The unknown territory: university expenditure
The worrying rises in tuition and living cost each year saturate the ostensibly academic and supportive atmosphere with stress. Recent figures suggest that the average student debt of £50,000 might not be worthwhile, as universities have refused to spend the money per students’ wishes.
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the income of universities across the UK has increased since 2009. With growing pressures being placed on students in England, university income has risen from average of £26.8 billion to £34.5 billion between 2009 and 2017.
Despite the increased income, universities have decided to spend less on higher education staff—63% of current expenditure—when neighbouring European competitors invest greater amounts in the education workforce. The lack of investment in staff should not be taken light heartedly. The Student Academic Experience Survey conducted by the HEPI (Higher Education Policy Institute) has revealed that ‘students want universities to prioritise investment in teaching and staff’.
With doubts raised on how far a university degree can help students’ careers, now British higher education is risking its fundamental value: academia. The marketisation of education, which eventually transformed universities into ‘big business’ and a ‘large lobby group’, would naturally encourage institutions to prioritise league table rankings or university facilities over teaching and the academic staff. According to Universities UK, around 44% of the total income is spent on teaching and research, while the staff pay has declined by 21% since 2009 and the total amount of public investment in education scored 25% of total spending, one of the lowest in the OECD.
Life and academia in university as an undergraduate student can be the most meaningful phase of life, but only with assurance that the students’ voices will be heard.