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England's Cap On College Tuition Rises To Nearly $11,400, Riling Critics

From Cambridge and Oxford to Lancashire and Surrey, the fees at all English universities are capped — and a new rate hike, from £9,000 to £9,250 (roughly $11,070 to $11,378) is angering critics, particularly those who say the increase didn't undergo legislative review.

Opponents of the tuition hike had pledged to fight the move when it was floated this summer; now, the BBC says, they're angry that the change seems to have been made final without being posted on the Department for Education's website.

"This is a shabby little way to announce something, hiding it away in a far-flung corner of a government website," says Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, according to the BBC.

Another member of Parliament, the Labour Party's Gordon Marsden, said the government was being sneaky about an "increase that doesn't like to speak its name," the BBC reports.

The rise in fees is already reflected on the University of Oxford's website for students from Britain and the European Union who'll begin studying in 2017; the Cambridge site lists the same rate of 9,250 pounds, with the stipulation that the price "is subject to government approval."

Reacting to news of the tuition hike, the National Union of Students is promising to organize a boycott of the government's National Student Survey that's taken by undergraduates in their final year of college.

England's broad cap on university tuition stands in contrast to the system in the U.S., where costs vary wildly between private and public schools.

In the 2015-15 school year, the average cost of tuition and fees at all four-year universities was nearly $15,000 in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

That figure represents both public colleges, whose average tuition rate was $8,543, and private institutions' average of $26,740.

As with the English university fees we're discussing, those figures include only tuition and related fees — not room and board.

When comparing the affordability of American and English schools, we should also note that many undergraduate programs in England award degrees after three years' study rather than four.

Both in the U.S. and England, college costs have risen sharply since the economic crisis that hit its peak in many places back in 2008. For instance, some American states saw rises of more than 70 percent from 2009 to 2015. And many English students protested back in 2010, when a plan was announced to raise the limit on university fees from 3,225 pounds yearly to 9,000 pounds.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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