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The radical side of higher learning

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A sense of urgency has befallen students attending post-secondary institutions in the United Kingdom as enrolment soars to 335,795 applicants thus far for 2011.

Prospective university students in the U.K. are now facing the realities of a government budget cut that will effectively triple the cost of their tuition -- an issue that has led to mass protests amongst students.

"It's not about the people that are currently in the university system because the changes won't actually come into play while they're students," explained Griffin Carpenter, a Laurier alumni studying environmental policy and regulation at the London School of Economics (LSE).

"It's more about the current high school students."

The tuition increases are projected to take effect in the fall of 2012.

As such, many students are rushing to complete their applications before the increases take place.

The Guardian reported that enrolment has increased by 2.5 per cent when compared to statistics during the same period just last year.

In November, enrolment had climbed to 20 per cent compared to last year's average, which translates to an additional 8,000 applicants competing for the same positions.

The rise in tuition costs come as a reaction to new austerity measures introduced by the British government.

Students will now be required to cover more of their university's operating budget with their tuition payments.

Carpenter explained, "The government is ending teaching grants to non-STEM (science, technology, engineering, medicine, math) subjects, so soon LSE will lose almost all its funding for professors, including mine.

"The government is prioritizing sectors in these economic times in very real and explicit ways," he added.

The tuition increases in the U.K. may prove to invariably affect enrolment abroad as well.

Students fear that budgetary cuts will adversely affect the quality of their education.

Enrolment in better funded universities outside the U.K. has become much more attractive.

David McGuire, international student recruitment manager at Wilfrid Laurier explained that recruitment of U.K. students to Canadian universities may prove to be more challenging.

"Mobility agreements make it a little bit more difficult in Europe because a student in the U.K. can very easily go to France, Poland or even Germany where tuition costs just 500 euro," he said.

For Canada, however, McGuire added, "Here, we're just shy of $19,000 for international students. That's a pretty tough sell."

"In Canada, international students bring in $6.5 billion a year of foreign money," McGuire said.

Recruitment at Laurier focuses primarily on parts of the world that yield immediate results for enrolment, such as China or Korea.

The rise of tuition increases sparked protest in London taking place on November 24 and 30, and again on December 9.

It was estimated that approximately 30,000 to 50,000 students attended the rallies.

"A lot of students are starting to rethink the program they are taking because when you put a price tag on education like this, you have to think about it within those financial boundaries," Carpenter said.

"The transition to an academic environment is not an easy one, especially when you have a load on your shoulders that's now going to be three times as large."

This article was originally published in the Cord, Wilfrid Laurier University's student newspaper.

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