Engineers this week blasted plans being considered by university heads to charge engineering students higher tuition fees.
A report for Universities UK, formerly the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, by London Economics suggested increasing tuition fees to £3,000 annually for courses where graduates are expected to earn higher salaries, such as engineering and technology, medicine, and law.
This would meet an expected £1bn shortfall in funds needed to improve the quality of higher education and meet the expected rise in demand for places.
It means that students on four-year MEng qualifications, for example, would pay £12,000 — double the amount for three-year courses such as media studies.
Professor David Howard, chairman of the Engineering Professors Council (EPC) and professor of electronic engineering at York University, slammed the proposals, warning that the move would dramatically worsen shortages in the profession.
‘A £12,000 increase would add another 50% to students’ debts, and would go a long way towards killing off engineering completely. Students will look to other professions where they don’t have to pay such high fees,’ he said. The EPC would be unanimous in standing up against such an increase, he added.
Ann Bailey, head of education and training at the Engineering Employers’ Federation, said the move would deter young people from studying engineering. ‘I don’t see why engineering students should be singled out in this way,’ she said.
‘The same argument could apply to anyone who goes into the City, or accountants who go on to become directors.’ What happens to their future earnings is irrelevant, she said.
Graham Nicholls, campaign manager at the Campaign to Promote Engineering, said he was ‘horrified’. ‘It’s difficult enough to encourage young people to consider engineering as a career, without putting off students by charging them more,’ he said.
Other options considered in the report were an increase in tuition fees of between £1,000 and £2,000 for all students, and top-up fees, which would allow universities to set their own rates.