38,257 for nearly two months of nothing. No lectures, no seminars. Nothing.

What are we paying £9,250 a year for?

This is a truly terrifying figure.

When discussing this with a friend of mine, he said that the extravagant cost goes towards new buildings (that cost millions), some advertising and so forth. But why am I personally paying for this? I am offering money in exchange for a product, which is education. When buying a product such as a hamburger from McDonald’s, I would not be expected to pay £20 for a hamburger under the premise they are setting up four new stores in Leeds…or a more fitting example, I would not be expected to pay £1,275 for a hamburger with a bite taken out of it.

Canterbury Christ Church University currently has around 17,000 students all paying roughly the same rate per year which is £9,250. This is apart from part time students paying £4,625, who account for 32% of the 17,000 students.

Putting these to figures together, the university makes roughly around £132,090,000. This does not include other forms of revenue such as accommodation in university halls. In every university across the country, these extortionate rates are being charged to the UK government, which is losing billions in taxpayer money as a result, given that 75% of students will not fully pay back their student loans.

Students are financially struggling to through university

Students need higher maintenance loans

My current financial situation is not brilliant, I’m living off old pasta that my mum bought me when I moved in. And I’m also struggling to put together next month’s rent money. Yet, I still have to buy my own textbooks, and pay to use the printer. Most, if not all, of the students I know are incredibly poor. Surely some of this money would do better kicked back to the students as a maintenance loan.

I do not get the full maintenance loan. But even my friends who do have the full maintenance loan, struggle to live off it without work. This could be due to growing costs of living such as rent (which is particularly expensive if your a first year students living in halls). If you think universities are helping you out by providing cheap accommodation, your very misinformed, the result of a Freedom of Information request by the University of East Anglia’s student union found that more than 20 higher education institutes raked in more than £1000 per bed space per year in profit alone.

Are universities just money making machines? Let us know your thoughts in the comments

Food bank for students

A growing number of students cannot afford rent and food, when I was discussing this with a security guard at Petros Court (accommodation halls in Canterbury), she told me about the food bank for CCCU students who cannot afford to eat. Initially it shocked me, but listening to everyone I know talk about overdrafts chewing away at their empty bank accounts, or bank accounts with just a few pennies in them to last them the week, can this really surprise me?

Universities overcharge the government for their services – then students do NOT receive the minimum living income. It feels like the government debt racks up, universities get rich, and students suffer by finding it difficult to live at uni. They struggle to find work after education, over 40% of students do not get grad level jobs upon leaving university. Ultimately, they then struggle to pay back the loan causing long term damage to the government.

Disclaimer: Views, thoughts and opinions expressed on this article solely belong to the author and does not represent the views of Unified as an organisation.


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2 thoughts on “OPINION: Are universities just money making machines?

  • 14/12/2018 at 12:34 pm

    Whereas I disagree on your first comment (I don’t believe I am paying for nothing outside of formal teaching – I use the library, library resources, support services, social spaces and attend various events or, to use your analogy, I bought the burger and now I am helping myself to all the condiments, napkins, utensils…) I do think there needs to be more clarity on contact hours. I personally would like to see contact hours more readily available like on prospectus pages or even as a search option on UCAS. Or for this information to be discussed by schools/colleges pre-application.

    I am one of the lucky ones in that my college teacher told me to contact universities before I applied to find out this information (which is often in course handbooks) which meant that I could find a course that fitted in with my work schedule – for most students I’ve spoken to nobody mentioned contact hours at any point when they were choosing which universities to apply for.

    Incidentally I am also a creative writing applicant so if you have any ideas of activities you would like to see in reading week (AKA Personal Development Week) on 21 January I’d like your feedback. It might be something I can help arrange in the future.

  • 01/03/2019 at 9:24 am

    I would say you are partially right in your article. For instance; when you buy your McDonald’s hamburger you are, actually, paying for four new stores to open in Leeds. That’s how money works. Companies which want to improve take a proportion of their income and spend it on staff, training and new infrastructure. The money that you pay to CCCU is spent in all sorts of places and the actual teaching is a small part of it.

    There are 1100 full time staff with a range of salaries which probably come to around £40 million and around 700 staff whose salaries are probably in the £14 million range but I don’t know … I guessed an average ful time salary of £40,000 and worked rough. Some university lecturers are paid 50k.

    Then there taxes, fuel bills, licenses for e-books, the digital infrastructure, computers, and waste disposal. A proportion also goes on new builds but is also supported from funding streams elsewhere and, of course, there are probably loans which need to be serviced too.

    Your fees could easily be cut substantially if the university laid off some staff or didn’t renew digital equipment. Should they close down options in media? Why not get rid of all Apple products? They are flash and expensive. How about closing the creative writing degree scheme? It could be that you are actually being subsidised by a more highly populated scheme like psychology, so maybe CCCU should just kill off the smaller degrees. That way we wouldn’t be looking at a building site on main campus.

    You also say universities overcharge the government. How so? The government decides the maximum fee. I am not going to claim that I will earn more money after my degree and pay back my loan because I simply don’t know, but that part of the business is up to me to sort out, and I’ll do that by using support services like knowledgeable staff and The Core. Which I am paying for.

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