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Students want unis to tell them where their fees go

ALMOST three-quarters of university students want more information on how their tuition fees are spent, a study has found.

Despite ‘overwhelming’ arguments for telling students what they want to know, there is still too little transparency, the report’s authors said.

They suggested institutions publish figures on where money goes that relates to the actual fees paid, and discuss the information requirements of students with their unions.

The report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) indicates around 44 per cent of tuition fee income is spent on teaching, with the rest mainly going on areas that benefit students — such as maintaining buildings, information technology and counselling and support services.

The data is based on case studies of eight universities, which all said they spent between 39 per cent and 45 per cent of fees on teaching.

But 74 per cent of the 14,000 students polled for the 2018 HEPI academic experience survey said they wanted more information on where fees go.

Nick Hillman, director of HEPI and co-author of the report, said: ‘Tuition fees were introduced 20 years ago and they have been tripled twice.

‘Ministers and regulators have repeatedly demanded information on where the fees go. Yet there is still little information available and three-quarters of students want to know more.

‘Where this has already occurred, it has tended to show less than half of the fees go on the direct costs of teaching but most of the rest does go on student-facing activities.

‘Any reduction in the headline fee cap is therefore likely to hit students hard — unless every penny were permanently replaced by other funding, which history suggests is exceedingly unlikely.’

The report said there is some distance to go before all students have access to clear and comparable information. It says the government and institutions need to consider changes to increase transparency. Tuition fees are capped at £9,250 a year in England.

TAXPAYERS were short-changed when ministers sold off student loans for less than half their face value, MPs have warned. The Treasury took a ‘short-sighted’ approach last year when it sold the first tranche of loans worth £3.5billion for £1.7billion — a return of 48p in the pound — the Commons public accounts committee said. While MPs said the government could never have obtained the full face value, it would have recouped the £1.7billion in eight years. Chairwoman Meg Hillier said: ‘Government will need to learn quickly from the weaknesses of this sale if it is to secure the best deal for taxpayers in future. When public assets are gone, they’re gone.’