A high price to pay? International students are faced with record fee rises this year

New international students commencing this year are going to be charged University fees substantially greater than last year. This is in spite of David Cameron assuring students in China last year that there shouldn’t be significant increases in overseas student fee rates.

Most hit are pre-clinical medicine and veterinary students. Students enrolled last year paid annual University fees of £14,073, while students enrolled this year will pay £28,632.  Further, engineering and science students will be charged £18,000 p.a. compared to £14,073 last year.

The fees for arts students though have not been significantly altered. The university fee is in addition to a college fee in the range of £5000, which overseas students, unlike most home and EU students, have to pay.

These increases, unlike the rise in fees for home and EU students commencing in 2012, are not due to loss of government higher education funding as overseas students were never subsidised by the UK government.

According to the University the average cost of an undergraduate student per  year is around £18,000.

For Home and EU students the University claims to use its own endowment to pay approximately half of this amount - the rest being paid by the student and by government subsidy.

In contrast with overseas students, the figures suggest that the University makes a substantial profit. This has led some to suspect a violation of the Equal Opportunities Policy in the statute and ordinances of the University.

A spokesperson for the University of Cambridge told Varsity: “The decision was taken in order to secure the continued excellent quality of educational provision for our students.”

The spokesperson added, “Numbers of applicants from international students remain at near-record levels, and our fees are internationally competitive with those of our peers. The University has increased its annual contribution to the Cambridge Trusts in support of international students from poorer backgrounds.”

International students admissions in recent years have tended to be very competitive. According to the Undergraduate Admissions Policy statement this was because of the University’s contract with the Higher Education Funding Council for England. This contract required in effect an upper limit on the number of places for overseas students, making “the competition for places particularly fierce among international applicants.”

However, with the increase in international student fees as well as stricter immigration policies making employment of international students more difficult after graduation, some are worried that international student applicant numbers will dwindle and the quality of intake will be lowered.

In contrast, most non-UK European Universities make very little distinction between home, EU or international students for fee purposes.

Universities, for instance in Germany, subsidise equally all students irrespective of nationality.  In addition top American universities that rival Cambridge in the international league tables, including Harvard, Yale and Princeton, do not make distinctions based on nationality neither for admissions nor for financial aid, purportedly to ensure the largest possible talent pool for admissions.

Cambridge Undergraduate Admissions remain unfazed noting: “For the foreseeable future it [Cambridge University] will remain primarily a national university at undergraduate level.”