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The UK subject centre for philosophical and religious studies of the Higher Education Academy

By G. MacDonald Ross


[FIRST PARAGRAPHS]\ud \ud This article is about the work of the UK Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies of the Higher Education Academy. In order to explain what the Academy and the Subject Centre are, I need to point out some key differences between the UK and the US higher education systems.\ud \ud \ud In the UK, we do not have a distinction between private and state universities (except that there is just one small university, the recently founded University of Buckingham, which receives no direct funding from the Government). All universities are private in the sense that they are self-governing charities1 with a royal charter granting their status as legal entities. On the other hand, they are all state universities to the extent that they are largely funded by the Government, and subject to indirect control by the Government as a condition of that funding. Even the best endowed universities (Oxford and Cambridge) are poor by US standards, and they cannot afford to go it alone in competition with heavily subsidised institutions.\ud \ud \ud The situation is beginning to change since the introduction of tuition fees for all but the poorest students. The Government determines the maximum fee that universities can charge UK and European Union citizens, and from 2006, the limit will be nearly tripled to 3,000 British pounds (over $5k at the current exchange rate). The Government subsidy per student will remain the same, so universities will have a welcome increase in income, which will partially correct serious underfunding over the past three decades. However, the new fee level falls far short of actual teaching costs, and even the fee plus subsidy is totally inadequate for supporting both a high quality education for students and a decent standard of living for teachers. If some future Government decides to lift the cap on fee income, we may see a system more like that of the US (warts and all)

Year: 2005
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