British government caps higher education

A story in the Economist teaches me something I didn’t know about higher education in England. Tuition at English universities is capped at £3,290 per year, which is well below the cost of the education. The government subsidizes the difference. Consequently, to limit the size of the subsidy, the government imposes a cap on the number of students. No school can grow its class without obtaining permission from the government, which is routinely denied.

The price cap does not apply to foreign students (from outside Britain and the EU), so the number of such students is not capped. Consequently, the number of international students at English schools is soaring. For example, at the London School of Economics, half of the undergraduates and 80% of the graduate students are foreign.

This is an appallingly perverse policy. The government is requiring its universities (some of the best in the world) to serve foreign students instead of its own citizens. No doubt the policy was justified as making higher education more affordable when, in fact, it actually makes it unavailable to most prospective students. Fixing the system would presumably result in an outcry from the minority who benefit from the arrangement.

In short, it’s an excellent example of the perversity of progressive policies.

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