University fees in UK are world’s third highest – and that’s even before next year’s increase

University fees in UK are world’s third highest – and that’s even before next year’s increase

British students already pay the third highest university fees among developed countries – even before next year’s price hike, new research shows.

With fees due to treble to a maximum of £9,000, a study shows that even before the rise, UK students paid the equivalent of just under $5,000 US a year to attend university in 2008/09.

Only students in Korea and the United States paid more, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) latest edition of Education at a Glance.

The report analysed and compared education at all levels in 34 OECD member countries plus systems in Brazil, the Russian Federation, Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

The analysis shows that almost two-thirds (65.5%) of funding for higher education in the UK came from private sources in 2008, mainly from tuition fees.


1.. United States
2.. Korea
3.. UK
4.. Japan
5.. Australia
6.. Canada
7.. New Zealand
8.. Netherlands
9.. Portugal
10.. Italy
Source: OECD

It puts the UK fourth, with only Chile, Korea and Japan raising a higher proportion of funding from private sources.

Report author Andreas Schleicher said it was ‘fairly significant’ that the UK is third after the US and Korea in terms of average fees.

He added: ‘At the same time what you can also say is most of the people in the UK are covered – they have access to loans. That’s far different from Korea and the US.’

In both of these countries access to loans and grants is much more restricted, Mr Schleicher said.

He cautioned against following the systems like those in the US and Chile, where spiralling costs have priced many people out of attending university.

In the US, higher education has become much more expensive, but has not expanded at the same rate.

Referring to the US, Mr Schleicher said: ‘One of the hypotheses is that higher education has become so expensive for individuals who are much less well supported than in a country like the UK that it basically becomes unaffordable for certain groups of students.’

He added: ‘The cost of higher education has risen very dramatically (in the US). It is very difficult for people to afford it because access to financing is much less well developed than in the UK.’

At the same time, there is a ‘fair share’ of low-performing high school students in the US, which can restrict the university student population.

Mr Schleicher said there is an established financial support system in the UK, and this will need to remain when the new fees system is introduced.

He said: ‘If you don’t have a strong system of finance then you run into problems.’

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said: “The Government’s university reforms are an untested experiment that are being rushed through at an alarming rate.

‘Overnight it is transferring the burden of funding higher education from the state to the student.’