Research by an influential think tank has found that less than half of students’ £9,250 annual tuition fee is spent on teaching at universities in England.
The report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) showed that around 60% of the annual fee is spent on resources such as libraries and technology support, leaving just 40%-45% being spent on teaching for undergraduates.
HEPI is calling for universities to be more transparent about how they spend their students’ money, with the report’s authors stating, “it is easier to discover where the money goes when buying an iPhone than it is for a degree”.
They add: “Students and their unions have been clamouring for information about where their fees go for years… Regardless of the balance between the state and student in funding higher education, students want and deserve to know where the money goes.”
A survey also conducted by HEPI showed that 74% of students want more information about where their fees are going, with money spent on advertising and recruitment being particularly unpopular among students.
The think tank suggests re-labelling tuition fees as ‘student fees’ to try and clear up confusion about what the money pays for.
However, the report warned that recent proposals to cut the cost of some degrees to £6,500 would have a negative impact on student resources.
“It is clear that any reduction in the amount of funding that institutions receive for each student is likely to lead to cuts in areas that directly benefit students and activities that help to define our world-class higher education sector.”
A spokeperson from the University of Manchester stated: “As well as teaching, the University also spends money on essential services for students such as careers advice, the library and mental health services. Next week on our website we will publish a full breakdown of how fees are spent as part of our annual financial statements.”
Yvonne Hawkins, a director of the Office for Students which regulates higher education, said: “Ensuring transparency and accountability for how student fees are spent is important and we will work with students to determine what information they would find most meaningful.”
The report follows an ongoing conversation regarding student debt, tuition fees and finance, with cheaper two-year degrees recently being proposed by the government.