As published in The Times Higher Education on 2 December, 2010.
Prime Minister David Cameron recently told students at the University of Peking that the increases to English tuition fees will reduce the high prices currently paid by international students who come to the country. But low prices are not the only thing that will ensure the survival of the UK university system on the world stage. Question marks remain about our ability to develop a world-class student experience.
The decline of our higher education system is becoming increasingly apparent: Britain is now 15th in the world league table of graduates, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Education at a Glance report. This year's National Student Survey highlights how aspects of the university experience consistently bring down student-satisfaction scores.
A high-quality student experience involves considering more than courses and qualifications. Even before they step foot in the lecture theatre, many international students must traverse a variety of departments just to sort out their course fees, timetables or basic living and accommodation arrangements.
Those who come to the UK to further their education are forced to accept huge inefficiencies that have grown from an outdated, bureaucratic management system. In many universities, this bureaucracy is exacerbated by a multitude of independent, disparate departments running their own administration and backed by their own IT systems.
This all leads to unnecessary obstacles, spiralling costs and, in all fairness, a poor impression for individuals who in some instances invest their life savings to gain a good education.