Last week the government abandoned plans on reforming the university system that implied making the process of awarding degrees to students graduating from private colleges easier. Nowadays there are only two fully-fledged private universities in Britain. The rest institutions are public and are funded mostly by government grant but the increase of higher tuition fees will partially replace the state funding.
Private universites are not the subject to the requirements from the governemnt that public universities shall meet. This means that they shall not obligatory widen access to students from poorer backgrounds.
The question is: do the private universities play an important role in education system of the country?
Philosopher AC Grayling who is to launch the New College of the Humanities (NCH) has a positive answer. NCH is an undergraduate college located in London. Its tuition fees will equal to £18,000 a year which is three times more than the average state university charges. The college will still offer bursaries to 20% of its students.
In the UK, people get used to view higher education as a public service rather than private one. The problem with charging higher fees is this: if the teaching at private universities is of the equal standard to that of public institutions, then it is a rip-off. But if the teaching is better, then private colleges provide better education only for those who can afford it.
As private universities are smaller than public ones, the students obviously receive more personal tuition there. For example, the University of Buckingham that has only 1,000 students has put the information on its website that it offers "Oxbridge-style tutorial groups" that are "often personalised and always exhilarating".
The adherents of private universites claim that the level of tuition is the same, the only difference lies in the fact that public institutions give a chance to gain degrees for more people.
Grayling stressed that public universities charge oversees students much more than locals so there is nothing strane about high tution fees charged by NCH.
It would be naive to deny that education in the UK needs improvement. However, the society that treats education as a commodity considers that each person deserves a decent education irrespectively of the family's profit.