These days, it seems that UK universities rarely go a day without featuring in the headlines in some form or another. Sadly, the headlines are almost always bad. They reveal a culture that is struggling to find it’s footing amongst scandals, financial problems, and political changes throughout the UK.
Last year was no different, even more problems with the higher education in the UK surfaced consistently throughout the year. The news wasn’t all disastrous, with many UK universities being ranked amongst the top universities in the world. However, this hasn’t abated the problems that are arising inside of universities.
This year is already setting itself up to be just as troublesome for the higher education establishments within the UK as the previous years have been. The rocky start to the new year has been well publicised. But when we look at the coming months, just what are the biggest challenges that universities are going to face now and in the future?
One of the latest problems to be sweeping through universities is with staff pensions. The problem that began in the middle of 2017, with the Universities Superannuation Scheme, has only continued to grow, causing adverse responses from university staff. The proposed changes to university staff pensions have resulted in widespread protesting from lecturers all over the UK.
This is set to continue over the coming months, causing further disruption to students at the 61 universities who are contesting the proposal. The proposed reduction of £500m from the pensions funds is being countered by the Universities UK group.
On top of potential cuts to staff pensions in universities, there is also set to be new limits imposed on the salaries of those at the top of universities. After the major scandal that followed the pay of university bosses, new bars are being put into place to stop self-set salaries.
The fair-pay code will introduce new regulations on pay, and more transparency will be involved in the setting of salaries. Any major pay changes will likely now be subject to scrutiny and require explanation.
A problem that universities cannot seem to break away from is tuition fees. Debate has been rife over tuition fees since the limit for what universities could charge was last increased. The last increase is still a source of anger for many past, current, and future students; which could be set to resurface further, as 2018 brings with it a review of the tuition fee structure.
As the majority of universities choose to charge the full tuition possible, any changes will likely be very widespread. Now, as tuition fees are able to increase with inflation, the limit is rising once more, with students this year faced with a cap of £9,250, over the previous limit of £9,000.
Talks of removing or reducing university tuition fees are always a hot topic, with 2018 set to be no different as a new wave of challenges wash over universities and their students.
Since Britain made the vote to leave the European Union in 2016, almost every sector of the UK has been affected in one way or another. Universities have not escaped the controversy surrounding Brexit, and it poses yet another challenge going into 2018.
The uncertainty surrounding international students attending UK universities after 2019, is causing a lot of tension within the establishments. One of the main worries surrounding Brexit is the substantial income that international students generate for the universities and the UK as a whole. As of 2017, international students are worth £25 billion for the UK.
The financial challenges of universities in the UK, continues with the provision of a valuable education – or lack of. Many students have already voiced their opinions on the quality of education that they are receiving, and whether it was worth the tuition fees.
Universities have been cautioned already over misleading advertisements, and a large proportion of students are unhappy with the education provided. Universities across the UK are being tasked with delivering value for money and reinventing their images to deliver the prestigious education that many of them promise perspective students.
Tuition fees and government grants are only part of the funding that UK universities need to continue operating on a yearly basis. Many of the universities in the UK face ongoing problems with obtaining a sense of financial security. The more that a university can offer its students, the more students it can attract, making the amount of funding they receive a hot topic.
A large number of universities are making further attempts to gain additional funding from other sources, to better safeguard their future; especially since tuition fees are so readily in debate. This has been particularly spurred on by the University of Oxford’s recent bond issue, which was worth £750 million.
UK universities have plenty of challenges ahead of them in the furture. With so much debate over the financial problems of higher education establishments in the UK, the year is set up to be a very important one for universities.