Should Tuition Fees be Free for All UK Students?

When 10,000 students marched through London protesting for Free Education, the student position on tuition fees seemed clear. Banners read...

“FREE EDUCATION”

“STOP FEES”

“This wouldn’t happen at Hogwarts!!"

The march was a powerful statement, but there is split opinion when it comes to tuition fees.

Our aim is to gain over 10,000 opinions, so go on…

Join the debate

Popular reasons for YES vote:

  • Education should be seen as an investment
  • Higher Education benefits the economy
  • Education is a human right, Everyone deserves the chance to be educated
  • Tuition fees will never actually be paid back


Popular reasons for NO vote:

  • If free more people would choose to do a degrees
  • Fees help students to value education and take it seriously
  • It’s not fair to increase everyone’s taxes to pay for our education
  • Fees are a contribution to the costs of going to university

Split opinion, but why?

Yes - 77%
NO - 23%

But this doesn’t tell the full story. Much of the juice in this debate is found when students tell us... Why?

Yes, abolish tuition fees - Abigail, University of Manchester - second year

“I believe that university should be free for all students, because education is a necessity for so many professions in the contemporary world. However, if this were the case, it would be necessary to keep a close eye on factors such as attendance and grades to justify the expense. For example, it attendance falls below a certain specification, the student should lose their funding.”

No, students should pay tuition fees - Stephen, Nottingham Trent University - first year

“I feel like the cost acts an incentive for learning. In college there were so many people who just didn't want to learn and it wastes time. If tuition was free you would get a lot of people joining spending half a year living the student life then dropping out, what a waste of resources. Definitely decrease tuition costs but don't get rid of them altogether.”

Join the debate

What have the NUS got to say?

A very clear “Yes to Free Education” 

“A commitment to free, publicly-funded higher education is a commitment to ensuring that our universities are seen for what they really are - invaluable national assets – and remain as such. The 21st Century demands that tertiary education is treated with the same degree of public importance as primary and secondary schooling, and the National Health Service”

Toni Pearce, NUS President

Everyone can have their say

This debate transcends generations, tuition fees have become a political hot potato ahead of the general election.

What do Parents say?

YES - 54%
NO - 46%

Parents commonly register their concerns over the levels of debts students will graduate with.

What do Prospective Students say?

83% vote YES
17% vote NO

A-Level students worry that huge tuition fees turn the decision to go to university into a commercial calculation.

What do University Staff say?

50% vote YES
50% vote NO

University staff remain undecided; 'big burden for tax payer' Vs 'education is a human right'.

And how about everyone else?

57% vote YES
43% vote NO

Many people suggest the education system must enable students from all backgrounds to study.

So, if you’ve read down this far...

It really is time to join the debate there are only 2 questions!

Read Latest Votes:  
Yes (Other)
Students who have a harder time to learn or understand shouldn't have to suffer because they have to pay for a tutor. Money is hard enough as it is at University, why make it harder?
 
No (Prospective Student)
It should be free for courses such as Law, History, Politics where most of the learning is book or essay based. However, courses such as Dentistry, Medicine and Biology should have to pay due to the price of the equipment they use.
 
Yes (University Student)
Education should be a right, not a privilege. We should all have equal opportunities, not just those wealthy enough to afford it and not suffer crippling debt for their while lives.
 
No (University Student)
everyone would go to university even if they didnt need too/want too. the fees should be lowered from £9000 though
 
No (University Student)
Not completely free but pay less than what we do now. Also having help and more money given for when we need to get books or supplies for our course, most of the people I know do not buy the books that they need because of how expensive they are - regardless of buying them second hand or not. Student finance isn't correct either, some people aren't even given enough to pay for halls costings, so how are they meant to live and pay for university supplies? Not all can jungle a job and university or keep on asking for money off their parents when they are stuck.
 
No (University Student)
Tuition fees with all their regulations aren't the most important monetary issue facing students. All students should be given an amount that covers their accommodation plus £50 a week, or other amount that would cover the basic costs of living. It isn't fair that parents must be the ones to scrimp and save just so their children can eat whilst at uni. The young are the future, and if they are not educated, then what hope is there?
 
No (University Student)
Whilst people may think back to the glory days of no tuition, they ignore the lack of participation within it. Fees as weird as it may sound, encourages participation fron all backgrounds and provides funding for those who need it.
 
Yes (University Student)
Education is a public good and a right, not a commercial product.
 
Yes (University Student)
It's an investment in the future of the country and the wealth divide should not affect access to higher education.
 
Yes (University Student)
It's preposterous to charge people to have an education, it dissuades those who can't afford it as being unworthy because of their financial situation and sends students into the job market already up Debt Creek, and without a paddle.
 
No (University Student)
They should decrease. Being free would devalue the investment of education, and have people there who don't want to study. However the fees shouldn't be as high as they are as are off putting to lower class students. The tuition loads are good but you want to have an amount to pay off that's achievable, not paying debt for the rest of your life. Especially when a job isn't guranteed at the end of it
 
Yes (University Student)
Education is a privilege and should not become exclusive for the rich.
 
Yes (University Student)
A degree enriches people and knowledge is power.
 
No (University Student)
As ultimately not everyone will receive university education, therefore by favoring those who will get a university education and are more likely to be better off anyway after their degree, it actively discriminates against those who will not receive
 
No (Prospective Student)
Education costs something to teach it should cost something to receive. We don't live in the 80s.
 
Yes (Parent)
It's good for the country to have qualified people.
 
Yes (Parent)
Tuition fees will exacerbate the growing problem of wealth inequality and declining social mobility. Student loan is not equitable across Britain. There is a real possibility of the T&C of the loan changing that could disadvantage UK students.
 
No (University Staff)
Students should contribute towards their education. It is also not financially viable
 
Yes (University Staff)
It would be too big a burden on the taxpayer to pay for this. A fee represents a commitment to succeed. I believe in reducing fees from the present however.
 
Yes (Other)
Because everyone deserves the right to a full education, regardless of their background or the subject they choose to study.
 
No (Parent)
Good practices currently allow students to go to University with little cost.
 
Yes (Other)
Those who are able to afford to attend university are more likely to be those who will achieve a worthwhile qualification at the end and therefore add value to the economy with meaningful qualifications
 
No (Other)
Student benefits, why should the rest of the population subsidize them!
 
No (Parent)
It may be a right of passage to go to university, but it is not a right. Those that want it should pay for it, then they may appreciate its value
 
Yes (University Staff)
We wish to be a knowledge based economy.
Also we should offer the same opportunities for all regardless of family wealth. There are too few working class students.
 
No (Parent)
Why should they be. It's in additional to statutory education and taxes can't pay for everything.
 
Yes (University Staff)
Higher Education is an investment not just for UK PLC but for the individual involved. If you were to invest in stocks or property you would not expect a governement hand out, so why expect one when investing in your own future? The student will get a return for their money invested over a long period of time and this return or long term uplift in income should not be suibsidised by middle to low income families
 
No (Other)
There is no downside to making kids pay. The poor can take out a student loan which is only repayable if they earn good money. If they stay on low wages, as many claim they will, then the loan is never repaid, so has effectively become 'free'. If tuition fees are free, the education is devalued and many more will take the route of higher education and just have a jolly good time, rather than face the realities of the world. A combination of fees charged at their true cost and student loans for poor families, is a perfect combination, which leaves no-one disadvantaged.
 
No (Other)
It should be affordable with a reasonable salary achieved before loans are paid back so it's accessible to all but not taken for granted by those attending for the wrong reasons.
 
Yes (Other)
to enable students from all backgrounds to go to university
 
No (Parent)
Because I have two children who are highly academic and plan to go to University but as a single parent I will not be able to support them financially whilst at University. Therefore, I am concerned they will leave University with a massive debt.
 
No (University Staff)
A lot of would go to university without any consideration and it would be taken for granted.
 
Yes (University Staff)
Access to education is a human right and should be available for free.
 
Yes (University Staff)
Free education will create a higher standard of work throughout the UK and give people from all economic backgrounds the same opportunity, making steps towards equality.
 
No (Parent)
Vast numbers of students get degrees in subjects that don't help them, the country or anyone else. There is no pay-back in terms of income tax or adding to GNP. Paying for it focuses students minds on whether they should spend the time or not.
 
No (University Student)
Why should education come at a price? Why should young people be discouraged from furthering their education in the face of money troubles? Why are young people - who have no money of their own in the first place - be targeted by disgustingly high fees when we are the future? Why would the generation before us have everything for free but make sure we have to pay for everything that was handed to them? Why would they punish us with painfully and obscenely high fees when we will be taking care of them when they're old, making us more inclined to cut their pensions when the time comes? Why do most other countries have free/cheap higher education when the UK can't seem to?
 
No (University Student)
because it gives everyone an equal chance of going to university. some people may not be able to afford it.
 
No (University Student)
As people will go to uni and do a degree that they wouldn't think was worth doing if they had to pay for them themselves
 
Yes (University Student)
Because the restriction of knowledge, is the step back in human progression. Equality!
 
No (University Student)
The price increase made a lot of possible students not go to university because of the ridiculous debit you'd be left with.

However, I don't believe it should be free. I think higher education is a choice you make and it should cost something. Just not £9k
 
No (Other)
Our taxes should be used to give our young people the best chance in life ... Why else do we exist.. What is the point of living and paying taxes .. What purpose ?.. This the question that needs to be asked ...
 
Yes (University Student)
Everyone deserves a chance to be able to study at a higher education level, not just the rich and those the government gives large grants to based on parents' income.
 
Yes (University Student)
Because people would go to university for the free money and not take it seriously.
 
Yes (University Student)
I believe that university should be free for all students, because education is a necessity for so many professions in the contemporary world. However, if this were the case, it would be necessary to keep a close eye on factors such as attendance and grades to justify the expense. For example, it attendance falls below a certain specification, the student should lose their funding.
 
No (University Student)
Those that can afford to pay them, should.
 
No (University Student)
It's not feasible for every student in the UK to go to university for free. However, I believe tuition fees should be much lower than they currently are, as it discourages a lot of people from pursuing higher education. I also feel that with so many courses having limited contact hours, the majority of people don't get £9000 worth of teaching a year.
 
No (University Student)
Many students such as myself are struggling paying their way at university even with the "maintenance" loan- which in many cases doesn't even cover accommodation.
 
No (University Student)
I'm paying £9,000 a year to be in uni for roughly 20 weeks, complete joke.
 
Yes (University Student)
-
 
Yes (University Student)
Education is a right
 
No (University Student)
Students should foot the bill for their own education and the money they pay helps to maintain the standard of higher education in the UK
 
Yes (University Student)
The Government requires people to be employed in fields such as science and the academic world. People should not be forced to pay absolutely extortionate amounts of in order to attain the qualifications to do this and serve their government and country in the process.
 
No (University Student)
Given the opportunity to further your education without breaking the bank and ending up in £40,000+ worth of debt.
 
No (University Student)
We shouldn't be charged for wanting to further our knowledge and skills
 
No (University Student)
Although this would be a large cost to the government, and may not be realistic to return to now fees have been raised, people should not be punished for wanting to educate themselves
 
Yes (University Student)
Why shouldn't they be? Young aspiring people should be somehow rewarded for wanting to continue their education at university, not be made ridiculous amounts of money most won't even be able to repay until late adulthood.
 
Yes (University Student)
Students statistically speaking are more likely to end up contributing more in terms of income.tax and other expenses, so why should they be penalised for wanting to better their standard of living and furthering their education?
 
No (University Student)
Degrees will be come a necessity for all jobs, consequently making employmeny opotunities unbalanced for people who aren't academic.
 
No (University Student)
Education is a human right
 
No (University Student)
Everyone deserves the right to be educated to the highest standard.
 
Yes (University Student)
Because it is an investment and its a good way of signalling for prospective employers.
 
Yes (University Student)
Tuition fees used to be payed for by government as it was classes a 'public good' to build our knowledge economy. Although, these days students have a strong motive of going to university because of the enhanced employability options, which is private motive therefore the public shouldn't fund it. With the increase of popularity, a lot of government cash would be spent within education, where I believe it should be placed in our nhs system.
 
No (University Student)
Its only fair that students make a contribution to the cost uni education and it also means that students actually want to be there.
 
No (University Student)
Because we pay enough for resources
 
No (University Student)
Tuition should be not be free, but should be heavily subsidised. Having a degree is advantageous to individuals in modern society, and it is unfair for the government to completely swallow the cost.
 
Yes (University Student)
Why would you charge someone to want to better themselves? We would be in a better place if we started off with better foundations.
 
No (University Student)
If a university degree was free everyone would do them just for the sake of it! Hence a degree would then mean nothing any more, which would be annoying for people who need degrees to do their dream job! Lower the prices slightly yes, but definitely no free degrees.
 
Yes (University Student)
Higher education is an option in order to get a job that needs a degree. Many jobs and people do not need one. No tuition fees would encourage people to go to Uni and not take it seriously, taking up places for those who really want to go and creating "degrees" in things which should not be degrees.
 
No (University Student)
Fees put people off who don't really want to go. anyone can go to uni due to then
Loan system and people.
 
No (University Student)
Higher education bring commerce to Uk
 
Yes (University Student)
So students of all backgrounds can access education
 
Yes (University Staff)
Going to university should not be a commerical decision
 
Yes (University Student)
Because everyone deserves the same chance to go to uni.
 
No (University Student)
It's far to expensive
 
No (University Student)
The international students already face most of the burden and it's their money that actually runs the UK university to a large extent. Removing fees for UK students will be really unfair and it would literally give them no incentive to work.
 
No (University Student)
Students shouldn't be a burden on society. Having young adults grow up to think they deserve higher education for free, and they can do what they want for three/four years isn't psychologically healthy. The government should instead subsidize certain degree programmes that offer the best chance of a job/ loans getting paid back.
 
No (University Student)
Because I would rather have free health service and other essential assests preserved. The current loan scheme means that the amount actually paid at once is minimal. It works.
 
Yes (Politician)
In the 6th richest country in the World, we have no right to deny any citizen a right to the best education our society can offer. An educated population is of far greater benefit to the economy in the long run than Trident, HS2 or any of the other ridiculous vanity projects our current governments have in the pipeline.
 
No (University Student)
Because some people would take a degree just for the sake of it rather than because they want to.
 
Yes (University Student)
The fees make us hugely in debt.
 
Yes (University Student)
Prevents bright students with potential from achieving their best because their family doesn't have money.
 
Yes (University Student)
It should be chosen on merit not on money
 
Yes (University Student)
People are put off by the cost and the amount of debt they leave with.
 
Yes (Parent)
Tuition fees compared with a tax just benefit the highest earners - who pay off their 'loan' and then stop paying, instead of continuing to pay tax. I believe that high earners should pay a fair amount for a well-educated workforce, without whom they wouldn't be able to high-earn.
 
No (University Student)
Reduce the number of degree courses and reduce the fees back down to £3000 a year. Make t more competitive and affordable!
 
Yes (University Student)
Education should be free. Creating such huge debts for people is wrong and creates a large economic problem
 
Yes (University Staff)
For those who come from a lower socio economic background that have the intelligence and desire to learn. I don't agree with students leaving higher education in debt, this is a very negative start to what should be a positive step into the world of work
 
Yes (University Student)
Students need to feel courage to go university as is it a big step for individuals. Also it will prevent crime as students would think twice before committing a crime
 
Yes (University Student)
Countries within the EU that have implemented this have managed to still be commercially successful such as Denmark.
 
Yes (University Student)
Education is not a luxury, its a human right. An educated population and workforce is more beneficial for the economy than the costs of making education free. Not only is university for getting an education but it gives young people invaluable life skills
 
Yes (University Student)
The country should be encouraging young people to further their education which in turn will boost the economy. Many can't afford to go.
 
Yes (University Student)
There is a class system in the UK and by making Uni expensive it puts those students who will have a large debt at the end of it, off going to Uni. Its making Uni and education elitist which isn't fair for those who are middle and lower class.
 
No (Parent)
I have 3 boys who are going through or have finished uni education. When I went to uni it was free and the local council gave grants.
Can we not do this again and recoup any costs via PAYE and Tax codes?
 
Yes (Parent)
Because there are far too many students trying to get degrees and they are now watered down.
 
No (Other)
Everyone deserves the right to a free education
 
Yes (Parent)
its an investment,
 
Yes (Parent)
Both my sons will start their working life £40,000 in debt ! I think paying for University is actually fine but at present it is NOT value for money at all. It's way too expensive and students are increasingly short changed by the amopunt of hours spent in lectures. It's ridiculous!
 
Yes (University Student)
Education should be seen as an investment in future generations; currently the burden for the future of the country is given to those that receive the education (in an understandable form of reasoning). However, it is always the society that receives the benefits of large scale higher education. more job creation in university towns in the immediate sense, and an increase in overall GDP for the state that invests in HE. It is foolish, and irresponsible, to burden a generation with debt that won't ever be fully repaid.
 
Yes (Parent)
Education should be the birth right for every child (whichever level). But as a fact with more guidelines and few strict laws as we do get all sought of pupil.
 
No (Other)
I do not believe that tuition fees should be free for all students Because the Country is insolvent and most degree courses undertaken at University are irrelevant to the work place. However those that are relevant, Engineering, Chemical engineering, mathematics should be free but for people who chose a vocational they should pay the full cost themselves.
 
Yes (Parent)
Education should be free to all suitably qualified British students. Foreign students should pay as they have not made any contribution through their taxes.
 
Yes (University Staff)
No distinction is made between those who can afford to pay and those who can't. I benefitted from a 'free' university education and don't see why my children can't be offered the same opportunity
 
No (Other)
Yes it should not be a hindrance to prospective students. Since the tuition fees were brought in then I believe the number of UK students has fallen. The total number of students has gone up and there is a massive £5bn industry for foreign students. Foreign students should pay a levy and the rest should be funded from a company tax levy and some from general taxation. An educated work force is the future of the country and will produce a higher tax take in future years. Students who do really well will pay by higher taxes when they are employed in higher paid jobs. There will be no unpaid students fees based on whether the student gets to a point where they can pay them back or not. How do you account for this uncertain amount and who picks the bill up anyway if it isn’t paid, the general tax payer. Entrance to university should be a privilege open to all but the entrance standards should be high.
 
No (Other)
If it was free, we would all leave education with the same level of qualification. And therefore competing for jobs would be increased. And there would be no academic differentiality. Everyone should have the right to access further education, however it should not be free in my opinion.
 
Yes (Other)
Everyone deserves the right to study - whether rich or poor
 
No (Other)
Education is an aim in itself; by restricting further study to only those who can already afford it, we restrict our possibilities as a society. This group will be disproportionately white, middle class and filled with the same ideas as their parents have had (to a large extent). While further education doesn't appeal to everyone, the more diverse people doing it are the more likely we are as a society to develop the radical new technologies, ideas and art we need for the future.
 
Yes (University Staff)
It is an investment in the future
 
No (Other)
Because students cant afford to pay them, and why it is a matter of parents. There is thousands of students who cant afford to pay it and for studies, so they cant study! not fair, instead of paying house and benefit for all lazy immigrants government should support students, who are our future and they will have education and wont sit on house and benefits.
 
Yes (Prospective Student)
Because education should be accessible to all
 
Yes (University Student)
To allow more people to go who otherwise can't afford it. Uni is hardest to afford for those whose families fall in the middle income catagory, student loans for this pay bracket are ridiculous, mine barley covers my accommodation.
 
Yes (University Student)
Because education is a right.
 
No (University Student)
Because it's way to expensive and the country should invest in the next generation instead of put them off a good education.
 
Yes (University Student)
Currently, every student in the UK automatically get into dept as a result of attending uni, isn't that what we are suppose to be taught to do, stay out of dept? well if it is free, after we graduate we will be we have the opportunity to earn our keep, not only that, we can give a lot more to the community if we got to save that extra bit of money that we'd be paying back. It will also help up remain dept free, and keeping the banks out of trouble too.
 
No (University Student)
because if they were free, everyone would apply to do degrees for the sake of it, not out of interest. More students would mean mrs people getting degrees which would lower the value of having a degree. Knowing you're paying for the degree makes you more motivated to do well and makes you need to be certain that the degree is the right choice for you.
 
Yes (University Student)
education provides people with the knowledge and capabilities to support themselves later in life reducing their likelihood of needing support from the government
 
Yes (University Student)
Spend all this money to come out of uni with no guarantee of a job.
 
No (Prospective Student)
because why have debt in later life
 
No (University Student)
It should not be free to anyone, students should have to pay atleast half of their fees. I believe it should vary aswell, as some courses such as engineering should have to pay less due to the fact engineers are vital to the country. They are also in short supply.
 
No (University Student)
There should be fewer Universities, few people going to university and there should be better corporate advancement schemes, especially to help people doing work experience, internships and apprenticeships. University is not for everyone, and there should be less pressure on people to 'achieve', since ultimately your career will be about how you apply yourself. Until you are doing a full time Job, finances should not be your direct responsibility.
 
No (Parent)
University students are adults therefore they should be responsible for their own further education. They presumably are doing it in the hope of getting higher paid work once they have a degree. Why should those that go straight into work be expected to subsidise other adults who are doing something for their own eventual gain.
 
Yes (University Student)
More people would have a better chance at higher education creating a less chance of people on benefits of in factory work.
 
Yes (University Student)
It is unfair that previous generations had it for free and we now have to pay
 
No (University Student)
Because everyone has a right to a free education and to achieve their best no matter what their income or circumstances. This gives people a better opportunity in life.
 
No (University Student)
How would they be funded then if students didn't pay them through their own finances or student loans. Surely it would only increase taxes.
 
No (University Student)
Why should we have 40-odd thousand pound debts hanging over us as soon as we finish education?
 
No (University Student)
Everyone would do it.
 
Yes (University Student)
Because then people won't go who aren't commited
 
No (University Student)
When all international students pay for that for study. That's why have to pay.
 
Yes (University Student)
It benefits society
 
No (University Student)
Because we are choosing to better ourselves and educating ourselves for our future but being penalised for it.
 
Yes (University Student)
Equal access for everyone. I myself am struggling like crazy o finance it even with student finance
 
No (University Student)
Would result in too many graduates thus increasing competition for jobs and people going to uni for the sake of it. Students should pay for higher education as it demonstrates commitment to their choice through paying. The government couldn't afford to do it and shouldn't deem it necessary.
 
Yes (University Student)
I feel like the cost acts an insentive for learning. In college there were so many people who just didn't want to learn and it wastes time. If tuition was free you would get a lot of people joining spending half a year living the student life then dropping out, what a waste of resources. Definitely decrease tuition costs but don't get rid of them altogether
 
Yes (University Student)
people that are not rich should have education too .
 
No (University Student)
Who knows you could have the next einstien from the lowest economic background possible, who's family dont believe they should waste their time in education because it costs so much and they will result in debt and still may not get a good job... typical beliefs of families of the many who come from a family who has not always been in higher education.
 
No (Prospective Student)
Cz they use the money for crap
 
Yes (University Student)
Living in a city would be a lot more manageable and students will be able to put more money back into the economy
 
Yes (University Student)
Knowledge is not something that you should have to pay £9000 for, especially when the quality of that education is far below what should be expected of this country.
 
No (University Student)
People deserve to be educated, it's wrong that those who can't afford the fees can't continue in education.
 
No (University Student)
The system works. Don't fix what isn't broke. The finance has to come from somewhere. The system has to be exclusive, otherwise there would be no point in gaining a degree if every man and his dog has one. My aim for a degree is to beat competitors for employment, otherwise we are left in education too long.
 
No (University Student)
It's expensive.
 
Yes (University Student)
Because to get a job, majority of the time you need a degree. You shouldn't have to pay to learn. The things they teach you in school that you just forget and then what you learn at university which helps towards a career. But I think people that are just going to have fun should not be able to go. You need to work hard at uni and earn your place.
 
Yes (University Student)
Because it benefits the economy in the long term through the skills gained.
 
Yes (University Student)
Why does education cost? Everyone wants to better themselves, people just choose different paths. Should not be damned with £40,000 for picking to better yourself with a degree.
 
Yes (Parent)
Because they are the future
 
No (Other)
Because I had to drop out due to not being able to afford to live.
 
Yes (University Student)
Tuition fees will never get paid back and government can't afford it
 
Yes (University Student)
Increases competition

So, if you’ve read down this far...

It really is time to join the debate there are only 2 questions!