University of Portsmouth's History Blog

Differential fees for overseas students

In this new post, Senior Lecturer Jodi Burkett shares a podcast in which she discusses a chapter she has written for the edited collection The Break-up of Greater Britain (MUP, 2021). Jodi’s research focuses on the cultural and social impacts of the end of the British Empire, with a particular focus on national movements like the National Union of Students, and in this podcast she reveals how the different fees charged to overseas students caused significant anger among the student community in the late-1960s.

Increasing tuition fees for University students has been a way for governments to save money since, at least, the late 1960s. While most students didn’t have to pay their tuition fees until the late 1990s (the Local Education Authority paid these fees for most students), this was not the case for those coming to study in the UK from abroad.

In 1967 the British government, for the first time, decided that international students (or overseas students as they were then known) should pay more for their tuition fees than ‘home’ students. In 1966 all students were charged £70 tuition fees, but from 1967 it was £70 for ‘home’ students and £250 for overseas students on undergraduate courses. 

There are many reasons why the government took this decision. But the decision, and the debates that surrounded it, tell us a lot about the changing nature of Britain’s world role and, particularly, how Britain was relating to former colonies and the Commonwealth. One key area of discussion around this decision was what sort of ‘responsibility’ Britain had for students from former colonies. Education was seen as an important way for Britain to look after these countries, to maintain economic and cultural links with them and ensure lasting relationships after empire.

My chapter, ‘Boundaries of belonging: differential fees for overseas students in Britain, c. 1967’ (in the book The Break-Up of Greater Britain edited by Chistrian D. Pedersen and Stuart Ward published by Manchester University Press in 2021) explores how we can see Britain grappling with the end of empire through the prism of fees for overseas students. 

I discussed this chapter, including how these issues fit into student politics and political activism at the time, with Michael Donnay on the recent podcast for the History of Education Society. Have a listen here!

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