Can technology dig UK universities out of their hole?

It’s no secret that UK universities are in big trouble.

Alexander Weekes
ILLUMINATION

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The £45bn sector is in a unique position where the price of their domestic product is fixed, without costs having the same restrictions. And with inflation reaching over 11% in 2022, the value of the fixed £9000 annual student fees introduced more than 10 years ago has been seriously eroded (it has only increased by £250 since then).

Of course, not all university revenues come from domestic sources. Around £10bn a year comes from international students. Still, with Brexit increasing the fees of European students to equal those from further afield, those numbers have dropped and the UK is increasingly reliant on Chinese, Indian and Nigerian students to foot that bill.

To exacerbate things further, changes to student visa rules in January 2024, mean that international post-graduate students can no longer bring their spouse and children with them when they study, making the UK a less attractive destination. Heavy investment in the tertiary education sector within these countries, especially of those in Asia means that home-country study is also becoming more appealing.

In any case, due to many of the factors above, most universities make a per unit loss on domestic students and heavily rely on international students. There is no cap or standardised fee for international students so universities are free to charge whatever they believe the free market will…

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Alexander Weekes
ILLUMINATION

Digital Strategy consultant and lecturer helping senior project executives build systems & processes to remove the stress from delivering innovative projects.