The End of Free College in England: Implications for Quality, Enrolments, and Equity

36 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2017 Last revised: 10 Apr 2021

See all articles by Richard Murphy

Richard Murphy

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics; London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Judith Scott-Clayton

Columbia University

Gillian Wyness

University College London - UCL Institute of Education

Date Written: September 2017

Abstract

Despite increasing financial pressures on higher education systems throughout the world, many governments remain resolutely opposed to the introduction of tuition fees, and some countries and states where tuition fees have been long established are now reconsidering free higher education. This paper examines the consequences of charging tuition fees on university quality, enrolments, and equity. To do so, we study the English higher education system which has, in just two decades, moved from a free college system to one in which tuition fees are among the highest in the world. Our findings suggest that England’s shift has resulted in increased funding per head, rising enrolments, and a narrowing of the participation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. In contrast to other systems with high tuition fees, the English system is distinct in that its income-contingent loan system keeps university free at the point of entry, and provides students with comparatively generous assistance for living expenses. We conclude that tuition fees, at least in the English case supported their goals of increasing quality, quantity, and equity in higher education.

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Richard and Scott-Clayton, Judith and Wyness, Gillian, The End of Free College in England: Implications for Quality, Enrolments, and Equity (September 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23888, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3046417

Richard Murphy (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Judith Scott-Clayton

Columbia University ( email )

Gillian Wyness

University College London - UCL Institute of Education

20 Bedford Way
London, WC1H 0AL
United Kingdom

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