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The Price of Education

University of Leeds steps - photo by Martin Toole

Image of the entrance to Leeds University. Photo by Martin Toole (cc).

Rise in university applications slows amid fears about degree costs |  The Guardian

This is an interesting one. A market research company has asked current students whether they would have gone to university if they’d had to pay £9000 fees. Around half of students surveyed say that they would not have done.

We can’t know what these students would actually have done if they’d been faced with the choice between £9000 fees and no degree. I don’t know what I’d have done. But I do know this: as a disabled student, unable to work during my undergraduate years because of impairment, I would have thought extremely carefully before going to university at those fee levels. And I’m a very privileged disabled student. I know various disabled people for whom cost is a serious barrier to education. There will be many more unable to go into higher education when fees are at the new levels.

There are two articles on disability in the online version of the Times Higher Ed this week. I identify strongly with the barriers described by the disabled student. I want a supervisor like the one who writes about her disabled PhD candidate (excellent though my own supervisor is!) It’s so easy for universities to say they have a good record on inclusion for disabled students without having to do much to prove it. My own uni says this, yet I’m fighting with bureaucracy there for basic rights and provision for basic needs. The barriers to higher education for disabled students are enormous, and widely overlooked. £9000 fees are only going to make this situation so much worse. The same will be true for students from other social groups that face barriers to education. This isn’t just a loss for these students. These students will be a loss to academia.

What, and who, will be the real price of the fee rises?

(Daily Blogging Experiment: Day 1)

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Good point. I was lucky in getting through university at the end of the grant era. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to go to uni knowing that I would come out of it with a huge debt, even given I wasn’t significantly physically disabled then. I’ve certainly thought twice over the past couple of years and ultimately backed away from going back for post-grad studies, and that’s even before the new rises, though disability has played more of a role in that decision.

    But if I was approaching the system for the first time now, with huge debt guaranteed, knowing that disability means I can’t study and work (study is doubtful enough), knowing that my chances in the labour market are slim indeed, then I don’t see a way to justify it.

    May 4, 2011

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