University Challenge

Each week we give a summary of a popular news story and then discuss the meaning of some of the key words and phrases people use when discussing this topic. The story this week is about university fees.

University Challenge


“No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!” One of the big stories in the news at the moment is how much it will cost to go to university here in England. Last week there was a national demonstration which became a mini riot in protest at the government’s new policy.

The First Fees

Traditionally higher education in Britain was free. When fees were first introduced back in 1997 a lot of people worried that charging for university would deter people from poorer backgrounds and create a system where eventually English universities would cost the same as American ones but without the wide system of scholarships and grants. Currently, tuition fees are capped at about £3,000 per year for British people and much more for international students. As part of wider funding cuts, the new government has introduced a fees hike which will allow some universities to triple their fees.

The Future

This will probably mean that everyone except the really rich will have to take out a student loan. You can defer repayment of the loan until you earn a certain amount but after that it will essentially become like an extra 9% tax on your salary until you have repaid it all. Education has now become something material, something which costs. The risk is that in making this calculation it will lose its value – to the national culture, to the development of individuals and as a way of providing greater equality between rich and poor. What do you think and how does it work in your country? Is England making a dangerous mistake?

A Glossary of Ten Common Words on this Topic

  1. A demonstration is a peaceful protest while a riot is a violent one.
  2. Fees are the cost of a service, so tuition fees are the cost of studying at university.
  3. To charge is the verb of how much money you ask for a service. So universities at the moment charge £3,000 per year.
  4. To hike or a hike means increase, normally in a negative sense.
  5. To triple is to multiply by three.
  6. To deter is the opposite of to encourage. So if something is very expensive you are deterred from buying it.
  7. Funding cuts are the decrease in the money given by the government to public organisations like universities.
  8. Grants, scholarships and bursaries are all types of money given to people to help them study.
  9. To defer is to postpone, or not do something for a moment.
  10. Loans repayment means money you have to pay back to the bank.

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