Today, tens of thousands of teenagers have found out their A-level results and are considering going to university to study for an undergraduate degree.
As it stands, universities in England and Northern Ireland can charge undergraduate tuition fees of up to £9,250 per year, which over three years equates to £27,750.
In Wales, the tuition fee cap is £9,000 per year, while in Scotland, it’s £1,820 per year, totting up to £27,000 and £5,460 respectively over three years. These fee caps are only in place if you’ve lived in the nation for three years prior to going to university.
The Right To Education
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One of our fundamental human rights is the right to education, which dates back to 1948’s landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s also in Article 2 of the First Protocol of the Human Rights Convention.
No person shall be denied the right to education.
Article 2 of the First Protocol of the Human Rights Convention.
Article 2 states: “No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
In the UK and Northern Ireland, the right to education only applies to state-funded primary and secondary education.
In England, government figures show that in 2018 there are 8,735,098 children in state-funded primary and secondary schools, while in Wales (2017/2018) there are approximately 430,00 children in primary, middle and secondary schools. In Scotland (2015), the figure is approximately 680,007, and in Northern Ireland it’s around 318,000.
These figures demonstrate that the state is largely fulfilling its duty in providing the right to education until the end of secondary education.
Are Tuition Fees A Barrier To University?
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However, there are concerns that the high cost of tuition fees are barring entry to university for many – particularly as it impacts future employment prospects.
In 2012, 84% of men and 80% of women educated to degree level or similar were in employment, compared to 54% of men and 35% of women educated to GCSE level.
In some European countries, university tuition fees are not levied at students.
For example, in France a small administrative charge (around €184) is levied to pursue an undergraduate degree in the public university system. It’s a similar situation in Germany (where students are charged €150 to €250), which has 40 universities ranked among the best in the world.
Denmark, Sweden and Finland offer free higher education, while Norway has a nominal fee ($37 to $74), and in Iceland, which has four universities, it’s €400 per year.
Which begs the question of whether, in the UK and Northern Ireland, the right to education could be extended to university education?