England’s university fees are the most expensive in the industrialised world

  • Emma Finamore
  • 24 Nov 2015

Ahead of the USA and Japan. Oh dear.


England has the highest average undergraduate tuition fees in the industrialised world, according to an annual survey of education across more than 30 countries.

On average, English undergraduates paid just under £6,000 in annual tuition fees in in 2013-14 year, after the government’s decision to triple maximum fees.

This is according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The next highest was the US, with fees of about £5,300, followed by Japan at £3,300

The comparison applies for public universities only, which skews the figures for the US, where many leading universities are private. although this investment tends to be repaid many times in higher graduate wages, according to an annual survey of education across more than 30 countries.

The survey’s section on undergraduate fees notes a general move in towards fees in recent years, with 14 of the 25 countries that had relevant information imposing tuition charges in 1995-2010.

Since 2010, 10 states have changed their fee systems, mainly revising them upwards.

Perhaps the most notable recent revision was the UK’s tripling of maximum annual fees to £9,000 in 2012.

While eight OECD countries have no tuition fees for full-time undergraduate students at public universities, in more than half of countries with fees, the annual charge is £1,300 or more.

This, however, is for people from the same country; international students are generally charged more.

The Sutton Trust, which campaigns on equal access to education, urged caution.

“This important international evidence shows that English students pay more for university than their counterparts elsewhere,” said Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Trust.

“While this has not yet reduced the numbers of poorer young students, it has seen a big fall in numbers of mature part-time students, an important group of access students too often forgotten.

“These figures should cause the government to avoid steps that could hamper access, including replacing grants for poorer students with loans leaving them more indebted than richer students, cutting widening participation funding, or reducing the independence of the access regulator.”


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