Undergraduate tuition fees in England are set to rise in 2012 with most universities aiming to charge the maximum possible £9000.
This is a topic that many people are thinking about, particularly how it might affect the future of the higher education sector.
What I haven’t heard many people talk about, though, is how the fee rise might affect the fees for taught postgraduate courses, such as an MSc or MA. In my field, the fees seem to be around £4000-6000 for a 1-year, full-time postgraduate course. I don’t really know how these fees are calculated.
So, back to undergraduates.
In science and engineering, it has become very common to take a 4-year undergraduate degree, often called something like MSci, MPhys, MChem or MEng. After 2012, though, the fees for all years of courses like these will be over £6000, most likely £9000.
I’m guessing that more people will be happy with a 3-year BSc than pay another £9000 to get an MSci, MPhys, MChem, MEng etc instead of the BSc.
Alternatively, they might choose to graduate with a BSc and then enrol on an MSc course and (assuming MSc fees don’t increase substantially in the next few years) they could get two degrees (BSc and MSc) for less than the price of one (MSci).
Of course the assumption that MSc fees don’t increase substantially in the next few years was meant to be the focus of this post. So what might happen?
Will universities that run 4-year undergraduate courses increase their MSc fees to protect their undergraduate income?
Maybe some universities could use lower MSc fees to “poach” students from other universities or other courses within their university.
Or, perhaps most likely, taught postgraduate fees will increase to come in to line with undergraduate fees. I’d expect that this would decrease the number of students staying at university for a 4th year in any form, which might even affect the numbers that go on to PhD level and beyond.
I don’t really know. I’d like to hear what others think though.
(Update: I forgot to mention that MSc fees are paid upfront whereas as UG fees are paid via government loan. So the MSc route only applies if you have cash or a bank loan. H/T @WilliamCB and @fLiP_uk)